Note from CM: Here’s another post from Michael Spencer today on the Reformation, while I work on a piece for tomorrow that is timely — about the antisemitism in Europe during the Reformation, and Martin Luther’s complex and ultimately abhorrent perspective on the Jewish people.
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Tuesday with Michael Spencer
Letting Some of the Air Out of the Reformation Day Balloon (from 2007)
It’s fairly obvious that, at least among some Christians, “Reformation Day” is a new holiday to be celebrated with all the enthusiasm we once reserved for actual holidays. (Lutherans: Party on. You’ve earned it.) I’m waiting for the photos of the “Dress Like a Reformer” party at a reformed church near you.
I’ll admit to having donned the Luther costume and done the Reformation Day lecture for the students at our school on a number of occasions, and I don’t regret having done so. Most of what I said was true. Well….some of it.
In the past year, I’ve read a lot about the reformation and even more about Luther. I’m currently finishing off McGrath’s Christianity’s Dangerous Idea– a popular history of Protestantism that’s right up to speed- and I’m almost done with Richard Marius’s Luther: The Christian Between God and Death, one of the most profitable biographies of Luther I’ve ever read and I read at least one every couple of years.
My reading on Luther and the Reformation has changed my mind about a lot of things. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but here’s the short list.
- I no longer believe the Reformation, as it’s commonly described by Protestants, is the distinct event we’ve made it out to be.
- I no longer believe Luther ever intended to slay the Catholic Church and establish the wonder of contemporary Protestantism.
- I am becoming increasingly sure that many things in the typical Reformation story are probably mythological, or most nearly so.
- I’m especially convinced that a lot of the typical “Luther story” is probably historically inaccurate. Not necessarily untrue, but plenty of mythology in the mix.
- I am very sure that the humanist and Catholic contribution to the reform of Christianity has been considerably obscured in the creation of a Protestant mythology.
- I do not believe true Christianity was restored or rediscovered in the Reformation.
- I’m convinced that it didn’t take long for Protestantism to accumulate enough problems of its own to justify another reformation or two.
- I believe that a lot of Protestants say sola scriptura when they mean solo scriptura or nuda scriptura or something I don’t believe at all.
- I now believe that tradition is a very good word.
- I believe the Reformation was very secular, political and, eventually, quite violent. To act as if it was mostly a spiritual revival movement is naive.
- I believe we ought to grieve the division of Christianity and the continuing division of Protestantism.
- I no longer believe the theology of the Reformers was the pinnacle of evangelicalism or is the standard by which Biblical truth itself is judged.
- I can see huge omissions from the work of the reformers, such as a theology of cross-cultural missions and much more.
- I believe it is embarrassing to turn the Reformers into icons. Calvin on a t-shirt should win an award for irony.
- I am a Protestant and I always will be, but I no longer take the kind of juvenile pride in Protestantism I did in the past. Much is good, and much has not been good. We have no right to stand superior to any other Christians.
- I want to understand how Catholic and EO Christians understand Protestantism, and I want to do so with a sense of humility.
- I don’t believe in ecumenism at any cost, but I can no longer imagine being a Christian without a commitment to ecumenism on some level.
- There are many sins associated with Protestantism that I need to admit and repent of.
Part of my Reformation Day will be spent contemplating what it means to say “One Lord; One Faith; One Baptism; One Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.” Having a party celebrating the division of Christianity doesn’t really strike me as a something I want to do