499 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church doors at Wittenburg, Germany, we live in a day where many Protestants and Roman Catholics (RC) alike question what all the fuss was/is about. In both camps, there is a move toward an ecumenical understanding and practice of the Christian faith. Anyone who suggests that our differences might make a difference both in the present outworking of our faith and the eternal implications of our faith is looked down upon as being unnecessarily divisive. Others might assume that the issues and misguided theology confronted by the reformers in medieval Roman Catholicism are no longer issues present in RC today. Therefore, we’re left with the question, “Does the Reformation still matter?”
Authors Michael Reeves and Tim Chester address this question thoroughly, with grace and truth, in their book Why the Reformation Still Matters. Each of the eleven chapters takes on a central theological question in which the reformers confronted RC theology and practice. The chapters first examine the historical setting/teaching of the RC church, followed by the response of the reformers, then the contemporary teaching of the RC church, and finally how and why the theological chasm between the two faith traditions still exists today. In themselves, each chapter alone presents a sufficient reason why the Reformation still matters, but taken together the force of the whole book makes a compelling case for us to study, understand, celebrate, and apply the reformation in our lives and our churches today.
Consider for a moment the importance of the questions each of the chapters addresses:
- Justification: How can we be saved?
- Scripture: How does God speak to us?
- Sin: What is wrong with us?
- Grace: What does God give us?
- The Theology of the Cross: How do we know what is true?
- Union with Christ: Who Am I?
- The Spirit: Can we truly know God?
- The Sacraments: Why do we take the bread and wine?
- The Church: Which congregation should I join?
- Everyday Life: What difference does God make on Monday mornings?
- Joy and Glory: Does the reformation still matter?
The implications of how one answers these questions are enormous. I would encourage anyone to read this book and think deeply upon their own answers to these questions.