People go crazy for Halloween. We decorate our yards, dress like crazy people, go door-to-door and expect people to give us candy just for showing up. But October 31 marks an even more important event for Christians— All Saints Day. Halloween, 1517 is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenburg Chapel, sparking the Protestant Reformation, which impacts Christianity to this day. I found this interview by Justin Taylor with Carl Truman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, and Academic Dean, at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Truman wrote his dissertation on Luther’s legacy and is an expert in the Reformation era. You can read it here.
The most interesting point to me is this:
“Was Luther a “Protestant” at this point? Was he a “Lutheran”?
No, on both counts. He himself tells us in 1545 that, in 1517, he was a committed Catholic who would have murdered—or at least been willing to see murder committed—in the name of the Pope. There is some typical Luther hyperbole there, but the theology of the Ninety-Five Theses is not particularly radical, and key Lutheran doctrines, such as justification by grace through faith alone, are not yet present. He was an angry Catholic, hoping that, when the Pope heard about Teztel, he would intervene to stop the abuse.”
Luther (and Calvin) never wanted to separate from the Catholic church. They were urging for Reform. That is vastly different. It is unfortunate that the Protestant Reformation was necessary because I believe in the long run it has ingrained in us that if we are uncomfortable in a church, disagree with what is happening, or in our opinion the church is lacking something, then we should cut our losses and split. This was not Luther’s attitude. His goal was always to reform, not to divide.