On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther defiantly nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. “The 95 Theses,” also known as “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” is a list of questions and propositions for debate within the church. Popular legend has it that this is the beginning of the Protestant Reforma-
tion, which marks its 500th year this fall. Of course, scholars and historians can’t nail down a specific date to the begin-ning and end of the Reformation. It was a liquid movement that did not solidify in name until much later. It was more a conversation that had taken place for decades prior to Luther’s works. The reforms took place for many decades following the initial momentum as well.
One of the popular phrases to manifest from the reformation was the Latin term Ecclesia Reformanda, Semper Reformata, which means the reformed church is always reforming. Inside the church, change seems to happen one of two ways. It can happen painstakingly slowly or it can happen frightfully fast. Usually though, these are changes in style of worship or church customs. Those are important, but often what lies beneath those changes are major shifts in thought and beliefs about God, Jesus, the Spirit and authority of the church.
This fall, we will look at what it means to be a part of the Reformed church and the changes happening across our culture with church. Phyllis Tickle’s book “The Great Emergence: How the Church is Changing and Why,” explores how every 500 years or so, the church—and the world—experience huge social, political, economic, and cultural shifts.
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If you haven’t read this book, you might like to, as it was written for a time as this. Tickle says we are traversing through our own Reformation. She calls it the “Great Emergence and explores relevant questions like what happens when the church cleans out its attic. She also dives into our loss and discovery of a common story through Christ. She also looks at the way ahead, while mapping fault lines and fusions and asking what does this revolutionary evolution mean for the church? What are the changes we see in the church now? Can we see the future transitions from reading the past?
I would like to explore one of the biggest ideas to come through the reformation that has affected our beliefs: Sola Scriptura. This was the thought that we know the love of God through Scripture alone and the scripture, not the Church or Jesus, is basis of faith and authority. This is one of what’s called the Five Solas to emerge from the reformation. 1 Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority. Prior to the Reformation, the Church erred in many ways. The Bible was then used to correct the perceived injustices of the church. However, many feel the church has erred too far to the weight of Sola Scriptura in the past 500 years. For many Scripture alone has become the sole test of faith, to the neglect of Jesus’ acts and work or the authority of the church. That is, the baby was thrown out with the bath water.
The idea of sola scriptura has morphed so egregiously that some make an idol out of scripture and worship it instead of Jesus. Scripture has been called inerrant and infallible, while the final act of Jesus is relegated to a sub par event. What would it look like to recover the rule of love from Jesus? What if Jesus and his love was the authority? On the next page, you can read the list of the Five Solas from the reformation. We will look at each of these and what they mean for our lives today.
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1 Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”):
The Bible alone is our highest authority.
2 Sola Fide (“faith alone”):
We are saved through Christ’s faith alone toward us.
3 Sola Gratia (“grace alone”):
We are saved by the grace of God alone.
4 Solus Christus (“Christ alone”):
Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
5 Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”):
We live for the glory of God alone.
Finally, while I am intellectually excited to explore some of Tickle’s thoughts this fall and each of the Five Solas, I am also interested to know what the church has meant for you. What are some ways the church has been a blessing? What are some things the church must reform in order to lead your families the next 500 years? If you were Martin Luther, what 95 things would you write about?
Rev. Trey Hegar