Today is Halloween, or the Eve of All Saints Day. It is also the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. On this day, 500 years ago, Martin Luther started a revolution with the nailing of 95 theses on the doors to the Wittenburg Church. Luther's intention was to start a discussion on certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church that were not biblically based. For instance, the Church sold "indulgences" which were pieces of paper stating that the Pope would reduce your time in Purgatory for a fee. Of course there is no such thing as Purgatory. And any Christian is entitled to forgive the sins of another. Thus the Lord's Prayer contains the petition "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Powerful stuff that, for it asks God to measure us by how we measure others. Is that what you really want? It is a hard truth, and to live it requires a new way of thinking. We don't naturally think this way.
I am a Lutheran, and in celebration of the 500th Anniversary, I have been reading Hallmarks of Lutheran Identity by Alvin Schmidt. In terms of explaining Lutheran Theology, as opposed to that of Calvin, or Wesley, or the seeming hundreds of others who popped up in the United States, the book is excellent, and highly readable. I have also been restudying Luther's Small Catechism, and now realize I should have been devoting more time to it all along. I am also engaging in something that was illegal in Luther's time. I am reading the Bible! In English! Indeed, William Tyndale was executed for, among other things, translating the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew. Thanks to Martin Luther, I know that the work of Salvation has already been done by Jesus Christ on the Cross, because I could not do it for myself. Only Christ, with no help from me. Only Scripture, no other word is necessary. Only by faith in Jesus, God's only begotten Son. Only by Grace, because I deserve none of it. Thanks be to God.
I recently had some experience with Luther's theology of the two kingdoms. Luther noted that there are two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Grace, and the Kingdom of the World. The Kingdom of Grace is God's Kingdom, where your past sins are forgiven and everyone is perfect. In the Kingdom of Grace, the Lion truly lies down with the Lamb, and doesn't lick his chops. The Kingdom of the World is the one we experience every day when we encounter a set of blue lights on our tail, as a police officer pulls us over for speeding. As Christians, we live in both Kingdoms. So, for example, because the Kingdom of the World requires us to be armed, it may be that soldiers are needed to defend the country against a foreign invader. It is no sin to serve as a soldier, or to kill in war. But as a Christian, you should pray for your enemies, difficult as that may be. Understanding in which Kingdom you are acting at any moment clarifies your duties. Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.
I should note that in keeping with Luther's theology of the two kingdoms, I have been explaining opposition to abortion in mixed terms. To the world, I should explain it in terms of natural rights. To Christians, I can appeal to the Word. In either case, it is wrong. To the worldly, we have a right to life, that extends from our conception until natural death. Abortion denies a child this right. Therefore it is wrong. Mea Culpa.
Today at the American Thinker, Scott S. Powell explains that the United States of America would not exist as a separate nation, nor would we have the Constitution we have if not for the Reformation. Powell's article can be found at The 500th Anniversay of the Reformation and What it Means Today. Powell explains that the American founders were heavily influenced by Reformation thinkers and theologians such as John Calvin. It is interesting, and true. We are a Christian Nation, founded upon Christian principles. We ought to start acting like it.
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