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Our Theological Heritage: The Protestant Reformation

October 31, 2011

As a Presbyterian Church, a great deal of our theological heritage is rooted in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. The Reformation was a theological movement in which a large number of people left the Roman Catholic Church because they disagreed about two main issues: how a person is saved and how to worship God rightly. The Reformers believed that a person is saved by faith alone (not a combination of faith and works) and that God is to be worshipped according to Scripture alone (not a combination of Scripture and man-made traditions). The Reformers also rejected the Roman Catholic teaching about the pope, purgatory, the veneration of saints and relics, and the notion of transubstantiation in the Lord’s Supper. And because all of their views were based on Scripture, the Reformers were instrumental in translating the Bible in order for people to hear it and read it for themselves in their own language.

In popular culture, October 31st is known simply as Halloween. In Christian culture, this date is known as All Saints Day for Roman Catholics and Reformation Day for Protestants. It was on this day in 1517 that an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the local Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany. While it would be an over-statement to say that single act initiated the Protestant Reformation, it was certainly a key event in making Luther’s theological concerns with the Roman Catholic Church more public. If you would like to learn more about Luther and how his 95 Theses influenced the Protestant Reformation, you can read this very helpful interview with Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.

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