Martin Luther nails his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg church door on All Hallows Eve, 1517. Most people associate October 31st with Halloween, but students of church history know this as “Reformation Day”
Like any kid growing up in an American secularized society, I liked the whole Halloween thing. I have a serious weakness for chocolate, so I always looked forward to going door to door to see how many chocolate treats I could get. Sure, there were horror stories about people sneaking razor blades into mini-candy bars, but I was willing to take the risk. As I got a little older, I would try to terrify the neighborhood kids by playing Pink Floyd’s Echoes album through my bedroom speakers out the window as costumed figures approached our house.
Okay. I stopped that pretty quick when my mother learned about it and reprimanded me for making a few of the little kids cry.
When I began to take my spiritual journey with Jesus Christ seriously in high school, I began to hear other types of horror stories about Halloween from my new church friends. There were tales about its connection to Satanism at worst, or perhaps just only a milder, yet just as bad, connection to Wiccan, Druid and other forms of pagan religions… and those “dreadful” Harry Potter books.
I began to see a shift in evangelical churches away from celebrating “All Hallows Eve” towards things like having “Harvest Parties” or “Fall Festivals.” Well, I can surely appreciate the effort to shift the focus, but I am not so sure how successful it has been.
Instead, I think if we really want to shift the focus away from the negative aspects of Halloween, then we should instead take a page or two from church history. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther approached the door of the Wittenberg church with a list of his Ninety-Five Theses regarding abuses in the Roman church. What he nailed to the door of that church that day has forever changed the face of Western Christianity… and the whole world!
Martin Luther had kicked started the Protestant Reformation, a movement that resulted in perhaps the greatest revival of spiritual vitality and love for the Scriptures that the world has ever seen. But Martin Luther’s Reformation belongs not just to Protestants. It belongs to the whole Christian church. Even those Roman Catholics who murmured about Luther must admit that change was necessary to correct some serious problems. It was through the efforts of people like Martin Luther that the Bible came to the common people in their native tongue, a privilege that most Christians today simply take for granted. It was also through the turmoil of the Reformation that made the Western world into what it is today, providing the intellectual and cultural incubator for the growth of modern science and capitalism. So even if someone is not a Christian, Luther’s Reformation has made an incredible impact upon world history.
So, instead of getting all flustered about those trick or treaters coming to our doors to unwittingly fan the flames of pagan traditions, let us as believers consider a completely different approach, encouraging people to remember this day in world history, where one man with a hammer in hand and a powerful set of ideas birthed in Scripture changed the world.
Let us celebrate Reformation Day!
Do you have no idea what Luther’s Ninety-Theses were all about? Check out the following interview with Carl Trueman, professor of church history at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
And one final “treat” courtesy of something I found on Andrew Wilson’s Twitter log from “Across the Pond.” Enjoy!:
HT: Timothy George on First Things, and Andrew Wilson at Think.