Why Was the Reformation Important? Why Is It Still Today? - Leonardo De Chirico


good evening to all it's a great

privilege to be in front of you and let

me begin with a to tell you a story of

personal Reformation this was this

picture was taken many years ago and

much hair ago my father was a devout

Catholic he was not obsessed with

regularly attending Mass but seriously

engaged in Catholic practices he was a

fan of st. Anthony a Portuguese made you

evil Saint he had a picture of the saint

in his wallet he kissed it before going

to bed

he made a pilgrimage to the tomb of the

same every year

he felt part of the Catholic Church he

knew that the church was meant to deal

with his own religious life God was

remote too distant to God to be known

and approached the church was therefore

there to mediate to stay in between

himself and God Saint Anthony was the

Saint he felt near to him my father's

life was religiously respectful but

spiritually empty full of devotions and

yet void of the gospel this is what

Roman Catholicism had taught him his

heart was restless and God was far away

one day many years ago and much hair ago

my family was visited by a missionary

couple they could hardly speak Italian

they asked to simple yet searching

questions the first one very simple are

you Christians and the answer was simple

and straightforward yes of course we are


the idea was that being Italian meant

being a Christian the second question

was a bit more difficult and here what

it was

have you ever read the Bible turning to

my mother in puzzlement my father

replied dear do we have a Bible at home

no dear she said we have no Bible at

home this is another mark of Roman

Catholicism not really exposing people

to the Bible but rather feeling life

with traditions and practices often very

much contrary to plain and simple

biblical teaching to cut a long story

short reading the Bible was the

beginning of a reformation of a journey

of reformation that led both dad and man

to become born-again Christians

soon after my older brother and I

followed this is a story of personal and

family Reformation this has been the

story of millions of Roman Catholics

around the world people raised in a

religious tradition with little if no

exposure to the Bible and with

wrongheaded ideas about the gospel the

Bennis the medicine for it was the

discovery of the message of the Bible

and the good news of salvation in Christ

alone received by faith alone this was

the medicine for the salvation of my

family and this is why the Reformation

still matters today I want now to take

you to the city of Rome in 1510 five

centuries ago and to tell you another

story of personal Reformation a young

German monk Martin Luther visited the

Eternal City that year

he came as a pilgrim to immerse himself

in devotional practices in the hope to

find peace for his troubled soul apart

from the corruption that is saw in the

church they're undermining the

credibility of the clergy and its

teachings luther saw the gospel that

dominated Rome as encapsulated in the

holy stairs next to st. John the Lateran

their pilgrims would go and climb the

stairs on their knees praying Marian

prayers and after reaching the top they

would pay a certain amount of money to

receive an indulgence an indulgence was

and still is a remission of sin granted

by the Catholic Church to the faithful

who performs a good work in special ears

called holy years or jubilee years the

Roman Church dispenses indulgences more

lavishly Luther came in one of those all

here's the basic idea is that God is far

removed from you in order to reach out

to him you have to do a combination of

good works with a prayers pilgrimages or

offerings and then the church will

dispense God's forgiveness on his behalf

you have to climb the steps of heaven in

order to fulfill the requirements of the

church who will then open for you the

storage of divine grace Luther was

trouble to see what is so something was

wrong about the whole thing he would

soon after discover that the issue was

not the issue was the whole system

system advocated for by the Roman Church

was ill-formed confusing and distorted

Luther understood that is it is not we

who have to reach out to God with our

works ascending the ladder of heaven and

then trusting the church to mediate

God's grace to us the Bible clearly

teaches that it is God who in His Son

Jesus Christ has come down to us to make

atonement for our sins the whole scheme

was wrong and needed to turn upside down

this is the essence of the Reformation

being exposed to the biblical gospel and

turning the whole trajectory of

salvation upside down the son Jesus


descended to us in his incarnation dying

for our sins raising from the dead for

our salvation

calling all those who believe to eternal

life now what is then the problem with

this kind of gospel that Luther had to

be confronted with the problem with the

Roman Catholicism of the sixteenth

century is still the problem with the


Roman Catholicism the same holy stares

that Luther saw are still there

attracting millions of pilgrims every

day packing the stairs with people

kneeling up their way to look for God's

forgiveness it has been going on for

centuries without any significant change

there are two main problems in the

Catholic presentation of the gospel as a

whole the first one has to do with the

view in which God's revelation comes to

us and is taught and transmitted and

lived out in the life of the church in

the Catholic understanding the Bible is

part of God's revelation but God's

revelation is far bigger than the Bible

and so that you have the Bible within

the tea

Kings and practices of the Catholic

Church but you also have something very

different at times conflicting with the

Bible you have the scriptures on the one

hand you have the traditions of the

church on the other hand and you have

the Magisterium that is the teaching

office of the church collecting the

revelation come to us through the

scripture come to us through the oral

traditions and presenting the whole of

God's revelation to the people so the

end result is something that is quite

unreadable because it's a combination of

Scripture tradition and Magisterium the

scripture is somewhat somehow hidden

there somehow present there but it's so

inherently combined with the traditions

of the church and taught by the teaching

of the church that is somehow buried

under the weight of many times

unbiblical traditions and teachings

according to the Roman Catholic Church

then and the Roman Catholic early church

now the Bible is important but

inconclusive it is one form of

Revelation but not the final one let me

give you an example how on how this

works in the Catholic understanding one

example comes from the development of

Marian doctrine and practices the Bible

as you know gives us a sober account of

the matter of Jesus Mary

however listen to how the Roman Catholic

Church developed it and I'm quoting for

Vatican 2 the last important council

celebrated by the church the blessing

word Blessed Virgin is invoked by the

church under the titles of advocate of

Xillia tricks and media tricks these are

all christological titles there is

titles that the Bible is

fives to Jesus our lawyer I'll advocate

our help our mediator and our titles

that are have been transmitted and

transferred to Mary what the bible

ascribes to Jesus alone the Roman Church

of tribes to Mary why because tradition

takes precedence over the Bible and can

therefore lead these Mary illogical

developments that detract attention from

the Lord Jesus placing attention to me

on to Mary it is no surprise that in

Mary in many majority Catholic regions

like the country I come from the cult of

Mary is more practiced than praying to

Jesus it is no surprise that the motto

of Pope John Paul the second was totus

Tuus totally yours and yours of course

referring to Mary it is no surprise that

Pope Francis has a strong Mario logical

spirituality and every day he prays the

Marian Marian rosary and speaks about

her all the time last week it was in

Portugal in Fatima celebrating another

anniversary the 100 years of the Marian

apparitions in Fatima claiming that

these apparitions were and our

revelations that the church need to take

account of there is a second fundamental

problem in the 16th century Catholicism

and in the present day one the Roman

Catholic Church violently rejected the

biblical doctrine of salvation by faith

alone at the Council of Trent in the

middle of the 16th century Trent this

Italian City where the council was held

continued to use the word justification

word was there the word was accepted by

the council but it was filled with a

completely different meaning it was

buried in the context of a plurality of

terms and concepts and ideas to the

point that justification the biblical

justification disappeared buried under

the weight of wrongheaded accounts of

justification for trends the council of

trent justification was a process rather

than an act of God a process initiated

by the sacrament of baptism where the

righteousness of God was thought of of

being infused a process eventually

nurtured by the religious works of the

faithful and sustained by the

sacramental system of the church a

process needed to go through a time of

purification in purgatory before perhaps

being enacted on Judgment Day you see

the word was there but it was buried

under the weight of other conflicting

ideas to the extent that the biblical

understanding basic understanding of

justification was lost what was missing

in Trent five centuries ago was the

declarative declarative forensic act of

justification the exclusive grounding in

divine grace salvation coming from God

and been received by faith alone and

also it lacked the full assurance of

being justified because of what God the

Father had declared God the son had

achieved and God the spirit had worked

out Trent came with a confused and

confusing teaching on justification that

has been misleading people since now in


this declaration joined declaration on

justification by faith signed by the

Catholic Church and some Lutheran

churches claims to have bypassed and

overcome the gap between the biblical

understanding of justification and

experience of justification and the

Catholic accounts of it what the joint

declaration did was to further blur the

lines further confuse the language

further stretch the synthesis without

filling the gap but instead making it

more nuanced yet still relevant so what

is at stake then are we only dealing

with a matter that can be accounted for

with a sense that we say the same things

with different words with different

words using the same words but having

different meanings or is it the case

that we are actually speaking different

different languages using the same words

and yet referring to different basic

meanings I would I would say I would say

that it is why is true that the Roman

Catholic Church retains basic Christian

vocabulary still uses them often in a

very unbiblical way take for instance

the word justification as we have

briefly indicated it is the same word

everybody speaks today of justification

but that what do we mean by it and I'm

glad that one of our plenary sessions

during the week will specifically deal

with this wonderful doctrine of

justification by faith alone and I will

refer to that talk for further


but everybody uses today the word

justification but the Catholic Church

still thinks that justification is the

process a process whereby you receive an

initial push giving you by baptism and

then you have to work it out yourself in

order to achieve something that will

eventually probably given to you

a Judgment Day there is no sense of the

definitive declarative work of Christ

pronounced upon you as a sinner you

hopeless sinners without any

contribution to make just receiving by

faith alone trusting Christ for the

forgiveness of your sin that this is

what it means to be justified rather

than being in the process of becoming a

better person this is the basic

understanding of the word justification

even in present-day Roman Catholicism or

think for instance of the word mercy

this is a the password that Pope Francis

is using every day in order to convey

his basic vision and message to the

world the mercy of God a merciful God

the ear of Mercy Mercy for all Pope

Francis has chosen the word mercy to

define his message and his overall view

of the Christian faith according to him

mercy is the heart of the gospel but

what kind of mercy are we talking about

the word is the same mercy but is it the

biblical mercy that he is referring to

no it is something very different the

mercy he has in mind is a atonement free

judgment less conscience centered

marryin oriented type of mercy and I

repeated for you to ponder on this

definition atonement free speaks always

about mercy but oftenly hides the cost

of mercy for

or God the Son to die for our sins and

to bear the consequences of our sins on

our behalf it is a judgment less mercy

covers all judgment as if the mercy of

God can be pitted over against the

judgment of God the Justice of God the

biblical picture tells us that the mercy

of God is always to be combined and

linked with the justice of God not in

opposition to it not as if mercy would

swallow God's justice but mercy

kissing God's justice on the cross this

is what is missing in this understanding

of mercy a conscience centered sense of

mercy believe what you believe follow

your conscience and God will be merciful

for you and with you this is the basic

message that covers and hide the other

side of the gospel yes God is merciful

but call God calls every man to repent

not to follow his own conscience but

actually to follow God's Word above

one's own conscience our consciences are

mixed-up are diverted by our own sin and

they need to be redressed in the right

journey according to God's Word and it's

a could say it's a mercy marryin

oriented every day speaks about the

maternal role of Mary the way in which

she cares for us the way in which she is

near to us the way in which she is even

more nearer than Jesus she is close to

us and she is an example and a mediator

of God's mercy a kind of mercy that is

silent on sin and superficial on

repentance as it was the case with

justification in this case - it is the

same biblical word mercy that is used

but is excused

it's biblical meaning so we are dealing

with a powerful institution carrying

very basic and important Christian

vocabulary but as it was the case 500

years ago it is still the case today

that this vocabulary has an inherent

disorder inside it there is something

wrong there is something that because it

is not grounded on scripture alone it

can deviate at any time it can go up and

down it can add more ideas it can add

more teachings it can detract

significant important teachings it can

blend different teachings together it

can manipulate and caricature basic

Christian teaching so there are two

biblical options that we can take into

consideration when we deal with the

claims of the Reformation as they relate

to the 16th century Roman Catholic

Church and the present-day Roman

Catholic Church in the early in the 1st

century of course there were divergent

ideas there were different ideas even

within the gospel churches that had been

recently planted and the Apostles always

had to deal with ways in which different

people were saying we were saying the

same gospel in different ways using

different words and emphases this is the

case for instance in Philippians 1 when

Paul clearly writes to the church in

Philippi that there were people going

around motivated out of envy and rivalry

against Paul himself and they were they

wanted to downplay the credibility of

all they wanted to do something bad to

Paul they didn't like Paul and they

preached out of envy

but Paul is able to recognize that

although they were preaching with these

false motivations they were still

preaching the gospel and for him that

was a reason to rejoice because he was

free enough not to concentrate on his

person people may have had bad

motivations wrong motivations but they

were still preaching the gospel because

of its content because of its truth

truth because of its grounding on God's

revelation finally presented in the

person of Jesus but the same apostle in

Galatians 1 when it deals with the

people who were going around teaching

another kind of gospel another account

of the gospel in the Galatian region he

speaks a very different language he

realizes that they may had they could be

good people they could be nice people

they could be friendly people and yet

because they deny the once and for all

achievement of the cross and the reality

of justification by grace alone received

by faith alone is bold enough to do

something that is very politically

incorrect that is claiming that they

were preaching another gospel now I know

that over the history of the Christian

and even in the evangelical church this

text of Galatians 1 has been used and

often misused in order to condemn people

condemned teaching and tell bad things

about others who were preaching

different ideas or different

perspectives on the same gospel but this

centenary of the Reformation is a

wonderful opportunity to ask the

question are we seriously

about the gospel it is not about us it

is not about our reputation it is not

about our own credibility it is about

about the truth of God's Word presented

taught and lived out in our lives and in

our churches what are we dealing with

when we come to terms with the reality

of this institutional big Roman Catholic

Church is it a matter of Philippians 1

is it just another way of accounting for

the gospel another way of telling the

gospel may be motivated by reasons that

we don't understand fully or is it the

case that the bottom line is that in

spite of the similarities and

commonalities what is at stake then

there is another gospel so the question

is the Reformation over the church of

course will continue to be founded on

the authority of Scripture and on

salvation received by faith alone there

is no other basis there is no other

foundation upon which the church can be

founded and grounded upon that is true

as far as five centuries ago is

concerned and that is true as far as

today's situation is concerned there is

no other gospel than the gospel

biblically attested in the message of

Jesus Christ that saves unworthy sinners

like us on the ground or is one and for

all work on the cross of course we may

it should be creative to find new and

better ways to preach about

justification to embody what it means to

be under the authority of Scripture to

apply it and to witness it's living


but the Bible is crystal clear that we

are other under we are either under the

authority of God through his word and

spirit or we are under a false idol the

authority of a false idol we are either

justified by God's grace received by

faith alone or we fall in a kind of self

justification that is a tragic deception

any accommodation to the idea that we

are ultimately capable of saving

ourselves any accommodation to the fact

that salvation is not God's gift from

beginning to end is a slippery slope

towards a false gospel this is what the

Reformation reminds us of five centuries

after the gospel is about the message of

Jesus attested in the infallible works

and writings of the Bible telling us

that God's initiative in salvation

reaches out to us in the person and work

of the son and we can believe in him

trusting him for our salvation and for

the renewal of the world there is no

other way or better way to celebrate and

remember the Protestant Reformation that

remembering the basics of the gospel of

Jesus Christ as it is attested in the

Bible do not think that justification is

just a theological relic of a distant

past do not think that the authority of

the Bible is just an old theological

concept that we can easily dispense from

these are the two pillars upon which any

healthy transformed personal life or

Church can have hope to survive and

finally to be received into God's glory

the race the recent statement is the

Reformation / which was produced last

year preparing the celebration or the

anniversary of the Protestant

Reformation was signed by dozens of

evangelical leaders and theologians

worldwide and the number is growing and

I would also invite you to consider

signing in the statement you have

received it in your conference folder

and it's a brief summary statement

summarizing what I've been trying to

tell you so far of course we look back

at the Protestant Reformation but we're

not interesting in being apologetic

towards everything the Reformation did

what we want to say that the Reformation

was a radical call to the church then to

go back to the sources of the Bible and

to submit the authority of the church

under the authority of Scripture and it

was also called to appreciate afresh the

fact that salvation comes to us through

faith alone

these are standing an unresolved issue

issues in the present day relationships

between the Roman Catholic Church and

evangelical Protestants present day

Roman Catholicism has tried to come to

terms with the Reformation by expanding

its synthesis by redefining its terms by

becoming friendly but not changing the

doctrinal core of its vision this is why

the Reformation needs to be our calling

and mission beat personal Reformation we

always and all need to go through an

ongoing time of reformation otherwise we

easily go astray and we are trapped

into our own little authorities and we

are we are trapped into our own false

Gospels of force justification the

Reformation is a vibrant ongoing call to

stay relaxed and peaceful and find joy

under the authority of God as it is

witnessed in the Bible and to find peace

and joy and the sense of calling and

service in appreciating the fact that we

cannot do anything to achieve to own to

gain our salvation apart from believing

with all our hearts the Christ was the

perfect gift and the perfect giver and

in him we can have eternal salvation the

only personal Reformation but also

reformation of churches the Reformation

was never intended to be a once and for

all event but a process a journey a

trajectory we need our churches to be

constantly reminded of their calling to

go back to the scriptures and to

celebrate the fact that salvation comes

to us by grace alone through faith alone

and also the need for Reformation

movements across Europe this continent

that witness to a significant degree the

impact of the Reformation then but as

lost its grip and it's lost its memory

and needs to be realized with the same

gospel biblical gospel of the Lord Jesus

Christ a huge task before us and our

task is not to be nostalgic of the past

but to be looking forward to what God is

doing and will do in our continent even

through people very simple like me and


people like us here this European

Leadership Forum but fully convinced

that the only source of our authority is

the Word of God and the only hope of our

life is the fact that we are justified

by faith

less than be encouraged and take this

task forward so that our continent will

be exposed once again to the impact of

the biblical gospel in all these

countries in all its regions across the

generations and hoping to see great

things that God is doing and will do

let's pray father we do thank you

because we stand on the shoulders of

those who have come before us we stand

on their shoulders not because they were

heroes but because they were sinners

saved by grace through faith alone and

they were serious about the gospel we

stand on the shoulders of those who have

gone before us witnessing testifying to

the truth of the scripture and to the

saving reality of the gospel and in this

present generation Oh Lord we pray that

we as representatives of Churches of

movements of mission agencies of

networks will not be afraid of

testifying witnessing heralding

preaching embodying and living out the

same gospel the same apostolic Orthodox

historic evangelical gospel that has

been preached throughout the ages with

different emphases in different ways but

always keeping in mind the need for the

gospel to be grounded in the Bible and

centered on the person and work of

Christ alone we pray that you will bring

about a new window of reformation in

this continent we pray that you will

bring about a new season of renewal

biblical renewal in this continent and

we pray that you will grant us to be

bold witnesses wherever we are in our

southern regions of Europe in the

western part of Europe in the northern

countries of Europe in the eastern

countries of Europe wherever we come

from that the eternal message of the

gospel and it was testified 500 years

ago and it is testified now will go

forth and will attract people and people

and people will come to you in

repentance and faith proclaiming that

Jesus Christ is the Lord of lords and

the King of Kings and the savior of the

world we pray all these things in Jesus

name Amen