October 31 marked the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which was famously started by Martin Luther and his 95 Theses in 1517. While there is some debate as to where these Theses were placed, legend has it that Luther nailed them to the door of the All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
“If you were to look up a list of the top 10 revolutions of all time, this would certainly be at the top, if not number one,” said Dr. Sam Powell, professor of Philosophy and Religion on campus. “The Reformation changed so much from how we practice our faith to how people within the church operate.”
To celebrate the anniversary, PLNU held three lectures so far on campus this semester, the last coming on Nov. 10 by Professor Eugene Harris from the Department of Art and Design. The lecture by Harris showed how art played a major factor, along with others, in the spread of Luther’s message.
Although it challenged the ideals of John Calvin, another Reformation leader who believed the church should disassociate from the use of art as an icon, Luther felt the opposite, and was inclined to allow anything not condemned by the Bible.
In his lecture Harris included Luther’s last printed work, Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft, or Against the Papacy founded by the Devil, printed in 1545, just one year before Luther’s death. In protest of the Pope’s corruption within the church, including the selling of indulgences and feeding the people the idea that good works get you into heaven, Luther depicted the Pope with donkey’s ears seated in the mouth of Hell, represented by an enormous monster. The Pope, with hands held together in prayer, is surrounded by demons who appear to be tending to him.
“Something that people don’t always consider when it comes to Luther is that he was very hostile,” said Powell. “If you were on Luther’s bad side, he could be a real nasty person to you. While this may be surprising to some, you don’t see too many normal, everyday people running revolutions.”
Luther, though, was not the only one with dark intentions. The Protestant Reformation sparked a series of wars throughout Europe from 1524 until 1651, including the Thirty Years War, where it is believed Germany lost nearly 40 percent of its population, according to The New World Encyclopedia.
This year, on Oct. 31, Pope Francis and his Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation, a global network of Lutheran churches, released a statement that addressed the tensions between the two faiths, with glimpses of hope and unity.
“We begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other during the five hundred years since the beginning of the Reformation until today,” the statement said. “Again, it has become clear that what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us.”