On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the “Castle Church” in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther’s actions were a challenge to the extraBiblical teachings of his day, particularly regarding the sale of indulgences and the material hypocrisy of a wealthy Church that was building elaborate houses of worship with the money of poor believers rather than from its own coffers. At that time, only a select educated priesthood could read the Word of God because it was written in Latin rather than the languages of the common people. Unfortunately, they were mishandling Scripture and the public was none the wiser.
The Reformation was a call back to the authority of God’s Word. The Reformers translated the Bible into common tongues, allowing the people to search the Scriptures for themselves to see whether the teachings of their local priests were true or not. This puts us in mind of the Bereans, whom Paul commended for such zeal for Biblical truth. The Catholic Church protested the printing of the Bible in the language of the people. They claimed they were afraid that people would mistranslate it, but the truth was that they themselves had strayed far from the authority of the Bible.
During the Reformation, the Five solas emerged. These 5 Latin phrases summed up the spirit and emphasis of the entire movement:
Sola Fide: “by faith alone” – Salvation is received by faith alone without need or addition of works, though true saving faith is always by good works.
Sola Gratia: “by grace alone” – Salvation comes by God’s grace or unmerited favor alone.
Solus Christus: “through Christ alone” – Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and man, and there is no salavation in any other.
Soli Deo Gloria: “glory to God alone” – All glory is due to God alone
Sola Scriptura: “by Scripture alone” – The Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God, the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all (It’s perspicuous and self-interpreting, requiring no interpretation outside of itself).
It is Sola Scriptura that I’d like to highlight. There are those who no longer believe that the Bible is perspicuous. No, they say, it’s hard to understand. For example, it says the world was created in 6 days, but that only goes to show that you can’t really know what the Bible means without an understanding of ancient languages and the hermeneutical considerations suggested by naturalistic science. They don’t believe the Bible is self-interpreting; they suppose the revealed Word of a perfect Creator must be interpreted in light of the graspings of fallible men – so long as their interpretations of the natural world are made in the name of science!
What they are saying is that God is not great, that He is not omnipotent enough or omniscient enough to make His Word clear without the help of 21st century science. That He who made speech could not communicate His Word in such a way that the meaning was clear for all audiences of history. That the mind of God was too small to overcome the enormous task of relating His Creation with simplicity and clarity. That he really meant evolution and millions of years but that a great deal was lost in translation, so that His Word gave the impression of 6 days and Creation ex nihilo by divine fiat; because He wasn’t all-powerful enough or wise enough to make sure it was translated correctly. (And before I get the objection that fallible men were involved, I remind you that an all-powerful, all-wise God could easily overcome the trifling obstacle of imperfect instruments; He does it all the time!)
Like the Reformers, it is time that we made a stand for the authority of God’s Word, from the very first Word. That’s why we’re asking churches to post the first 11 chapters of Genesis to their front doors this October 31, 2010, aka Reformation Sunday. In the next few days, we’ll be posting a pdf document you can print and post to your church door this Reformation Sunday!
-Rev Tony Breeden