What was tragic about the Lutheran Reformation?
A blog post on the First Things web site some time ago was drawn to my attention by a couple colleagues as we were eating lunch the other day. A perceptive remark was made about it. The article, by a LCMS pastor, is rather typical of what the Roman Catholic journal, First Things, loves to publish: hand-wringing articles by Lutherans over the Reformation.
In the article, the pastor opines that the better color for Reformation Sunday would be a color of mourning, rather than a festive red. He laments the Reformation as a tragedy. He is correct, but for the wrong reason.
Must we lament our sin? Indeed. Must we lament our human pride? Yes! Is the Church always in need of Reformation? Absolutely. Is God, by His Most Holy Word and Sacraments constantly reforming you, me and the whole Christian Church on earth? Amen, Amen, may it ever be so! But, should we lament the fact of the Reformation? No, unless we wish to lament God’s gift of the Gospel, which came breaking through with great clarity once more at this time.
Ironically, though, the author of the article misses the actual tragedy of the Reformation; namely, that it was not wholly successful. The Roman Catholic Church, as such, was formed as a direct result of the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent. And at the Council of Trent the door was slammed shut on the very Gospel itself, the good news that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. What was at least an option before Trent, was pronounced to be a damning error.
This is the tragedy of the Reformation!