November 4 is a momentous day for United States citizens. With the touch of our fingers on a computer screen, we will cast votes that will impact the leadership and policy at all levels of our government for decades to come.
Today, October 31, is also a significant day. Not because of costumes, candy corn, and cauldrons, but because of what happened on this day nearly 500 years ago. On October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk and professor of theology named Martin Luther posted 95 grievances against the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Church of Wittenberg. This common occurrence of posting debate challenges on the town bulletin board yielded a very abnormal result. It proved to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in sparking the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Thus, October 31 is remembered by Christians (at least some) not as Halloween, but as Reformation Day.
The major tenets of the reformation movement were the re-estabilishment of the Scriptures as the only infallible source of authority for the church and the clarification that salvation was by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. As reform swept across Europe, others were used by God to help fuel the fire set ablaze by Luther. Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, and others devoted themselves to the task of preaching the gospel and challenging the established church at its core doctrines. Were it not for God’s use of these mighty men’s preaching, writings, and lives, we might still be groveling under the shroud of a man-centered, hopeless, works-based religion.
So what then is the relationship between these two important dates: October 31, 1517 and November 4, 2008? As all history is interwoven and grafted together, the significance of this event from history past has enormous implications on this election. As the awakening that started with Luther’s posting of the 95 theses spread to England, the reformers there were faced with immense and growing persecution from the monarchy which would not tolerate the notion that the Bible had greater authority than the king. So several Christian Puritans left England and came to the New World on the Mayflower in 1620 and compacted to establish a new colony for the glory of God and the advancement of Christianity. They committed themselves to enacting laws for the general public good and to forsaking selfish interests.
How far we have come since the pilgrim’s arrival on the beaches of the Massachusetts Bay! They desired freedom of religion; we have mutated that wish into godless secularism. They humbly submitted themselves to the “external word” of God (the Bible) that is eternally true and authoritative.; we proudly herald that there is no objective authority–each generation is free to decide what is “right” for them. They believed in social good for all people; we have traded love for self-indulgence and laziness. They cherished piety; we flaunt immorality.
We should thank God for those who have gone before us to secure the freedom we live in. But let us take seriously the task of voting lest with the touch of our finger, we drift further away from the moorings of Christian liberty and find ourselves shipwrecked on the rocks of a godless society.
p.s. – thanks for spurring us on to think and write, Tim.