In the past year, this is a familiar question I’ve heard repeatedly asked by many different theologians, pastors, seminary students, and even a handful of laymen and women. Is the Reformation over? Well, some would answer this emphatically “Yes!” while others would be quite confused as to why you’re asking if something that happened in the 1500’s is still relevant. In light of comments made by Pope Francis, it’s been made very clear to many friends and me that the Reformation is in fact not over with. In fact, the Reformation needs to be kicked up to warp speed in 2017 and beyond if Mainline Protestants and Evangelicals want to protect biblical orthodoxy and correct the false teaching coming out of Rome.
On January 1st of 2017, Pope Francis made this audacious statement that was retweeted over 11,000 times and liked by over 34,000 people from his English Twitter account:
Let us entrust the new year to Mary, Mother of God, so that peace and mercy may grow throughout the world.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 1, 2017
A quick survey of those who retweeted and liked the post reveals there were several people who would claim to be a “born-again” believers in Christ and not Roman Catholic interacting with this tweet in a positive way. This is astounding to see and very worrisome to think about. For many Roman Catholics the veneration and worship of Mary the mother of Jesus is a normal and daily ritual, but for Protestants, this is heresy and blatant idolatry and equal to worshiping a deity other than God the Father. Vatican II of the Roman Catholic Church devotes an entire chapter in its Lumen Genitum commonly known as the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church to Mary and the veneration of her as a divine being. This excerpt should give you an idea of how this is implemented within the Catholic Church:
“The Virgin Mary, who at the message of the angel received the Word of God in her heart and in her body and gave Life to the world, is acknowledged and honored as being truly the Mother of God and of the redeemer. Redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son and united to him by a close and indissoluble tie, she is endowed with the high office and dignity of the Mother of the Son of God, and therefore she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth. But, being of the race of Adam, she is at the same time also united to all those who are to be saved; indeed, “she is clearly the mother of the members of Christ … since she has by her charity joined in bringing about the birth of believers in the Church, who are members of its head.” Wherefore she is hailed as pre-eminent and as a wholly unique member of the Church, and as its type and outstanding model in faith and charity. The Catholic Church taught by the Holy Spirit, honors charity. The Catholic Church taught by the Holy Spirit, honors her with filial affection and devotion as a most beloved mother.”[i]
With all due respect to Pope Francis and the teaching of Pope Paul VI who drafted the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, his claims are found nowhere in Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to entrust anything to Mary, nor are we told that the veneration and adoration of Mary is a necessity for salvation as Vatican II goes on to affirm. In tweeting this message out to his nearly 33,000,000 followers across eight different Twitter accounts, he has told millions of people to trust in someone other than in Christ alone in the New Year. This is false teaching at an astounding level and at an incredible rate considering how many times this was shared across all his accounts, not including his reach on his Instagram account. In a modern age where social media can reach millions instantly, the spread of false doctrine and a false gospel will only continue to grow.
This all brings me back to the main question I asked at the beginning “Is the Reformation over?”, And sadly I must say no the Reformation is in fact not over with. In fact, it must be continued with urgency by all Christians who trust in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone, for the glory and praise of God alone for their salvation. We must be strong in our commitment to the work that Luther started and Calvin, Zwingli, Knox, and others continued after the gauntlet of 1517 was thrown down.
As Christians, we must be bold in calling out false doctrine. We must be resolved to stand for biblical orthodoxy and be willing to risk our reputations and careers for Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, and Soli Deo Gloria. We must proclaim that it is by grace through faith in Christ Jesus alone that brings true peace and mercy into the lives of mankind.
We must also contend for the true faith that was delivered to all the saints once and for all. We must be vigilant, never ceasing to continue the work of being an evangelist, and making disciples of Christ wherever we go. The Reformation is not over. Instead, we continue on the Reformation from the past on into the future as we seek Ecclesia Semper Reformanda (the church always reforming to the Word of God).
No, the Reformation is not over, and the need is great. Let us with great urgency and with a passion for the gospel, and the souls of men go and make disciples calling them to the ancient paths trodded by our forefathers in the faith to the biblical paths of orthodoxy and to the life that God has ordained for them now in and through union with Jesus Christ.
Resources to be considered to help you understand the importance of continuing the work of the Reformers:
- The Unfinished Reformation
- Roman Catholic Theology and Practice
- Talking with Catholics about the Gospel
- Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism
- Holy Ground. Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic
- What is the Gospel?
- Far From Rome, Near to God
- Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism
- The 5 Solas Series: God’s Word Alone, God’s Glory Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone
- Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity
[i] Dogmatic Constition on the Church Lumen Gentium 21 November 1964, accessed January 3 2017. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html
James Forbis is a graduate of The University of Arkansas, a former Jr. High and High School football coach, and American history teacher. He is completing his M.DIV at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Great Commission Studies and Expository Preaching. He’s a self-proclaimed sweet tea connoisseur and Tex-Mex addict. Most Saturday’s you can find him cheering on his Arkansas Razorbacks, hiking or fishing, or reading up on his favorite subject, the Revolutionary War, or spending time with his wife.