The Reformation Was Holistic

A truncated focus on the spiritual needs of people without concern for the physical and social needs of people is not part of the legacy of the Reformation. It came later, and from other sources.

The Reformers were remarkably holistic, caring about all dimensions of the human person. The spiritual is most foundational, but this doesn’t mean we are to be unconcerned about the other dimensions of human need and activity. Further, they weren’t only concerned about private spirituality, but the renewal of society as well.

Here are two quotes that display this.

Martin Luther:

When asked what he would do if the world would end tomorrow said, “I would plant a tree today.”

John Calvin:

“God has filled my mind with zeal to spread his kingdom and to further the public good.” (Institutes, ed., John T. McNeill, vol. 1, p. 4)

And, following in the legacy of the Reformers, Jonathan Edwards wrote:

And as the spirit of charity, or Christian love, is opposed to a selfish spirit, in that it is merciful and liberal so it is in this, also, that it disposes a person to be public-spirited. A man of a right spirit is not a man of narrow and private views, but is greatly interested and concerned for the good of the community to which he belongs, and particularly of the city or village in which he resides, and for the true welfare of the society of which he is a member.

God commanded the Jews that were carried away captive to Babylon, to seek the good of that city, though it was not their native place, but only the city of their captivity. His injunction was (Jer. 29:7), “Seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it.”

And a man of truly Christian spirit will be earnest for the good of his country, and of the place of his residence, and will be disposed to lay himself out for its improvement.