I recently attended a “Faith and Spirituality in Politics” luncheon hosted by our state senator. We met at a Catholic retreat center located in our town. The retreat center is very beautiful and peaceful. The luncheon was interesting and helpful, as far as understanding more about how people who say they are Christians are trying to influence the political process with Christian values.
This particular state senator is Catholic, and the priest at his church spoke first on the history of the buildings where we met. During his talk, the priest referred (positively) to praying to Mary and the various miracles attributed to the person who originally made this location famous. What made this event more interesting is that at my table were four other men: two Lutheran (Missouri Synod) ministers and two Catholic priests. The date was November 1, the day after Reformation Day! I found it more than ironic and even humorous that, one day after we remember the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I am sitting at a table with Lutheran ministers and Catholic priests.
After the Catholic priest gave his brief talk referring to praying to Mary and supposed miracles, most people in the room applauded, including the Lutheran ministers. I did not applaud, and I am sure the Lutherans and Catholics noticed.
Why did I not applaud? His comments about Mary and miracles illustrate that the Reformation is not finished and won’t be finished until Christ returns. The open and bold references by the Catholic priest to erroneous Catholic beliefs vividly illustrated some of the persistent problems with Roman Catholicism and with the attempts by various Evangelicals to produce some rapprochement with Catholicism.
The Reformation will never be finished in this present age because the themes of the Reformation are eternally true and must be proclaimed in an age which tries to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). Some of those who suppress the truth are unaware that they are suppressing the truth. Some suppress the truth, not by proclaiming complete error, but by proclaiming a mixture of truth and error, a mixture that they sincerely believe. Only the gospel is the answer, a gospel not diluted by addition or subtraction. Paul was very clear in Galatians 1:8-9 that God made only one gospel. Rather than complicating our work, that simplifies our job tremendously.
The Reformation was also about understanding the place of work. The Reformers stressed the sacredness of work for the glory of God. The priests and monks were not the only ones with sacred work. Today, people still work, but people have too often replaced work with busy-ness. One of the most common reasons I hear for noninvolvement in church ministries is “I’m busy enough already”. In America, many people, including more than a few Christians, are busy pursuing happiness and not very happy in that pursuit. They are unhappily pursuing happiness, involved in many diversions to occupy their time and mind. Satan suppresses truth by diversionary tactics.
The Reformation is not finished because new generations need teaching of the Biblical gospel and given a vision and passion for that gospel. This responsibility is always hard, particularly so today as secular culture subtly infects our thinking and behavior at every level of life. Many Christians know more about popular movies than they do about the Bible and base their choice of which church to attend on pragmatic reasons rather than doctrinal reasons. I know young adults who are attending churches which have erroneous beliefs about spiritual gifts, baptismal regeneration, and other serious doctrines but who attend those churches because of personal friendships and music preferences. Consequently, many do not understand the complexity and slavery of false gospels.
I am interested to see what will happen in the next few years after all the celebrations, conferences, books, and articles about the Protestant Reformation and its 500th anniversary are in the past. I wonder if there might actually be renewed emphasis on some type of reconciliation (compromise?) with the Catholic Church. For example, after the events of September 11, 2001, many were concerned that those events would lead to oppression and persecution of Muslims. Actually, for a few weeks, Muslims did seem to be the target of animosity. Then, strangely, American and European society actually seemed to be giving the Islamic religion preference and sympathy, a condition that continues to this day. I wonder if the same will happen after this 500th anniversary. The danger to the principles of the Protestant Reformation will not come from the theological liberals who have been promoting ecumenism for many decades. The danger will come from the theologically apathetic who never understood the principles nor cared to learn them.
Wally Morris is pastor of Charity Baptist Church in Huntington, IN. The church blogsite is amomentofcharity.blogspot.com. He has also published A Time To Die: A Biblical Look At End-Of-Life Issues by Ambassador International.