Guest Post: Reformation day – Theology for the head, heart and hands.
Courtship comes with many blessings, some taking the shape of guest posts. Here’s a post by him. Happy Reformation Day!
To many, October 31st is just a day. To a number, it is a freaky day – the all hallows eve (Halloween). Then to some, it is the reformation day. Five hundred and one years ago an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed some ninety-five contentions labeled as ‘95 theses’ on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
Luther was questioning practices by the Catholic Church that in his judgment, shook and threatened the core of Christianity. He had concerns as regards sale of indulgences, where one could give money to reduce the amount of punishment or time for souls of the dead sinners in purgatory. (Purgatory, apparently, is a place where souls of the dead linger for their sins to be purged.)
Well, the 95 theses are extensive enough, but deep down the question is a question on salvation. Do our works – purchase of indulgences, secure my salvation? Is the Pope incapable of mistakes? Is Jesus’ blood effective for complete redemption?
This led to a protest and thus the label ‘Protestants’ and a call for ‘a reformation of the church’. This was a call to make changes in order to improve and make an end of the rot that was deeply engraved in the Catholic Church. Sadly, the rot is still there, the Catholic Church is still the same, and millions of souls have been deceived into another gospel. The reformation is far from over!
God, in preserving the purity of His Son’s bride, the Church, has worked through mere men to bring about a reformation. From before Luther through reformers like John Huss, and after Luther, through Zwingli, Calvin, and many others.
In this day, the reformation needed broadens. Not only in the Catholic church but also in some fragments of the Protestant movement. We not only need 95 theses for the Catholic Church but also for the ‘Protestants’ who sell indulgences of the health, wealth and prosperity ‘gospel’. We need the reformation!
First, we need to be transformed by renewing our mind. Before anything, theology is of the mind. We read countless times in scriptures that the writer desires us to know, or to recall what we ‘know’. Romans 8:22 – For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 2 Corinthians 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich. James 1:3 – for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 2 Peter 1:12 – Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
The reformed theology doesn’t seem to miss on the theology. We, the reformed people, are a knowing people and we rightfully restore Christianity as a religion of the mind, first. As we began by saying, at the core of Martin Luther’s theses was the doctrine of salvation thus the protestants and reformers had a foundational set of principles central to the doctrine of salvation named the 5 Solas. Each sola represented a key belief and truth to know. John Piper summarizes, “The five Solas were their attempt to summarize biblical teaching on salvation. That God makes us alive and is completely for us: By God’s grace alone, on the basis of Christ alone, received through faith alone, to the glory of God alone, with Scripture alone as the only, final, decisive, authority on truth.” Such a wonderful truth to behold!
Secondly, this theology excites the renewed mind, but it also warms our hearts. It is no good theology that doesn’t steer our hearts. The heart doesn’t lead our theology but rather truth in our minds steers our emotions. Edward Mote in the classic hymn ‘My hope is built on nothing less’ captures it well;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus name.
We have sweet frames/moods and sad ones, but Biblical truth is constant, and the scriptures show this. Paul shows affection to the saints in Philippi in Philippians 1:8 – ‘For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.’ Paul is in anguish in 2 Corinthians 2:4 – ‘For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you’. Clearly, emotions form part of the Christian life. Our theology should shape the emotions.
This theology of the mind is often expressed in song and we have a whole book devoted to that, the Psalms. In both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 the command is to address one another and sing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This command is not devoid of our emotions as much as it is informed by what we know. I think of songs as ways by which we transport theology from our minds to our hearts.
It is necessary that we know theology. If you can, learn the big Latin words and add the ‘ologies’ in your vocabulary but more than that we are not to forget the applicatory aspect, because we believe, then behave. In knowing we become.
Therefore, lastly, reformed theology goes beyond knowing that we are totally depraved, or that God has chosen before eternity past who He will save, or that Christ died for the elect, and that His grace cannot be resisted or even better we cannot be lost. We need to be more gracious as those who believe the doctrines of grace, more kind, and more understanding.
Holiness is still a requirement and a supply of and to the redeemed. Sanctification follows those who are justified. More to holiness is obedience. We, who know God and have tasted of His heavenly gift, ought to be more prompt to respond in obedience to the heavenly call, laying down lives for the lost and for the gospel, because we know God is sovereign over all the affairs of His creation. As it is said, the ‘do’ in doctrine is equally important. We need to see our theology executed in our hands.
My favorite quote by the old English preacher, Spurgeon captures it well, “Jesus gave both his hands to the nails, how can I keep back one of mine from His blessed work?” the gospel is the motivation and the propellant of our works.
As we end, maybe, the ‘reformed’ folks, need a reformation of our lives too. Maybe on this reformation day, we need to protest some more against the theology that ends in our minds. The theology of our minds needs to be felt in our hearts and done in our hands.