When one thinks of the Protestant Reformation eventually you will run across what are known as “the five solas” of the Reformation:
Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone
Solus Christus – Christ Alone
Sola Gratia – Grace Alone
Sola Fide – Faith Alone
Soli Deo Gloria – The Glory of God Alone
Written out these communicate: “Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” Each of these will warrant a future blog post of their own.
However, there is one tenant of the Reformation which is often over looked – to be always reforming.
“ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda” or “the church reformed and always reforming.” This phrase first appeared in a 1674 devotional by Jodocus van Lodenstein, who was involved in the Dutch Second Reformation. According to van Lodenstein and other reformers who used the phrase, the church was reformed under the Protestant Reformation, but it was always in need of further reformation, that is according to the Word of God.
In other words, each generation, each church ought to be deliberately engaged in purposeful reformation. The church is not static, it is growing, maturing, developing.
Don’t get me wrong. The church is to be firmly grounded in history. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and we must learn from the past as well as press on toward the future.
To be always reforming doesn’t mean we discard the past and simply reinvent church in our time and our culture. In fact it is quite the opposite.
Reformation is deliberate and purposeful; it does not happen by making assumptions or being carried away by new trends or old traditions.
This presses against human nature and Kiwi culture.
New Zealand is a place which does not generally reward those who stick their heads up to offer an evaluative comment or a critique of present circumstances. (Unless one considers getting one’s head knocked off – i.e. “tall poppy syndrome” – a reward ☺) As a result one of two things tends to occur within the church: 1) The church becomes blindly traditional – tradition for tradition’s sake. No one questions the past nor seeks to reform the direction for a more purposeful future. 2) The church just flows in the stream of the next hip fad. No one is thinking critically or purposefully about the many trends and fads bombarding the church.
If the church in New Zealand is going to be “unashamedly Evangelical and Protestant – firmly grounded in the theological tradition of the Protestant Reformation” in the future, the church must be “always reforming.”
If the church in New Zealand is going to be “always reforming,” then Christians in New Zealand are going to have to take the risk, plumb the depths of Scripture seeking to grasp more deeply the profound Gospel of Jesus Christ, stick their head up, look back at the history of the church to gain vision and perspective, offer critique where it is necessary, and press forward with deliberate purpose in obedience to Christ.
Essentially we are asking God, by His grace, in Christ to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) so that we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect,” individually and within the church as a whole.
Is the church in New Zealand, is your church centred upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as summarized in the “five solas?” None have arrived – therefore we must be “always reforming.”