In Its 500th Year, What Has Become of Luther’s Reformation?

This year marks the 500th anniversary of one of the most important events in history, the Protestant Reformation.
The world is converging on Wittenberg in eastern Germany this summer, where 500 years ago a local professor of moral theology is said to have nailed 95 theses to a church door, and by that single act, changed the world.

Germany is now in the middle of a yearlong national celebration. But Luther’s time was rarely this colorful and tidy as re-enactments today. The 1500s in Germany were cold, muddy, dreary and rude.

Luther’s Time: Back to the Future

There are interesting similarities between Luther’s time and today. In 1517, the Holy Roman Empire, like the European Union, was beginning to disintegrate. New technology — the printing press — was as revolutionary as social media, and pushing into the borders of Europe: the armies of Islam.

Even though he was an adopter of new technology, Luther would probably try to destroy one piece of new technology, just installed last week in Wittenberg: a robot that dispenses a blessing in seven languages.

It’s interesting to watch a nation that has in many ways turned away from God — or at least away from Biblical Christianity – celebrate Luther, a man of the Bible, so enthusiastically.

The Secular Celebrate the Sacred

But how would Martin Luther feel about today’s secular Germany?

Famous German Lutheran pastor Dr. Theo Lehmann told us Luther would “turn over in his grave.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on the reformation, Yale professor Dr. Carlos Eire, says the number one reason Luther would be surprised by the celebration is that he didn’t expect there to be a world in 2017.

“Luther expected the world to end in his lifetime, or soon thereafter,” Eire says. “If Luther could time travel, he would just be shocked about what has become of the Christian world, the fact that so few Europeans now attend church.”

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Dale Hurd