WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A BAPTIST?
My son, David, asked me to write a series of articles about what it means to be a Baptist. Since Baptists grew out of the Protestant Reformation, I thought that it would be best to start with the issues that dominated the movement. It is common to date the start of the Protestant Reformation as October 31, 1517. This was when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. However, you might also consider the seminal moment of the Reformation as occurring on April of 1521. This was the time when Martin Luther was called before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms. Diet means formal meeting and Worms was where the meeting took place. Martin Luther was asked to recant his statements which were considered heretical. Instead he uttered these words, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”
This was a crucial statement. The Protestant Reformation was about many issues. One of the key issues was the supremacy of scripture. The Roman Catholic Church held that scripture was not the only authority as what Christians should believe. They viewed that the church and especially the pope had authority. They also maintained that only the church could properly interpret scripture. Many modern day cults have that same attitude. While Roman Catholics have moved closer to Protestants on many issues, the supremacy of scripture is not one of them. They still hold to the authority of the pope. This is one of the main barriers to ecumenism.
There were many issues that Martin Luther and other Protestants took a stand on. One of them was allowing the laity (non-priests) to receive the cup at Mass. This is one issue where the Roman Catholics have moved. Another one was allowing priests to marry. The Roman Catholic Church has not moved much on this issue. It is interesting that Martin Luther, a former monk, married a former nun.
The main issues of the Reformation have been summarized by five solas. Sola is the Latin word for only. These are Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone) and Soli Deo Gloria (the glory of God alone).
I will deal with these five solas in later postings. Then I will comment on the Baptist distinctives. These are the beliefs that separate Baptists from other Protestants. I would like to close this blog with a question for discussion: Do you think that allowing priests to marry would lessen the abuses that have taken place?