Not a Reformation but a Revolution : Karl Keating

November 1, 2016

I write this on the day known to most Americans as Halloween but to some American Protestants as Reformation Day. A year from today will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg. Between now and then we’ll see a ramp up of conferences, meetings, and seminars concerning the anniversary, beginning with the pope’s visit to Sweden.

Many people—mostly Protestants, of course, but also not a few Catholics—are talking of “celebrating” the Protestant Reformation. I am not one of them, because there is nothing to celebrate, though there is much to commemorate. Working from the Latin, to commemorate (“with memory”) means to keep something in memory or not to lose memory of it.

We commemorate 9/11 because we want to keep in mind the wickedness of the terrorism and the heroism of so many victims, police, and firefighters—but we don’t celebrate what happened on that day. We gladly would give up the heroism if we could have been spared the terror.

Not a Reformation but a Revolution

[size=4]A well written and thoughtful response. His conclusion best states my own thinking on this.[/size]

[size=4][size=3]It won’t do to say that, at some point, the Reformation ceased to be needed. It never was needed, and, like bad movements throughout history, it brought more grief than good. It was, and to a certain extent remains, a powerful historical force, one that we should keep in memory by commemorating it—but not by celebrating it. The difference is crucial.[/size][/size]

Thanks for linking to this Karl Keating article. The Reformation should be remembered but not celebrated.

“By the turn of the 1500s a once-again-complacent Christendom was in trouble. It again needed reform, but what it got was the Reformation. Luther, who was not much of a theologian, rejected some long-taught beliefs and offered a few novelties of his own fashioning. His counterparts elsewhere in Europe, such as Calvin and the English Reformers, did likewise. The result was a fissiparous Protestantism, the members of which were unable to agree among themselves on many doctrines and practices but could agree to oppose “the Pope of Rome.””

The events in Europe in the 16th century were so nationally-oriented, so politically aligned, so divisive from the start that all that was needed was a spark to ignite the fire. I rather suspect that most of the 95 theses were formulated to provide plausible reasons for a rebuking/rejection of Church authority. Something like 3 of the 95 were even problematic. There was long-standing friction, if not animosity between those bonded politically to the various German Princes, versus those loyal to Rome.

The selling of indulgences, while sinful - I believe - was more a motivating factor for a percentage of the Germans in authority to reject the cash that was flowing from Germany to Italy. And, from various Princedoms to a Papal State. We tend to overlook that fact that European borders have more resembled the ocean tides than they have geographic limitations.

Introduce a Vesuvial personality - one who was increasingly at odds with the faith - and the spark was provided. There is ample reason to suspect that Fr. Luther had serious psychological difficulties, swinging from extremes of depression to elation. His ever loyal lieutenant, Philipp Melanchthon, included at least one such example in his writings extolling the greatness of Luther.

Yet, what was originally political-religious became Luther’s baby and his massive ego would not allow him to back down. He would have remained Catholic if the Church had bowed to his demands. Erasmus tried in vain to make peace, noting both the corruption in the Church as well as Luther’s increasingly aberrant theology. For that, he received utter condemnation from Luther and accusations from the Church. Blessed are the peacemakers!

Once divided into competing factions (seen today almost in a manner similar to sports teams), hyperbole takes root in defense of one’s preferred position and the truth can easily be lost. What did not need changing, of course, was the faith handed on by the Apostles - and Erasmus made constant note of this. But the freedom, the licentiousness, that the opened door of the reformation provided was ever so enticing to the human heart.

What we have today is the almost complete pulverization of the Body of Christ - particularly on the reformation side. There is virtually no trace of Luther or Calvin remaining. Doctrines are carried by the winds of fashion. This is nothing to celebrate, unless one’s daily work is roaming and prowling this earth.

I recommend a recently published book if interested in recent dialogue:…l-journey.aspx…/dp/0809149796

“Pulverization of the Body of Christ” … perfect expression.

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