The Protestant Reformation
This month marks the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. While Luther’s actions mark the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, it was never his intention to start such a movement, a movement that would end up splitting the church and lead to the formation of many other denominations, including our own Presbyterian denomination. Instead, Luther wrote this document in order to engage other scholars in an academic discussion about church issues with which Luther disagreed, especially the church’s corrupt practice of selling forgiveness. Luther truly wanted to reform the Catholic Church, but his ideas where not well received. Within four years, Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church and the reformation was well on its way.
While there is much to lament about the Protestant Reformation, such as the splitting of the church and the subsequent violence the erupted in the church between those who disagreed with each other, there is much that we can celebrate. We can celebrate those in the church who bravely exposed and opposed corruption by church leaders. We can celebrate the fact that Scripture gained renewed focus in the church, both in the preaching and in the reading. For example, shortly after being excommunicated by the Catholic Church, Luther began translating the New Testament into German because he wanted to get God’s Word into the hands of the people. We can also celebrate the renewed emphasis on theology. Theology lay at the center of every heated discussion that arose during the Reformation, with many reformers writing down their own theological insights for the benefit of the church, writings which we still have even today. So, beginning in November, we are going to be celebrating the Reformation in a couple of ways. Each month in the Monitor, we will feature a short biography of one of the reformers. We all know the names of Calvin and Luther, but there were many other reformers who contributed to the church’s understanding of Scripture and faith. In addition, there will be weekly inserts in the bulletins featuring a different teaching on church theology, a micro-lesson on the church’s understanding of God and God’s people. One of the core beliefs of the Reformation is that our faith is not static. It is always open to learning and growing as we come to a greater understanding of Scripture. Therefore, as Presbyterians our motto is that we are reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God. So, on this 500 anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, may we continue to learn together.