Ramon Arias | October 30, 2017“The sum of the matter is that from the beginning of the Reformation in the English nation, there had always been a generation of godly men, desirous to pursue the reformation of religion, according to the Word of God….[though resisted by individuals with] power…in their hands…not only to stop the progress of the desired reformation but also, with innumerable vexation, to persecute those that heartily wish well unto it….[The Puritans were] driven to seek a place for the exercise of the Protestant religion, according to the light of conscience, in the deserts of America.” Cotton Mather, In Magnalia Christi Americana, 1702
Humanity faces a multitude of problems. Some “experts” say that many of these problems are without an immediate solution. The truth is, every man-made problem has a solution and can be resolved, many times, much quicker than people think. The caveat is that the original problem often requires a great dose of humility and that is hard to find. The good news, contrary to popular opinion, is that humanity is heading toward a better world that will be different than the one experienced by past generations. The hope is that the right generation will come along and will get it right. That generation will finally discover the way the development of society was initially created to be.
Apart from the birth and accomplished work of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, the most important event in all human history, the next significant episode is what took place on October 31, 1517. The Augustinian Catholic priest, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany exposing the papal error of selling indulgences for the forgiveness of sin. The theses were written in Latin, but soon they were translated into German for the masses to read. Luther’s intentions were for the Church to change from within, he did not want to split from the Institution, least of all to start a separate movement away from centuries of traditions and rituals. The rest is history, the 16th century Reformation was born, and no earthly power could stop the fire in the heart and mind of the people that experienced the truth revealed in God’s Word.
Before Luther’s bold move to defy the pope and the Catholic hierarchy, there were other Reformers of the Middle Ages or Medieval Period from 1170’s up until the time of Luther. Three main movements wanted to renew the church: the Waldensians, the Lollards, and the Czech Brethren. Each group was against the church whose focus was one of increasing wealth, benefits, power and total control of nations under their dominance. The church was far removed from the teachings of the full counsel of the Bible. Each of the three groups promoted the education of the Bible in the language of the people. The way the church responded was by implementing the Inquisition. A court was implemented in 1231 A.D. by the Roman Catholic Church to stop the first wave of the Waldensians by using the civil authorities to punish them by torture, incarceration, and execution of the transgressor for reading and studying the Bible.
The leader of the Waldensians movement was a wealthy French businessman named Peter Waldo, who gave away his property to make the Word of God known.
The Lollards’ movement started in the mid 14th century by John Wycliffe, a Roman Catholic scholastic, theologian, philosopher, and seminary professor in the University of Oxford who was terminated in 1381 for criticizing the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrines.
In an article on Church History, the magazine Christianity Today makes the following observations about Wycliffe:
He deepened his study of Scripture and wrote more about his conflicts with official church teaching. He wrote against the doctrine of transubstantiation: “The bread while becoming by virtue of Christ’s words the body of Christ does not cease to be bread.”
He challenged indulgences: “It is plain to me that our prelates in granting indulgences do commonly blaspheme the wisdom of God.”
He repudiated the confessional: “Private confession … was not ordered by Christ and was not used by the apostles.”
He reiterated the biblical teaching on faith: “Trust wholly in Christ; rely altogether on his sufferings; beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness.”
John Wycliffe directed the first translation of the complete Bible into English. His translation launched a revolution, empowering people from all social strata to have access to the Bible in their language. Wycliffe responded to the critics who rejected making the Bible available to the people by saying: “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English. Moses heard God’s law in his own tongue; so did Christ’s apostles.” To him also is attributed the writing in the General Prologue of his 1384 translation of the Bible: “The Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.”1 Does this sound familiar?
Wycliffe is called, “The Morning Star of the Reformation” it was with him that the dawn of the Reformation launched on October 31, 1517.
Jan Hus was the leader of the Czech Brethren movement. Born in the Czech Republic—after his Masters degree in 1396—Hus was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1400. Hus was influenced by the teachings and writings of the Englishman John Wycliffe and called the Roman Catholic Church to reform. Hus’ teachings and writings were in the people’s language; he wanted them to understand what would have been impossible in Latin, the language of the Bible at that time in the Catholic Church.
In 1414, the Catholic Church was confronting the division of having three different popes. In October 1414, Jan Hus was called to appear at the Council of Konstanz where he was put on trial, charged with heresy and was sentenced to death by being burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
History is moving forward, and it is not controlled by humans. God was preparing the next wave of the Reformation, and this is the reason why October 31, 1517, is of vital importance in the human calendar.
The Protestant Reformation of 1517 impacted the Christian thought that dominated European nations. Equally important was the challenge to reform the humanistic worldview of philosophy, theology, education, science, politics and economics that was spreading throughout the world with the distorted view of life on earth and beyond.
The five-hundred-year-old historical movement will continue to demand of the present and future generations to bring the next biblical reformation that will lead science, technology, humanities, commerce, and education to a higher level with ethical solutions that now plague humanity with corruption. Are God’s people willing to obey and act upon the call to disciple the nations or do we need to go through a horrifying and devastating World War or a world cataclysm? Professing Christians can only answer that question, and this time the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, the Protestant, Evangelical and Independent churches will not escape a shaking of biblical proportions.
The modern and postmodern times have not been able to erase the effects of the Protestant Reformation of 1517, and they never will. All opposing worldviews to the biblical perspective cannot overpower the light of God’s Word and they are doomed to fail again and again.
By the way, without the Protestant Reformation of 1517, there would be no United States of America, seriously!
Pay attention to the times we live in and rest assured that what happened five hundred years ago matters going forward, you and I decide which direction we will take. In the words of Joshua to Israel of old and centuries later the prophet Elijah:
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15 (ESV)
“And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.” 1 Kings 18:21 (ESV)
Our way of thinking, speaking and acting reveal which side of truth we are on, and if it goes against God’s revealed will, then we must turn around and follow the right precepts revealed in God’s Word.