Friday, January 13, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 3: The Need for Reformation

The Protestant Reformation was a reformation of the Western Roman Catholic Church, not the Eastern Orthodox Church (the Western and Eastern Churches have been divided since the year 1054).
The Reformers were all born, baptized, confirmed, and educated in the Roman Catholic Church, and most of them had served as priests at her altars with the solemn vow of obedience to the pope on their conscience (Schaff, History, 7:13).
                “At the beginning of the sixteenth century everyone that mattered in the Western Church was crying out for reformation” (Chadwick, The Reformation, 11).
The Roman Catholic Church desperately needed reform. Tradition had replaced Scripture as the church’s supreme authority; and the church’s leadership was corrupt. “The papacy was secularized [more interested in Renaissance than religion], and changed into a selfish tyranny [seen especially in the crusades] whose yoke became more and more unbearable. The scandal of the papal schism had indeed been removed, but papal morals…became worse than ever during the years 1492-1521.” The writings of contemporary scholars “are full of complaints and exposures of the ignorance, vulgarity and immorality of priest and monks. Simony [the practice of buying and selling ecclesiastical positions] and nepotism were shamefully practiced. Celibacy was a foul fountain of un-chastity and uncleanness [the popes had their own prostitutes and some flaunted their illegitimate children] …. Whole monastic establishments and orders had become nurseries of ignorance and superstition, idleness and dissipation…. Education was confined to priests and nobles. The mass of the laity could neither read nor write, and had no access to the word of God except the Scripture lessons from the pulpit [which taught that salvation is communicated through the priesthood]. The priest’s chief duty was to perform, by his magic words, the miracle of transubstantiation [the Latin phrase Hoc est meum corpum, “This is my body,” was used as a magic formula and shortened to “Hocus Pocus”], and to offer the sacrifice of the mass for the living and the dead in a foreign tongue (Latin)…. Saint-worship and image worship, superstitious rites and ceremonies obstructed the direct worship of God in spirit and in truth. Piety which should proceed from a living union of the soul with Christ and a consecration of character, was turned outward and reduced to a round of mechanical performances such as the recital of Paternosters and Ave-Marias, fastings, almsgiving, confession to a priest, and pilgrimage to a holy shrine [part of doing penance]. Good works were measured by the quantity rather than the quality, and polluted by the principle of meritorious-ness which appealed to the selfish motive of reward. Remission of sin could be bought with money; a shameful traffic in indulgences (the selling of forgiveness to remove the temporal penalties of sin especially those suffered in purgatory] was carried on under the Pope’s sanction for filthy lucre as well as for the building of St. Peter’s Dome” (Schaff, 8-10).
The most famous peddler of indulgences, Tetzel, unashamedly claimed, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

Enter Martin Luther. “Erasmus says that when Luther published his Theses [against indulgences] all the world applauded him” (Schaff, 7:98). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Here is a link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation500 Heidelberg QAs 6-8

This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world. 

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