There are three special Reformations in History. The 1st is where Jesus changed history from the life styled by the Law of Moses to the life styled by Christianity in AD 33. The 2nd was when Emperor Constantine changed history from the Roman-styled life to the Christian-styled life in AD 325 and the 3rd was when Martin Luther an Augustinian Monk changed History from the dark ages of Christianity to today’s World of Christianity by posting 95 theses on a Wittenberg church door in Germany initiating this Reformation. It is this 3rd Reformation which will mark 500 years on Oct 31, 2017.
In simpler days, everyone understood how to react to such anniversaries. Protestants would celebrate the “German Hercules” cleaning out the dark ages of the church, restoring the primacy of Scripture, and bringing to light the Word of God , ‘ Verbum Dei’, the Gospel of salvation by Grace alone, through Faith alone & on account of Christ alone. While the Romans Catholics would denounce the Protestants as a revolt against the godly authority, a rejection of orthodoxy that channelled millions of souls away from the gates of hell. This year however is different, and not simply because the anniversary marks a nice round 500 years. But because we don’t think as did some of our ignorant ancestors thought it noble to say that somebody’s theology is defective. Both churches held to the ideology “YOUR THEOLOGY IS WRONG AND ONLY OURS IS RIGHT” . Similar to the days when both the UNP & SLFP politicians said “Our democratic policy is correct and yours is not. ” The Good Governance seems to have changed this to some extent. and so have the bitter lessons of the past brought these two opponents -- the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics closer this on this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.
But the latter has of late tended to less highlight the theological errors introduced with the Reformation. Needless to say, Protestants and Catholics have had a rocky ‘Adi Pudi’ past. At present Pope Francis himself has said “Lutherans, Catholics and Protestants and all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he [Luther] did not err.”
The Roman Church has been extremely silent and applied both hand brakes & foot brakes on what we heard a few decades ago “ EXTRA ECCLESIA NULLE SALVE” ( Outside the Church there is no Salvation.) Broadly speaking, the tone & music have definitely changed. “Lets get together yehyehyeh” and “We are one in Spirit. We are one in the Lord & They will know we are Christians”.
At St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, Ontario, Canada, on certain Sundays of the month the preacher is a Lutheran Minister. In 1987 when I said a Sunday Mass on War Ship, ‘Deutscheland’, I did not know that the one who concelebrated with me , Chap. Rolf, was a Lutheran Chaplain. After the service 3 German Sailors objected to what had taken place. I personally don’t think there would be such objections in the future.
If the reformation did not take place would there be only one church all these 500 years ? After the Reformation we see that even though Luther did not intend to cause any division the inevitable took place not just a division into 2 but into 4,6,8 etc. The Lutherans were followed by the Zwinglians, Calvinists, Knoxian, Westminstrians, Weslians, Concordians, Carians and more recently the Charismatics. The Bible Society reported that there are over 500 divisions in Sri Lanka alone. These divisions were not like the atomic divisions right to subatomic parts & quarts. But on a policy in which each founder stated “My interpretation is right & yours isn’t“. Whose now going to take the blame?
St. Augustine the lawyer, AD 354-AD 431, appearing for his clients in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and in the unwritten jargon of his locality was an intellectual giant who was not only able to dig deep into the Biblical works of Attorney St Paul but also able to comprehend it’s profound teachings and being a master lawyer was efficient in systematically classifying them into theological volumes for his students. Attorney Martin Luther 1483-1546, 1500 years later entering an Augustinian Monastery in Wittenberg Germany confronted these volumes and being an intellectual giant like his founder St Augustine went a step further by simplifying these volumes into a Systematic Catechism for the simple folk in Germany. So this is how the simple people for the first time got to understand what God had said till then it remained only with the high ups.
Today Pastors jump at the idea to come to the east to bank their big western salaries, $10,000 or $20,000, here and live like kings owing to the massive exchange rate and keep praising God for Augustinian Luther’s Doctrine of Predestination that has gifted them Luxurious lives here on earth even before going to heaven. This is an evil of the Reformation when one glances at how penniless Saints Joseph Vaz and Jerome Gonzalvez went about this island. Some foreign protestant missionaries however as authentic Christians do reach out to poor Sri Lankans keeping them free from starvation & poverty. Attorney Augustine the master is a Doctor of the Church to the Roman Catholics while Attorney Martin Luther, his student, is the hero to the Protestants. May this 500th Anniversary of the Reformation reduce the gap between us Christians year by year towards unity, we pray. Amen.
Thanks to Prof. Harold Panditharatne OBU SJC. for teachings in logic, to Prof. Martin Quereomi for teachings in Church History) to Prof.Charlie Janz for Notes on Church History. Wiliston Waker. History of the Christian Church, Sir George Swanders SJC. Biblical History, Bishop Elmer Boniek Sem. Notes, Houghton Church History