Why a local church hails reformer’s bold move as escape from bondage

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From left, truck driver John Auxier and Dalton College student Tyler Ray discuss theology at a Reformation Day picnic for a family-friendly local Presbyterian church.

(First of two parts.) On Wednesday, Oct. 31, the Protestant world marks the anniversary of Martin Luther’s hammering his 95 theses at a church door in a small university town in Germany. In his bold act, he defied the rites and dogmas of the church of Rome that controlled virtually every facet of society and kept generations of people in spiritual darkness.

“We’re here to celebrate the reformation,” says Peter Gagliardi, 51, as members of the church celebrate the 1517 event Friday night around a bonfire. “As God’s people we are glad that we have been set free, and that takes its root in the Reformation, where the church was oppressed in the Roman Catholic church through many abuses.

“The gospel was suppressed by superstitions and the people were, as it were, disenfranchised from the gospel — that is, kept away from the gospel. So we’re celebrating that freedom when Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses on the Wittenberg Cathedral door.”

Mr. Gagliardi is an elder at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian church, where I hold office as deacon. Around him and other men I feel myself a slacker. They are well read and able to explain things.

What happened at the Reformation, and why should we care?

Rediscovering Bible elevates the common man

The Reformation recovered the idea that every Christian has a personal relationship with God, says Tyler Ray, a Dalton College student.

“During the Reformation it was recovered, the truth of the priesthood of all believers, that all of the saints of God, not just the clergy, have a special calling of God upon their lives, and are especially gifted for that calling, to be priests of God and to worship him as He called us to. And one of the things that it does, it exalts the common man, and shows he has a place of importance in the church, in the world, in all of society and all of life.”

Mr. Ray, 22, goes even further, suggesting that the Reformation gave a kind of royalty to every believer. He makes this point with reference to the Nov. 6 U.S. elections.

Well, the authority and value of the vote are rooted in the fact that we all have civil duties. In medieval times, before God gloriously delivered His people from the bondage of the pope of Rome, that pope ruled in all spheres of life, and was over the church, the civil government and the family, such that now, being loosed from those bonds, we are able to exercise the authority that God has delegated to us in our specific callings, and as members of a representative republic, which is the model of government which we do see in the Bible. We are given the authority delegated by God to see to it that our representatives — those who rule over us — rule over us in a way that God would have them to rule over us. And so our representatives are accountable to us, and we should take [seriously] that duty, which we’ve been charged with by God.

A trap — escaped

Colleen Murphy, 25, an accountant at a physical therapist office, was reared in the fellowship. But her family’s background is in an unreformed church, one she likens to a trap her mom and dad escaped.

“The Reformation for me has always been about how the Protestant church broke away from the Catholic church and the dangers of the Roman Catholic faith. All my relatives and family members were Catholic.

“My parents were always strong in teaching us the lies in that faith, just how it’s faith that saves you, it’s not works, about the dangers of trying to go through the church and through a priest instead of through Jesus.”

The Protestant Reformation’s unearthing two pillars of world-changing Christianity — irresistible grace and the sovereignty of God — are a source of hope even among Christians skeptical of them. More next time.

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