“During October we take a couple of nights each week in family worship to study the major figures and core issues of the Reformation. We’ve looked at the lives of John Calvin and John Knox, the burr in Martin Luther’s saddle that drove him to nail his 95 theses, the five solas of the Reformation, even why I believe Baptists are heirs of the Reformation (and why some might beg to differ).”
Our neighbor looked more than a bit puzzled at my daughter’s answer.
“I bet you’re looking forward to October 31, aren’t you?” she asked. My precocious 12-year-old didn’t bat an eyelash: “Of course. We love Reformation Day. We get to eat candy, sing hymns, and talk about Martin Luther.”
Okay, I’ll admit that vignette sounds a bit geeky in a theology nerd sort of way, as if I’m trying to raise Puritan children in an internet age. I’m not—at least not entirely (we enjoy our electricity). And this is not another article telling you how to lay an evangelical template over Halloween that involves dressing your kids as pint-sized popes and reformers.
Let’s call it supplementary education in the Ephesians 6:4 vein.
During October we take a couple of nights each week in family worship to study the major figures and core issues of the Reformation. We’ve looked at the lives of John Calvin and John Knox, the burr in Martin Luther’s saddle that drove him to nail his 95 theses, the five solas of the Reformation, even why I believe Baptists are heirs of the Reformation (and why some might beg to differ).
Previously I offered seven reasons to teach our children church history, but here are five reasons we should teach them specifically about the Reformation.
1. I want them to know about God’s faithfulness to his church.
We are not the first to preach the gospel and certainly not the first to follow Christ. We stand on the shoulders of other godly men and women. I want my kids to know the stories of courageous leaders such as Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Zwingli who risked life and limb to recover a gospel submerged beneath layers of religious superstition, false doctrine, and worldly living.
And, like the cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11, the reformers and their heirs (including us) bear witness to God’s faithfulness to honor his Word and build his church. God was the hero of the Reformation, and it was one of the most important events in human history.
2. I want them to know reformation must continue.
I want my kids to know the reality of semper reformanda—always reforming according to Scripture. The Protestant Reformation refers to a particular historical movement. Yet the work of reformation will never be complete—neither in us nor in the church—until Jesus returns. We must keep asking the question “Is it biblical?” of everything we do in the church, asserting and reasserting the Reformation’s formal principle of sola Scriptura.
Every generation must fight for the Bible. My own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), dramatically illustrates this need. Beginning shortly after the fundamentalist-modernist controversy in the 1920s, SBC seminaries drifted toward theological liberalism. By the 1960s the gospel, once assumed in the denomination, was lost among many of its leaders. In the 1980s God began a reformation often called the “conservative resurgence.” The authority and inerrancy of Scripture again became a secure foundation under our house.
The Bible and its gospel doctrines could again be eclipsed in evangelical churches. We’ve seen popular teachers who style themselves as evangelicals deny the Bible as the authoritative foundation for the church. We’ve seen them reject doctrines like original sin and eternal hell.
Every generation must battle for the Bible. Reformation continues, and I want my kids thinking about that now.
3. I want them to know defending the Bible is dangerous, but worth the risk.
The reformers and their theological heirs, the oft-lampooned Puritans, were well acquainted with the cost of discipleship. Luther hid from authorities for several years under threat of arrest and certain death. Calvin used fictitious names as he fled in exile across Europe from government officials. John Bunyan spent 12 years in jail, and Jonathan Edwards was fired from his church. Suffering isn’t unusual; it’s the calling of every Christian. Not since the days of Paul has there been a more compelling picture of suffering in the cause of truth than the leading exponents of the Reformation.
Yes, my kids need to know defending the Bible will cause them to clash with a culture that despises it, but it may also bring them into collision with many within the church. I want them to know that to be a Christian is to be a revolutionary, that good people disagree at key points, and that issues such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper—which many evangelicals regard as matters indifferent—are anything but matters indifferent. The Reformers certainly didn’t think so, and many of my Baptist forebears paid for dissenting opinions with their lives.