Thanks Be to God!

by Doug Rehberg

This October 31 marks a significant anniversary in the life of the Christian Church. It was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

“It was a time,” as Robert Farrar Capon writes, “when man went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar full of fifteen-hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof GRACE—bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saved us single-handedly. The Word of the Gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started...Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness nor badness, not the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case…”

Of all summations of the Reformation, I’ve ever read, none are truer, nor more succinct.

But, as Pittsburghers, we have another anniversary to celebrate, along with the Protestant Reformation. Fifty years ago, at Duquesne University, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal began. The story is compelling.

In the Spring of 1966, two Duquesne University professors were taking Jesus’ words of Luke 11 seriously. They were asking, seeking, and knocking. They had pledged themselves to pray daily for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in their own lives and the lives of those who would gather at Duquesne in January of 1967, and the Lord answered their prayers. What began at Duquesne University swept across the country and around the world.

The unique wonder of what occurred in those two events is found in their convergence. What happened in both 1517 and 1967 is that Jesus Christ was magnified and unspeakable joy and enduring confidence in Him were the results. Instead of keeping the blessings to themselves, the lives of each beneficiary exploded in thanksgiving to God and generosity to others. And that’s as it should be, for thanksgiving and generosity are always the result of the Holy Spirit’s work. That’s the same result I see in countless lives that have discovered the power of the Gospel, propelled by the Holy Spirit. It is, indeed, as Martin Luther said:

“Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”