A Reformation for This Generation
This generation’s glorious reformation must be summed up in the two Latin phrases that found prominence during the sixteenth-century Reformation: Post tenebras lux and non nobis Domine.
After Darkness, Light
Post tenebras lux is translated “after darkness, light.” This slogan identified the essence of the Reformation. Luther and the other reformers were not attempting to reinvent the church, only to shed light upon the darkness of its doctrine and worship. It was their belief that truth would win out over error, if truth would be known. Today we have the same conviction. The church does not need to be reinvented, God forbid. It once again needs the light of the truth that is the glorious and biblical doctrines recovered during the Reformation. The darkness that has enveloped the church will by God’s grace and in his providence give way to a light—brilliant and wonderful. It is a light that is beginning to shine through this present darkness. What a great light it will be! As the prophet said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Isa. 9:2).
Not to Us, Lord
Non nobis Domine, translated “not to us, Lord,” is taken from the first line of Psalm 115. The Reformers understood that if God were going to restore his glory and majesty to the church once again, it was going to be for his name and for his glory alone. And if God would visit his people, he would do so for his name and his glory alone. They knew that the glory of God was in the Gospel of Christ. Subsequently, they all with a singular voice wrote and preached, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory” (Ps. 115:1). Today will be no different. The reformation that we pray and labor for in the church in general (and the African-American church in particular) is a reformation that will only come because God determines to glorify himself through us and to us, not for our glory, but for his alone. So we, like the magisterial reformers, proclaim and pray non nobis Domine. It is my prayer that it will be the undercurrent and foundation of all we write, preach, and pray.
Full of Optimism
Today, we find ourselves in a dark place, yet the light of the truth of the Scriptures continues to shine brightly. All over this country, and indeed around the world, men and women, particularly those of African descent, are falling out of love with the world and the worldliness of popular television-driven Christianity, and falling in love with the biblical, historic faith that was and is found in Reformed theology.
We are witnessing the rise of a new generation of African-American Christians who see through the fading glory of the empty way of life advocated by the false prosperity gospel, and are seeing more clearly the faith that has once and for all been delivered to the saints—the faith rediscovered during the Reformation and being reenergized in our time. We believe that God is always reforming his people according to his Spirit by his Word.
It is our sincerest desire to see God move by his Spirit to revive the church in our day according to the old paths of heart-felt and head-intoxicated experiential Christianity.
This article is adapted from Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church, edited by Anthony J. Carter.
- Does the Reformation Still Matter? (Stephen J. Nichols)
- 10 Things You Should Know about the Reformation (Tim Chester)
- The Story of the First Ordained African-American Pastor in US History (Thabiti Anyabwile)