A Reformation anniversary is an occasion for thanksgiving. It is good to recall the great achievements of this sixteenth-century movement, the benefits it brought, the careers of the men who, despite difficulties and their own frailties, revived the Church and at many points transformed society.
Yet poor service is done to the Reformation if no more takes place than a summarizing, perhaps with pious complacency, of the wonderful things that were done in the past. For one thing, the Reformation was not complete; large segments of the Church remained outside its orbit and even resisted many of its decisive insights. For another, the reforms that were made are not secured to the Church in any definitive sense. Forces of change and corruption are continually at work, and what has been gained may be lost again unless there is both vigilance and positive action. Finally, reformation is an ongoing task, even where there has already been reformation. No one can ever claim in this life that all the implications have been worked out or all the applications made. The anniversary of the Reformation is thus a summons to work as well as an occasion of renewed thanksgiving.
It is a summons to work in relation to the non-Reformation world, and especially the world of Roman Catholicism. A hundred years ago this could hardly have meant more than the attempt to establish or strengthen reformed and evangelical churches in predominantly Roman Catholic lands. Today, however, the situation has undergone a dramatic change, and it seems as though there is also the possibility of a reformation from within. Biblical studies have given a new turn to the theology of Rome. Bible reading, with all its potential, has taken on a new significance. Scripture ...1
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