WRF Members Thomas Schirrmacher and Thomas Johnson Urge That We "Let the Reformation Continue!"

March 26, 2017
Thomas Schirrmacher and Thomas Johnson

[Note: The item below expresses the views of the individual to whom the material is ascribed and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.]

Let the Reformation Continue!
WRF Members Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher and Dr. Thomas K. Johnson
drthschirrmacher@me.com and  johnson.thomas.k@gmail.com

We respectfully believe that the statement “Is the Reformation Over? A Statement of Evangelical Convictions” [available at http://wrfnet.org/articles/2016/11/wrf-member-dr-leonardo-de-chirico-shares-reformation-over-statement-evangelical#.WFVt4FMrIdU] is not a sufficient description of our present theological situation.

As the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses draws near, we heartily endorse the renewed study of the Reformation and what it means for Christians today. Among the recent developments in this context, the Reformanda Initiative has released “Is the Reformation Over? A Statement of Evangelical Convictions.”  After studying this statement, we find ourselves somewhat dissatisfied, not by its positive affirmations of justification by faith alone and the full authority of the Bible, but because we question its description of the major theological problems of our time.

If we do not misunderstand the document’s intentions, it states or assumes the following:

1. A major international discussion is underway in which some serious theologians say that the Reformation is over.

2. This claim that the Reformation is over is one of the most serious problems facing evangelicalism, because it softens Evangelical convictions in a dangerous way.

3. There is one common Evangelical conviction on soteriology which one can compare with Catholic doctrine.

4. The Catholic Church has started to speak an evangelical language in order to win over Evangelicals. Some Evangelicals have been deceived by the Catholic Church’s adoption of quasi-evangelical language.

5. The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church) of 1999 expresses a “blurred position” on justification by faith.

6. The Catholic Church is wrong in the same way that it was wrong 500 years ago. Therefore we must emphasize the authority of the Bible and salvation by faith alone in contrast to Catholic errors.

7. Recent interaction between high-level Catholic and Evangelical representatives on religious freedom, human rights, and other public ethical concerns tends to reduce the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

As conservative Reformed and Evangelical theologians, we respectfully disagree with all seven of these points and will address them individually in this response.

[The remainder of this article and a full translation into Spanish are available via the links below.]