Because of all the Halloween celebrations on Oct. 31 people either do not realize or do not care that Oct. 31 is the anniversary of the start of the Protestant Church. I went through my blogs and could not believe that I have never told the story about the start of the Protestant Church, especially since Martin Luther is one of my heroes in the faith.
Oct 31, 1517 is the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle chapel. This is the day that all scholars agree is the start of the Protestant Reformation, but there is so much more to the story. A good place to start is to understand a practice of Catholic Church of the time, the sale of indulgences. An indulgence was like a get out of hell card. The Catholic Church taught that if you bought this piece of paper that you paid for your sins to be forgiven; therefore, you did not need to ask for forgiveness of your sins, they were already forgiven. This is not how you have your sins forgiven, but only the blood of Jesus on the cross and you accepting that Jesus died for your sins and that he rose from the grave on the third day can save you from your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (King James Version)
3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
The reason Martin Luther choose Oct 31 was not that it was Halloween; but the priest Johann Tetzel was to come to town the next day to sale indulgences. Martin Luther wanted to challenge Tetzel to a debate of this practice and some other things the church was doing then. I have to take one more rabbit trail here and explain that the reason Pope Leo X authorized the sale of indulgences was because the Pope was in a major campaign to raise money for St. Peterís Basilica or you might recognize it better by the name, Sistine Chapel.
The 95 Theses were quickly copied and then translated from Latin to German. This German translation was taken to a new invention of the time, a printing press. They made printed copies of the Theses and distributed all over Germany. The Theses rallied all the people of Germany behind Martin Luther and his reforms. Encouraged by the printers, Martin Luther stated writing several pamphlets on how to reform the church. Again, these quickly spread around the country. This caused the Catholic Church to take notice, and in 1521, the Catholic Church called Martin Luther to Worms. Martin Luther was in hopes that the church would debate his Theses, but once he got there they did not debate, but asked him to recant his writings or suffer the consequences; death ( in those days as my Seminary history professor said, theology was the blood sport of the time ). Martin Luther refused to recant his works unless they could show him in scripture where he was wrong. The church excommunicated him and made him an outlaw of the church so that if anyone killed him it would not be a sin. In other words, they wanted people to kill him.
Prince Fredrick, the German prince, had Martin Luther kidnapped and hid him in a castle in Germany for almost 10 years. In this time, Martin Luther worked on the German translation of the Bible. You see, in that time, only the priests could see and read the Bible. Martin Luther put the Bible in the language of the people so that everyone could read it. With the printing press, they were able to mass-produce the Bible, making it more accessible for the people.
In 1529, a new word came about, Protestant. That is what the Catholic Church started calling the churches in German. They were protesting against the Catholic Church, therefore, they coined the word Protestant.
One more un-sung hero of the Protestant Reformation is the printing press. You see in centuries before, several other people tried to reform the church, but they had trouble getting out their message. However, because Martin Lutherís message was broadcast by pamphlets that were mass-produced by the printing press, more people were involved, and the church could not just silence a few people; it would have had to be a whole nation.