RELIGION COLUMN: Bringing the Reformation out of shadows

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

By Jake McCall

Have you ever felt overshadowed by someone or had a sports team you loved that was always overshadowed by another team? I have been a lifelong Auburn fan (don’t stop reading Alabama fans) and our team has always been overshadowed by Alabama. Even when we were the 2010 National Champions, we were still the second most popular team in the state.

There is a day in history that usually gets treated that way, and I enjoy bringing it out of the shadows. I always think it’s a great idea to give attention to an oft-neglected anniversary that happens to fall on Oct. 31, having to share the day with Halloween. This overlooked celebration found it’s beginning on Oct. 31, 1517, and it commemorates the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which is celebrated by some as Reformation Day.

This reform of the Church began when a German monk and Catholic priest named Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther’s original intention was to simply raise awareness to many of the abuses and corruptions of the Church in hopes that necessary changes in the right direction would be made. The Church’s response was a demand that Luther retract his writings, and his refusal to do so eventually led to his excommunication. This began a protest, which is where all Protestant churches find their history. Believe it or not, we are known as Protestants because we are “protesters,” and I believe that is something worth celebrating.

This protest sparked a movement that boldly stood against corrupt practices, biblical illiteracy and spiritual oppression. It was also a movement to recapture the truth of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Another way to say this is that Luther, through his bold stance, sought to preach and teach the true gospel, which had been lost. For hundreds of years before this, the Church thought it operated best by oppressing its members through guilt and fear. The leaders from that period of time convinced the people that they held the keys to heaven and that passageway into heaven could be bought through indulgences or “paid-for merit.” This kept the Church rich and the people committed, but it just made Luther mad. And this prompted Luther’s desire to reform the Church by proclaiming that we, as sinners, cannot ever buy our salvation, but that we have been bought by Christ.

After being arrested and tried for heresy, Luther said this before the Emperor: “I am bound by the Scripture and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Therefore, I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other.” This message was powerful and it changed things.

Almost 500 years later, we should be celebrating not just the reformers, but also their message, because this message is still powerful and is still changing things: by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. By the way, when ghosts, goblins and devils hear that, they flee.

—Jake McCall is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. He is the pastor at Grace Fellowship Presbyterian Church. His column appears each Thursday.