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1. Today is not just any Reformation Day, but #Reformation500 Day. That calls for another installment of #TwitterSeminary.
2. My reflections are prompted by the question: Just what was the Reformation really about? What was its essential aim?
3. In a recent WaPo article, Stanley Hauerwas weighed in on this question. washingtonpost.com/outlook/the-re…
4. Hauerwas says: "if there was a single characteristic at [the Reformation's] heart, it was the recovery of the centrality of Christ..."
5. Hauerwas thinks the Reformation was about recovering Christ & since Vat II did that, the #Reformation has finished its work.
6. Hauerwas is simply wrong—wrong regarding what the #Reformation was about & about the completion of its work.
7. The first part is the more controversial matter and there are as many different takes on this as there are Protestant churches.
8. Unfortunately some are in the habit of minimizing the Reformation on the grounds that "Luther wanted to remain Catholic."
9. That is to say, Luther wasn't trying to form a new church but simply to reform the old one. Ergo, it was just a minor dispute.
10. Now it's true enough that Luther himself was conservative in his reforms and only formed a new church when Rome rejected him.
11. But we mustn't reduce the #Reformation to a handful of practical changes (e.g., getting rid of indulgences).
12. We see the #Reformation correctly when we're able to assess the reforms as a kaleidoscopic whole.
13. In doing so we see: the #Reformation was a rejection of the necessity of the church as mediator. This is the Protestant heresy.
14. Admittedly, this is not the way the #Reformation is typically understood, so we need to look at the traditional interpretations.
15. Noll & Nystrom in "Is the Reformation Over?" boil it down to sola scriptura, sola fide &priesthood of all believers. Let's unpack these.
16. Sola scriptura means the Bible stands as authority over all church tradition. All doctrine is inherently revisable.
17. Sola fide (justification by faith alone) means our standing before God does not depend on performing any rites or practices.
18. Our justification—i.e., Luther's quest for a "gracious God"—is achieved by faith alone, that is, by God alone.
19. Priesthood of all believers means we don't have to go through a priest to find absolution. God meets us immediately & directly.
20. To be a priest is by definition to be a mediator between God & humanity. Protestants believe each person has this special access.
21. This means we don't depend on a church to serve that mediating role for us. God is available to all apart from the institution.
22. Brad Gregory is right to call this doctrine "utterly radical" (Rebel in the Ranks). It is a revolutionary idea.
23. Gregory calls it "an act of insurrection against a foundational pillar of Western Christianity," viz. that priests are special.
24. We need to see all 3 of these claims (sola scriptura, sola fide, priesthood of all) as essentially a single thesis.
25. To have 1 is to have the others. Each rejects the institutional church's claim to be the sole voice & agent of God.
26. If we want more than the Noll/Nystrom summary, we can quickly support these insights by looking at Luther's original 95 theses.
27. Thesis 2, e.g., says that repentance "cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance...**which is administered by the priests**."
28. It's crucial that we see the link between sacramental penance and the mediating role of the priests.
29. Barth says "undoubtedly the Protestant heresy, the Reformation, was fundamentally an attack on this primacy of sacramental reception."
30. The Protestant heresy is that Word, and thus faith, is the definitive relation between God & humanity.
31. Barth: "Faith is the condition of worthy & effective sacramental reception. Sacramental reception is not the condition of true faith."
31a. See Barth, Göttingen Dogmatics, p. 169.
32. In other words, God's relation to each person is the basis for the church, not the other way around.
33. This reversal is "the great venture of Protestantism" (Barth), a venture that is under attack by some Protestants today.
34. But first, back to Luther. He argues in theses 36-37 that Christians have divine grace apart from the church's official pardon.
35. "Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon" (36).
36. "Every Christian...has part in all the blessings of Christ & the Church; & this is granted by God, even without letters of pardon" (37).
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