Reformation Or Restoration?

W. Terry Varner
January 29, 2017

Throughout 2017 you will see many articles written and various remembrances marking 500 years (since 1516) concerning the beginning of the Reformation Movement. The Reformation Movement began in an attempt to reform the abuses within the Roman Catholic Church by Catholic priests. The primary leader of the Reformation Movement was Martin Luther. When Luther’s attempt failed to reform the abuses of Catholicism, the Reformation Movement developed into what is now known as the Protestant Churches.

In Luther's attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, he objected to numerous sins committed by Catholicism; e.g. he objected to the selling of indulgences which the priests sold, with the approval of Rome, the opportunity to buy forgiveness of a sin before one committed it. In other words, you could purchase forgiveness for murder before having committed the murder. Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest who married a Roman Catholic nun who had fled the Coventry. The two of them lived a very happy life.

On the other hand, the Restoration Movement differs from the Reformation Movement. Various men from various nations rejected any change in New Testament Christianity as practiced in the first century. The Restoration Movement rejects the Reformation Movement’s attempt to reform the abuses within Roman Catholicism and at the same time rejected Protestantism as a split or division within the Catholicism. Neither are in harmony with New Testament Christianity. A key to understanding the Restoration Movement is the principle that if what men obeyed in the first century made them acceptable to God, then no man needs to do no more nor no less.

We omit mentioning the Apostolic Fathers, Ante-Nicene Fathers, and the Post-Nicene Fathers. This terminology is used to identified the men in the earlier centuries before the Reformation Movement of Luther. Consider some men who preceded Luther and who objected to religious corruption and false teaching. These men are basically unknown to many. Some of these men are:

  • Peter Waldo (1140-1218) of Lyon, France believed: “Whatever is not enjoined in Scripture must be rejected” and “The Bible is the only safe guide in religion.” He rejected the various masses, prayers for the dead, and denied purgatory as unbiblical.
  • Marsilius (1275-1342) of Italy lived by the slogan: “The only authority in the church is Scripture, the final seat of authority being the New Testament” and “No bishop or Pope has authority to define Christian truth contained in the New Testament or to make binding laws.” William of Occam (1300-1349) from London, England said, “Scripture, and not the decisions of councils and popes, is alone binding on the Christian.”
  • John Wycliff (1324-1384) taught in Oxford University in England. Leaving the priesthood, he taught: “The Scriptures are the only law of the church” and “Scripture is the property of the people.” So convinced of this idea he was the first to translate the Bible into English. He died in 1384 and forty years later the Roman Catholic Church, who hated him intensely, dug up his bones, burned them, and threw his ashes into the River Swift. He was called: “The morning star of the Reformation.” Others could be mentioned.