Several centuries ago, on this date, an unknown monk, professor and preacher posted a document on the door of the castle church in the town of Wittenberg in modern day Germany. It was a simple call for discussion and debate of some important topics and issues. Unknown to him, the material would be taken by some individuals, printed, and widely circulated among the people of his nation. This singular act would have tremendous impact on the entire European continent. That man was Martin Luther (1483-1546).
If there is one thing to thank God for about the Reformation, it was the recovery of the Bible.
Of course, the Bible was believed by the Roman Catholic Church. The problem was that very few people had ever seen it, let alone read it. Whatever portion was available was in a language which only scholars and priests knew – Latin. Consequently, whatever was known of the scriptures was mediated through the church; it was handed down through the priests. Whatever the Church taught, therefore, was the truth, because only the Church had access to the scriptures. In such a situation, all kinds of doctrines and beliefs sprung up, and the people were obliged to believe and obey. With the Church also dominating society, every realm of human life was molded by her teachings. But the light of God’s revelation was kept at bay.
With the protest by Luther, and the changes and developments by other figures like John Calvin, William Tyndale, Martin Bucer, etc, there was an end to the status quo. God, rather than the Church, became central, and his word became the formative influence among those who accepted the Reformation. The Reformation restored divine revelation to its authoritative place in the Church and in society. And after centuries of ecclesiastical rule, the Bible was liberated and made the rule of faith and life.
Five centuries later, there is a new god on the throne. And that god is Man. While the Reformation sought to place God and His word at the centre of all life, our secular age has dethroned Him and put Humanity in charge. The consequence has been staggering. In the words of Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, it has resulted in ‘a world of war, hatred, lust, greed, competition, imperialism, and environmental destruction.’* We have sought peace and prosperity by making ourselves the centre, but we have lost meaning and purpose instead. What our world needs is to once again make God the centre, like Calvin did. What we need is a recovery of God’s pure revelation for all men, like Tyndale did. And what we should do is confess our failure and receive life through repentance and faith in Jesus, like Luther did.
*Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision, p.129.