No Reformation Day for me, thanks

Rather than celebrate Reformation Day, I’ll prefer to observe Jan. 21, the anniversary of the first recorded adult anabaptisms, in Zurich in 1525.

Then there’s Jan. 5, the date in 1527 the Reformers drowned Felix Manz in the Limmat River for baptizing adults.

But celebrate the day when a group of would-be religious overlords set out to usurp the tyrants that ruled them? No, thank you very kindly.

Update: A friend suggests the Protestant Reformation was about “the recovery of the gospel” and that saying the legacy of the Reformers – sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, soli deo gloria – is not to be celebrated “is quite an overreaction.”

I have a hard time saying the Gospel was completely lost under Roman oversight; justification by faith alone certainly was buried deep under unbiblical tradition. But reclaiming the authority of “Scripture alone” was the great accomplishment of the Reformation. Had the “Reformers” also repudiated the tyranny of the state church, had they not so willingly exercised that tyranny against those who quoted the Scripture against them, I’d be more enthusiastic about the rest of their legacy.

I don’t want to underestimate the value of the Reformation, but neither will I let rose-colored glasses obscure my ability to see the shortcomings of the “Reformers” or exaggerate their accomplishments. I am totally glad Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. It was an act of great courage that sparked a much-needed revolution.

I can’t say whether Luther intended to replace one state church with another when he launched his crusade against Roman tradition, but the later actions of the “Reformers” speak very loudly. The new state churches gladly exercised their power and persecuted, even executed, those whose biblical convictions about pedobaptism conformed to the Scripture rather than human tradition. More than the “Reformers,” I admire those who had the courage to follow sola scriptura all the way to believer’s baptism and the separation of church and state, even when it cost them their lives.

I’m Baptist, not Lutheran, Presbyterian or “Protestant.” I’m also Cherokee. Not a big fan of Columbus Day either.


About Mark Kelly

Jesus follower, Bible reader, husband/father/son/brother/uncle, rider, hiker, snapshooter
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