When John Hus, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin and many others sought the reform of the church, their initial intention was not to start a new denomination. In fact, Hus and Wycliffe died in the church in which they were born. The dominant issues they were confronted by, and in turn confronted, revolved around the primacy of the Word, the Papacy, doctrines added by the church, and corruption. Half a millennium later there are some of the old issues but also many new ones as well as old issues dressed in new clothes. The other day I asked if we needed a new reformation. If we do, what would need to be reformed? Here are some thoughts in no particular order except the first:
- I believe there needs to be a return to the understanding of the inerrancy of Scripture. Too many churches and believers now treat the Word of God as a “guide” rather than God speaking to His people. Does that mean there will no disagreements? Not at all. We still need to understand what is said, however, we will begin from a common understanding.
- There may be some churches who, quite rightly, claim that this is their current position. But that leads to a second area of reform. There are some churches that need to stop reading Scripture through the lens of their historical confessions. I am not saying these confessions are unimportant, but a confessional obsession can blind us to Scripture’s intent for this age. A confession is a historical and cultural document ( as well as a religious one) so there are always elements that are out of place or balance with era in which we now live. Some of the anti catholic rhetoric would find new targets in the C21st. Then again, may be the rhetoric was misplaced in the beginning. Many issues the church needs to consider were never contemplated centuries ago. The environment, the nature of mission, social justice and the place of women and children in society are just a few.
- For Western Christians a reformation of values is required. I believe the time has come to confess our addiction to materialism and the C21st lifestyle. Today we are in the world and of the world.
- Another Western blight that needs reforming is our understanding of the family – why are family breakdowns occurring at the same rate as society as a whole?
From the time of the Edict of Milan in 313 there has been a steady and unwavering progression of the church from organism to organisation. The Reformation didn’t deal with it but now, more than ever in our disintegrating social fabric, the church needs to reveal the power of community – the body of Christ.
These are a few random thoughts on the need for reform. We, particularly in the West, need to confess our failings, our wandering from God and His Word and humbly seek to start afresh. What do you think?