10 Reasons Why the Reformation Is Not Over

10 Reasons Why the Reformation Is Not Over

The sixteenth century Reformation was caused by a variety of factors, but none was greater than the perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ by the Roman Catholic Church.  The Bible clearly teaches justification by faith alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins.  The Roman Catholic Church labored to silence the Scriptures in order to peddle their cheap gospel.  God awakened men such as Martin Luther and John Calvin and many others who would give their lives for the sake of the gospel.

Out of the Reformation came five doctrinal statements known today as the five solas of the Reformation.

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

Yesterday marked the 499th anniversary of the day when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Castle door in Wittenberg in order to protest the perversion of the true gospel of Christ.  As we look back at the 499 years of church history and explore the present state of the evangelical church, an honest evaluation would reveal that the Reformation is not over.  Below are ten reasons why the Reformation is not over 499 years after it began.

  1. The Roman Catholic Church has not repented of their perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. Preaching is not, in many evangelical circles, the central mark of the local church.
  3. The present state of the evangelical church is filled with a love for pragmatism and a distaste for robust theology.
  4. The holiness of God is barely referenced much less understood among many evangelical churches.
  5. Worship has become man-centered as opposed to God-centered.
  6. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are often trivialized and minimized.
  7. Church discipline is a missing mark in most evangelical churches in our present day.
  8. Evangelism has been replaced by gimmickry and superficial methods that seek immediate results as opposed to genuine conversion.
  9. Holy living has been replaced by a loose antinomian approach to redeeming the culture.
  10. Church membership has become a shadow of indulgences — one’s ticket to heaven in many evangelical churches.

Until Christ returns, the spirit of the Reformation will not be complete.  The purity of the church and the exaltation of an unadulterated gospel will be the desire of those who continue to stand upon the shoulders of the Reformers of church history.  May we labor with love and take the torch light of the gospel and continue the work of the Reformation.

As we reflect upon the Reformation of church history, we must consider the present Reformation and what’s needed to make the church treasure Christ more than anything else this world has to offer.  We must refuse to recant and stand boldly upon the true gospel of Jesus Christ for the glory of God.

Is the Reformation Over?

Is the Reformation Over?

In his book titled, Are We Together?  A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism, R.C. Sproul writes, “I have found that the vast majority of people who call themselves Protestants have no idea what they are protesting. [1] In the year 1517, the movement known as the Protestant Reformation exploded.  Led by Martin Luther, the Reformers opposed the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church – especially on the subject of justification by faith alone, the need for the Bible in the common man’s language, and the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  For years, the Reformers stood with passion and bold conviction to oppose such teaching.  As we near the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, we must answer this very important question: Is the Reformation over?  The Pope says the Reformation is over, should we believe him?

Recently, in an interview, Pope Francis made some very confusing statements.  While this might not be a surprise, when he speaks about the Reformation and the precious doctrine of justification, it’s worthy of our attention.  During an in-flight press conference interview while traveling, Pope Francis was asked the following question:

Seeing that you will go in I believe four months to Lund for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I think perhaps this is also the right moment for us not only to remember the wounds on both sides but also to recognize the gifts of the reformation. Perhaps also – this is a heretical question – perhaps to annul or withdraw the excommunication of Martin Luther or of some sort of rehabilitation. Thank you.

Pope Francis’ full answer to this question can be read in accessed (see full interview here), but in his response he made some important statements that must be addressed.

Are We United or Divided on Justification?

Pope Francis, when answering the question about the Reformation, said, “And today Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification.”  Is that true?  Do we all believe the same thing regarding the doctrine of justification?  In that same answer, Pope Francis pointed back to the eccumenical document signed in 1999 by the Roman Catholic Church and a group of liberal Lutherans on justification titled, “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.”

According to the official doctrinal statementCatechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the Roman Catholic Church states the following:

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism.

In a later paragraph, the same document says:

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent.

In both places, the Roman Catholic Church adds to justification by faith alone the work of baptism and the gift of faith suggesting that sinful rebels cooperate with God in this work of justification.  This is one of the central dividing lines between the doctrines of Rome and Christians.  According to Martin Luther, “The doctrine of justification is the article by which the church stands or falls.”  It’s essential to note that there is no hint of eccuminism in Luther’s tone.

According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, in chapter 11 and paragraph 1, the statement on justification reads:

GOD freely justifies the persons whom He effectually calls. He does this, not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins and by accounting them, and accepting them, as righteous. This He does for Christ’s sake alone, and not for anything wrought in them or done by them. The righteousness which is imputed to them, that is, reckoned to their account, is neither their faith nor the act of believing nor any other obedience to the gospel which they have rendered, but Christ’s obedience alone. Christ’s one obedience is twofold-His active obedience rendered to the entire divine law, and His passive obedience rendered in His death.Those thus justified receive and rest by faith upon Christ’s righteousness; and this faith they have, not of themselves, but as the gift of God.

According to Romans 3:21-24, Paul makes the clear point that justification is by God’s grace alone:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—[22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: [23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

It doesn’t matter if the Pope believes we’re united on justification, the fact remains, we’re Protestant and we continue to protest the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of justification.  Until the Roman Catholic Church repents of this perversion, we will not be united on this doctrine.  Perhaps it’s the office of Pope that prevents true unity on justification.  Jesus sits in the seat of supremacy – not the Pope.  In a sermon at the 2016 Together for the Gospel conference, Ligon Duncan made this statement:

The greatest barrier to real biblical institutional unity in the world is the claim of the Roman pontiff to ecclesiastical supremacy. The claim to papal supremacy by the bishop of Rome is the single most schismatic act in the history of Christianity. It has provided more schism by far than that of the wildest heretical sects imaginable.

Is the Reformation Over?

How can Pope Francis claim that we all agree on justification?  It’s plainly obvious that we are not all Roman Catholic in doctrine.  The historic Reformation was not merely a political protest.  At the heart of the protest was the issue of justification by faith alone.  What many people fail to realize is that doctrine matters.  Out of the Reformation came five doctrinal statements known today as the five solas of the Reformation.

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be Glory)

We must not forget that the Roman Catholic Church rejects the sufficiency of Scripture, adds works to God’s grace, perverts faith, and blasphemes the Son of God.  These grievous errors must be rejected, and that’s why the Reformers were willing to give their lives throughout church history.  It wasn’t merely the bad behavior of a misguided Catholic priest that led to this juncture.  It was the conversion of a Roman Catholic priest to Christianity and a bold stand against the perversion of the gospel.

With great certainty we must protest the idea that the Reformation is over.  Until Rome repents, the same protests of church history continue today.  We don’t claim perfection in our attempts to protest, but we do claim a trustworthy doctrine of justification by faith alone as revealed to us in God’s sufficient Word.  If we shift on this foundational doctrine, we must call ourselves something other than Christian.

Just as the hymn writer Augustus Toplady penned years ago, we must embrace as truth today:

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

  1. R.C. Sproul, Are We Together?  A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, ), 71.
What is the New Calvinism?

What is the New Calvinism?

First of all, the New Calvinism isn’t all that new.  This is a movement that’s relatively young in terms of church history, but it’s not a new movement in recent years.  In 2008, Collin Hansen published a book titled: Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists and in doing so, coined the phrase Young, Restless, Reformed.  In the following year, Time Magazine published a series of articles beneath the umbrella of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”  The third article in the series was written by David Van Biema titled, “The New Calvinism.”  In his article, Biema writes:

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin’s 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism’s buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.

In terms of the movement – the New Calvinism is very fluid and difficult to fully define.  It’s hard to get your hands around the entire movement, especially since the group is no longer explicitly young and not completely restless.  Although a difficult task, it is my goal to provide a working definition of the New Calvinism that goes beyond the mere descriptive cliché that’s often thrown around in blogs, books, and sermons.

Where Did the New Calvinism Come From?

Mark Dever asked a very important question in an article titled “Where’d All These Calvinists Come From?” where he documented the resurgence of Calvinism in our present day.  Mark Dever provided a list of reasons why a growing resurgence on Reformed doctrine seems to be taking place especially among those born in the 1970s and 1980s.  His list included the following:

  1. C.H. Spurgeon
  2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  3. Banner of Truth Trust
  4. Evangelism Explosion
  5. The Inerrancy Controversy
  6. The Presbyterian Church in America
  7. J.I. Packer
  8. R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur
  9. John Piper
  10. The Rise of Secularism and Decline of Christian Nominalism

Mark Dever writes, “Reformed theology, on the other hand, teaches about a god who is GOD. The kind of objections that seem to motivate Arminianism are disallowed by the very presuppositions Calvinism understands the Bible to teach about God. This God is sovereign and exercises His sovereignty. This God is centered on Himself. And this God is understood to be morally good in being so Self-centered. In fact, it would be evil, wrong, deceptive for Him to be centered on anything other than His own glory. There is no apology about this.”

In a unique manner, Tim Challies has provided a helpful (although in need of an update) infographic where he has charted the resurgence of Reformed doctrine in our modern evangelical culture.  According to his infographic that begins with John Piper’s book Desiring God in 1986 and moves through the inaugural CROSS Conference in 2014.  Tim Challies points out writings, conferences, cultural issues, media advancements, music and ministries that have led to the rise of the New Calvinism.  Make no mistake, technology has been a massive catalyst to the uprising of Calvinistic soteriology and Tim Challies’ blog has been a driving force within this category.

Before there was a Charles Spurgeon and a John Piper, there were others such as the Puritans and the Reformers who stood valiantly to defend the doctrines of grace beneath the looming and dangerous power of the Roman Catholic Church.  Where did John Calvin get his Calvinism?  As Charles Spurgeon once said in his “A Defense of Calvinism” – “It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else.”  In other words, Calvinism comes from the pure doctrines of Scripture and as the church is moved to the Word of God with confidence, she becomes convinced of the pure teachings of Scripture; a big God, a glorious salvation, and all of this is by God’s initiative and for His glory.  If the Bible is inerrant – the doctrines of grace as taught in the Bible must be embraced as truth.

Toward a Definition of the New Calvinism

The New Calvinism movement presupposes a Calvinistic doctrine which is often used interchangeably with Reformed doctrine.  Calvinism remains the definitive term associated with the teachings of the Reformation.  Although John Calvin never organized and named a theology after himself, his name remains synonymous with the doctrines of grace.  To be Reformed means to embrace the doctrines known as Calvinism, at minimum, on the doctrine of salvation.

R.C. Sproul writes, “The late theologian Cornelius Van Til once made the observation that Calvinism is not to be identified with the so-called five points of Calvinism. Rather, Van Til concluded that the five points function as a pathway, or a bridge, to the entire structure of Reformed theology.”  It’s important to realize that there is much more to Reformed doctrine than merely the doctrine of soteriology, although that is the basic foundational level.

To be Reformed is to be something different than Roman Catholic.  In terms of family debate, to be Reformed is to be something different than Arminian.  The core focus of this debate is upon the doctrine of salvation.  Exactly how does a big God save wretched sinners?  This is the key question that ultimately determines what end of the spectrum you land upon.

The movement known as the New Calvinism is constantly changing and morphing like the weather in – well, most cities.  Just when you think you’ve got a grasp on it, something will happen to make you question yourself such as John Piper’s invitation to Rick Warren to join him at a Desiring God National Conference where he claimed to believe the doctrine of Unconditional Election. [1] Jeremy Walker is helpful as he writes in his book titled, The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment:

Any survey and assessment of this order is admittedly like a snapshot of a recently discovered animal: just when you think you have captured the essence of the creature it moves again and you discover something new.  As such, a final or conclusive assessment is not immediately possible. [2]

Therefore, New Calvinism as a movement can be defined as an eclectic and at times edgy group of multi-ethnic, multi-denominational, and age-diverse Reformed people from all parts of the world who are hungry for a big sovereign God. These people are Christ-exalting, Spirit-driven, missions-motivated, and Bible-believing Christians who are seeking to know God, worship God, serve God, and bring glory to God. For quite some time, this movement was known as the Young, Restless, and Reformed. The New Calvinism movement remains young in terms of a movement, but the people who make up the movement are not necessarily young. Today there are many older people who have come to be identified among this movement.

Is this movement always Christ-exalting, Spirit-driven, missions-motivated, and Bible-believing?  The clear answer is – no.  All movements have problems over time, sin that enters the camp, and issues that must be faced.  The New Calvinism movement is no exception.  Is the New Calvinism movement a true Reformation?  I genuinely hope so, but only time will tell.  In some ways it would be better to strive for historic Calvinism as opposed to the edgy, and at times sketchy, New Calvinism of our modern evangelical culture.  At times the movement needs more balance and maturity.

The New Calvinism remains very youthful.  Will men, women, boys, and girls remain steadfast and immovable regarding the pure doctrines of grace and the inerrancy of the Bible?  Will this movement endure through the approaching tsunami of persecution on Christianity?  Time will tell the truth, but for now, we must be excited to see both the young and aged coming to embrace the truths of the doctrines of grace.

  1. John Piper invited Rick Warren to participate in the 2010 DG National Conference.  In an interview, Rick Warren claimed to believe the doctrine of Unconditional Election.
  2. Jeremy Walker, The New Calvinism Considered: A Personal and Pastoral Assessment, (Faverdale North Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013), 117.  NOTE:  This is a Kindle Edition.
DBG Spotlight: 2015 Reformation Day Special

DBG Spotlight: 2015 Reformation Day Special

Often young people are criticized as being too young or inexperienced to serve God faithfully.  This clip from a sermon preached back in 2007 is not only encouraging, but correct.  Why wait until you’re mid 40s to serve God?

Reformation Day Suggestions:

In honor of Reformation Day, I’ve provided some helpful links to articles and books that will help you put the pieces of church history in their proper place regarding the Reformation.

Martin Luther: Lessons from his Life and Labor – John Piper’s biography of Martin Luther is worthy of your time as he does a good job of focusing on Luther’s commitment to the “external Word.”

A Man More Sinned Against than Sinning?: The Portrait of Martin Luther in Contemporary New Testament Scholarship – Carl Trueman points out the popular flaws in the new perspective of Martin Luther.

The Insanity of Luther – R.C. Sproul provides a short devotional on Martin Luther that’s worthy of your time and consideration.

Martin Luther: 7,000 Sermons – Steven Lawson does a good job of focusing on the preaching of Martin Luther.  He writes, “In the tempestuous days of the Reformation, the centerpiece of Luther’s ministry was his bold biblical preaching.”

Scripture, Tradition, and Rome, Part 4 – John MacArthur looks back to a time before Luther – to Jesus and the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  He writes: 

Martin Luther was frustrated by Rome’s unwillingness to address doctrine—especially justification by faith. He even stated that he would gladly yield to the pope on ecclesiastical matters if the pope would embrace the true gospel. Luther understood that all the moral and ecclesiastical offenses tolerated by the Church were ultimately a result of the eclipse of justification. The doctrine of justification by faith alone would have automatically ended the sale of indulgences and other abuses of ecclesiastical power.

Introducing…Martin Luther – This is an audio series by Michael Reeves (author of The Unquenchable Flame).  Not only do you need to listen to this series, but you should likewise consider purchasing his book and reading it to get a good understanding of the Reformation.

Hymn Stories: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – You will find this post by Tim Challies interesting.  It’s an overview of Luther’s famous hymn – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A few articles I’ve written on this subject can be accessed below:

  1. Something Greater Than Halloween Happened on October 31st 
  2. Luther the Reformer
  3. The Verse of the Reformation
  4. Reformation Day – Sola Fide


The Verse of the Reformation

The Verse of the Reformation

Many people have images of this angry monk named Luther making his way to the castle door in Wittenberg on October 31st 1517 to nail the 95 Theses as an open rebuke and challenge to the Roman Catholic Church.  That’s not exactly how it all happened.  The wheels were starting to turn in the mind of Luther regarding the problems of the Roman Catholic Church, but if you read his 95 Theses, you will not see the five solas of the Reformation mentioned.  In Luther’s mind, the Roman Catholic Church needed to be fixed, but he wasn’t opposed to everything.

It would take two years before this dedicated monk would finally have, what some refer to as the “tower experience.” It was while studying the Bible in the monastery that Luther finally understood Romans 1:17.  Before, Luther’s view of God was that of an angry and judgmental God.  He viewed his salvation as coming through self depreciating and accusatory statements of self.  If self-love was the sin, the only way to be saved was through self-hatred.  Therefore, in Luther’s view, the way to God was by accepting His judgments.  Michael Reeves summarizes Luther’s view by writing, “This gloomy idea that the only solution for self-love is self-hatred and self accusation was built upon a frightening view of God.  Luther could only see that God was all Judge and no love, his righteousness being all about punishing sinners, his ‘gospel’ just the promise of judgment.  Here was a God he could only ever cower before.” [1]

It was while sitting in his cell and reading the Bible that Romans 1:17 and God’s righteousness came to a soul shaking reality.  It was possible to receive forgiveness through the promise of God alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone rather than through the judgments of God.  No longer was God a gloomy Judge.  The dark clouds of false theology were moved back and for the first time Luther could see the pure rays of gospel light shining upon his face.  Luther recalls this moment:

Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience.  I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction.  I did not love, yes, I hated the righteousness God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’  Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience.  Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.

At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.”‘  There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith.  And this is the meaning:  the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.’  Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.

This whole scene happened two years after Luther had nailed the 95 Theses to the castle door.  What was a spark in 1517 was now a blaze in 1519.  Luther would spend his next year writing with a ferocious tenacity.  The Reformation was now starting to explode.  The verse of the Reformation was Romans 1:17.  As you consider the historical significance of October 31st, we can be assured of this fact, Rome has long regretted sending this budding monk to Wittenberg to study the Bible.  If the Roman Catholic Church had a desire to control the Bible and keep the truths bottled up in Latin – the language of academia, they would contradict themselves by putting an open Bible in the hands of Martin Luther.  They had a desire to see him teach theology and to cure his spiritual anxiety, so they sent him to Wittenberg.  God took Romans 1:17 and pierced the bowels of the Roman Catholic Church.

If Luther was “God’s Volcano” as Michael Reeves suggests, it was Romans 1:17 that caused him to erupt.  The lava of the Reformation consumed the false salvation practices of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church.  Luther made it abundantly clear, God is not for sale.  R. C. Sproul concludes, “The Reformation was not merely a Great Awakening; it was the Greatest Awakening to the true Gospel since the Apostolic Age.” [2]

Romans 1:17 – For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

  1. Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame, 2009, 46.
  2. R. C. Sproul and Archie Parrish, The Spirit of Revival, 2000, 17.