Congratulations to NETS (Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary) with their latest publication, “Luther, Calvin and the Mission of the Church”. The author is Dr Thorsten Prill, one of their lecturers.
On the 31st October 1517 Martin Luther published his Ninety-Five Theses in which he criticised the sale of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. This date is considered the beginning of the Reformation. While the Protestant Reformers are widely praised for the rediscovery of the biblical gospel, they have come under fire regarding their views on mission. There are church historians and missiologists who argue that the Protestant Reformers were not interested in mission and, in fact, ignored the mission mandate which Christ had given to his Church. However, a closer study of Luther, Calvin, Bucer, and Melanchthon, shows that the critics miss both the Reformers’ commitment to practical mission work and their missiological contributions. The critics seem to overlook the fact that cities, such as Geneva and Wittenberg, in which the Reformers lived, studied and taught, served as hubs of a huge missionary enterprise. Thousands of preachers went out from these centres of the Reformation to spread the gospel all over Europe. Leading Scandinavian theologians, such as Mikael Agricola, Olaus Petri, or Hans Tausen, had all studied under Luther and Melanchthon in Wittenberg before they began their reform work in their home countries. Furthermore, with their re-discovery of the gospel of justification by faith alone, their emphasis on the personal character of faith in Christ, their radical re-interpretation of the priesthood, their recognition of God’s authorship of mission, their reminder that the witness to the gospel takes place in the midst of a spiritual battle, and their insistence that the Bible has to be available in common languages, the Protestant Reformers laid down important principles for the mission work of the church which are still valid today.