Today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the pivotal moment when a humble monk dared challenge the heresy that the Church was the mediator between God and man – and the result was so much more than an alternate brand of Christianity.
As a young monk, Martin Luther was paralyzed with anxiety over his smallest sins and the thought that he might have forgotten one in the confessional booth. He would sit in that wooden box for up to six hours at a time lest he leave one out.
Luther and congregational singing
Bill Bumpas (OneNewsNow.com)
A modern-day hymn writer is using the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation to try and bring congregational singing back to the forefront of Christian culture.
Irish musician Keith Getty and his wife Kristyn
(pictured below) recently released a new book entitled Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church, inspired in part by the reforms of Martin Luther. Getty says remembering this anniversary is very important because of where society stands currently.
"We are living in a culture that has dropped in its biblical knowledge more dramatically in the last generation than at any point in the 500 years since the Reformation," he tells OneNewsNow.
The songwriter points out that Luther launched the Reformation through the preaching and the singing of the Word. "The two have to go hand-in-hand," he shares. "We teach the Bible through our sermons – then people take it with them and remember them through the songs."
Luther, he says, pushed for the church coming together to sing to one another through congregational singing – a style that has suffered in the present culture.
"It is just extraordinarily vital in this day that we live to be taking time [to recognize that] anniversaries are like birthdays, they're like Christmases, they're like New Year," he says. "They're a time for us to pause and take stock of how our lives are going. So we're asking people to pause and take stock about congregational singing."
During an interview Monday on American Family Radio, pastor and Reformation scholar Dr. Erwin Lutzer said the truth came to Luther as a lightning bolt out of heaven while studying the scriptures.
"The issue is still relevant today – namely, how does a sinner stand before God," Lutzer explained. "[God] puts all these demands on people and they try their best, but they never have the assurance whether they have been able to reach the divine standard.
"But there is a righteousness which God gives as a gift to sinners who believe," he continued. "Now it doesn't matter how high God's standard is, as long as Jesus meets all of God's demands for us.
When Luther nailed his thoughts on this and other issues to the doors of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, it almost cost him his life. But from those 95 theological propositions the Protestant Church was born – and so much more, according to Eric Metaxas, author of a recently released biography of Martin Luther.
"[By] bringing the gospel into history in 1517 and in the years that he was around, [Luther] basically sets the stage for American-style self-government, for religious liberty, for all the things that we kind of take for granted today," says Metaxas.
No longer was the church the arbiter of life and truth; now people went directly to the scriptures. Churches and denominations sprang up around the different callings of the Holy Spirit to his people. More than two centuries later, pilgrims seeking that religious freedom found the shores of America where the same principle of individual liberty and accountability became the American experiment.
"In the last 2,000 years, there is nobody except for Jesus who has the influence that this man had. There's nobody – period," Metaxas adds.
Metaxas' book Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World was released October 3. Last year, Lutzer released Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation.