Second Reformation and the Local Church

When Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg church he was challenging certain eschatological and salvific principles.  In addition to Luther, Calvin and Zwingli came along and challenged other things that were taught to be required for salvation, such as baptism.  As a result, the Protestant Reformation that as initiated in 1517 is known as a salvation-based movement.  The second reformation was more of a church-driven movement.  In regards to this Bruce Snavely writes, “continued reformation of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Henry VIII in England in the on-going effort of identifying the elect within the visible churches under what was commonly referred to as the Second Reformation [1]”.

This second reformation is one that was continuous, and an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation, in that it was a constant effort to identify who the genuine believers were.  This led to church membership being available only to those who showed evidence of being regenerated by the Holy Spirit [2].  This led to the establishment of a new class of Christians that became known as Separatists.  The separatists desired a division between the visible and invisible church.  In their view, the church is not something that was meant to be a physical and visible institution, but a community of believers. This was not possible in England where the Church of England reigned supreme, and the separatists migrated to other countries such as Holland and the New World.  The separatists came to the New World to “carry to carry on the reformation to its logical conclusion [3].”  To continue the church-based movement they confronted the popular practice of infant baptism, and the state support of churches.  Infant baptism is still a controversial issue, but to the separatists it was seen as a doctrine that had no biblical support.  They did not want state support of churches for a couple reasons.  The first being that they believed the church was an invisible entity, and the secondly they were supportive of freedom of religion.  The withdrew from the established churches for the purpose of joining with those who showed the fruits of being born again.  Thus the title given them of separatists.  This emphasis on being born again would eventually lead to the birth of the Great Awakening, which many say is the beginning of evangelicalism [4].  The local church model that began with the separatists became the established model which was vastly different that Protestantism in Europe.  That is why the Second Reformation was a church-driven movement.


Works Cited

1.  Snavely, Bruce.  The Second Reformation:  Baptists in Colonial America.  (Lynchburg, VA:  Liberty University Press, 2013), 17-18.

2.  Ibid, 18.

3.  Ibid, 20.

4.  Sweeney, Douglas A.  The American Evangelical Story:  A History of the Movement.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2005), 25.

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