Is Reformation Day a day to celebrate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Sometimes it seems odd to me to celebrate Reformation Day. Don’t get me wrong on this. I’m happy to be a Protestant Christian. I do have points I disagree with with both the Catholic and the Orthodox branches. At the same time, I see them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. My ex-wife used to attend an Orthodox Church and I’m sure if I went back to Georgia and visited them, they would recognize me and welcome me with open arms. I was always a friendly face at the Bible studies and other things that would take place.
On the other side, I have several Catholic friends I more regularly get to interact with because we have a Zoom meeting every Thursday night. It’s a group to discuss especially Thomas Aquinas. I’m one of the token Protestants in the group who does know Aquinas well and my running joke is I am there to make sure everyone gets their doctrine and their Bible correct, especially when I answer a question many seem stumped on or have to explain a point of Thomism. Last Thursday, I even commented on Luke 1:35 and how I would exegete it, certainly not a contentious verse between us.
I am a member of a debate group on Facebook for all three branches, but when I see something, rarely do I say how one group is wrong in their doctrine. I have no interest in that. Instead, I comment when one group is I think misrepresenting another group. I would hope that over the years, people would know I want to make sure any position is represented accurately and that even my Catholic and Orthodox friends who disagree with me will say I am still fair with them and don’t have a chip on my shoulder against them.
Now I do appreciate that the Reformation took place. At the same time, it’s a sad state of human affairs that we couldn’t have everything worked out. As is the case in most any human affair, I suspect there were bad moves played on both sides. I’m not about to claim Martin Luther is the holiest man who ever lived, nor am I to say he’s a total villain.
I also am sure everyone can agree there were problems in the Catholic Church at the time. Even if one doesn’t agree with all that happened, it can be said that Luther did raise up some valid concerns that needed to be addressed. If he hadn’t, then why was there ever a Counter-Reformation?
I do think there was good that came out as we had a renewed look at exploring the traditions that the Catholic Church held to to see which were likely to be true and which were not. Naturally, there are some I disagree with or else I would be Catholic today. There was a renewed interest in Bible study and a push to let everyone have access to the Bible.
These are good, though I won’t deny there are some downsides, like again any human endeavor, as when great minds who have great respect for the Bible and its culture read it, we get some great insights. Unfortunately, there are a number of people who are convinced the Holy Spirit is telling them stuff that’s absolutely nonsense and no need to study. Consider it like the internet. Put great information in the hands of the populace and a lot of people will misuse it.
One of the greatest areas of sadness with this to me is the Lord’s Supper. (Which the way we do it is hardly a supper anyway and I think the majority of churches just giving out a piece of bread or a cracker and a drink of wine or juice are doing it wrong anyway then) This was meant to be a time of unity where we were all to gather together and celebrate. Instead, it’s now a reminder of disunity. I am remembering going up in the Orthodox Church and I could get a blessing from Father B who led it, but he could never give me a piece of the bread. (Although I did come up afterwards when extra were handed out and it was okay.) I wonder if there were times he wanted to give me some of the bread as well anyway.
I celebrate many of the doctrines that came out of the Reformation, but I don’t celebrate the disunity. I look forward to celebrating at the throne one day with all my Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox brothers and sisters. I suspect we won’t spend eternity going on and on about who was right. (Some of you better hope not because you know me and if it’s me, I will never let it go!)
So yes, I did celebrate in some sense, but I will celebrate even more when we can all worship together.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)