In 1517, a German monk nailed a piece of parchment to the door of a church in a small town called Wittenberg. His poster disputed key doctrines – 95 of them – taught by the Roman Catholic Church in that day. This moment set into motion a movement that changed the landscape of church history.
Changing the world is never easy. For Martin Luther, and for those who followed after him, the Protestant Reformation demanded extraordinary conviction and courage. Five hundred years later, in a culture ambivalent to biblical Christianity and hostile to those who herald its teachings, the conviction and courage required to be Protestant is still extraordinary.
Our culture champions feelings and experience as our authority. We think, “If I feel it, it must be right”, and we reject anyone or anything that tells us otherwise. It takes courage in our culture to say, as the Reformers did, that Scripture alone is our authority.
Our culture begs us to make something of ourselves. It begs us to prove that we matter and that our existence is worthwhile. Yet we all live with a nagging feeling that we just don’t measure up. Many of us respond to this by pouring our lives out on some self-designated altar – be it career, family, or social standing – trying to prove that we matter. It takes courage to say, as the Reformers did, that all of our worth, value, and significance comes through faith alone.
Our culture lives like truth is relative. “What works for you works for you, and what works for me works for me.” The only absolute that we embrace is an absolute aversion to absolutes. We are tolerant of everything except intolerance. It takes courage in our culture to say, as the Reformers did, that salvation comes through Christ alone, that there is no other way to know God and be saved.
In our culture, “sin” is a naughty word. “Who am I to judge?”, we say about others – mainly because we don’t want anyone judging us. We’re convinced that while we aren’t perfect, we aren’t as bad as some. Maybe we need some rough edges smoothed down, but we are basically good and decent people, right? It takes courage in our culture to say, as the Reformers did, that we are saved, not by any effort or worth of our own, but purely by grace alone.
Our culture loves shiny things. We celebrate beautiful people and expensive toys. We obsess over the fad of the moment, hoping that it will make us look or feel or seem like we are a big deal. It takes courage in our day to say, just as the Reforms did, that everything in life is to be lived, not for our glory, but for the glory of God alone.
Five hundred years later, it still takes courage to stand on the key teachings of the Protestant Reformation. That’s why we’ll spend the next five weeks at Capitol City leaning into what it means to live with the same biblical convictions that changed the world so dramatically a half millenia ago. If you live in the Lincoln area and don’t have a church home, I hope you’ll join us.
Full disclosure: I’ve borrowed the title The Courage to Be Protestant from this book by David Wells. Also, I haven’t actually read this book by David Wells.