If you’re like me, your social media feed is buzzing with Reformation memes and posts, but as we take a moment to reflect on that historic moment five hundred years ago, we hope and pray that this article will renew your interest in the Reformation and all its effects. We pray, if you profess Christ, that you would take an interest beyond a mere Facebook posting but understand and take pride in your Protestant heritage. If you’re not a Protestant, then, at least this would offer some background on what and why we celebrate today: the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Back to the Beginning
Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany was not really an unconventional act but rather an ancient “messaging system” to initiate a scholarly debate about Rome’s ghastly abuse of power; specifically the sale of indulgences. Nevertheless, Luther’s action lit Europe on fire as his paper grazed the newly minted printing press.
Luther’s concerns struck a chord with the people and it was plain to see this went far beyond indulgences and other pagan practices of the church; they cut through the heart of Rome.
Luther’s concerns struck a chord with the people and it was plain to see this went far beyond indulgences and other pagan practices of the church; they cut through the heart of Rome. In subsequent years Luther continued his debates and writings, entrenching himself more and more as “a man against the world.” In 1518 Luther made it clear that the key to salvation and theology was humility. A quality most exemplified by our Lord. Luther unabashedly, like a bull in a china shop, declared that the decrees of the church, particularly of the pope, merited severe scrutiny and that some were out right wrong.
In 1520, Luther wrote papers challenging the church’s view on the ordinances, on justification and works, and on the relationship between the church and state. In the following year, Luther was called to appear before the Diet of Worms in a final endeavor to get him to recant. The outcome was obvious; he didn’t.
Salvation – justification by faith alone, the Christian life, and ecclesiology – the study of the church – were among the quintessential issues he addressed.
In an attempt to save his life, a group of friends kidnapped and secluded him, during which Luther would turn his attention to the translation of the Bible into German. There he would realize his dream of granting the people access to God’s word and free them from Rome’s grasp. Salvation – justification by faith alone, the Christian life, and ecclesiology – the study of the church – were among the quintessential issues he addressed.
These kinds of issues and many more needed to be addressed by Luther and other early Reformers. This should remind us that the reformation that began five hundred years ago has a number of far reaching implications. While individual Christians might think the core of Protestantism is a personal relationship with Christ, which is the mantra of modern evangelicalism, the reality was and is far more complex.
Most often reformation theology (i.e. Reformed Theology) has been summarized by the five Solas of the Reformation. In the century taking place after it would be defined by the doctrines of grace, better known as The Five Points of Calvinism or TULIP. May it go beyond a few points but that the reform set out by Luther and his contemporaries ignite a personal reformation in the lives of every Christian.