Why the Reformation?
October 31st is a special day for those of us who consider ourselves “Reformed” in our theology. It’s sort of an Independence Day, if you will (besides the boat parties and the fireworks). October 31st is a day when we celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the beginning of the re-forming of the world's understanding of God and His Word that took place over 500 years ago in Wittenberg, Germany. This event may seem irrelevant to many, seeing that it is five centuries removed and takes place in a culture far different than ours. However, if you are a believer in Christ, this moment and the many surrounding it are the very reason you can even read the Bible in English. This day and its implications made it so you can have a personal understanding of who Jesus is through the Scriptures. Men such as Martin Luther and William Tyndale took a stand against rampant heresy and spent their lives translating, teaching, and exegeting the Word of God. This was the reformation of the church and the call to come back to the scriptures as our ultimate authority.
Post Tenebras Lux - After Darkness, Light
This phrase has been widely adopted as one of the mottos of the Reformation, and is the phrase that sums up the main goal that the reformers wished too, and ultimately would, achieve. In the year 1517, not only was it difficult for anyone besides Catholic clergy to read the scriptures, but it was forbidden according to the church itself. The vast majority of the population in Germany couldn’t read Latin anyway, the language of the Bible at the time, but to top it off we find rulings such as this from early Catholic councils:
Decree of the Council of Toulouse, 1229AD “We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old and the New Testament...but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.”
This is the “tenebras," or darkness in this Reformation motto, the thing that the reformers worked so tirelessly to bring to the light - the shielding of the Word of God from the people of God. The church continued to play keep-away with the Word for hundreds of years despite multiple efforts to overthrow their tyrannical leadership from people like John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, prior to Martin Luther. The Catholic Church killed countless “heretics” for nothing less than reading the Bible in their own language.
But the Word prevailed. With the invention of the printing press and the culmination of centuries of papal trickery, the stage was set for the light to break through. After darkness, light.
Over the next couple of days, this Article series will explore why the Reformation is so important and why you should care about some 500-year old white guys.