The main message from the 500th anniversary of the European Reformation is that Scotland needs a Reformer. We have plenty of theologians and preachers, but no reformer.
Scotland’s Reformer was John Knox but we have fallen upon such backsliding times that we need a new one, but at present Scotland has no reformer. A reformer is a man of vision and action, a prophet who appears on the scene to call the church back to its mission as it applies to the current situation. Such was Martin Luther. The Bible illustrates it thus: ‘the children of Issachar were men that had an understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do’ 1Ch 12:32. A reformer needs to understand the national scene and how to apply Scripture to the needs of the hour. This is why ivory tower clerics without their feet on the ground are so ineffective.
It is not enough to know the Bible, but one needs to know how to apply it to the situation. This is why theologians alone are ineffective.
Scotland has many theologians, and when the Lord mercifully gives Scotland a reformer, these theologians will come out of the woodwork to tell him how it should be done and to criticise him that his theology is not quite right.
It will be good to have their input, because ‘in the multitude of counsellors there is safety’ Pro 11:14, Pro 15:22 and Pro 24:6, but if they know what is to be done, why do they not tell us now so that people can implement it now? Instead we get lectures with few lessons and even less effective action.
Many people may see the problem, but they may not know what to do. It is frustrating to see what needs to be done but the means to do it are not forthcoming. The ability to see a problem is not the same as having the ability to fix it. Sometimes the solution is larger than one person can do to fix it, but one man may be able to inspire many others and point them to the solution. This is what happens all the time in politics, but we have few Christian politicians nowadays. On 16th November 2011, the Members’ Business Debate on the subject of The People’s Bible was held in the Scottish Parliament on the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the world’s best seller, the King James Version of the Bible. Only six of the 129 MSPs were present, from only two of the political parties in Holyrood.
Why have theologians and Christians in public life not spoken out more clearly?
Primarily because of fear. Fear of criticism, of losing their job, of losing their credibility or losing their congregation. This is where Martin Luther stands out. Although he had his very life to lose, yet he stood firm.
What about preachers and theologians? When did you last see your local preachers writing to your local newspaper applying Christian doctrine to public life? After all, the media is the modern pulpit preaching false doctrine as relentlessly as the muslim minaret calls their supporters to prayer. Why are Christian preachers not dealing with the secular theology of the mass media? Why do they not interact within their own locality? The apostle Paul did not think it beneath his dignity to mingle with crowds at the market in Athens.
It seems therefore that there is another reason. Christians in public life cannot apply Christianity to public life because they have so few role models in the pulpit. Neither pulpit nor pew knows how to apply Christianity to public life. It is time that they learned and, as Charles Spurgeon said about preachers with small congregations, it is time that they went into the street and learned to interact with ordinary human beings in order to learn at the coalface how to do it.
There is another excuse used. Some say that the hour has not come for Reformation, echoing the supine response reported by the prophet Haggai: ‘Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built’ Hag 1:2.
Jesus Christ rebuked religious leaders in His day:
‘O hypocrits, you can discern the weather; but can you not discern the signs of the times?’
Jesus Christ – Matthew 16:3.
This excuse is disguised as political astuteness. Their readiness to do nothing is their permanent political tactic.
International readers of this blog should take heart that although Scotland does not have a Reformer, yet your country may have one in the Lord’s making. Keep your eyes open for a heaven-sent Reformer and give him prayerful and tangible support as you are able.
Scotland did have a Reformer in the past. He was John Knox – and without him there might have been no Reformation in Scotland, just as proto-Reformation movements were snuffed out in other European countries by the Roman Catholic counter-Reformation. Scotland’s proto-reformer Patrick Hamilton was snuffed out by Roman Catholic authorities in a hastily arranged ‘show trial’ before a kangaroo court, and burned at the stake before opposition could be organised.
This shows us that a Reformer must be 1. a man of God, 2. biblically knowledgeable, 3. strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, 4. passionate for the eternal good of people’s souls, 5. equipped with an understanding of the times and 6. have a knowledge of what needs to be done and the means of inspiring others to see the Vision and work towards it.
What vision? God’s Vision:
“The kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ”
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven” Mat 6:10.