An Unconverted High Schooler on The Reformation

I never was thrilled about learning in High School, but every once in a while there was something that would intrigue me. It was 10th grade history, and the topic was the Reformation. I remember being fascinated with the details of Martin Luther, his nailing of the 95 thesis to the door in Wittenberg, and how Protestantism came to be. At 15, despite growing up in a Christian home — and attending church on Sunday — it was the first time I heard about this fascinating piece of history.

Although I wasn’t a Christian at the time, there was something about this bit of church history that captured my interest and attention. It wasn’t the courage of Martin Luther to stand up against the powerful Catholic Church that fascinated me, although that was good drama. It was the fact that for the first time I realized that the Christian experience that I thought I had known all my life was actually tied to human history. Imagine that, at 15, Christianity was a concept that I had only tied to my generation, and at best, my parent’s generation.

When I came into the knowledge of reformed theology, it wasn’t long before the events of the Reformation bubbled to the surface. The interest that was once peaked back in 10th grade was now inflamed by a relationship with Christ, and a new found love for the doctrines that were recovered during the 1500’s. Once again, as I dove deeper into the period, discovering names like Huss, Zwingli, and Calvin, I found myself amazed by the reality that this was the history of my Christian faith. Yet, as with my earlier discovery, my reintroduction did not come through the church, but through personal study.

The church, too much of her shame, has failed to educate herself on the history of her faith. And so, men and women go through a great deal of their Christian experience knowing much about church anniversaries, but have little knowledge about how they came to worship as they do, or why they are able to read the Bibles that sit in the pews in front of them. Perhaps without even realizing it, we deprive our people from a rich, historical foundation that would aid us in our Christian journey. It’s not enough to know when the four walls of our own church were erected — though that’s good. We need to know from whence came what we have come to believe.

Reformation Day gives us a prime opportunity to teach, to inform, and to ignite in people a desire to learn more about church history. Use Reformation Sunday to remind people that theirs is a faith that has not begun with their generation, but it is a faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints (). May our children not first hear about the Reformation in history class, but may they do so around dinner tables, in Sunday school classrooms, and from the pulpit.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (ESV)

Philip Duncanson
Philip Duncanson serves as an elder at East Point Church in Atlanta. Holler at him on Twitter: @PBDuncs

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