Halloween 1517

It seems Halloween has become a new ‘festival’ of ‘innocent’ fun. Halloween is loosely based on the Medieval Christian festival of ‘All Hallows Eve’ which falls on 31st October. The festival itself is an adaption of the pagan Celtic belief that on one night of the year, the dead came out of the ground to dance with the living. However, in most Protestant churches, October 31st, is remembered as the day when in 1517 Martin Luther nailed a document attacking the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. Known as his “95 Theses” (which means propositions), Luther proposed two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may receive salvation as a gift of God, only by their faith in God’s work, and not by their own deeds.

Luther’s views sparked a series of ‘reformations’ in the European Church which led to the formation of Protestant denominations and also the reform of the Roman Catholic Church. Although these ideas had been advanced before, particularly by John Wycliffe (English), and Jan Hus (Czech). Luther’s writings changed the course of religious and cultural history in the West. He had said what everyone else was thinking but dared not say.

Key among Luther’s views is an individual can experience God’s grace freely, through faith in the death and resurrection of Christ. Salvation did not rest on what we did for God or our ability to keep the Law of God, but on what Christ had done for us by his own death. It was Christ’s righteousness, not ours, that is credited to us and it is this that we put our faith in and sets us free from the guilt of our sin.

The Reformations were not the result of political issues, or even Henry VIII’s need of a divorce, although they play their part in the background. The issue was then and remains still, a spiritual crisis: how can we find God’s forgiveness and experience his love unconditionally? The answer is in the cross of Christ. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) When we trust in what God did in Christ, we are justified, saved and regenerated by his Spirit a ‘new creation’.

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