I was thinking today about how we (only sometimes) make superstars and celebrities of Church leaders. You’ve seen the memes of Thug Life John Piper. There are names, now, that come to my mind of great theological minds, influential preachers through the years, talented apologists and the like that I point to as exemplary guides of my faith — my protestant faith. Yet, in the day of YouTube and what I’m seeing as the making cool of denominational affiliation, confessional faith and theological labeling, it is my most honest confession, as a young student of the reformers, that I have at times made idols even of those guides of the faith who would all detest what I (sometimes) make of them. They would all redirect my ill-turned mind towards an even greater theological guide.
This Reformation Day, the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther’s catalytic theological disputation entitled the 95 Theses, I will not be singing Luther’s praises.
Let’s make no mistake here. I learn a lot from those who have done the work to study, research, and exegete scripture in a way that is loyal to it and devoted to upholding the truth of God’s Word. I learn from the many aforementioned theological teachers that I admire. And admiration, balanced and appropriately expressed, is good, I think. It is appropriate that Luther be called a talented writer, intellectual and rhetorician but also a devout student of the Word and upholder of the faith. Admiration, balanced and appropriately expressed, for people like Luther is fitting on this year’s Reformation Day.
There is a big “however” to all of this that I feel the need to express though. Let’s not idolize or give undue exaltation to our heroes. Luther was a flawed thinker, as we all are. So were Calvin and Wesley and the rest. Brilliant, but flawed. They made theological mistakes from time to time. Even protestants — especially protestants — need to be cautious against upholding our traditions over revealed truth. Often, we come to make authoritative tradition when we look more intensely at our leaders than at sacred scripture itself which is God-breathed.
So, what I’d like to suggest is that we glorify God on this day, and every day, by cherishing the precious core doctrines of the Reformation championed by these heroes —
We are saved and justified by God’s sovereign grace through our faith, and not by our works, “lest any man should boast”, so that we may not approach the altar with a spirit desiring the earning of God’s grace or the securing by our effort God’s grace, but rather with a spirit of gratitude for the supreme, efficacious and sufficient effort of Christ on the cross and the entire Holy Trinity in the redemptive resurrection event.
Sola Gratia. Sola Fide. Sola Christus.
This is what I will remember on Reformation Day. This is what I will think about on Reformation Day. And I invite all who identify with the reformers to partake in this endeavor.
Soli Deo Gloria.