Bayern, USA, Deutschland

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Reformation History

Below is an insert I put in the bulletin for October 26: Reformation Day (observed):

What was the Reformation all about?
The Reformation was not only about Martin Luther and Germany. The movement spanned a number of years and countries. Here are only some of the many important people and ideas.

John Wycliffe (1320 – December 31, 1384)
Wycliffe was an English theologian and early proponent of reform in the Catholic Church during the 14th century. He made a hand-written English translation of the Bible in one complete edition and is considered a precursor of the Protestant Reformation. His family was of early Saxon origin. Wycliffe was born at Yorkshire, England, and died at Lutterworth (near Leicester).
Wycliffe’s doctrines

+ the Bible alone was authoritative

+ people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language

+ people should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution

+ justification by faith, though not in fully worked out form as Luther achieved. In Christ stilling the Storm he wrote: "If a man believe in Christ, and make a point of his belief, then the promise that God hath made to come into the land of light shall be given by virtue of Christ, to all men that make this the chief matter."

+ attacks upon the papacy and the entire hierarchy of his times; in his last years he identified the papacy with anti-Christianity

+ he fought his hardest against the Roman-scholastic doctrine of its transformation. The sacrament of the altar is rather natural bread and wine, but sacramentally it is body and blood.

John Hus (1372-1415)
John Hus was an pastor and reformer in the 15th century in the Czech Republic and Bohemia. He refused to recant of his doctrines, was summarily burned at the stake on July 6, 1415, and his ashes were thrown into a lake. However, Hus’ beliefs had already taken hold in Bohemia.

Hus’ doctrines:
+ regarded the Scriptures as an infallible authority and the supreme standard of conduct.

+ people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language (Wycliffe taught this, too).

+ people should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution

+ the Church is not that hierarchy which is generally designated as Church; the Church is the entire body of those who from eternity have been predestined for salvation. Christ, not the pope, is its head. It is no article of faith that one must obey the pope to be saved. Neither external membership in the Church nor churchly offices and dignities are an infallible sign of election.

+ approved the communion under both kinds to the laity, but did not oppose the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Luther was an Augustinian monk, a pastor, a doctor of theology, and the reformer of the 16th century. He produced the first substantial German Bible; the New Testament was published in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534. He transitioned the liturgy and worship from Latin to German, marking the first use of the vernacular language in the Church after 1000 years.

Many think that the Reformation began on October 31, 1517 when Luther posted his now famous 95 Theses for a debate on indulgences. However, Luther’s reformation work began much earlier. Already in 1509 the “righteousness of God” was on his mind. Early on, Luther struggled on how to see God’s mercy rather than His fierce wrath. He followed the prescribed rituals and practices that the Church prescribed; none of them allayed his guilty conscience and the terrifying fear of God’s wrath over his many sins.

In 1545 Luther described when the gospel finally opened his eyes: ,,At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, »In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written: ,,He who through faith is righteous shall live.”« There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: »He who through faith is righteous shall live.« Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.”

Luther wrote many hymns (at least 25), was a prolific writer in German and Latin (54 volumes of his writings have been translated to date, and another 10 volumes are due to be published in the upcoming years). Luther once remarked, “We are all Hussites.” paying homage to Hus’ influence in the Church.

Christian III (1503-59)
The Danish King, Christian III, was at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and heard Luther defend himself before the Holy Roman emperor; he soon became a Lutheran. He ordered the introduction of the Lutheran reformation in Denmark and Norway in 1536. A Norwegian church council officially adopted the Lutheran reformation in 1539. Norway had no university of her own; the Norwegian clergy received their education at the University of Copenhagen. Martin Luther wrote him and congratulated him on his success of peacefully bringing the reformation to Denmark and Norway. Christian remained political and theological allies with the German Lutheran princes during his reign.

Gustavus Adolphus (1594 - 1632)
The Lutheran reformation reached Sweden in 1529. Adolphus was a Swedish king and he is one of the greatest examples of a Christian ruler. He was known in his lifetime as “the Protector of Lutheranism” and “the Deliverer of Germany”. His timely intervention stopped the onward march and devastation caused by the Catholic League and the Austrian Empire. This Thirty Years War (1618–1648) was waged between Lutheran and Roman Catholic princes and armies with the intention of conquering and forcing Lutheran territories to return to Roman Catholicism. Adolphus answered the call for help from Lutheran princes, and his leadership ensured that the Lutheran territories in Europe remained Lutheran.

The Four Solas (Alones)
The Reformation can be summarized by this four-fold phrase: grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, and Christ alone which reveals that we are saved by justification alone.

The Chief Article by which the Church stands or falls
Our (Lutheran) churches teach that people cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4 (Augsburg Confession, Article 4).

No comments: