Sunday, October 30, 2016

Announcing the Launch of "The Reformation Project'

Tomorrow marks the 499th anniversary of the date on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, setting off sparks that inflamed Europe in what came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. For the historically minded, a grouping that includes an unfortunately small ratio of American Christians, the year leading into the 500th anniversary will be one of analysis of what Luther has wrought. Was it necessary or needlessly divisive? Do the reasons for Luther's actions continue to hold sway or have they been resolved? What relationship do those events bear to the current state of the church?

As an advocate of reformational theology who believes that Luther (and Calvin and others in the Reformed stream after him) helped to recover the Gospel, this blogger obviously has already taken sides in many of those upcoming debates. Nonetheless, on this blog readers will find in the coming year a different focus. While historical events will be in view -- Christianity is, after all, a religion in which believers, having been united together with Christ, have a connection with other believers in this and prior ages through whom the faith has come down to us -- the focus in the coming year will be on the current state of the church, with the intention of answering a question: does American Christianity stand in need of another reformation? In asking that question, the intention is not to assert that American Christians face the same set of issues as those confronting Luther and those who came after him, though some of those earlier issues have similarities to those facing the church today. However, it will be asserted that the church today faces problems of a comparable magnitude to those that Luther found when he set off events that changed the face of western Christianity.

The method for this study will be as follows: a while back I made visits to the ten largest churches in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, taking into those visits a working hypothesis that in those churches I would find indications as to the future direction of American Christianity. I remain convinced that is a defensible hypothesis, and I will defend it in a future post. The first portion of my study will focus on narrative summaries of what I encountered in those visits, with later follow up analysis of the significance of what was witnessed. In the last half of the study, I will develop a series of my own theses for consideration designed to get believers to look at the state of the church and determine if deep reform is required. Do we, like the reformers of a half millenium ago, stand in need of recovering the Gospel?

This is an ambitious project -- arguably a pretentious one for a layman in a Presbyterian church. Nonetheless, if the Gospel is truly at stake, then there are few subjects that could be more worthy of our time.

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