500 Years Ago, a Positive Movement Was Born

Michael Reeves | October 31, 2017

The closer one looks, the clearer it becomes: the Reformation was not, principally, a negative movement, about moving away from Rome; it was a positive movement, about moving toward the gospel.

Pure negative reaction was a hallmark of certain radicals, but not the mainstream Reformation. Unfortunately for us moderns, obsessed with innovation, that means we can’t simply enroll the Reformation into the cause of “progress.” For, if anything, the Reformers weren’t after progress but regress. They were never mesmerized by novelty as we are, nor impatient of what was old, just because it was old; instead, their intent was to unearth original, old Christianity, a Christianity that had been buried under centuries of human tradition.

That intent, though, is precisely what preserves the validity of the Reformation for today. If the Reformation had been a mere reaction to a historical situation 500 years ago—if it were just a bit of 16th-century “progress”—one would expect it to be over. But as a program to move ever closer to the gospel, it can’t be.

The state of things today testifies, as loud as ever, to the need for reformation. The doctrine of justification is routinely shied away from as insignificant, wrong-headed, or perplexing. Some…

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