Reformation: SBC entities celebrate 500th anniversary

NASHVILLE (BP) -- As Christians kick off a year of observing the Protestant Reformation's 500th anniversary, Southern Baptist Convention entities have slated a range of commemorative events and publications.

Traditionally, the start of the Reformation is dated to Oct. 31, 1517, when a monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, challenging the Roman Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences -- infusions of supposedly excess merit from saints granted by the Catholic Church to decrease a person's time in purgatory.

Within a few years, Luther and others also challenged some of the Catholic Church's fundamental teachings about salvation. The Reformers, who held a range of opinions on secondary doctrinal matters, began their own churches and argued salvation comes by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. While the Catholic Church responded positively to some critiques by Reformers of immoral practices among clergy, Protestants and Catholics remain divided on certain specifics regarding the doctrine of salvation.

Many scholars regard Baptists as among heirs of the Reformation tradition. Among the Reformation celebrations planned among Southern Baptists:

ERLC

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has announced plans to publish various articles "on the Reformation and its impact both on the way we engage culture today and some of the movements that have arisen out of the Reformation," particularly the Baptist movement.

GuideStone

GuideStone Financial Resources will commemorate the Reformation with a special speaker in one of its weekly employee chapel services surrounding Oct. 31, 2017.

IMB

The International Mission Board said it likely will publish articles related to the Reformation on its website. Additionally, IMB President David Platt is scheduled to speak in April at a Reformation-themed conference in Germany sponsored by the German group Evangelium 21 and U.S.-based Together for the Gospel.

LifeWay

In February, LifeWay Christian Resources will release a small group Bible study titled "Echoes of the Reformation: Five Truths That Shape the Christian Life." The six-session study will examine five core truths that stemmed from, and were the DNA of, the Reformation. The study aims to help believers better understand the Reformation's impact on today's church and how to live for the glory of God.

The project will include both group and personal components; videos featuring authors Kevin DeYoung, R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Trevin Wax; and a companion study for students titled "To God Alone: 5 Core Beliefs of the Reformation."

In addition, LifeWay's B&H Academic division will release a book next spring exploring how the Reformation has shaped the world. With essays from an array of disciplines, "Reformation 500" will explore the impact of the Reformation across literature, education, art, culture, politics, music, theology, church life and Baptist history. Historical figures like Luther, Calvin, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Rembrandt, Bach, Bunyan and Wycliffe all find their way into the 500-year story.

Authors of the forthcoming book are Ray Van Neste and J. Michael Garrett, director and assistant director respectively of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

SEBTS

Reformation scholar Timothy George, dean of Samford University's Beeson Divinity School, will deliver a 2017 chapel address on the Reformation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, a June 2017 Reformation study tour in Europe will be led by Southeastern President Daniel Akin and Stephen Eccher, assistant professor of church history and Reformation studies.

SBTS

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will partner with Ligonier Ministries in August 2017 for the Land of Luther Study Tour, with church historians teaching in the places Luther lived and taught. The seminary also will host a Reformation Conference Oct. 24-25, 2017. In addition, chapel speakers, articles and other resources will address key Reformation themes throughout the year.

SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will host three faculty-led study tours of Reformation sites in Europe between the summer of 2017 and the winter of 2017-18. The third tour will include key Anabaptist sites. On-campus events throughout the year will include a special Reformation Day chapel service next year.

Marty King of LifeWay Christian Resources contributed to this report. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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