08 Sep The Reformation Era
REFORMATION in the R3 ALLIANCE is a key component combined with the other two points of agreement RELATIONSHIP and RESOURCE. Because of the times in which we presently live, it behooves us to revisit the times and individuals used of God to usher in what is now etched in history as The Reformation Movement.
In departing for a quick fly over of the conditions and positions which occurred on the ground between 1500 to 1700 we will come to the awareness of an awakening. We observe that we are running along parallel paths with those who confronted the existential crises and struggles of that period and the souls of those who now stand as a great cloud of witnesses upon whose shoulders we now stand.
The church global is presently experiencing great revival in some areas and great losses in others. In America and Western Civilization there has occurred a loss of integrity and influence as salt and light. Moreover, there is the ominous lack of vision among the masses that determines the trajectory of a nation’s people and culture. With unprecedented political upheaval, rising tensions between the races, and the saturated absence of spiritual leadership to sound the clarion call to all, we are now staring into the looking glass of the Reformation Era.
Both church history and Holy Scripture inform us that “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chron. 16:9 NLT) The vision of R3 is to foster and facilitate men and women of God to be those found appointed to the kingdom for such a time as this. Chesterton well wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
As we study the lives of these champions may we not just admire their courage as change agents, but may we imitate their convictions and run the race in such a way as to win as they did!
-Pastor Bill Davis
THE REFORMATION ERA 1500-1700
If the earth’s gravity had shifted as much as the church’s theology did during the Reformation, the globe may have spun off its axis. Combine this with the political, cultural, and social changes that were simultaneously operating in Europe and the result is a true revolution.
In fact the religious, political, cultural, and social realms were quite interconnected. This is seen clearly in the person of John Calvin (1509-1564), the French Protestant Reformer who labored in Geneva, Switzerland. His major work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, is considered one of the most influential in world literature. While laboring to organize evangelical churches, Calvin develop a highly adaptable model of church government. Meanwhile, social institutions were deteriorating. Many new institutions developed under the influence of Calvin’s model and his “presbyterian” example even extended to influence modern democratic political theory. When John William Tyndale (1492-1536), left England to commence his work he said to a learned man, “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” Considering that the Bible had been exclusively in a Latin translation for 1000 years and that Tyndale’s proverbial ploughboy was an illiterate, the fact that Tyndale succeeded reveals not only his genius but also the harvest of cultural transformation caused by his English translation of the Bible. It is not commonly known that many of the finest passages of the King James Version of the Bible were taken unchanged from Tyndale’s seminal work. These passages are treasures of the English language to this day.
These reformers were struggling to free the human spirit from the bondage of religious darkness, but antiquated social systems and illiteracy were being overthrown as well. Simultaneously, the political world was in upheaval while emerging from its dominance by the church at Rome. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was Archbishop of Canterbury and a leader of the English Reformation. As such he became embroiled in the maneuvers of Henry VIII to rid England of the influence of Rome. Cranmer himself renounced allegiance to the pope, directed that the pope’s name be erased from every prayer book in England, and pronounced the king of England head of the English church. Cranmer was a brilliant editor, translator, and composer of prayers and formulate. His labor produced The Book of Common Prayer (1548), which is in use to this day in churches of the Anglican Communion. Political and religious shifts in England caused Cranmer to be condemned as a heretic; thus he joined the many martyrs of his time when he was burned at the stake in 1556.
An example of the quality of the people God enlisted to accomplish the Church’s reformation is Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), one of the great minds in Western intellectual history. A Frenchman, Pascal was an eminent mathematician and physicist and one of the greatest mystical writers in Christian literature. At 19 he invented the first practical calculating machine. Later he verified the theory of atmospheric pressure and formulated the mathematical theory of probability, a fundamental element of modern theoretical physics. Pascal was an adherent of the Roman Catholic reform movement known as Jansenism. His Provincial Letters (1657), a classic in the literature of irony and satire, demanded a reemphasis on Augustine’s doctrine of grace within the Catholic Church. Yet God also gave the church John Bunyan (1628-1688), the impoverished son of a tinker who authored The Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison. One of the most famous religious allegories in the English language, The Pilgrim’s Progress became the most widely read book in English after the Bible.
Another descendant of peasants grew up to be perhaps the most crucial figure in modern European history—Martin Luther of Germany (1483-1546). We have noted that there were reform-minded individuals working in the church for centuries. But this German theologian appeared at the confluence of the flow of history to directly initiate the Protestant Reformation and thereby influence politics, economics, education, and language as well. Luther held the chair of Biblical Theology at University of Wittenberg in 1512. This was his final station in his journey toward understanding that God’s free grace is the unique source of salvation. On October 31, 1517, he published his Ninety-five Theses, which opposed certain beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church. With Luther as its leader and innovator, the Reformation burst forth. Luther was a preacher, professor, theologian, linguist, educator, and political theorist. God places his treasure in earthen vessels and Martin Luther was the gifted and versatile man of the hour chosen to usher in a truly new era in human history.
*Excerpt from the Classics Devotional Bible (Summary of Time Eras)