By David Tulis
(Second of two parts.) While everybody else is celebrating Halloween, a few people look past the hobgoblins to a much more important celebration, that of the Protestant Reformation, which commonly is marked for Oct. 31.
The claims of the Reformation are in some ways so familiar we no longer recognize them as doctrines for which many men and women gave their lives in the 1500s and 1600s. God ordained a great rupture in the ossified, world-deadened church, and brought out His people in a great exodus after its pharaoh befouled his hands with the blood of the saints and refused to acknowledge biblical authority.
The people you’re about to meet are gathered around picnic tables and a bonfire to celebrate the Reformation. The fruit of that period are the opening of the oracles of God in the common tongue, the authority of God over princes and the distinct spheres of individual, family, church and state.
Christians pray because God really is in control
Emily Hamilton, 14, is a home educated student who seized a Reformation hammer — that is, the Westminster Confession of Faith. She memorized the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and recited 107 answers in one sitting before the elders, including statements such as this: “God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.”
If God were not sovereign, I ask at a gathering of Brainerd Hills Presbyterian church members, how might that affect Emily’s prayers?
“You would be praying without hope in a way, because you wouldn’t know God had planned everything for you for good,” she declares. “Because you are a Christian, everything is planned for good, and when you pray, you are doing what God asks, and you are reminding Him of his promises. But you know He has everything already planned for you for your good. If He were not sovereign you would be praying with this sort of desperation we don’t have as Christians, because we put our faith in God.”
As Bible opens hearts, science opens eyes
I ask Dr. Robert Sacci, 27, an electrochemist and lecturer in chemistry at Cleveland State Technical Community College, if the Reformation aided science. “One of the biggest fruits of it was the freeing up of individuals’ curiosity to discover,” he replies. “What happened with Martin Luther and others of the great reformers is the bringing the message to the people in a way that the people can actually grasp and learn from it. Science seems to follow a similar suit, where the rings broke away from the Catholic church, and you started having more independent minded scientists around.”
The Reformation extends another claim to the modern era, says David Boyd, a homeschooling father of four who works in an IT department. It not only boosts technological advances, but grants man a vigorous work ethic. As sinners are undeservedly saved by God’s grace, Mr. Boyd says, they grow to have thankful hearts and feel duty bound to serve others, especially masters.
“Certainly, I have a lot of gratitude for those contributions, people like Calvin and Luther,” Mr. Boyd says, “because they opened up the Bible to the common man, because people just did not study it back then. It revealed the gospel in a new way.”
Most important rediscovery of all
“The most important aspect of the reformation was spiritual — the spiritual aspect,” says John Auxier, 36, delivery truck driver and student at Whitfield Theological Seminary. As do others at the celebration, he remarks on the democratization of the Word of God.
The church had forgotten the sufficiency of scripture for understanding God and being saved, and having a relationship with God, and knowing God instead of having to come to God through different mediators, saints, and rituals in a language they could not understand [Latin].
They were able to have a one-on-one contact with their creator, through Christ, as revealed in the scripture. And this was given back to the common man, so they could understand the true doctrines of Christianity. Now when this happened, this had many effects on the culture. It brought light and understanding to the way human beings should relate to each other. As they learned how to relate to God from the scripture, they learned how to relate to each other — economically, culturally, as far as how laws were to be made and how rulers should govern, and so the Bible brought this light to Europe, and caused a revolution.
Now, over the years the people of Europe forgot the spiritual beginnings of that, and they held on to a lot of the principles they learned, but they lost the true meaning of the Reformation, which was that the Word of God — God has revealed to us through a special revelation everything we need to know for living life on this earth.
Reformation world conquering; but today faith privatized
Mr. Auxier says Christianity has turned subjective, gone private. I ask him if God’s people have forgotten Him.
“Yes, I think the United States largely has, and even the church has forgotten, because we’ve relegated the doctrines of the Bible to personal piety instead of how it should be applied to all aspects of life — again, how rulers should govern, how education should be done, how families should be, how relationships should be. And so what we need again in this country is another Reformation where Christians and even nonbelievers are reintroduced to biblical Christianity, so they can have a light of understanding that comes directly from God.”
Privatization of Christianity has let God’s people neglect the creator’s authority over the ministry of justice — the state.
“All government is given by God,” says Peter Gagliardi, an elder, “subject to the great governor of the universe. So all earthly governors are indeed stewards of the authority God has given and they are to wield their power and their authority only in accord with scriptural principles, for the benefit of God’s people.”
The exuberance for God and the intellectual interests of the Reformation time are encapsulated by a quick remark by Erin Stroud, a mother of two homeschooled children whose husband, John, works in a hospital graphics design department.
The Reformation “totally opened my eyes, expanded my vision, awakened my intellect,” she bubbles. “I can’t stop learning. I can’t seem to learn enough and it’s totally transformed my whole Christian life.”
David Tulis, a deacon at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church, is married and the father of four children.