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Episode 1 - Remembering the Reformation in the Third Millennium


Date: May 2, 2018
Run Time: 9:39
Host: Dr. Gregory R. Perry
Guest: Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.
From the Series: True and Lasting Reform

Program Notes

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But what does that have to do with us today? Dr. Richard Pratt joins us to discuss:

  • How the achievements of the Reformation make it valuable for the church to celebrate (even 500 years later)
  • Why the solas of the Reformation aren’t hammers
  • The Reformation as a deadly power struggle; not a religious debate
  • How the Reformation transformed, not just individuals, but all of Europe

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries. He served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary for more than 20 years and was chair of the Old Testament department. An ordained minister, Dr. Pratt travels extensively to evangelize and teach and has authored numerous articles and books.

Episode 1

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Podcast Transcript

Episode 1: Remembering the Reformation in the Third Millennium
Guest: Dr. Richard Pratt

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries, where we believe every Christian deserves a well-trained pastor. To study Scripture deeply or to learn more about how you can partner with us to provide Biblical Education. For the World. For Free. download our App to your phone or visit our online classroom at Thirdmill.org. And now, your host 4 the World, Dr. Greg Perry.

Well, welcome everyone and thank you for downloading 4 the World, the podcast of Third Millennium Ministries. For you early adopters out there who know and love and support Third Mill, we want to thank you for joining us, thank you for your prayers and all the ways that you support us. And thank you for responding to the invitation to tune in. We ask you to tell your friends about us and where they can find 4 the World on iTunes, SoundCloud, or on our website at Thirdmill.org.

So, our first guest on our first podcast is Dr. Richard Pratt, the cofounder and president of Third Millennium Ministries here in Orlando. And I am your host, Greg Perry.

So, Richard, this is a very busy travel season for you, so thank you for scheduling time to stop by.

Richard: Well, I'm glad to do it, glad to be here.


Now, you're traveling a bit more than usual this year because many of the world's Christians are marking an important anniversary. So, what are we celebrating?

Richard: Right now a lot of Christians around the world are celebrating the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 1517.

So what are some of the achievements of the Reformation that make it valuable for us to celebrate even 500 years later?

Richard: Well, you know, the Reformation was a world-changer in many ways. It changed society at every level. It changed the Christian beliefs at many levels and those sorts of things. But I have to tell you, honestly, the way that many people think about the Reformation, I wonder what they're celebrating.

What are some of the conversations you're having?

Richard: Well, one of the chief things that I've noticed at least in my own circles is that a lot of people think of the Reformation as a sort of shift in the doctrines of the church. And so, 500 years later, now that those doctrines have been around for quite a while, it's just a way to sort of get back in to refining them more and more and more.


Some of the conversations I've been having too is that every age has its own idols, every age has its own corruption — this need for reform. So, how do the teachings maybe and practices of the Reformation help Christians today to be true witnesses? It's like we can't repeat what the Reformers did, but we need to learn from it.

Richard: Yeah, I always say that, you know, we're not supposed to repeat the past, but we're not supposed to forget the lessons of the past. That's in the Bible and in church history. So, for example, I go to a lot of places, churches and conferences and things like that, and they typically will say that what the Reformation was about was about the solas. Now, solas is a summary of some of the principle teachings of the Reformation: sola Scriptura, that the Scriptures are our only infallible guide of faith and practice; sola fide, that we're justified by faith alone; solo Christos


Richard: Okay, sola gratia. That salvation is by grace alone. Solo Christos, which is that salvation in only through Christ.

Soli Deo gloria.

Richard: Soli Deo Gloria, which is sort of the pinnacle of it all, alone to God be the glory. We can take those very same themes, those very same doctrines, and rather than using them as ways of solidifying our commitments to Christ and furthering the work of Christ in the world today, which is what Luther and Calvin and others wanted to do, what we tend to do is to make those solas into hammers that we can use to hammer other people, close people, people that are next door to us in the Christian faith, and refine them in such a way that if they don't believe it exactly like we believe it, then obviously they're not in the Reformation.


But for the Reformers it seems like they weren't hammers so much as they were doors out into society. You mentioned earlier that this was reforming every part of society, so they were using technology of their day to kind of break things opens.

Richard: Here's the deal. This was not a debate. It was a life and death struggle for people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and the others that were involved in that movement in Europe. It was life and death for them. In other words, when they took stands on certain theological issues like the solas and others, like the 95 theses and that sort of thing that Luther nailed to the door, this was not like a modern debate. It was putting your neck on the line. It was literally risking your very life.

So, what I'm hearing you say is that on the one hand it is true that the Reformation was a recovery of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but the gospel properly understood is going to challenge things in society, power structures, and not just be an internal debate. It's going to be costly for God's people.

Richard: Yeah, this make the point here. I think it's theses 44 and 45 in Martin Luther's theses had to do with how the Roman Catholic Church was calling and causing people, in fact, compelling them to ignore hungry people who were starving on the streets and who were diseased and dying on the streets of the cities of Europe in order to give their money for building programs, church building programs. Suppose today someone were to stand up and to say that Christian theology actually teaches that rather than allowing people in our cities to be sick and die on the streets or in other cities in other parts of the world, for the sake of building nicer church buildings, which is precisely what they were doing, selling indulgences in order to build nice cathedrals.

The cathedrals of Europe, right?

Richard: Now, if someone were to do that, other people would get mad.

We don't think of this often that John Calvin himself was a refugee from France and therefore he was willing to put his own money in and to receive refugees into Geneva and to account the cost himself because he knew people were fleeing for their lives.

Richard: That's right. And when you make up theology that that tells people you'll get fewer years in purgatory by giving your money for the church building program, this is real life and it's real societal structures that you challenge when you challenge those beliefs. And that's what Martin Luther was doing. Very often the way we think of what happened in the Reformation — and it's easy to do this because this was a part of it — is that when they thought about gospel in terms of the sola, what they were focusing on was how is an individual person saved? And they were concerned about that. Martin Luther had a dramatic conversion and he was very concerned about how exactly can people be saved from everlasting judgment and he wanted to clarify that.

Of course.

Richard: But at the same time, because they were facing such a crisis in Europe with the abuse of people, I mean the real life abuse of people in the name of religion — those themes of how is a person a saved — had application. And the application was much bigger than just helping individual people resolve the questions they have about what steps they need to take in order to avoid everlasting hell and go to heaven.


So, forgiveness was part of it, but it was a part of something much larger: the claims of God's reign over all of life and how to treat your neighbors, etc. Is that what I'm hearing?

Richard: Yeah, that's exactly right, because that's why the Reformation did not just cause the transformation of individual people and congregations, but rather caused the transformation of Europe.

You've raised lots of issues here about the Reformation, about what God's doing in his world today, and about the meaning of grace and faith and the claims of Jesus Christ. We're looking forward to continuing this conversation. Richards' going to be with us this whole month and we'll be talking about his trip to China and the celebrations of the Reformation. Thanks for being with us, Richard. And thank you, listeners of 4 the World.

4 the World is a production of Third Millennium Ministries where we are reimagining biblical education for Christian leaders in a global church. Each week we bring you conversations to cultivate your curiosity about God's word, to inform your intercessions for God's people, and to equip your efforts in God's mission for the world. Our host is Dr. Greg Perry. Our sound engineer and editor is Christopher Russell. Our web designer is Ra McLaughlin. Production assistance is provided by Stephanie Mathis. And I'm your announcer, Cindy Sawyer. Today's podcast was brought to you by The China Partnership and by listeners like you. Thank you.