This year, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation that started in Germany in 1517.
There are a couple of things we take for granted in our church services:
It is in an understandable language
We have Bibles
The Bible is read and explained
We pray together, sing together and take part in some way
The gospel is explained
If we were attending a church 500 years ago in Europe, none of these would have happened. Europe in Medieval times was a spiritually dark, superstitious place. The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) ruled supreme. All roads led to Rome where the Pope ruled over all things religious. The Pope was (and still is) believed to be the spiritual successor to the Apostle Peter and the Vicar of Christ i.e. Christ’s representative on earth. Without Father Pope there could be no church, without Mother Church there could be no salvation.
I recently attended the “Scripture and Sacraments in Reformation Anglicanism” course at George Whitefield College presented by Dr Ashley Null*. I found the course extremely challenging and very beneficial in thinking about ministry today. The course centred around the Protestant Reformation in the Church of England in the 1500’s, how the Church of England broke from the church of Rome, how God used Thomas Cranmer to capture the essence of the English Reformation and how Cranmer set the glorious Reformation truths before ordinary people with the Book of Common Prayer.
Every year Reformed Evangelical churches like to remember the Reformation of the church in Europe in the 16th Century – from which we trace our theological heritage.
The medieval church was steeped in suspicion, false teaching and wrong doctrine. Many people had a false assurance of salvation, a wrong notion of the church and a totally distorted view of the gospel. The dominant false teaching was Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church taught a salvation by works. As long as you said the right prayers, attended the right services (like the Mass) and said your confession to the priest, you were right with God. Into that dark world God shone his light and raised up men and women who would read the Bible and be gripped with its message. John Calvin was one of these men. He was born in France in 1509, the same year that Henry VIII was crowned King of England. Calvin was raised in a Roman Catholic home. Father sent him to the University of Paris to study Romish theology. While in France Calvin seems to have come across some of Martin Luther’s writings.