Remembering the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation – October 31, 1517-2017
The Reformation extended into economics, politics, education, and music and his translation of the Bible became a foundation stone of the German language.
First,”…in music. In the Protestant churches, we take for granted our singing tradition. We forget that singing used to belong only to monks and priests. But as a result of Luther, lay people erupt in song, and composers are inspired.” This surely is one of Luther’s great contributions to the church. A Mighty Fortress is our God is considered by some The Battle Hymn of the Reformation. And of course, the beautiful lullaby, Away in a Manger continues to bless so many at Christmas-time for centuries now. In addition to the music he wrote, there has been the subsequent composition of some of the greatest music the world has known. Inspiring Christian music composition and worship continues to this day.
Second, “I get a great deal out of Luther’s concept of vocation. I believe that if people could see the connection between the gospel of forgiveness and vocation, guilt and worry would be minimized. It’s a message that each day is a new start: you’re not held back by what has been, and you’re not haunted by the future.” That our jobs and calling contribute to the “glory of God” not only introduced the “Protestant work ethic”, but also highlighted that no vocation that God has called us to is any less or more important than another. Being a ditch digger, a cleric, or anything in between has equal potential to glorify the Lord. It initiated the concept that we all have worth and purpose.
Third, Luther reformed the Roman Catholic Church. Its corruption was at the point to make it unrecognizable as a Christian institution. As the years have passed things like the laity participating in the celebration of the Eucharist and other church sacraments became instituted with the Vatican II conclave and this included further acknowledgment of women. Being able to sing as a congregation in a church has become mainstream in this day. It removed the political power state that had become the Roman church in Luther’s time. It caused the church to finally admit it was wrong in the way it treated people like Galileo, an admission that was unthinkable in Luther’s time.
Fourth, Luther dared to say that just because the Roman church had the power to crush descent did not mean that it represented the truth. The idea of an all-powerful God who does not use his power to compel us to believe in him or in the truth is finally introduced into the actual workings of history and has been there ever since. Unbridled power from this point onward becomes suspect in Europe and the West. This leads to democracy where government no longer enforces truth or the “establishment” of any religion over another. This ultimately leads to the concept of freedom of religion or religious liberty as it came forth through the framers of the United States Constitution. The willingness to tolerate dissent becomes the true nature of freedom and of love.
Fifth, people began practicing conscience and dissent as it was now possible. “The brand-new idea of truthful argument regarding how one sought the truth and how one argued for the truth was now on the table.” What was actually true and determining the process of what was true became front and center in many people’s minds. Paul’s concept in 1 Cor.11:19 “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.” Argumentation and the discovery of truth has greatly enhanced theology, science, philosophy, and all realms of knowledge.
Sixth, Luther contributed unintentionally to the rising status of women. “He assumed that girls, along with boys, should be taught the catechism, and in that he anticipated co-education. He insisted that marriage was just as important a vocation as monasticism, and in that he accorded greater status to a woman’s role in marriage. And he was married to and proud of a woman who was, in effect, the treasurer, manager, and administrator of a rather complex business—the informal boarding house that the Luthers kept.”
Seventh, social reforms grew out of Luther’s concepts of liberty, true tolerance, and the image of God in all humanity. What would follow is the abolition of slavery as William Wilberforce and others were inspired to fight for and eventually win in the UK and elsewhere. The abolition movement spilled over into the United States. Caring for the needs of the poor by establishing societies and ministries that would care for the underprivileged and hurting were birthed. Religious tolerance and ecumenism would be realized amongst the Christian denominations that would eventually form.
Eighth, “Luther emphasized the Priesthood of all believers. Luther had remarkable insight. He did not believe that we were our own priest. This is an American perversion of his view. He believed that even the laity were each other’s priests. We are either too hard or too easy on ourselves. We need other Christians to be more objective in helping us forgive ourselves. In many ways, he anticipated the modern counseling movement.”
Finally, “in the end, what Luther did was not merely to open a door in which people were free to rebel against their leaders, but to open a door in which people were obliged by God to take responsibility for themselves and free to help those around them who could not help themselves.” With Luther comes the freedom to do what is right. Ultimately, “Luther helped encourage people to depend more on God, to deepen their relationship with him personally, and to increase their knowledge of this Scriptures.”
Today millions of people worship in churches inspired by Luther’s Reformation .
(Several of the above quotes come from Eric Metaxas’ excellent book, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World)