During 2017, churches with their roots in the 16th-century Reformation, will be
celebrating the legacy of the Reformation. It affords theologians and churches the
opportunity to reflect on the principles of the Reformation and its relevance at the start
of the 21st century. This contribution reflects on the question of the necessity of church
reformation, based on three texts from different periods in the history of the church.
Firstly and primarily, Calvin’s ‘De necessitate reformandae ecclesiae’ of 1543 sheds light on
the issues the 16th century reformers were faced with and why they believed the church
needed reformation. Calvin had a very clear view on the necessity of church reformation,
but that it should also come to some conclusion once the liturgy and doctrine are in order.
The question of church reformation is then further discussed in the light of two other
texts, one from Jodocus van Lodenstein (‘Beschouwinge van Zion’) and Karl Barth (1947,
1948) (‘Die Botschaft von der freien Gnade Gottes‘). All agree on the necessity of church
reformation, but differ in terms of theological and practical implications. The contribution
concludes with a few remarks on the modern maxim ‘ecclesia semper reformanda’.