The question on my mind is: what is the best way to honour our Reformers?
For some, the answer will be that we must return to their teaching, reorganise our churches along their principles, reaffirm their confessions. Well, I'm somewhat in favour of some of those things. We could honour the Reformers by preserving their Reformation.
But I think they might prefer us to continue that Reformation. Not to hallow it, not to see it as completed, but to push forward the work of Reform. The Church is to be always reforming. That surely doesn't mean always returning to the Reformers; it means always returning to the Scriptures. And there are a number of areas in which I think the Magisterial Reformation of the sixteenth century was really only a half-Reformation. We need to carry on reforming in those areas. There are other areas on which the Reformers never passed comment, because the issues never arose in their day. We need to begin the process of reform in those areas.
To that end, if I were to nail any Theses to any doors today (don't worry, I won't), they would probably cover the following:
- The Church is the assembled people of God, bound together by their profession of faith in Christ. She owes her alleigance to Christ alone, and cannot ever be a state church or a church allied to any particular interest. But she does owe all her alleigance to Christ, and so she must as far as she is able ensure that she has a believing membership.
- The separation of Church and state is vital to the health of both. The duty of the Church is not to reform society but be in herself a Reformed society, to witness to the gospel of Christ and its power to change lives.
- Infant baptism, as it tends towards lending people false security and is incompatible with a sound doctrine of the Sacraments (which requires those who receive them to exercise faith), should be discontinued as a practice.
- The Scriptures must be recognised as the instrument by which the Church is governed by her Lord, Christ Jesus. Any form of Church government that does not place authority solely in the Scriptures is to be repudiated - this would include episcopacy and any but the most mild form of presbyterianism.
- The gifts of the Spirit initially bestowed on the Church are still available to her today, but must be exercised in line with Scriptural teaching and in such a way that the normative word of God in Scripture remains central to the life of the Church.
There would certainly be more, but that's enough controversy for one day, don't you think?