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Vantage point

Remember the Reformation

Standing on a bridge across the historic Tiber River in Rome, I caught my first glimpse of the magnificent edifice that was the catalyst in beginning one of history’s most important movements. I was looking at the reason for the Reformation.

The Reformation is the movement that restored a large measure of biblical Christianity and started the Protestant church — named so because those involved “protested” the corrupt state of much of the church at the time. The Reformation’s beginning is typically dated at October 31, 1517, the day Martin Luther nailed his now-famous 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

That small piece of paper created a firestorm. And it was the magnificent edifice on the Tiber River, St. Peter’s Basilica, that caused it to be written.

At the time, Pope Leo X was funding the lavish rebuilding of the ancient church by the sale of high ecclesiastical posts and something known as indul-
gences — supposed remissions for the punishment of sin. Indulgences purported to remit sins of various sizes, or even, for a heftier payment, buy a soul’s way out of purgatory and into heaven.

This was too much for Luther; he drafted and posted 95 propositions, primarily attacking the sale of indulgences, and invited debate. And so the Reformation, which had been brewing for more than a century, began. The movement restored the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, the priority of God’s Word, and the priesthood of all believers.

But touring the extravagant basilica, I realized that, despite the convulsive revolution it produced, St. Peter’s was the same monument to excess that it was nearly 500 years ago.

Though God moves and revivals come and go, the need for reformation will remain with us until Christ returns.

Today is Reformation Day. Let’s reflect on the rich heritage of the evangelical church — and be grateful. Let’s also determine to never lose the wonderful things the Reformation bequeathed to us: an emphasis on grace and faith, God’s Word for all, and a Christianity that is characterized by each individual having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Ken Horn

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