Reformation at 500

The New Reformation

Young people are not all rejecting Christ. Many of them are simply rejecting what passes for Christianity in too many congregations across this country. So it is long past time for a new encounter with Jesus and a new reformation of faith in this land of the free and the brave.

Wrestling with Wesley

So Wesley wasn't just responding emotionally to the Bible study. It wasn't that he was caught up in the "heat of the moment" as we would say. What Wesley was caught up in was the saving grace of God. And that encounter didn't just change his feelings. Whether he knew it at the time or not, it changed his whole being. When Wesley's heart was strangely warmed, his whole life was being transformed.

Spirit and Structure: The English Reformation

If you think this was unfortunate because it forced everyone into one liturgical straightjacket, consider this: Thomas Cranmer and the English reformers were just doing what Jesus did in the Sermon on the Mount when he was teaching his disciples to pray. Jesus knew that his disciples were going to be at a loss when he left them. What could keep them together when they came together? Today, Christians all over the world pray "The Lord's Prayer."

Christ Against Culture: The Radical Reformation

Within a few decades, the backlash started to build and that backlash is called the Radical Reformation. The Radical Reformers wanted to be totally free from the authority of the institutional church and the state. As they saw it, the true Church was not an institution that protected its power. Rather, the Church was a group of people who wanted to protect the purity of their beliefs.

John Calvin and the Supremacy of Christ

Despite Calvin's best efforts, his descendants have not been able to make society look like the kingdom of God. But we keep trying. We just have to remember what Calvin said about power. We have to remind every pastor and every politician to be careful, because all power comes from God and all people who are in a position to use that power will be held to account by God. In fact, it was Calvin's insistence on the total sovereignty of God and the supreme lordship of Christ that gave one Reformed theologian by the name of Karl Barth the strength and courage to stand up to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Our Inner Luther

Luther's focus on faith—not the Church's faith, not the pope's faith—but the individual believer's faith was the fuel for the fire that became known as the Reformation. But it's impact went far beyond the Church. This new focus on the individual is arguably the foundation of modern Western Civilization. From individual faith comes a belief in individual rights and from a notion of individual rights comes a yearning for political, economic and religious freedom and from freedom comes the long march to democracy. So regardless of religion, on the inside of every American is a little bit of Martin Luther.