Every Thumb's Width

Numquam reformanda?

Numquam reformanda! Prohibere reformationem!

I really didn’t realize that anyone in R/reformed circles would argue against semper reformanda: always reforming. So I began this post with some alternatives above. “Never reforming!” or “Stop reformation!”

Those are better?

I assume the anon I’ve quoted above is referring to Karl Barth, the “wanton heretic.” Note, Barth did his adult work in the 20th century. But while it’s true that Barth used the phrase semper reformanda, he did not develop it.

It’s at least from the 17th century. “The saying first appeared in 1674 in a devotional book by Jodocus van Lodenstein…a key figure in the Dutch Second Reformation.” KDY gives more context in this article, which is all good. But the point is, semper reformanda is old school, not a product of haters.

And the phrase still plays. The semper is built in to the reformanda.

“We are unfaithful to the spirit of the Reformation – as well as to all that is implied in the word “reformed” – if we ever imagine that the task of reform was finished with Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others in the sixteenth century. Ours is a glorious heritage, but if we only look back and revel in great moments in the past we negate our calling to be continually reforming.”

I. John Hesselink

If there are people who use semper reformanda to justify their evangelical deconstruction, I haven’t come across them.

And more than lacking lots of examples of bad motto users, I have lots of questions.

Who decided when/that the Reformation was done? Why argue for the 17th century rather than the 16th century? And if not the first generation, why are we stopping at the following and also now-dead generation?

What established Westminster as the END? Did those “divines” think there was nothing more to be said or changed? There were no new issues that might come into the church that would require addressing? Does Westminster Longer cover all the bases? If their Assembly assembled among us today, would they say, “Guys, you do NOT need more reformation. Stop it!”

And how come it is that all that (great) Westminster work hasn’t successfully kept Presbies together, in doctrine or in denomination, let alone guaranteed spiritually prosperous families and culture and nations and personal morals? I’m not saying Baptists are smarter per capita, but how many died-in-the-wool Dispies dye their hair pink and even bother trying to argue that it fits with their theology?

If we, the 21st century church, have problems that need fixing, problems that might take generations to turn around, I’m assuming we should try to fix them, but we’re just not supposed to refer to it as “always reforming”?

This comes back to the basic issue of behaving like reformers, not freezing reformers in our minds as the replacement “saints” and their writings as Protestant authority ex cathedra. We thank the Lord for the reformers, men who learned from the early church fathers and used whatever they wanted that helped them. But they loved the Scriptures and tried to submit their teaching and practices more and more consistently with inspired revelation. That work must continue until our final redemption.

What an amazing treasure of resources we have, through them and in their examples. But the Reformed chronological snobbery of “only the old” and acting according to #ReformNeverMore has too many similarities to how the 16th century church got into such a dark place where reformation was so needed.