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Reformation Day Conference 2011 – Reformation and Liberation

Category Articles
Date November 22, 2011


Reformation Day celebrations have a fairly established place in the life of Reformed Churches in the USA (despite the fact, as one observer quipped, ‘I thought the Reformation took place to abolish events like these!’) So, given that such events are part of the church calendar in America, Banner of Truth held a Reformation Weekend conference in Philadelphia to mark the occasion.

The title for the evening as a whole was chosen deliberately to highlight the enduring significance of the Reformers and their work. They themselves never saw their accomplishments as being complete, but rather as being part of an ongoing process. They left the church a legacy which itself was part of the inheritance they had received from the faithful of preceding generations. The problem for today’s generation ““ even of Christians who call themselves ‘Reformed’ ““ is that they are so fixated with the present, they have no real appreciation of the past. So the event was designed to rediscover something of the past and its enduring relevance.

The titles chosen for the individual addresses for the evening developed the overall theme. Dr. Liam Goligher of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia took up the issue of justification under the heading, The Liberating Power of Justification: Then and Now. Even though this particular doctrine has come to be seen as the defining issue of the Protestant Reformation, it has surfaced and resurfaced in church debates ever since and is very much to the fore in the debates surrounding the ‘New Perspectives on Paul’ which are anything but dormant.

Dr. Goligher very helpfully combined an historical angle with an expository tour of key parts of the opening chapters of Romans to demonstrate not only what the Bible means when it talks about being justified by faith, but also why it is absolutely vital to get this teaching right. He presented it in such a way that whether someone listening was a compete newcomer to this teaching, or was already well versed in the issues that surround it, there was something there for everyone.

The other key issue that lay at the heart of the Reformation was that of Scripture and Tradition and how they relate to one another. Rev. Mark G. Johnston of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr PA took up this theme under the title, Rediscovering the Truth that sets us Free: Scripture versus Tradition. He made the point that even though justification was the most prominent symptom of Mediaeval spiritual malaise in the church that was addressed in the Reformation, its underlying cause was even more insidious.

Using John’s record of Jesus’ exchange with the Jews over the liberating power of God’s truth, Mr. Johnston drew out the significant issues surrounding Scripture and Tradition in a Jewish context that have repeated themselves, not just in Reformation times, but in every generation of the church in terms of where it finds its ultimate authority for its teaching on faith and life. In particular he pointed out the great slogan of the Reformation, Sola Scriptura, should never be read as meaning there is no place for ‘Tradition’ at all in our interpretation of the Bible, but rather that our framework for interpretation ““ unlike that of the Roman Catholic Church ““ must be shaped by Scripture alone as opposed to Scripture plus the teaching and practice of the church as a distinct source of authority.

Both addresses can be accessed or downloaded online without charge using the following links:

Dr. Liam Goligher: The Liberating Power of Justification: Then and Now

Rev. Mark Johnston: Rediscovering the Truth that sets us Free: Scripture versus Tradition

They can also be accessed in video format using the following links:

Dr. Liam Goligher: The Liberating Power of Justification: Then and Now

Rev. Mark Johnston: Rediscovering the Truth that sets us Free: Scripture versus Tradition

Further information about this event and similar events planned for the future can be obtained by contacting the US Office in Carlisle PA.

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