October 31st has arrived—a sacred day for costume stores trying to justify their ongoing existence and dads looking to raid our kids’ plastic pumpkins for a sugar fix. It is also a very special day for those of us who love the Gospel. Why? Because October 31st is Reformation Day.
500 years ago today, the 95 Theses of a young theology professor named Martin Luther were posted on the wooden door of the Wittenberg Church. With no Facebook or blog posts to get people thinking about life’s big questions, Luther, like many professors in his day, posted on the next best thing—a church door (Al Gore would not invent the internet for another 470 years!). Rather than opening an app and refreshing their News Feed, people would congregate around Europe’s church doors to read and discuss the latest posts. Luther’s post got Wittenberg and (with help from the newly invented printing press) most of Europe buzzing with questions about where the 16th century church had veered off biblical course. The Reformation was in motion. Here are some samples from Luther’s world-altering post:
“Thesis 27: There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest…” (In response to John Tetzel selling indulgences with the catchphrase ‘”As soon as the coin in the coffer rings the soul from purgatory springs”).
“Thesis 36: Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence…” (Signaling Luther’s shift from understanding salvation as something that could be purchased to a free gift from a gracious God).
“Thesis 62: The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God…” (Luther’s response to the Roman Catholic notion of a “Treasury of Merits,” a treasure chest in heaven full of the surplus good deeds performed by Jesus, Mary, and the Saints that the pope could allegedly reach into and credit to your spiritual account if you paid him).
The 16th century church was in dire need of a Reformation. What about today, a half millennium later? Is the 21st century church due for another Reformation, a Re-Reformation?
Dr. Williams shares his thoughts in a special Reformation Day interview courtesy of the Gospel Coalition's Orange County Chapter.