Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Reformation Sunday!

I'm still working on the public data release of our OK Baptist pastor/church staff survey.  As Hurricane Sandy bears down on me and all my East Coast heathen and liberal friends, maybe I'll have some time to finish that project.  Look for a blog post on poll data and methodology by Tuesday.

Today, along with hundreds of millions of Protestants throughout the world, I'm thinking about the Protestant Reformation, which many churches remember on the last Sunday in October.  I'll share a few links and then reflect a bit on how the Reformation relates to our efforts at protecting academic freedom at OBU.

First, I want to point you to a very high-quality series of documentaries produced by the BBC.  Historian (and now Member of Parliament) Tristram Hunt does a masterful job explaining the causes and consequences of the "Protestant Revolution" in these videos.  Definitely worth watching.

Also, I can't help but share  a few links to recordings of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," known as the Battle Hymn of the Reformation.  Diane Bish, who for over 20 years played the magnificent 117-rank Ruffatti organ at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (of D. James Kennedy fame), has a really powerful organ arrangement.  Never underestimate the musical talents of fundamentalists!  Most would be surprised to hear this, but I absolutely love the Bill Gathier Vocal Band, for instance.

And, if you prefer "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" in the original German, this choral and organ recording is pretty spectacular!

Now, all Protestants would like to think they are the inheritors of the original reformers' dreams and ideals.  His virulent anti-Semitism and bizarre hatred of the Epistle of James notwithstanding, Luther was a tremendously important figure whose ideas changed the church and the world.  Aside from clarifying sola scriptura and sola fide, we can thank the Reformation for many hallmarks of Protestantism, including anti-authoritarianism and the priesthood of the believer.

In OBU's case, I don't think supporters and opponents of the recent changes are on different sides of the sola scriptura and sola fide issues.  But when it comes to some of the other distinctives of Protestant thought, it seems we have two differing opinions.  One side is clearly more comfortable embodying some semblance of the authoritarianism that the reformers stood against.  Baptists have historically been the most fiercely independent and anti-authoritarian people.  The most extreme element of the new SBC (finally embodied on Bison Hill in the provost's and certain deans' offices) is surely a departure from that distinguished tradition.

I could go on, but I hope the point is clear enough.  We are all Protestants, and brothers and sisters in a shared tradition that we all honor this day and every day.  But in a sense, the 495 years since 1517 have been an ongoing history of reforming and re-reforming corrupt structures and practices in the church and the world.  Surely the SBC conservatives interpret their resurgence in that light (though many faithful Baptists disagree).

Those of us who demand a renewed commitment to academic freedom and ethical administrative practices at OBU can't automatically claim the mantle of Luther.  But we do insist on the right and duty to stand against practices within a religious institution that have become corrupted.  In recognition of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14), we see misguided practices and cannot help but say, "This is just wrong."  In the face of unjust oppression against our friends, colleagues, and teachers, and in sorrow over the manifold consequent disservices done to OBU students, we cry out with Luther in his timeless words from 1521:
Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen!

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