31 October 2018

A Reformation Day Thought

A friend and I were talking about Reformation and I expressed dissatisfaction with ever describing the Reformation in terms of "Luther discovered the Gospel!" He challenged me to put into words how I'd speak of the Reformation. Here's my attempt, for what it is worth:

When through a study of the Sacred Scriptures, the Gospel was again heard with utter clarity as good news of great joy, a proposal (the Augsburg Confession) was offered by those who so heard to remove from the Church's life any number of practices and teachings which had in effect made it difficult for the faithful to hear the Gospel AS the good news of great joy that it is. The practices and teachings that had obscured the hearing of the Gospel were all weighed in the balance of the Divine Word and found to be wanting; further, as church history was investigated they were found to be innovations not rooted in the ancient Church, and the recommended change in practice (or teaching) was found in each instance to be in conformity and continuity with the ancient Church.

I'd add this too: Obviously, the majority of catholic Christians did not accept the proposal. But those who accepted the proposal went on to reform practice and teaching in conformity with the Divine Word, removing whatever obscured. Yet subsequent history taught an important lesson: no structural changes in the Church's life made in the service of allowing the Gospel to be heard as the good news of great joy that it truly is, ended up being some sort of guarantee that the people who lived in those structurally reformed congregations of the Church Catholic would in fact so hear and treasure the Gospel as good news of great joy. Which underlines this truth: it is not the Reformation that saved the Gospel; it is the preaching and hearing of the Gospel that saves us. The Gospel is what grants faith in Him who alone saves and preserves His Church “ubi et quando visum est Deo, in iis, qui audiunt evangelium.”

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