Do We Need Another Reformation?

Pastor Bob O'Bannon

While most people are celebrating Halloween today, Protestant Christians should be reminded that today is also Reformation Day. It was on Oct. 31 of the year 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, setting forth a string of events that have birthed monumental changes in the church and western culture.

From the Reformation came a series of doctrinal battle cries, including “sola Christus” (it is the work of Christ alone that saves), “sola fide” (the benefits of Christ’s saving work are  received by faith alone), “sola gratia” (no one is saved by good works, but by God’s grace alone), and “sola deo gloria” (salvation is not for the glory of men and women, but for the glory of God alone).

There is one more Reformation battle cry that is perhaps the most controversial of all among Christians today. It is “sola Scriptura,” which means that the final authority in a Christian’s life should be Scripture alone. Of course there are other authorities in a Christian’s life that should be respected (state authorities, police officers, ecumenical creeds, church elders), but ultimate spiritual authority belongs to the Bible.

John Frame, in his highly recommended work, The Doctrine of the Word of God, makes a startling claim on p. 214. He writes, “For over three centuries, the disease of liberalism has afflicted the church and robbed it of divine power. Surely it is time for a reformation . . . If God were to send a real reformation today, what would be its target? What would be its chief doctrinal concern? My answer: the necessity of Scripture as God’s personal word.”

When I think of the way many professed Christians are ignorant of Scripture, and the way others subordinate Scripture to feelings and impressions, and the way legalists have added to Scripture, and the way gay rights proponents have twisted Scripture, I begin to wonder if Dr. Frame might have a point.

What do you think? Does the church need another reformation? If not in the area of Scripture, in what area would a reformation be necessary? And how would it start?