Reformation 500: Celebrating Is Not Enough


The following letter from the President, Brad Littlejohn, was sent out to all Davenant subscribers on October 31, Reformation Day

CELEBRATING IS NOT ENOUGH

There are few enough historical anniversaries that seem to merit even passing recognition in our forgetful age, so we can be grateful for the crescendo of Reformation 500 commemorations throughout the Western world that today is reaching its highest pitch. And while some may sit on the sidelines lamenting the Reformation’s flawed heroes and ambiguous results, these ought rather to remind us of those hard-won Reformation truths, sola gratia (by grace alone) and soli deo gloria (to God alone be the glory).

The Reformation, we contend, is still well-worth celebrating. In it, the two-edged sword of God’s Word was unsheathed again to cut away the cloaks of confusion and the bonds of oppression under which God’s people labored. Through it, a new era was opened in the life of the church, transforming the Western world and renewing many fields of inquiry.

So celebrate we must, and boldly. But if that’s all we do—belt out a chorus of A Mighty Fortress, have a bonfire, knock back a pint of doppelbock, and get on with our lives—the Reformation 500 commemoration will have been in vain. So let’s get busy.

REMEMBERING

Remembering is not enough, but it’s not a bad place to start. Few Protestants today understand the basics of their history, and the rotten fruits are not hard to see. Cheap sentimentality and nonjudgmentalism, unwilling to draw the most basic doctrinal or ethical lines, dominate our churches, and those who crave more substance totter uncertainly toward Rome and the East. We must recover the depth and breadth of our heritage, and that is at the heart of Davenant’s mission. To this end, we really cannot tell you how excited we are to announce at long last the publication of Reformation Theology: A Reader of Primary Sources with Introductions. (http://www.davenantinstitute.org/reformation-theology) Thirty-two texts spanning three centuries are brought together, with lively historical introductions, to give the modern reader a sense of what the Reformation was all about, and why it still matters.

RESOURCING

We remember our heritage to learn from its mistakes, be inspired by its examples, and retrieve its principles—all so that we can equip today’s pastors, laypeople and Christian leaders for faithful witness and reasoned discourse. This means distilling the fruits of evangelical scholarship into forms easy to understand, share, and apply. The Davenant Institute has been hard at work over the past year publishing a growing library of resources that do just that—and we have a lot more on the way. At the beginning of next year, in partnership with BibleMesh, leaders in online theological education, we plan to launch Davenant Hall: A Virtual Theological Study Center, to keep the candle of the Reformation burning bright.

REFORMING

What is all this for? Just because we like history or find it a convenient stick with which to beat theological opponents? No! A quick glance around at the confusion in our churches and the chaos in our commonwealth is enough to show that we are in urgent need of fresh reformation. This will require retrieving the principles that animated our forefathers’ Reformation, but also creatively re-applying them to contemporary challenges. And this cannot be done by books alone, but requires friendships. Too often we think of Luther as a lone ranger who had a “Eureka!” moment poring over the text of Romans and then took Germany by storm. Hardly. His hard-won insights and harder-won reformation were the fruit of a devoted circle of extraordinary friends, and everywhere the Reformation went it was sustained by intimate friendships of dedicated scholars and pastors. It is such a circle of friendships that we aim to rekindle today with an
ever-growing number of convivial events across the country. Next spring, we hope to see you in Portland, Oregon; in Greenville, SC; in Lincoln, NE; in Minneapolis, MN; in Washington, DC; in Denver, CO; and in Moscow, ID. Stay tuned for details.

ARE YOU IN?

We invite you to celebrate the Reformation with us today, but also to do much more than celebrate. We hope you will join our mission of remembering, resourcing, and reforming to carry the legacy of the Reformers into a sixth century. Please consider making a donation for fresh reformation today. And pay close attention to these emails in coming weeks, as we will be outlining concrete things that you can do (financial and non-financial) to help us in our project.

But for now, go ahead and knock back that pint of doppelbock.