Friday, March 05, 2010

Martin Luther Plus Semper Reformanda Equals More Martin Luthers

Martin Luther was a hero of the Protestant faith. His beliefs that the church was engaged in theology and practice that was not biblical led to its reforming; hence the Protestant Reformation. One of the rallying cries of the Reformation was "Semper Reformanda," or "always reforming."

Today in "Reformed" circles, this slogan is not given near the weight that the five solas are. Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone) are champions of the day. In my opinion there seems to be a line of thinking in Reformed circles that the Reformation was a one-time thing that solidified everything to be believed for all time. All reformation stopped at The Reformation.

Of course, reforming for the sake of reforming isn't in mind, as Michael Horton points out in this piece about the real meaning of the slogan. The original phrase was, “The church is reformed and always [in need of] being reformed according to the Word of God,” indicating that the reformation in view is passive; the Holy Spirit working in reforming the church. Horton also points out:

As Calvin argued in his treatise “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” the Reformers were charged with innovation when in fact it was the medieval church’s
innovative distortions of Christian faith and worship that required a recovery of apostolic Christianity. Rome pretended to be “always the same,” but it had accumulated a host of doctrines and practices that were unknown to the ancient church, much less to the New Testament.

Now for some questions. Could the same thing be said, at least in some things, about the Reformed church? Did the Reformation deal with every single problem with Rome? And if Martin Luther led the way for the church to be reformed, couldn't we say that along with the slogan of Semper Reformanda there should arise even more Martin Luthers?


  1. Steve asks,

    Did the Reformation deal with every single problem with Rome?

    and my answer is, That depends on your perspective!

    But the much more important question to my mind is, if Rome was not infallible or preserved from falling into error and abuses, then neither are Wittenberg, or Geneva, or (very evidently) Canterbury, or any of the other traditions that claim "the Reformation" in their ancestry, and the need for the church to be "semper reformanda" is as urgent as ever.

  2. Thanks Steve, I'd never heard of Semper Reformanda, but I think it's obvious that Christ's church hasn't figured it all out yet - in any unified way. Having a desire to reform seems like a great starting point.

    God bless!