October 31 is an important day, but maybe not for the reason you think.
Yes, October 31 is also the day candy sellers and dentists everywhere look forward to each year, but that’s not what I’m talking about.
October 31 – tomorrow – marks a very important day in the history of Christianity. It was on October 31, 1517, that a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther decided to post 95 ideas he had derived, as a result of reading the New Testament, for reforming the church from within.
Now, when I say, “post”, I’m talking old school here: he did not post them on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. He literally nailed these notions to the big wooden door of the cathedral church in Wittenberg, Germany. It wasn’t all that odd; it was the normal way of disseminating information. It was the social media of the day. (Remember, even the printing press was a relatively new innovation at this point.)
The idea was that other scholars would read what Luther had written, and there would be dialogue and debate about how to make these ideas work for the benefit of the church.
However, some ordinary folks (read: not scholars) got hold of these ideas, because someone had taken them down and sent them to a printing press for wide dissemination. And when the ordinary folks got hold of these ideas, they ran with them, and went even further than Luther wanted to go.
Thus began the Protestant Reformation, on October 31, 1517.
Luther’s idea wasn’t to start a new church, but to make the Roman church better. And though Protestantism, and its many denominations, saw birth in the Reformation, there was good that came out of it for the Roman church, too, as it reformed from within.
It depends on one’s perspective, I suppose, but while some would see the Reformation as a celebration of the breakup of the church, others see it as a call to get back to the Scriptures. Much of what has been emphasized in Protestantism has been a call to ask, “What does the Bible say about this?”
As you mark Reformation day tomorrow (perhaps with copious amounts of candy), think about the many matters that go through your mind, and on which you must make decisions. Then ask yourself, “What does the Bible say about this?” That will be an apt celebration indeed.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119.105, NIV).