Today, in the secular calendar, it is Halloween; in some parts of Christendom, it is All Saints Eve, but for Protestant Christians, it is Reformation Day. Reformation Day celebrates the religious movement that gave us Protestants and the Reformation. It is traditionally celebrated on October 31st because that is the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
To celebrate this religious movement is to celebrate its content: a focus and return to Scripture as the norm for Christian hope and truth, a belief in Christ as the only giver of salvation (in contrast to institutions or works), and a renewed confession that salvation is a gift that one can be certain about, because of God's words. These views, and many others, are often summarized in the five "solas” or “alones” that originated in the writings of the early Reformers. These “solas” were slogans, not direct points of doctrine, but they pointed to essential beliefs that would come to demarcate Protestants from Catholics in the coming years.
Much has been written about the effects of the Reformation beyond its doctrinal beliefs: Separation of Church and State, the primacy of the individual and conscience, the quest for certainty, the freedom of religion, and even a renewal of democracy in the West. While the Reformation interacted with these issues in some way, it is not always easy to determine correlation from cause, to say nothing of direct attribution. The Reformation also has its critics who charge it with creating a culture of endless fracturing denominations, polemical invectives between Protestants and Catholics, and a disenchantment of the world (changing the medieval world of God-in-everything to an Enlightenment world of empiricism and increased secularity).
But to see the Reformation through its effects, while necessary for the student of history, is to miss the religious significance of its celebration. Celebrating Reformation Day is neither celebrating its positive impact nor negative heirlooms. Instead, Protestant Christians celebrate on Reformation Day the return to Scripture, the centrality of Christ in salvation, and the joy of assurance in God's Word and promises. Reformation Day is a day to celebrate God's grace and to recognize both the danger and temptation to find salvation in anything other than Christ alone.
Here at 1517, we have compiled a short list of resources for you to engage more deeply with the Reformation. We pray that these resources will bless you and help you as you think about the Reformation and the promises from God it espouses and proclaims.
Luther’s 95 Thesis: https://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html
Luther’s Freedom of the Christian: https://lutheranreformation.org/theology/on-the-freedom-of-a-christian/
If you want to actually see some of the primary source books, visit here: https://speccoll.library.arizona.edu/online-exhibits/exhibits/show/reformation/home
The Thinking Fellows Podcast recently finished a series on the Reformation Solas. You can find them here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/thinking-fellows/id1079727939
See how the Reformation relates to Islam here: https://www.1517.org/podcast-overview/the-reformation-and-islam
The Christian History Almanac: Katarina Zell, the “first woman of the Reformation”: https://www.1517.org/podcast-overview/2023-09-05
Banned Books: Melanchthon on the Loci: https://www.1517.org/podcast-overview/289-melanchthon
For You Radio: What’s the Deal with the Reformation: https://www.1517.org/podcast-overview/whats-the-deal-with-the-reformation
1517 offers free courses for armchair theologians and lifelong students:
Course: A Brief History of the Reformation: https://academy.1517.org/courses/a-brief-history-of-the-reformation
Why You Should Know about the Reformation by Scott Keith: https://www.1517.org/articles/why-you-should-know-about-the-reformation
Luther’s German Bible by Rick Ritchie: https://www.1517.org/articles/luthers-german-bible
The Stupid Monk at the Diet of Worms by Donavon Riley: https://www.1517.org/articles/the-stupid-monk-at-the-diet-at-worms-part-one
Luther at Augsburg by Philip Bartelt: https://www.1517.org/articles/luther-at-augsburg
Not Guilty! A Sermon for Reformation Day by Craig Donofrio: https://www.1517.org/articles/not-guilty-a-sermon-for-reformation-day
Reformation Day: 501 Years Later by Kelsi Klembara: https://www.1517.org/articles/reformation-day-501-years-later