Rekindling the Fires of the Reformation

For a period of 14 days it has been my privilege, along with fellow union presidents, seminary professors and officers of the Inter American Division, to retrace some of the steps of the reformers. These included the Apostles Paul and Peter, Luther, Calvin, Huss and Zwingli. However, for this initial Weekly I wish to focus on a group of dedicated and devoted Christians who in many ways set the foundation for the Christian Reformation. Therefore, I share a few observations regarding this group especially after my visit to some of the churches and a cave in Torre, Pellice, Italy, where they displayed great courage against the Church of Rome.

Who Are the Waldenses?

The Waldensian Church is believed to have had its origins in the Middle Ages. Named after Valdosta, a rich merchant from Lyons, it is reported that in 1170 Valdo was converted to Christianity. As a result, he parted with his riches and decided to work as an itinerant preacher, attempting "to bring to the Church of his day a sense of the Church" as it was in the Apostolic times. Therefore, he lived a simple life; and taught and preached the gospel to his fellow citizens. No wonder this movement was also known as the "Poor Men of Lyons." On the other hand, The Roman Catholic Church was not pleased, as it regarded any group going contrary to her teachings and practices as heretic. While historians note that the Church of Rome reacted to Valdo teaching and preaching, for he was not a priest, I am of the opinion that the Church of Rome was more concerned with the proclamation of the word and the implication of her false teachings and practices being exposed. There was no tolerance on her part toward the Waldenses and others (Taken from Waldensian Museum booklet and The Waldensian Churches in Italy pamphlet).

What May We Learn from Them?

It is clear from my reading of the Great Controversy that Ellen White had a great regard and appreciation for the Waldenses. She wrote, "The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures." Additionally, she pointed out that "They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions." Unfortunately, "While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth." Of significance to Adventists, Mrs. White explained that the Waldenses "kept the true Sabbath," and this they did "under the fiercest tempests of opposition," but they maintained their faith, standing "unflinchingly for God’s word and His honor" (GC 65).

Implications for Seventh-day Adventists

Like the Waldenses, we as Seventh-day Adventists must also be unflinching in our stance for not just the Sabbath but also the Word of God. Based on prophecy, we can expect to be discriminated against and persecuted by the Church of Rome. As a result of visiting Rome and, yes, the Vatican City, I am even more convinced that this church has not changed. During this time of lull, we need to be more vigilant in studying the prophesies and sharing these with the thousands of people in our Union who are not aware of what exists and what is to come. As Church officers, elders and pastors, we have a responsibility to be more vigilant; "for to whom much is given much is required."

Also, we, like some of the Waldensians, risk yielding to pressure without being grounded in the word of God. Observing from the Thirteenth Sabbath programs, it would seem that we are moving away from the practice of committing scripture to memory, which tend to ground children from early in the word of God.

Another concern relates to the lack of use of the Church Hymnal. We stand the risk of losing some theological footings when we no longer use them. A song that brought tears and gripped many of us who made the trip to a cave used as a hide out and a place of worship by the Waldenses was "A Mighty Fortress." Let us not forget those things that made us what we are and helped us to come this far by faith.

May God help us to be faithful!