October 31, 2017, will mark the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church on that day in 1517 has proven to be one of the most important events in the history of the world. Indeed, many evangelicals trace their beginnings to this moment that launched the Protestant movement, of which we consider ourselves heirs.
But the Reformation was five hundred years ago! Like most everything else a half-millennium removed from its start, things have changed. Or have they? What issues sparked the Reformation? What were the key protests against the Catholic Church at that time? Do those same conditions exist now, such that the Reformation remains unfinished?
Half a Millennium Ago
Luther’s Ninety-five Theses constituted a call to debate some of the flagrant errors of the Catholic Church in his time. His subsequent writings exposed many other problems:
– a denial of justification by God’s grace received through faith alone in Christ alone
– an unbiblical view of salvation as joining together God and sinners such that divine grace, communicated through the Church’s sacraments, initiates the lifelong process, and human effort responds by engaging in good works in order to merit eternal life