Defining Moments in Church History…(7)

Let’s remember why we’re engaged in such a series of blogs…

The world around the Church proves to be a complex environment. Indeed, the Church has always had a bit of difficulty knowing the right manner in which to engage its world. Some have withdrawn, believing that holiness would only be achieved through physical separation from the sinful grimes of culture. Others have drawn so close to their worlds that any line of separation is obscured by a thought that relevance demands commonality.

So…how did we get here? And perhaps of equal importance, how did we get the world we have and the relationship we currently experience? That’s where history can help us. Yes, knowing your history can help you make better future choices, but sometimes you just need to know how we got here. And for that, you retrace your steps.

We’ve been considering the eight moments in history that have likely most generated the world as we know it. These aren’t to be confused with someone’s list of the eight most important moments in Church history, though some of these would make that list as well. No, these are the moments that gave us our current reality, and we’re ready for the sixth of these chronologically–the Reformation.

Okay, this event makes every list. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses statements to the door of the church in Wittenberg, he had no apparent desire to split from the Church or become the catalyst for the Protestant movement. He wanted to fix his Church. But the next few years brought something else entirely.

Luther had many observations among his ninety-five, some of the more memorable being his opposition to indulgences (purchased spiritual pardons) and his insistence that God’s forgiveness required repentance. Luther’s friends began distributing his theses likely well beyond their author’s original intent, and a movement was born. Principles like “sola scriptura,” Luther’s insistence that the Bible be the Church’s principle source document, brought a new focus on biblical literacy and even availability to the masses. He translated the New Testament into German to aid such a cause.

Luther was excommunicated within two years and battled back and forth for his status in the Church for some time. Ultimately, his voice and ideas were too strong to ignore. The seeds had been sown for a new and different expression of the Church, the term “protestant” becoming the banner.

Obviously, a full treatment of the Reformation would demand volumes, not blogs. But today’s Christian Church is comprised of two large bodies–the Roman Catholic Church that Luther sought to reform and the Protestant church, represented by hundreds of various groups that, likewise, have subdivided from one another over issues of doctrine and practice.

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