Monthly Archives: June 2013
Footsteps idly wandering
is a soul
without an anchor.
or knowing not,
all the same.
To what buoy or mooring
does your soul cling?
Where does your heart
find a home
memory and belonging?
Some readers have wanted me to continue with my castle fascination. Below are a few photos I have taken in different parts of Europe. To us they may be quaint and beautiful in their own way but most have a history of bloodshed and intrigue.
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?
Wales has amazing castles. Here are some found in the north west. Most of these represent Edward 1st’s attempt to subdue the unruly citizens of Wales in the C13th. The one exception is Dolwyddelan which started life as a Welsh castle guarding a route in central north Wales but also ended up in the hands of the cunning Edward.
Recently an old friend from the Catholic tradition commented on a poem I had written about the importance of acknowledging those, from the past, who had paved the way for us. He reminded me that this goes back many generations. Not so subtlety he reflected that even for Protestants our origins go back to the Catholic tradition.
As I pondered further I considered the reasons for the Reformation. The reinstatement of the primacy of the Word, a return to “Grace alone” and the corruption in the Vatican at the time were all key issues. It took the church 1500 years to get to the point that the Reformation occurred. Despite the corruption in the church there were many bright lights and examples of Christlikeness. My readers will be aware of my occasional reference to Teresa of Avila. (See here and here). It wasn’t all bleak. Yet it has taken the Protestant tradition less than 500 years, since Luther nailed his theses on the door at Wittenberg in 1517, to come to a similar state. Instead of indulgences we have the “prosperity gospel” – selfishness in different clothes. The primacy of the Word is under strident attack. Issues that secular society seeks to reevaluate such as gay marriage and abortion are understandable, however that many in the church support these causes is not. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
The point is this: the church must continually be reforming itself in the light of Scripture. In every new era as issues arise, the Word of God needs to be applied afresh to the times. The Catholic church recognised this with the Counter Reformation and the Vatican Councils. We may disagree with many of the outcomes but at least they understood the need for review.
On the immovable foundation of the Word of God, what do we need to reassess about ourselves, our values, our priorities – both as Christians and churches? Is it time for another reformation – a reformation that can trace its spiritual ancestry through those who, over the centuries, down to the early church have striven to be faithful to God, His Word, His Gospel and His Kingdom?