How the New Testament faces unbelief and heresy in the churches

First of Two Parts

In October of this year, 450 years will have passed since Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg. Usually this act of Luther is regarded as the beginning of the Reformation. As such it meant the beginning of the separation of a large section of Western Christendom from the Roman Catholic Church.

It is true, of course, that Luther and the other Reformers always rejected the charge of being schismatics, maintaining that they were the legitimate continuation of the Christian Church. Not they but the Roman Catholics were the schismatics, they said. Luther wrote, for example:

I say that the pope and all who knowingly abet him in this matter are heretics, schismatics, under the ban and accursed, because they teach differently from what is in the Gospel, and follow their own will, against the common usage of the whole Church. For heretics and schismatics are men who transgress the doctrine of their fathers, separate themselves from the common usage and practice of the whole Church, and causelessly, out of sheer wantonness, devise new usages and practices against the holy Gospel. That is what the Antichrist in Rome does.… He is himself the chief cause and sole author of all schisms and parties. This is plain as day, and all history proves it [Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia, III, 72].

In actual fact, however, it cannot be denied that the Reformation also meant a separation from the existing church.

Unfortunately, the Reformation’s act of separation has been repeated again and again within Protestantism itself, and only in this century have serious attempts been made to overcome this seemingly endless ...

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