I wish you a happy Reformation Day!
I get excited about Reformation Day because I love the gospel, which had been obscured in the 1500s by the practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic church. Today in each of my science classes at Bucharest Christian Academy, I took a few minutes to draw out from my students what they could remember about the 95 Theses, and to tell them why I am far more excited about the gospel than I am about geology, biology, physics, and chemistry.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The 95 Theses were Luther’s 95 arguments against the selling of indulgences, which were documents declaring forgiveness of sins granted by the church as a result of some act of the repentant sinner. Indulgences were being aggressively marketed at this time–sold for cash–as a means of paying for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and so Luther’s opposition to the sale of indulgences not only had doctrinal implications, but also had financial repercussions.
Some Christians say that it is wrong to celebrate the Reformation. Because the Reformation led to the split of Western Christianity into Catholic and Protestant churches, to celebrate it is something like celebrating a divorce. It is indeed sad that Christianity is divided into Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant, and that the Protestant church is divided into thousands of denominations. But that does not mean that the Reformation wasn’t a good thing. What is sad isn’t that the Reformation occurred, but that it was necessary in the first place.
Here’s what Paul McCain has to say at Cyberbrethren:
Once a year I find myself feeling the need to apologize for Reformation Day messages that are not much more than apologetic hand-wringing wimpering, “Oh, we should all be so, so sad on this day that the Reformation happened. Isn’t it so sad? The church was divided.” Huh? What kind of drivel is this? If you are one who is afflicted with this kind of message on Reformation Day, I apologize for such apologies.
(1) The Gospel had been obscured to the point of being lost in many ways.
(2) The Reformation had to take place.
(3) Rome could have prevented it by repenting of its damning error.
(4) Yes, it is sad that it had to happen, but not sad that it did happen.
But, don’t let me hear any of this sniveling, “Oh, boo-hoo, the Reformation happened” bunk on this day. Let me hear a glorious celebration of the great blessing and gift of the Reformation of the Church, a glorious celebration of the Gospel of Christ!
Repentance? Of course. Repent for our sin. Repent for our weak resignation. Repent of the sinful pride and arrogance that is always a present danger to a focus on Christ. But repent for the Reformation? Never. Of course not. How silly.
The latest broadcast of the White Horse Inn radio program is The 490th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, available for free as an MP3 file.
Grace and Peace