But we and Luther do share one significant similarity: We’re both living in the midst of a communication revolution. For Luther it was the printing press. He and his followers were able to use pamphlets and ever-cheaper printed books to promote the Reformation cause. This ability to spread the word also hardened the opposing teams in a divided and dividing church…In the discourse between Lutheran and Catholic ecumenists over the past half-century, however, a new picture of Luther has emerged. Both sides have acknowledged that the claim of a severe cleavage between pre- and post-Reformation Luther is simply inaccurate. Luther’s revolutionary insights were firmly grounded in the long tradition of the church. Both Catholic rejection and Protestant triumphalism fail to do justice to the real man and his work.
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Word Alone. Those are the three “solas” of the reformation. And they are all radical positions. By radical I mean that put on a spectrum, none of them are the middle path, a reasonable man would not gravitate to those poles. And I think that order is telling. Nobody ever really debated grace alone. There were debates over obscure terms like prevenient grace and saving grace, but that was splitting hairs. It was all grace. The debates intensified at faith alone. Faith alone to Lutherans really repeated grace alone. We are saved through faith which is a gift of God by grace. Faith is a visible form of grace. The Catholics of the time and still today will nod that yes it is faith that saves, but faith is fruitful in works. The last sola, Word Alone, is often misrepresented. We often take it today as just the scriptures. The Scriptures were definitely the source, but the reformation understanding is larger. Think through the foolishness of preaching, the proclaimed word, an almost mystical understanding of the active Word in our lives. The Catholics made the same leap we often do. They heard Word Alone as sola scriptura and gagged. The scriptures require interpretation. Tradition, the church, the creeds and the teachers of the church are required. The mystic monk met the legal institution and they talked past each other.
Its a blog, so I can be grossly wrong and retract it later. At heart I’m real simple. It’s all grace. The Christian proclamation is that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were driving the nails and saying we don’t want this grace, the Father gave it anyway. Faith alone, yes, true, but because its all grace. Word alone? That one also, but because God condescended to tell us anything. Everything else kinda falls under Paul’s words, “All things are possible, but not all things are profitable.” Am I going to divide over Word alone – no. Am I going to divide over Faith alone – very doubtful. Am I going to divide over grace alone – yep. If you think anything you do will earn you merit, we part company. I’m not strong enough or wise enough to figure it all out. I need the grace.
So, I wish Sara Wilson grace on her 1000 miles. And in her endeavor. Once things are divided, putting them back together takes a lot of grace. Thankfully I believe in the resurrection – when things do get put back together.