31 Days, 31 Books
Thanks to all who have read, liked, shared, and commented on this blogging marathon. The subtitle, 31 Days, 31 Books, is misleading. I have commented upon and mentioned far more than 31 books. Lack of time and not lack of books will keep me from going on through the end of the year.
But when it is all said and done, the Protestant Reformation was and is all about one book: The Bible.
Although we acknowledge and celebrate the Reformation on October 31, the day on which Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, there are many dates in the course of the Reformation that could be celebrated. High among these would be when Luther was assigned the task of teaching through and working through the Psalms and Romans. Also, Luther’s speech at the Diet of Worms really captures the heart of the Reformation. But perhaps even more significant dates would either be May 4, 1521 when he was kidnapped by allies and taken to the castle at Wartburg or September 21, 1523 when the New Testament in German was published.
It was during his time in exile in the castle when he had great amount of time to study and work through his translation of the Bible into the language of his people. All of the forces that had been shifting since that fateful day in 1517 at Wittenberg then became a major shift for the world. The Bible in the hands of even a common plowboy: That had been the vision of Luther’s old enemy, sometimes ally, Erasmus. Everyone would have the chance to read it, think about it, comment on it to a neighbor, apply it to a practical matter, and refer to it when hearing the local preacher.
Sola Scriptura, that foundational sola of the Reformation, was and is the second most dangerous position that the Church can take. The Scriptures, as evidenced in the Reformation, can rip apart the unity of church, state, and society. Seems like Jesus made a reference or two to teachings and doctrines that set fathers against sons and mothers against daughters.
Unity, a truly catholic Church, is a great goal, a wonderful vision, and an ongoing prayer. But that unity has to be around the doctrinal truths of the Bible. Yes, we Protestants have blundered many times. The Bible-believing and Scripture-affirming world has fractured and split and provoked an incredible number of disunities in the body. A unity that puts organizational, hierarchal, tradition-bound structures in the place of Bible teachings holds no truck with me. Give me a hillside with the Scottish Covenanters, a small clapboard church in colonial Virginia, a struggling seminary still reading the Reformers, a hearty band of the faithful over the ostentatious powers any day.
From Luther’s Heilige Schrift the idea of putting the Bible into the “vulgar languages,” that is, the languages of the people, caught on. William Tyndale paid the ultimate price for that vision, and dying, he prayed, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.” The story of the Bible in English is a fascinating one that started much earlier than the Reformation. John Wycliffe, that bold Morning Star of Reformation, labored to teach the Bible in England. In time, during the Reformation, many of the English Protestants found it expedient to leave England and lodge for a season in Geneva. Calvin’s Geneva had plenty of printing houses and soon the Geneva Bible became the spiritual and political text for the Reformers.
King James I’s willingness to have an Authorized Version of the Bible was largely motivated by his angst over the troubling footnotes in the Geneva Bible regarding tyranny. King James, that great pervert and tyrant as Pastor Joe Morecraft always called him, then promoted a culture changing Bible that still resonates with students of the English tongue.
The story is only scantly told here, but it is a rich one. The battle for the Bible continues. Good books are still being published upholding Scripture truths. There are still those who accuse us of Bibliolatry, those who affirm while watering down, those who hedge their bets, those who tremble before the icons of modern science and modern thought. Reformation, past, present, and future, will always get back to a focus on one book: The Bible.