Over the last few days I think I’ve read the words “95 theses” about 95 times, such is the buzz in the blogosphere about the anniversary of the birth of the Protestant Reformation. If you’re not aware, the 95 theses were a series of propositions contained in a document penned by Martin Luther in 1517 in order to voice his displeasure concerning the abusive practices of the Roman Catholic church.
The document was widely circulated throughout Germany and other parts of Europe and today, exactly 500 years from the day Luther nailed the document to the church door in Wittenberg, there is celebration among reformers who see Luther’s actions as a landmark in church history.
Whatever your denominational persuasion, it’s hard to deny the impact that the Reformation has had in Europe and elsewhere. In many European countries, the Lutheran church is still the state church and there are approximately 72 million people in the Lutheran World Federation communion.
Other denominations sprang up out of the Reformation movement as well, most notably the Calvinist (or ‘Reformed’) churches, named after French theologian John Calvin, and there are currently approximately 80 million people who are members of the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
At the heart of the Reformation movement was a return to the Bible as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church. In Roman Catholicism, both the Bible and tradition are seen as authorities, but the reformers insisted on sola scriptura (scripture alone). Every Christian must ask him-or-herself, “Who or what is my authority in matters of faith?” Rome has historically had one answer, and the Reformed tradition another. This is still the case 500 years on.
As well as being (among other things) a monk and theologian, Martin Luther wrote many hymns, and I’d like to offer you all a special Reformation 500 treat which is a heavy metal version of Luther’s most famous hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’. I love this arrangement by Tim Bushong and I hope you enjoy it too.
Did the 16th century Protestant Reformation go far enough? Many Christians today are asking that question, and a new movement has been birthed which is seeking to return to the kind of Christianity we read about in the Book of Acts. For more information on this new (final?) reformation, visit The Last Reformation website.