Happy Reformation Day

Reformation Day

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther—a German professor of theology, composer, priest, and monk—nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. His list of 95 grievances against the church, and the revolutionary opinions they communicated, would begin the birth pangs of the Protestant Reformation.

I’ve recently been rereading the book Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George. In it, George profiles the theological work of five key figures of the early Reformation: Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Menno Simons, and William Tyndale.

George, reflecting on impact of the Reformation, pens these words:

Peter of Blois, a medieval theologian who died nearly three hundred years before Luther was born, expressed a sense of gratitude for the Christian writers of antiquity which should also characterize our attitude toward the reformers of the sixteenth century: “We are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants; thanks to them, we see farther than they. Busying ourselves with the treatises written by the ancients, we take their choice thoughts, buried by age and human neglect, and we raise them, as it were, from death to renewed life.”

Today, on a day the Protestant church remembers that significant act of dissent and the birth of the Reformation, Baptists can be grateful to God for the architects of the Reformation who redirected the Christian church.

Living in the echo of this dissent, seventeenth century Separatists from the Church of England came to hold firmly believer’s baptism, congregational church governance, regenerate church membership, local church autonomy, and religious liberty. The earliest church labeled Baptist—recorded in 1609 in Amsterdam—is traced back to English Separatists John Smyth and Thomas Helwys. (The first Baptist church in North America was formed by Roger Williams in 1638.)

One of the lasting effects of the Reformation are the Five Solas, Latin phrases that summarize the convictions that have been an earmark of that movement.

The Five Solas are:

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone): Our highest authority is the Bible alone.
  • Sola Fide (faith alone): Salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Gratia (grace alone): Redemption comes by the grace of God alone.
  • Solus Christus (Christ alone): The church centers its focus on Jesus Christ alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone): All things exist for the glory of God alone.

On this day 500 years after a movement of reform was birthed, I mirror the sentiments of one Baptist historian, who states:

So on this Reformation Day, I’m thankful for the Protestant heritage we Baptists enjoy. We stand with Luther and Calvin on justification by grace alone through faith alone. We stand with the Anabaptists on a believer’s church committed to radical discipleship and confessor’s baptism. We stand with all three of these groups in their commitment to the supreme authority of Scripture. And as good Protestants, we ultimately stand where we stand, not because others stand there as well, but because we believe the Spirit still speaks through His Word to guide Christ’s people on the narrow way.[1]

Happy Reformation Day 2017!


[1] Finn, Nathan. betweenthetimes.com/index.php/tag/the-reformation