500th ANNIVERSARY of the Lutheran Reformation and Radicalizing Reformation
In 2017 Lutherans, as well as other Protestant churches, will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The actual historical date which defines its beginnings is October 31, 1517, the day a Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther posted the now famous 95 Thesis as a challenge to debate errors in church practice and theology which Luther identified through his study of scriptures and in reviewing of practices encourages and required by the Roman Catholic Church of his day. This challenge marked the beginning of the Lutheran movement in the Christian Church that became an historically pivotal moment in Western civilization. From this moment on, the monolithic Roman Catholic Church was fractured by controversy and theological disputation, leading to what has been now called “The Reformation”.
Although Lutherans mark the time of the challenge as the beginning of the Lutheran Church, all other Protestant denominations are rooted in the energy set loose by this act of challenge. So, Lutheran churches all over the world will turn their attention to the origins of their movement. Special presentations, highlights of Martin Luther’s life and writing, reflections on the impact of this Reformation will be put forward.
There is, however, a caveat to this celebration of history. Immersion in the past is a self-serving exercise, and certainly contrary to the spirit of the original Reformation. The Reformation was a challenge to existing structures, practices, and thought processes. Without the equivalent in this 500th year of such a movement, there is only nostalgia and sentiment, and an abandonment, even a betrayal of the spirit of the day. As a foil to this possible pit fall, a group of theologians both professional and lay, have initiated a counter and called it “Radicalizing Reformation”.
The occasion for this Radicalizing Reformation is the 500th anniversary, but the compelling provocation behind such an effort is the Bible and today’s crises, politically, socially, economically, ecologically, much like the crisis faced by people of faith like Martin Luther as they saw and felt the oppression of the Roman Catholic Empire. New research in Biblical studies and critical review of traditional theology and its practice have reveals some startling conclusions bringing questions and concerns into church institutions which are having a difficult time facing and addressing the many crises which characterize our culture and our world. There is a need to reignite the fire of Reform in our own institutions and practices, inspired by our faith foundations, particularly the Bible.
These questions and concerns will provoke possibly a new reformation in 2017.