Labels and nicknames are tossed about frequently within the confines of Christianity today. For some of us we gladly take up a title as if it is our family crest to be displayed on our shield of faith; for others there is an adamant refusal to be tagged with any label, as they ardently espouse the mantra “no creed but Christ!” (which if we are honest is completely inadequate to define who Christ is and what He has done, AND is itself a creed). I think, as we identify to other believers and to the world where we stand, we should carefully choose which terms to reject and which to cling to.
Owing to the fact that most Christians today do not have even a basic understanding of church history, who John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius was, or what went down at the Synod of Dort, much less what Christians have historically believed, we have, at BLDG 28, rejected cloacking ourselves in the name of theological heavyweights, such as Calvin, and have instead taken up the term Reformed to describe our church and our beliefs. Therefore, the question for BLDG 28, and really all believers who permit this term to identify them is: what does it mean to be Reformed? Much is contained in this label but for now, on 2015’s version of Reformation Day, I’ll attempt to answer the question on the most basic of levels.
There is still some historical debate over whether the angry monk in Wittenburg actually nailed his 95 Thesis on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the door of Castle Church on October 31, 1517. The action would have been typical of that day as the church doors were the antiquated equivalent of Twitter or Facebook today. If you wanted to arouse a debate you took your statement and tacked them to the entryway of the church. It makes a better story to believe that Martin Luther did in fact hammer those indictments to the church door, but either way his 95 thesis brought on the firestorm that he intended. Though we celebrate Reformation Day on October 31 it might better be observed on April 18. It was on this date in 1521 that Luther, in sweat soaked clothes, stood before the Diet of Worms and brazenly declared one of the memorable and oft quotes lines in Christendom: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
There it is. In Luther’s statement we find what it means, on the most cursory of levels, to be truly Reformed – or even Protestant. At the crux of Reformation Theology is the understanding that the Word of God is our absolute highest and final authority. I realize that most Christians espouse this doctrinal vantage point but if we are truly honest, it is not a pervasive reality for many would-be Protestants. One need only read certain passages of Scripture or recite controversial verses and the humanists masquerading as Christians emerge with their Christianese pitchforks ready to disgrace and burn the Bible-Clutching heretics. If you don’t believe me just go into a typical church study today and crack open Romans 9 or Luke 14. Sparks will fly as verses will be trumped for what “feels correct,” “has always been taught,” or “makes most sense.”
To be clear, the term Reformed does not mean that we look to pick fights (God knows we have enough of those idiot Reformers running amuck) and it does carry far more weight than Prima Scripture, but here is where it begins. All our doctrine flows from this assertion. All our ideologies come under this scrutiny. And at the end of it all, if our beliefs – be we Popes or twenty-first century American Christians – are contradicted by Scripture then Scripture triumphs. This was the battle cry of Luther. This is what it means to be truly Reformed. Happy Reformation Day all.