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Reformation Day - 31st October

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Lucas Cranach DA painting of Martin Luther 1528 Today is Reformation Day. Why is the Day held on 31st October? It’s nothing to do with Halloween – it marks the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church (All Saint’s Church), Wittenberg, Germany.

The Theses were highly provocative to Rome, but copies spread across Europe, sparking the Reformation. The Theses included complaints about certain practices within Catholicism, as well as a declaration of the biblical truth of justification.

Luther’s complaints were correct, for he opposed the selling of indulgences, yet he wrote as a scholar rather than as an antagonist. But, in Thesis 86 he bluntly asked why the pope built St Peter’s Basilica using money taken from the poor, rather than his own money. He had a lot to say about indulgences, which bartered salvation in return for money, deceiving many thousands into thinking they were saved.

Within two months all of Europe, including Britain, read the 95 Theses, and people flocked to hear him speak. Possibly in 1567, the church in Regensburg initiated an annual remembrance of Luther pinning the Theses to the door. However, a formal remembrance did not occur until about two centuries later, in 1717.

Today, some mistakenly think Luther wrote his Theses for the ordinary people. But, they were written in Latin, the language of priests, not common people. And he probably pinned the Theses up on October 30th because he knew crowds would fill the church to look at the collection of relics, and wanted to oppose indulgences with maximum publicity.

Nowadays, it is as if Luther had never lived for modern Lutherans, who have officially accepted the popes as their spiritual heads, and whose theological errors are now multiple... not that many reformed churches are that much better!

It is my experience that reformed Christians look back on Luther’s brave action, and hold the day in remembrance of the start of the Reformation. This, to me, is not of much use, because what is past is past. If the day was used to continue the Reformation, I would be most happy, for instead of looking back at what someone did in the eons of history, all Christians should look forward with great expectation, checking out their Reformed status by personally continuing to reform. Otherwise, the application of Luther’s work is lost in time, having no special purpose in our own day.