Friday, October 20, 2017
Sunday, October 29, 2017 is Reformation Sunday. That day we celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In 1517, Martin Luther led a theological revolt against the abuses and the totalitarian control of the Roman Catholic Church. Martin Luther was a stubborn monk and a brilliant intellectual. He published his 95 theses of complaints against the Catholic Church by nailing them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Others like Hus, Zwingli, and Calvin were also leaders for the Protestant Reformation. “Protest” and “Reform” are key to understanding this movement.
This 16th Century cultural, intellectual, political, and religious upheaval splintered the church in Europe. It was a momentous religious revolution, the consequences of which we live with today. It transformed millions of people’s understanding of their relationship with God.
In addition, the Reformation argued for a redistribution of power that impacted art, music, education, politics, and economics. There were numerous positive repercussions – the music of Bach, the art of Rubens, the university systems in Europe, and the capitalism of the Dutch Calvinist merchants.
Salvation by good works was rejected along with indulgences and the Bible only being available in Latin. Luther translated the Bible into German. People read the Word in their own language for the first time. No longer were priests the only authority for Biblical interpretation and understanding. This disruption triggered persecution and even wars. Luther’s creative use of the printing press was the technical catalyst for the movement.
Lutheranism became the state religion of Germany. Its influence spread to Switzerland. John Calvin in Geneva gave intellectual credence to the movement. Through his influence, Protestantism then spread to Scotland, beyond, and ultimately to America.