Five Results of the Protestant Reformation
This year marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Reformers have existed throughout church history, but a professor in Wittenberg, Germany, named Martin Luther, created 95 talking points listing what he thought needed to change in the church. It is said that in 1517 he nailed these discussion-starters to his local bulletin board—the church doors—and many mark this event as the start of the Protestant Reformation. The influence of Luther and his followers led to many changes. Here are a few:
- People shifted holiday gift-giving from St. Nicholas Day (December 6 in most Western countries) to Christmas Eve.
- Church art changed from judgment and crucifixion scenes to the resurrection.
- Luther translated the Bible into German for the people—coining some new words in the process. Ultimately, his work led to the common person having access to the Bible.
- Congregations’ spiritual shepherds shifted from celibate priests to pastors, who were and are usually married.
- Music in church shifted from being performed by choirs only to participation by the masses accompanied with instruments. One happy result was the eventual employment of the Bach family to write church music.
Luther wrote at least 37 hymns, his most famous being “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” If you go to Wittenberg today—which I highly encourage—you can see these words inscribed on the tower of the Castle Church, where now-brass doors bearing the “95 theses” mark the spot where many say it all began.
Dr. Sandra Glahn is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, and her Coffee Cup Bible Studies often include information about historical backgrounds—both ancient and recent—that help readers understand and apply the biblical text. She blogs for bible.org and at aspire2.com. You can also find her on Facebook or Twitter @sandraglahn.