Faith & Reason ... a mystery

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reformation: Catholic and Protestant!

 Martin Luther made a significant contribution to the reformation. He is usually credited with starting the reforms within the church but God used several people to bring about significant changes. These changes would divide the church for over four hundred years. Holt describes this as: “Northern Europe broke away from the South and East in a wrenching struggle that was to divide Europe for more than four hundred years." Divisions were strong and at times bloody. The results brought about change that re-established a clear path for spiritual formation and restored relationship with God.

Luther realized the problem of the church was spiritual and that this problem was keeping people from knowing God and experiencing spiritual formation. “He understood for the first time that God's righteousness was a free gift, not a human achievement” Luther never wanted to forsake the Catholic church or establish a new denomination. Luther truly sought to bring about change and reform. Luther's understanding was, “that the people are justified (made right with God) by grace through faith.” Through his understanding and the use of this knowledge as a guide and rule, Luther examined basic truths through this new lens of un-merited favor (grace) from God.

I find it interesting how as the ages of time pass through church history, we see this reoccurring need to see the church called back to a piety of holiness for God. In our previous chapters there is a reoccurring fragmentation of commitment on the part of believers. The culture seems to embrace the church beliefs, but over time the next generations reduce commitments to God. The idea that the church and it's zeal belonged to the past generation was commonly accepted. 
 
Luther calls the people to a new zeal in that “the gospel has set us free from sin, death, and Satan and that it also sets us free to serve our neighbors.” This teaching is revolutionary to Luther's time. Yet in past eras, some of the same teachings exist, including the proclamation of the Gospel and sacrifical service as a means of development in a person's walk with Christ. Holt notes: “It is in his Large Catechism that Luther sets out one of his most basic spiritual teachings that the Christian life is a daily baptism, a daily dying and rising with Christ in repentance and forgiveness.” It is a believers quest to be completely and totally immersed in Jesus Christ. The renewal call is resonate of the Jesus Prayer and that of Augustine. No doubt, Luther would have been influenced by these and many others writers of the past. It interesting that the church as a whole had forgotten or neglected to apply past experience. This could be why the saying, “those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” 
  
In addition, Luther and Zwingli had a major disagreement over the Lord's supper. Both men are seeking reform for the church they love, and both are seeking an increase in spirituality. One would assume that a sacrament of remembering Christ and the proclamation of the Lord's Death would be a matter of unity. Surprisingly, the sacrament would be the source of division between the two reformation leaders. Zwingli brings importance to overcoming the human ignorance by teaching the bible. Holt notes that Zwingli addressed the “aesthetic, sacramental, and mystical dimensions of the Catholic tradition were put aside for the sake of a Bible-based rationalism, which was to affect many parts of the Reformed tradition.” Luther did not seek to break away from the Catholic church, whereas Zwingli was committed to reform and to the scriptures even if the break from the Church universal was necessary. Therefore, a difference in philosophy will lead in a break of unity, even over sacraments such as the Lord Supper.

John Calvin is a mystery to me. His teaching on predestination are offensive and are usually the most misunderstood. Yet many will hold to these teachings higher than the Scriptures themselves. Holt describes Calvin as: “The starting point for Calvin's spirituality was not predestination but the mystical union of the believer with Christ.”7 It is in this point that I would embrace Calvin's teachings. Holt also notes that Calvin “asserted that we are saved not by works but for them.”8 In both of these teachings there is opportunity for Spiritual formation. How amazing that we consistently allow the enemy to twist and manipulate so as to bring confusion and chaos on even the most sincere teachings. 
 
Ignatius of Loyola is becoming a favorite of the classic individuals for spiritual formation. His ideas of embracing the disciplines of the faith while allowing imagination and artistic creativity to enhance one's discernment from God is effective. He was a reformer for the pilgrimage to actual locations for spiritual formation. Ignatius was also a leader. He desires for people of the church to experience God. He wrote the Spiritual Exercises and encouraged the use of a spiritual director. Holt states: “The paradoxical feature of the Exercises is their appeal to the affections and emotions to accomplish their purpose, while remaining very rational.”9 These exercises and a noble attention to purity creates in a believer a clear leading of the Holy Spirit for how to follow Jesus.

The reformation era was a a tumultuous time for the church. Yet, the people of God grew and the numbers of Christ-like followers flourished through the dedication to God's revelation and to God's truth. The commitment of the body of believers was rekindled from desperate mediocrity. The hostilities of change would separate the differences of the Catholic and Protestant faiths for 400 years. Looking through the lens of history, we see a truth in piety that encourages every generation that follows. The division was great, yet God uses both, Catholic and Protestant to a renewed relationship with Him.

It is a reminder to remain faithful in Christ in all we do. You know I love ya, Don
  

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005). 99.

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