The long Reformation

The long Reformation


Actually, we are part of it.
Long before Luther, the church began feeling the challenges which threatened to deform its purity—a theology which strayed from God’s truth and brought corruption in church rulership and monasticism. It didn’t take long for responses to begin, for God saw these threats and moved men to resist them.

Early responses often got nowhere. Sin is a tough nut to crack. But gradually the voices of response got louder and more insistent. Even if we can’t pick the exact date, we can sense that something had happened, that a corner had been turned. We’re not just hearing responses to the deformation of the church anymore. Rather, the Long Reformation has been going on. And when the calls for reform of the ever-worsening crisis in the church seemed to be getting nowhere, their volume was turned up. God will not let his truth be swamped.

The Long Reformation reached its high point in Martin Luther. This is not to evaluate him and his contributions too highly. He knew he had not appeared like a bolt from the blue. He knew that others before him had made responses to the sinful conditions in Christ’s church and had called for reform just as he was doing. It was all God’s work, not his or theirs. We do not praise him so much as recognize the role God gave him—to take an ax to what was wrong and to change it.
Since Luther’s time, challenges to Christianity have not ceased. One could argue that they are as bad as ever or have even gotten worse. From inside and outside the church the challenges come, from people who want to be Jesus’ disciples and from people who want nothing to do with Jesus. Here is where we tie in to the Long Reformation. All around us the challenges to God’s truth rise up. We too are challenged. At any moment our faith too may be deformed, for we are sinners. Then it is time for God again to arise and reform and reshape us in accordance with his truth. Ecclesia semper reformanda—the church is always in the process of being reformed. The Long Reformation rolls on through history to eternity, and by God’s grace we are carried along with it.

Excerpt from Martin Luther and the Long Reformation by James Kiecker, used with permission of Northwestern Publishing House.