Oct 31

October 31 and the Protestant Reformation

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Recommended Link

October 31 is Halloween. It’s also Reformation Day – the day when Martin Luther nailed his famous “95 Theses” to the Wittenberg Door.

Today, Justin Taylor published an interview with Carl Trueman on the subject of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” Trueman’s historical insight helps to appreciate the providence of God in what was a great renewal of the gospel in that day.

On Saturday, October 31, 1517, a 33-year-old theology professor at Wittenberg University walked over to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed a paper of 95 theses to the door, hoping to spark an academic discussion about their contents. In God’s providence and unbeknownst to anyone else that day, it would become a key event in igniting the Reformation.

Carl Trueman—who wrote his dissertation on Luther’s Legacy, teaches on Luther’s life and theology, and is writing a book on Luther on the Christian Life—answered some questions for us.

Had Luther ever done this before—nail a set of theses to the Wittenberg door? If so, did previous attempts have any impact?

I am not sure if he had ever nailed up theses before, but he had certainly proposed sets of such for academic debate, which was all he was really doing on October 31, 1517. In fact, in September of that same year, he had led a debate on scholastic theology where he said far more radical things than were in the Ninety-Five Theses. Ironically, this earlier debate, now often considered the first major public adumbration of his later theology, caused no real stir in the church at all.

What was the point of nailing something to the Wittenberg door? Was this a common practice?

It was simply a convenient public place to advertise a debate, and not an unusual or uncommon practice. In itself, it was no more radical than putting up an announcement on a public notice board.

What precisely is a “thesis” in this context?

A thesis is simply a statement being brought forward for debate.

Read the rest of this insightful interview here.

For a round-up of helpful articles related to Reformation Day, see this post from this time last year. To learn more about the Reformation from Carl Trueman, download audio from Clarus ’05, The Reformation: Why Was It Needed and Do We Need Another?. If you would like to read a book on the subject of the reformation, purchase, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation, on Amazon or at the DSC Resource Center.