Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Failure of the Protestant Reformation

Thank God for Martin Luther. Without him, the Catholic Church would have persisted in its empty tyranny over the conscience of men and women, many of whom were prevented from reading the Bible for themselves, and for those who did get to read the Bible, they were bound to the interpretations of their religious superiors.

The wild monk of Eisleben was not afraid to start a dialogue, which instigated one of the widest, longest, and most devastating of revolutions against traditional authority.

Yet with the dismissal of one authority, another authority must take its place, for mankind will not tolerate a power vacuum for long. After the rule of the Catholic Church was diminished forever on the European Continent, the temporal power of kings and princes pushed ecclesiastical authorities aside.

Yet kings who dictate to their subjects can still subject freedom of thought to gross indecencies.

Yet the Protestant Reformation set in motion the primacy of the individual's conscience. It was now up to the individual to determine the full force and import of Scripture, or at least that was the trend which developed following the extended splintering of cultural and religious partisanship.

However, the hallowed sanctum of individualism is a hollow inconsideration. Man who depends primarily on his own opinion will inevitably latch on to matching words, policies, and programs in his surroundings, both cultural and political. Now matter how strong our opposition or our innovation to any regime of belief or tradition, we cannot escape the pull of the culture which we inhabit, unless we receive a greater revelation beyond the senses and the discernment of our thinking.

We do not interpret Scripture outside of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His Finished Work, His Person, His Majesty is central to the mission and message of the Bible, not just man's educated intellect. The learnings of man, no matter how profound, or base foolishness to God, whose Holy Spirit accords all wisdom to those who believe.

The lack of prominence for the Holy Spirit is one disturbing development in the Protestant Reformation. Man;s intellect is not enlightened. Only through salvation and the revelation of righteousness unabated does a man rest in his new life, his new identity in Christ Jesus.

The Protestant Reformation was a protest, but we are called to stand in Him who loved us and gave His life for us. We need to identify with the Truth, not just rebel against evil. Because the Protestant Reformation reinforced the corruption and illegitimacy of one institution, religious communities found themselves without any ballast.

Yet the Bible is the source of Truth, and the source of revelation for anyone who seeks to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord. A second Reformation took place, less violent yet no less important. The spiritual fervor that former institutional adherents were seeking began to bear fruit. Bible studies emerged in which believers could search the Scriptures and learn about the One who loved them and died for them. The role of the individual believer connecting with God rose in prominence in smaller communities. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is essential, and simple, for those who wish to live by God's Word, for every man is dead in his trespasses until he receives God's grace through faith, thus ushering in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

Politically speaking, the Protestant Reformation broke the yoke of religious bondage from the people. However, the authority of the Bible cannot rest primarily in the power and persuasion of the individual reader alone. Without permitting the Bible to interpret Bible, by ignoring the scope and essential importance of rightly dividing Old and New Covenants in the Scriptures, more recent authorities can just as well distract readers from receiving by grace through faith the leading and prompting of the Holy Spirit.

The mentoring of the Holy Spirit in a believer is easy. If man abides in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9), resting in His Finished Work at the Cross, then the peace of Christ can rule in the hearts of men, and by faith believers can receive the witness of Christ in them, the hope of glory, who leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

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