How do we get the Church back to how it once was?
As many churches commemorate 500 years since Luther wrote his 95 theses, it was refreshing to see informative articles and reviews of books in Premier Christianity (October) that gave different perspectives on the Reformation.
Only in eternity will we know the full impact of the rediscovery that salvation is available by grace through faith in Christ, which was fuelled by the translation and distribution of the scriptures and changes that began with Luther’s stand against works-based salvation.
However, major Reformers sadly shared in common the practice of persecuting those who disagreed with them. In Geneva, Calvin and the authorities used imprisonment, torture, banishment and executions against his opponents. In Zurich, Zwingli ensured that Anabaptists’ leaders were harshly dealt with, including execution by drowning, because they taught that infant baptism was unscriptural. The fierce, violent actions advocated in Luther’s book On the Jews and Their Lies were subsequently to be enthusiastically carried out by the Nazis.
It is good for Christians to be thankful for, and to remember, the rediscovery of gospel truths proclaimed in the Reformation. Yet surely, it is also right to both deeply regret and repudiate actions in the Reformation that were contrary to New Testament teaching?
The two articles on the Reformation in October’s edition clearly show the gulf between Catholic and Protestant positions.
Michael Reeves’ ‘What the Reformation did for us’ focuses on what matters: the character of God and his love for us, how we can relate to him, and the delight, freedom and insights to be had from knowing Jesus.
In contrast, Nick Page’s inventory of what we lost as a result of the Reformation offers a tradition cluttered with religious trappings and ecclesiastical machinery, counterfeit relics and the theology of dualism. It doesn’t contain any reference to the Bible or its teaching.
The Reformation was a sovereign act of God, recovering lost teaching and revitalising the practices of the Church.
Having looked back, and recognised how, in the past, God brought us the better understanding of his character and purposes and the benefit of a closer walk with him, let’s concentrate today on furthering the processes of Reformation necessary for the advance of the kingdom.
Out of idle curiosity I always view the ‘Jobsearch’ section of the magazine and am constantly surprised at the commitment of the UK Church to children, young people and families at the expense of all else. In the September issue, for example, there were around two vacancies for the younger end of the age range for every one covering all other forms of ministry. This was put into stark contrast by Rev Steve Morris’ article ‘The Forgotten Generation’. In a youth-obsessed culture, the Church seems to have adopted a mission mind-set that floods limited resources at one demographic while witnessing a desperate poverty of resources in another growing population group. I look forward to adverts to stimulate church provision for the grey pound population.
The D Word
I’m glad to see that other divorcees find acceptance in their churches after painful divorces (Feedback, September). I only wish that my own divorce had been recognised in this way.
My now ex-wife and I were in a heavy shepherding church and we sought help from another couple. Being counselled by the husband, I was told in no uncertain terms that “God’s told me to tell you that if you divorce your wife, he will destroy you”. No love, grace or understanding whatsoever and these words still haunt me today, some 15 years later.
I have no doubt that many marriages can be saved but certainly not based on fear. In some circumstances, it is surely better to accept that differences cannot always be reconciled in the same way that you cannot heal a gangrenous limb. Better to amputate rather than die.
I found Nathan Jones’ article about Neymar optimistic and provocative in equal measure (In My Opinion, September). However, the assertion that it isn’t the fault of footballers for being paid so much money is surely not true. Footballers and their agents are constantly holding their clubs to ransom for bigger and better contracts. I agree that there is nothing inherently wrong with being paid half a million pounds, but let’s be honest – that amount of money would corrupt even the most morally minded footballer, so why put yourself in that position?
I’d love to see Christian footballers do something truly countercultural. Imagine the curiosity that would arise if they asked to get paid less than their counterparts, or wore boots made by ethical clothing companies rather than the regular big name brands?
Working class faith
Reading Natalie Williams’ story in ‘Is the Church too middle class?’ (News Analysis, September) brought back floods of memories. As the only teenager from the local comprehensive school and council house in my church youth group, I was perplexed at the levels of anxiety my peers were experiencing over A-level results and admission to a ‘good’ university. At the time, all I could think of was which trade to pursue on leaving school aged 16. I felt like the odd one out. I’m sad to say 30 years later that nothing has changed: I’m still the o nly working-class person that I know of in my congregation.
@RichardOrmrod Until reading Worshipping With Angels in the latest @Christianitymag I’d never realised angels could be present when we worship. I wonder if they listen to the sermon.
@rosegrigg ‘If there’s one thing we know about theology, it’s that other people always get it wrong’. Top Reformation banter in @Christianitymag.
@mindandsouluk Congratulations to @Christianitymag on their brave and excellent article ‘Diary of a mentally ill Christian’ by Daniel Jarsdel.
@ancresbyjacq Absolutely love the ‘In My Opinion’ in latest issue of @Christianitymag. Often clip quotes from this mag, will clip whole article this time.
It appears there are a number of things that are smaller than they used to be in this day and age. I overheard someone recently bemoaning the size of Wagon Wheels, which I for one entirely agree with. The last time I saw one at a wedding reception, I was amazed the horses could pull the happy couple along at all.
Attention spans are not what they used to be either. I was extremely alarmed in church this week to note that, during the reading of God’s Holy Word, several people felt it appropriate to be engaging in activity on their telephones. I can’t imagine why they would have these things out. It is no time to be sending messages on Twitface. One young wag suggested that they may have been reading the Bible passage on their phone! I quickly informed him that the concept of fitting all 783,137 words of the King James Version onto a device that can be carried around in one’s pocket was not only a laughable fantasy but probably heretical as well.
I would entirely endorse your article on ‘tech-free Sundays’ (Digitox, October). However, it does not go far enough. I would suggest a tech-free week. To what spiritual end does technology serve? It doesn’t end there. I heard a rumour recently of one local church that had started displaying pictures during the preaching. There appears to be some sort of concerted effort to turn the Lord’s Day celebrations into an episode of Catchphrase. I do hope the Church will resist the wiles of the interweb. It will only be a passing fad, like the motion picture or the hit parade. Yours technologically,
Rev Roger D Votional