22 Nov 2003

The Reformation: only halfway there?

Submitted by theshovel
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If the Reformation was all about seeing the truth in the blood (wine) of Christ (Rom 3-5) then some have said we are only halfway there until we see the truth of the body (bread) of Christ. (Rom 6 & 7). Perhaps these truths might very well lead us into the next Reformation!? Bill

Hello Bill,

Yep, lots of questions get stirred up throughout these chapters of Romans (6-8), don't they? :) I have also heard many statements made about the Reformation, concerning what was understood and what was not understood. I may have even heard the wine and bread allusion you refer to. Funny thing about history, though, is that we see it according to those who wrote, and I doubt we have a very complete picture ... not even about those who did the writing.

On the one hand, I think many may have experienced more freedom than some of those who describe the Reformation failings in understanding the so-called "second half of the gospel". I suppose my considerations are underscored by the sometimes legal nature of many who have claimed to understand this second-half that the Reformers didn't understand. :) On the other hand, I have heard and read enough legal teachings from some of the Reformers to make me want to puke.

I often wonder about the many people who didn't write anything (or perhaps their writings didn't survive) who might have had a totally different outlook and experience with the life of Christ. I can remember having read something about an early American woman by the name of (I think) Anne Hutchinson who had been denounced as a heretic, a witch, or perhaps both. Funny thing was that the description of her heresy gave me the idea that she may have understood much about the living freedom of Christ!

Also, I remember hearing a "Christian" radio program's presentation of a biography of John Calvin. I only heard a few of the readings and it was very interesting and enjoyable because I really wasn't familiar with anything about Calvin except a few anti-Calvinistic messages. Something I do remember was an oft-occurring reference to certain people or groups that Calvin passed off as "the lovers of loose living".

At the time, I was picturing the pimps, prostitutes, boozers and slackers who used grace as that proverbial license-to-sin. Upon later reflection, it seemed that he very well may have lumped together any and all who didn't hold the high-moral standards expected by the more "upright" (or perhaps, uptight) Christians! It seemed that these "licentious" believers had opposed some (or many) of Calvin's teachings ... and I have to wonder if these so-called licentious sinners were being labeled as such under the premise of law. Who knows, huh? :)

Another thought. While "The Reformation" was happening, I wonder how many would have ever considered it as such. As far as we know, depending on who writes the history, some may look back at this time we're in now and call it the 2nd Reformation already. Of course, many others would probably call it the time of great apostasy!

You and I would most likely rate such labels as ridiculous since there are so many different leanings and undercurrents that no one label could define our time by a singular movement. I suspect the time history calls the Reformation is much more complex than we might think, and I am sure that many of those who held a different view of their time would be passed over in favor of the so-called theological giants.

After all, only those who are of little esteem are going to pay attention to those who are of little esteem. And then, if they had an impact on society, their words can later be re-framed to support the more esteemed! You know, it's kind of like the prophets who were honored by the children of those who murdered the prophets while also honoring the evil deeds of their fathers, the ones who murdered them.

There is no doubt that many excellent things have come to us because of that time in history. I'm just not as convinced about it as I once was, considering how much bondage has been justified under the teachings of some of those "reformers".

I'm also convinced that much of the confusion regarding the simplicity of Christ recorded by Paul in the letter to the Romans (as well as others) has only been reinforced by the theological approach of many Reformation writers, and then further reinforced by those who elaborate on their technical teachings. This is perhaps what causes many to want to discover what the reformers seemed to have missed, though I think the reformers might have been quite offended by the suggestion that they had missed anything. I think they would have labeled any who defined their teachings as being only half of the gospel as heretics.

I also wonder if in the pursuit of that so-called second half of the gospel (the part the Reformers missed, that is) that many have fallen into the same trap that ended up confusing the whole reality of union in Christ. Are you following me in what I'm suggesting? In other words, if the Reformers were able to so accurately teach the truth in the "blood" of Christ (even though there were many discrepancies between them) how is it that they missed the truth of the body ... unless, of course, their technical approach is what caused it in the first place?

I say "technical" because much is based around the idea that freedom is achieved to the degree one grasps truth, and that somehow there is always that one more truth, some elusive key, that would finally put it all together and make it complete. Let's face it, if the Reformers only understood half of the gospel - the part that brings true freedom - then they never found true freedom. And if later generations look back and declare that even the 2nd Reformation also missed a very critical part of the gospel, then we could not have found freedom either ... unless, of course, true freedom does not come from lining our theological gospel ducks in a perfect row. Whew! Thank God for that, huh?

What I'm really getting at in all this is to start off by trashing the idea that we need to build upon what the Reformers didn't finish. Sure, there were many excellent declarations made of true freedom in what they taught, and we need not disregard their words either, but we cannot begin to think that we are going to complete their unfinished teachings. Because when we follow that procedure we become ever more technical and critical over what constitutes "truth" and end up creating more and more formulas.

Well, it is now past my bedtime, and I really haven't answered your specific questions yet, though perhaps I have addressed them much more than you might suspect in what I've written above. I will continue this tomorrow ... though not sure how far I'll get.

Jim Minker :)


That very label ‘reformation’ is ridiculous and well demonstrates the superficial fleshly mindset that cannot see beyond appearance. For from the same said reformation came little to nothing that had not been before it, that is the legal mentality.

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