What do we celebrate on bonfire night? “Remember, Remember the 5th of November, Gunpower, Treason and Plot. I see no reason why Gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.” But shouldn’t we be forgetting the “guy” on top of the bonfire? Wasn’t Guy Fawkes simply following his own Roman Catholic faith and sought to blow up the houses of Parliament because of Protestant oppression, as the current BBC series (which does not pretend to be history) asserts? Why still celebrate the providential rescue of the life of the King in 1605?
Of course, both Roman Catholics and Protestants did terrible things in the 16th century and we now must reject any sectarian motivation for bonfire night; such sectarianism is against the teaching of Jesus. We should rightly seek to do everything we can to promote respect between Roman Catholics and Protestants. But are the truths of the Reformation worth celebrating? Or do we need to place political church unity as something of greater value than holding on to Christ’s teaching as seems to be the case in the higher echelons of the Church of England. Do see recent declarations by the Archbishops on this issue. Of course we want healing in relationships, but not at the cost of the truths of the Reformation
At the Reformation, the Bible was made available for the first time in centuries, to the man in the street. This removed religious power from an elite who did not preach the good news of Jesus Christ. The Reformation meant that anyone who could read, had access to the good news of God and many who could not read, through the preaching of the Bible. In 1605, the Reformation was in its infancy and the Bible had been widely available in the English language for only about 70 years. If the gunpower plot had not been foiled it is unlikely that there would have been a Biblical Church of England, no Puritans, no John Owen, no freedom from the tyranny of the king, no Shakespeare, no parliament, no modern science, no abolition of slavery, no poor laws, no universal suffrage and the like, which all sprang from the availability and influence of the Bible particularly the King James version (see “The Book of Books” by Melvyn Bragg). Is this origin of such light not worth celebrating? Whilst doing all we can to love those with whom we disagree, we should not see the Reformation as a mistake. Rather we are to lovingly hold to the truths that Jesus and his apostles taught, Scripture Alone, Christ Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone to the glory of God Alone. “Salvation is found in no-one else for there is no other name under heaven, given to men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12. Freedom to proclaim such a message, and many other freedoms sprang from the preservation of King James by God’s providence. God strengthen us to celebrate and guard such freedoms!
With Love in Christ, John Parker