What is the Adventist Voice in the 500th Year Celebration of the Protestant Reformation?

Few, if any, events in the 2,000 year history of Christianity have been written about more than what is commonly called the Protestant Reformation. It fits the description of a watershed event, in that it literally altered the trajectory of history.

Yet as those who identify themselves as Christians across the globe celebrate or at least remember those events of the 16th and 17th century, there are questions that remain. It can be argued that the Protestant movement was one in a long line of attempts at reform in the western church. However, while these earlier attempts at reform were directed at the moral laxity of the clergy (both lay and monastic), the aspect of Protestant Reformation that received the most attention were the reforms in basic theological constructs.

Specifically, the issues of soteriology and what constituted justification and righteousness. Theological anthropology also received a great deal of ink. Was man essentially good or evil? What happened to humanity at the Fall and how can the depravity inherited by the descendants of Adam and Eve recover from the inherited stain and guilt of sin? Can the Bible, now in the hands of the laypeople in the vernacular, provide answers to some of these questions?

Others question how effective the Protestant Reformation was when most of Europe remained Roman Catholic. However, when one considers that most of the Nordic countries, i.e., Norway, Denmark, and Sweden became officially Lutheran; England became officially Anglican, and pockets of the Reformed and the different radical traditions were found all over Europe, it is difficult to dismiss the Protestant Reformation as just another reform movement.

Were people’s lives changed by this religious upheaval? This is a complicated question. As some of the great nobles, kings, princes, etc., supported the different reform movements, some of their subjects changed alliances as well. It proved to be unwise to remain with an expression of Christianity when your Lord has decided to change. Look at what happened in England and France. Yet some commentators have pointed to the findings of representatives of Luther who were sent out to discover how the new Lutheran churches were doing. What they found out by most accounts was that the moral lives of the laity remained unchanged.

Therefore, in light of these and other questions, is there a unique voice that Adventists can contribute to the celebrations? Let me suggest a possible answer.

First, most Adventists would agree that Adventism is an inheritor of the Protestant Reformation. Most of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church came from other Protestant churches. And so in that sense they were making decisions to escape what they saw as churches that were no longer the true representatives of the body of Christ.

“Apostate Protestantism” found its way into the Adventist lexicon. Hopefully, that view of other expressions of Christianity has been abandoned. And while many of these denominations find themselves in 2017 removed from their founders and from each other, their history remains. And part of that history is a reminder that the central theological issue of the Reformation was the correct understanding of justification by faith. Luther, more than any of the other reformers, went to battle over this issue with both the Roman Catholic legates and theologians, as well as various radical reformers.

Adventists, primarily through the writings of Ellen White in the first years, but followed by others as Adventism moved into the 20th century and now in the 21st century, have a history of believing in a doctrine of salvation that comes from an understanding of the biblical text which has been articulated by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the church at Ephesus. Chapters 1 and 2:

[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as [children] by Jesus Christ Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will … by which [God] has made us accepted in the Beloved … For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves’ it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Dr. Roger S. Evans is Professor of Historical Theology and Chair of the Department of History at Payne Theological Seminary.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8311
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It has not, nor should it be abandoned (not only because of it’s accuracy, but because it came from an inspired source). It accurately describes the churches which are now bowing to Rome, idolizing the pope, and urging cooperation with the RCC. Sadly, for most “Protestants,” Tony Palmer was right: “the protest is over.”

Rekindling the Reformation, by Walter Veith, underscores how far removed most churches have fallen. It’s so bad, that in the cradle of the Reformation, where Luther helped end the stranglehold that Rome had over Europe, few have any clue as to what it was all about. “Protestants Are No More,” by Stephen Bohr, is another eye opener. Those who deny the possibility that the scenes portrayed in The Great Controversy, could ever happen, need to get their PC heads out of the proverbial sand and recognize how close we are to the end of true Protestantism. The RCC has not changed. It is Protestantism which has changed.

What celebrations? Many “Protestants” are becoming embarrassed by the whole thing. Apparently the fact that thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of “heretics” were murdered by the RCC, is no longer relevant; nor are the continuing heresies that exist within the RCC: veneration of saints, Mary as “co-redemptrix,” Sunday sacredness, papal “infallibility,” worshiping of idols . … . . .

Yes, we have a unique voice, “Babylon has fallen; come out of her, My people.”

i think we need to concede that adventist inheritance in the protestant reformation is a mixed bag…while the writings of egw are certainly directly linked, the conservative segment of our church is in denial of both the principle of justification only salvation and the doctrine of original sin, both strong teachings of luther…the progressive segment of adventism, on the other hand, tends to downplay the importance of works which, again, veers from what luther taught…

what i find interesting is that both paul and luther taught a variety of justification only salvation and works importance that, strictly speaking, makes no sense…only egw provides the logical connection, namely that our unavoidably faulty works, inspired by the holy spirit, are what jesus purifies with his perfect righteousness…in defense of both paul and luther, all the details of jesus’ mediatorial role were not perceived until the visions of egw…

adventism, then, at least in theological terms, is in a position to supersede what was achieved by luther…but obviously, we first have to reach the position he achieved before we can supersede it…

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“Apostate Protestant” could well be most apropos appellation used by current current Seventh Day Jihadventism in its scathing lashes against those who do not partake in burgeoning headship harlotry.
Curious that teh fundamentalists want to take us so far back to the way things never were, past Calvin, and square back into emulating Romish practices and beliefs. That little alchemist noted above as well as the boorish are vis a vis evidence Luther did not go near far enough, making our little trip around this mountain so easy to detour from, hence we recreate Babylon within, despite we artfully call it “true protestantism”.

Such a thing-“true protestantism” would repudiate any grouch with their knickers in a painful knot over a progressive truth, um, progressing…don’t you just love that liberal, Jesus, and Luther? Oh, wait, Rome, that bastion of conservatism, had a hand in their demise

Religious extremism and idolatry have no denomination - they exist in all. I recently traveled in a place where I would be ashamed to own protestantism (“I’m just a plain Christ-follower”). Any in-power denomination can always find a million ways to degrade, demoralize and martyrize the rest of their populace (as I understand Luther’s followers did back in the day - Reformation! What a great excuse to murder and pillage!). Unhappily, none of us are immune, so why name names? Without God’s love we are clanging noisemakers, all badly in need of re-form.

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