MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — William Parsons, Sr. Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fairhope joins us to talk about the 502nd anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. Here’s a look at our conversation:
A: This week will mark the 502nd anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. What is the reformation’s basic story?
G: Ultimately, I believe, the Reformation challenges Christians to ask who defines their faith? Does God do it through His Holy Scriptures or do people decide?
A: Did Martin Luther start the Reformation?
G: Martin Luther is credited with igniting the reformation, but grievances had been smoldering for centuries. For example, Englishman John Wycliffe (1300s) had translated the Bible in English and he decried Church corruption and doctrines and practices lacking a strong Biblical basis. Likewise Bohemian Jan Hus and Florentine – Italian Savonarola, both called for Church reform and were burned at the stake.
A: Do you think Luther was aware of the risk he was taking writing his “95 Theses?”
G: I do. Based on how earlier critics fared, Luther’s questions were potentially fatal. Yet, as a priest and theology professor, Luther was responsible for church teachings in his area of Germany. And Luther was convinced that faithfulness to God took precedence over even his own reputation, career or safety.
A: Was Luther trying to start a religious revolution?
G: No, he intended only to spark internal dialogue among church teachers and clergy. Yet, as happens with today’s social media, someone took the 95 Theses off the door, made copies and they “went viral.” So … for better or worse the Reformation was on.
A: Why do you say “for better or for worse?”
G: Luther’s goal wasn’t to shatter church unity or replace the Roman Catholic Church, only reform her.
A: How did Luther shake up the established order?
G: Areas dissatisfied the Papacy declared for Luther and created state churches, while others stayed loyal. And sadly religious violence occurred in both “Catholic” and “Protestant” areas, creating wounds that have never fully healed.
A: Yet, good came from the Reformation?
G: Absolutely, it has changed how all Christians view their faith. Concerns were addressed and many abuses corrected. And among both Protestants and Catholics practices became more Biblical. For example, Bible access was very rare before the Reformation. After Luther translated the Bible into German, vernacular translations proliferated, like the King James Version in English. Almost anyone could own a Bible and read it for themselves.
A: What can modern Christians take from the Reformation today?
G: The idea that “Reformation” is ongoing. Christians need to make sure our faith aligns with the Bible. Because, Luther believed if we abide in Jesus’ word we are his disciples indeed and we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.