Celebrating Reformation Day

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Tomorrow is not only Halloween but Reformation Day, the 500th anniversary of the commemoration of the posting of the 95 Theses, in fact. Last year I carved a Luther rose into a pumpkin; this year we took a trip to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to see their limited exhibit on Martin Luther (Uncertain Times: Martin Luther’s Remedies for the Soul). It was a tiny one-room gallery, but it had a couple of interesting artifacts that emphasized the humanity and pastoral care of Luther during the tumult of the Reformation, including the prayer book and beer mug of Melancthon and the Table Talk collection of his dinnertime dialogues. Sorry, the exhibit ended on Sunday, October 29.

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You might, instead, try watching the documentary Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World, now streaming on PBS.

Here is a quick review of the Five Solas by James Boice: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2010/09/the_five_solas_of_the_reformat.php
(You could also read it in email snippets over five days)

I also found fascinating an interview with Marilynne Robinson in Commonweal Magazine, which digs into her deep admiration of John Calvin (“Saving Calvin from Cliches”). Here’s a sample:

It is an irony that Calvin is always pilloried for his insistence on “election,” though the concept is Scriptural and also nearly universal among Christian theologians of every stripe. Yet people in his tradition were active, innovative, and very much inclined toward social transformation. We have opted for petty determinisms—childhood trauma, genetic inheritance, social conditioning, etc.—that have made us comparatively passive. We seem to prefer to find excuses—which are really nothing more than the embrace of determinism, a sort of Stockholm syndrome relative to whatever we can claim as limitation. I am fascinated by the more enabling self-understanding. It has helped me to find my way out of the cloying comforts that are offered by prevalent psychological models. I suspect that the appeal of bare-knuckles competition and even the unembarrassed pleasures of hostility that are rising among us now might have a similar origin. There is a great difference, however. Calvin taught reverence for human beings as such, seeing Christ even in one’s deadliest enemy. If this one thing can be recovered, then perhaps what was best in that ethos will be recovered as well.

Sidenote: You might also be intrigued by Obama’s interview of Marilynne Robinson, podcasted by the New York Review of Books.

A final(?) Reformation recommendation: the recent spate of podcast/radio episodes of the White Horse Inn. Michael Horton and guests stress how modern-day evangelicalism and American religiosity seem to be more informed by radical Anabaptist ideals rather than Reformed ones. Even if you disagree, it’s good food for thought.

I leave you with this quote by Dr. Tim Chester from an article in Table Talk magazine (the modern one, not the original!):

…the Reformation was always intended to be an ongoing project. It is a commitment encapsulated in the Latin phrase semper reformanda. It is usually translated as “always reforming,” but a better translation is “always being reformed.” We are not the ones doing the reforming. We are being reformed by God’s Word. God’s Word is the reformer of the church. Or rather, it is Christ who renews His church through His Word. Semper reformanda does not describe a movement forward to some uncharted horizon but a continual movement back to God’s Word.

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