Rolling into Liverpool today is the very latest model of the ecumenical bandwagon.
It’s destined for Cambridge on the 23rd February, then London on the 25th, before returning to Germany by the beginning of next month.
They call it the Reformation Truck. Since its wheels first ‘hit the road’ in Geneva on 3 November 2016, it has visited just over half of its target destinations before it concludes its tour by reaching the key centre of the Protestant Reformation, Wittenberg, on 20 May 2017.
The brainchild of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the German Protestant Kirchentag (DEKT), this European Reformation Roadmap "Stories on tour" will stop by at a total of 68 cities in 19 European countries that were shaped by the Reformation and its consequences.
While the opening lines of their publicity about this tour sound quite promising, it quickly becomes evident that the Steering Committee (I’m sure there’s no pun intended here!) of this Reformation Anniversary 2017 view most of the “consequences” of the Reformation (as they define them) as distinctly dangerous.
• In a paragraph entitled, ‘Guilt and Opportunity,’ they state:
“The Reformers emphasised our personal, direct responsibility before God and justification by faith alone. These ideas were ground-breaking, their concept of freedom revolutionary. Nevertheless, they also spawned an uncompromising confessionalism, anti-Judaism, religious fanaticism, tyranny and an incipient over-emphasis on the individual.”
I have never considered the soul-saving doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone to be remotely guilty of “religious fanaticism” or “tyranny” (never mind the other sins this Committee lays at its door).
• The next line hints at their real agenda:
“By contrast, the truth of faith in a gracious God is bestowed on us when we freely encounter each other and in our relationship with Jesus Christ.”
What is implicit in this line becomes very explicit in the language of Professor Dr. H. C. Margot Kabmann, special envoy of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany for the Reformation anniversary in 2017. She is careful to emphasis the point that,
“It is not Martin Luther that we will be celebrating in 2017 but the common new beginning.
Outward-looking, ecumenical and international – that will describe our quincentennial celebration in many places in Europe and the world, not to mention the World Reformation Exhibition.
We want to struggle for responses and guidance in conversation with the different denominations and religions and in listening together to people from other regions of the world, but also with the activists in civil society.”
• Elsewhere in the advertising brochure, this welcome is given:
“You are warmly invited to the 36th German Protestant Kirchentag from 24 to 28 May 2017 in Berlin und Wittenberg. Reflecting on international ecumenism, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, it will also look ahead to the next 500 years of Protestantism.”
Should the future of Christ’s church be the sole responsibility of this collection of churches and civil institutions it would be reduced to very poor shape indeed. With the Reformation put into reverse gear and its leading truths dismembered, there would be no Protestantism in 50 years, never mind 500, at the rate at which biblical doctrines are being permitted to drain through these ecumenical, unbiblical fingers.
This is certainly one bandwagon that should be studiously avoided.