Why I Love October 31st
I love October 31st! October 31st is a very special date. No, I am not referring to the pagan and demonic “holiday” known as Halloween. I am referring to the Protestant Reformation. The following information comes from a variety of sources such as Martin Luther, written by Eric Metaxas, as well as documentaries on Martin Luther produced by Voice of the Martyrs and others.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany and the Reformation was on. Eric Metaxas, in his biography of Martin Luther, reports that there is some evidence that the theses was actually pasted to the door by the church custodian, as he was the one responsible for posting things on the church doors, which were used as bulletin boards. Also, there is evidence that the Ninety-five Theses was posted on several church doors in the area. Furthermore, there is a possibility that it was not posted on that date, but a short time afterward. What did happen on that date is that the theses had been written and were beginning to be posted. Plus, Martin Luther had written a letter and mailed it on that date to Archbishop Albright of Mainz that dealt with indulgences being sold. Regardless, history fixes the date of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation as October 31, 1517.
“What is the big deal?”, you ask. It is a big deal because the Protestant Reformation changed the world. The Protestant Reformation had an effect on a wide range of things from theology, ecclesiology, education, economics, science, medical discoveries, and advancements, to the rise of the Western World. It was more than a game-changer. It was a world changer.
Martin Luther lived from 1483-1546. He was born just outside of modern-day Berlin, Germany. He was sent to college when he was just thirteen. He was extremely intelligent and earned his Bachelor’s and Master's in the shortest amount of time that the university would allow. Tradition holds that when he was twenty-one, he was traveling through a tremendous thunderstorm in which a bolt of lightning struck the ground next to him. He vowed that if God would allow him to live, he would become a monk. God allowed him to live, and he became a monk. He was eventually sent to Wittenberg where he would teach in the university and preach at the church.
One day while rummaging through stacks of books at a library, he happened upon a volume of sermons by John Huss, the Bohemian, who had been condemned as a heretic. Luther later commented on these as follows, "I was overwhelmed with astonishment, I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill." Martin Luther was already leaning toward reformed ideas when the Pope amped up the sale of indulgences because the church treasury was running low. He was lecturing on Romans and Galatians. In his studies, Romans 1:17 and Romans 3:28 gripped him and his understanding and teaching of these Scriptures shook the world!
Romans 1:17 (ESV) – “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 3:28 (ESV) – “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”
Once these Scriptures took root in Luther’s heart, he understood that men are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and not by works such as works of penance or buying indulgences. In total opposition to the teaching of the Church of Rome, Martin Luther penned his ninety-five theses and had it posted on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Within two weeks, copies had been printed and read all over Germany. Within a month, copies had been printed and read all over Europe!
The Protestant Reformation had an effect on a wide range of things from theology, ecclesiology, education, economics, science, medical discoveries, and advancements, to the rise of the Western World.
Rome did not respond kindly to Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. On Wednesday, April 17, 1518, he is summoned to Worms to stand before the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. This meeting is known as the Diet of Worms. At this meeting, Martin Luther was to stand before King Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Martin Luther was made to stand before the ruler and was asked to verify if the books on the table before him were his writings or not. Once Luther positively identified his writings, he was asked, “Do you wish to retract them, or do you adhere to them and continue to assert them?”. Luther was surprised by the question. He was expecting to be able to defend his writings or to at least have some discussion. When it became clear that he was not going to get that opportunity, he requested to have more time before he answered the question. The King granted him twenty-four hours.
The next day, Martin Luther was made to appear before the ruler. This time the room was packed with spectators. He was once again asked, “Will you recant or not?” Martin Luther responded with these words:
“Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by clear reasoning that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.”
Again, Metaxas indicates that there is some evidence that Martin Luther may not have spoken the last phrases which read, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”. He shows that the last phrase was not recorded by those who were in the room and were responsible for recording the proceedings. However, they appeared in the first printing of the event, as either a correction or an incorrect addition. Either way, it does not change the meaning or magnitude of Luther’s response.
When Luther gave his response, there was silence from the throne. Then, cheers rang out for the man who dared to stand up to the Pope and to the Emperor. German nobles circled Luther and would not let anything happen to him. As he traveled back to Wittenberg, Prince Fredrick of Saxony arranged to have Luther “kidnapped” and escorted him to the Wartburg Castle. This “kidnapping” was done to protect his life. While there, Martin Luther translated the Bible into German.
Many scholars, both religious and secular, point out that the Protestant Reformation is one of the most epoch events in World history. In fact, it has been asserted that modern science could only have developed within the Christian worldview, which was a product of the Reformation. Why? Because Christianity believes in a God who is orderly and operates by purpose and design. He makes Himself known to His creation by the Word, Christ (incarnation), and creation itself. Therefore, Christians understood that God could be known, and His creation could be studied and verified. Scientists have pointed out that science could not have developed within Islam because of its fatalism. It could not have developed within Buddhism or Hinduism because of their belief that the world is an allusion. It could not have developed in any of the Eastern religions because they believe the world is cyclical with no set pattern or clear understanding of God, who is intelligent and operates with design and purpose. Finally, science could not have developed in our modern humanistic culture, because humanists and post-modernists do not believe in absolute truth, and they believe life is random, irrational and illogical. Therefore, true Science and its ultimate advancements in every area of life could only have developed in a Christian culture and philosophical approach to life, which the Reformation provided.
Furthermore, the Protestant Reformation gave rise to nationalism. It ended the divine right of kings and gave political power to the people. It also allowed for the framework for the United States of America to be formed. It brought art and literature to the forefront of culture. The reformers translated the Bible into the native tongues, and many died in the process.
It called for general education. Their idea of general education was that all people should be educated, not just the elite. Their motive for general education was far different than today’s motive for general education. The reformers wanted everyone to be educated because they wanted them to be able to read the Word of God and to govern themselves and their nations according to godly principles.
Yes, the Protestant Reformation affected everything, and it still affects us over 500 years later. Every time you read the Bible in your native language, go to church and hear preaching and enjoy congregational worship in your native language, receive an anesthetic before an operation, have an operation in a germ free environment, study Astronomy, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Medicine, Thermodynamics, or any other major branch of science, you have the Reformation, and Christianity in particular, to thank! That’s why I love October 31st!