Every year on October 31st, we as Americans can choose to celebrate either the pagan Halloween or the Biblical Reformation Day. The Reformation was one of the most important events in history, second only to the birth of Christ, and it should be especially important to Americans. The Reformation in its challenge to false doctrine and endeavor to spread Biblical literacy, is the source of freedoms that we—and many other people of the world—enjoy today.
On October 31, 1517, an obscure Augustinian monk and the rector or President of Wittenberg University, named Martin Luther, challenged the intellectual community to a debate concerning indulgences, which freed souls from Purgatory. His now famous Ninety-Five Theses, which he nailed to the door of the church in Wittenburg that day, were 95 statements of opposition to sale of indulgences, which Luther saw as a grave abuse. Although Luther did not then realize the significance of the posting of these theses, scholars mark the date of his protest against the Catholic Church as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
Watch Dr. Max Lyons give a dramatic presentation of Martin Luther's life.
Luther was one of four university level educators—John Wycliffe, John Huss and William Tyndale were the other three—who were used mightily by God to bring about the Reformation. These men opposed the authority of the Pope as Christ’s vicar on earth and taught justification by faith (sola fide) and the sole authority of the Bible in deciding true doctrine (sola scriptura). Recognizing that the Christians are always in need of conversion, the motto of the Reformation became semper reformanda—always reforming.
One outcome of the Reformation was the establishment of the United States. Historian Alan Grimes begins his book American Political Thought, with a chapter entitled, “The Rise of Protestantism.” His opening words underscore the importance of the Puritans, who were one of the Reformation communities in England:
Although American political thought begins with a study of Puritan thinking, an understanding of the Puritan in America requires at least a brief survey of the religious forces which brought forth Puritanism. Socially, politically, and economically, colonial Puritan thinking reflected the heritage of late medieval Europe tempered somewhat by the humanism of the Renaissance and the nationalism of Elizabethan England. Fundamentally, however, Puritanism was another step in the march of the Protestant Reformation.
American government is grounded in the principles of the Reformation and the Biblical Christian worldview that the Reformation restated and revived. “Conscience is the Most Sacred of all Property” was one of the Reformation’s main principles. Without it, it would be hard to imagine the establishment of a system of government based on self-government. The Founders assumed that citizens would be governed by their conscience, formed by their reading of Scripture.
The Reformers’ activities and teaching led them to become involved in promoting Christian education and starting Christian schools. FACE continues this work today through its advocacy of the Principle Approach. The Principle Approach is a process of ongoing reformation intended to help students grow closer to Christ by becoming principled thinkers.
What an opportunity we have as Christians on October 31st to teach our children and others about one of the monumental events in the advancement of liberty!
Dr. Max Lyons, Director of Teaching Services at the Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE). Dr. Lyons has been involved in Christian education over 30 years in every aspect including: teacher, administrator, board member, curriculum development, and policy. He is the author of several books including, Government Takes All, a Biblical case for limited government. Dr. Lyons and his wife Margie reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia and together homeschooled their four children using the Principle Approach for American Christian Education curriculum.