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10/29/16 Weekend Grif.Net – Reformation Day v Halloween

10/29/16 Weekend Grif.Net – Reformation Day v Halloween

There’s a curious =
connection between Halloween and Reformation Day, and it’s more =
than just proximity on the calendar. Why did Martin Luther nail his =
famous 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door on October 31, 1517? He =
was confronting two religious observances that promoted false =
saintliness and exploited people’s fear of judgment and =
purgatory. 

Halloween (October 31) is =
celebrated by millions each year with costumes and candy. =
Halloween’s deepest roots are decidedly pagan, despite its =
Christianized name. Its origin is Celtic and has to do with summer =
sacrifices to appease Samhain, the lord of death, and evil spirits. =
Those doing the pagan rituals believed that Samhain sent evil spirits =
abroad to attack humans, who could escape only by assuming disguises and =
looking like evil spirits themselves. True Christians tried to confront =
these pagan rites by offering a Christian alternative (All =
Hallows’ Day) that celebrated the lives of faithful Christian =
saints on November 1. In medieval England the festival was known as All =
Hallows, hence the name Halloween (All Hallows’ eve) for the =
preceding evening.

All Saints’ Day or =
All =
Hallows’ Day (November 1) was first celebrated on May 13, 609, =
when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary. =
The date was later changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III, who =
dedicated a chapel in honor of all saints in the Vatican Basilica. In =
837, Pope Gregory IV (827-844) ordered its church-wide observance. Its =
origin lies earlier in the common commemorations of Christian martyrs. =
Over time these celebrations came to include not only the martyrs, but =
all saints. During the Reformation the Protestant churches came to =
understand “saints” in its New Testament usage as including =
all believers and reinterpreted the feast of All Saints as a celebration =
of the unity of the entire Church.

All Souls’ Day or the Day =
of the Dead (November 2) is celebrated primarily by Roman Catholics. =
This is a day dedicated to prayer and almsgiving in memory of ancestors =
who have died. People pray for the souls of the dead, in an effort to =
hasten their transition from purgatory to heaven by being purged and =
cleansed from their sins.

Reformation =
Day
 (October 31) commemorates =
Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church =
in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517. This act triggered the =
Reformation, as they were immediately translated and distributed across =
Germany in a matter of weeks. The Protestant Reformation was the =
rediscovery of the doctrine of justification -that is, salvation by =
grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It was also the protest =
against the corruption within the Roman Catholic Church. The century =
before the Reformation was marked by widespread dismay with the =
corruption of the leaders in the Roman Catholic Church and with its =
false doctrines, biblical illiteracy, and superstition. Monks, priests, =
bishops, and popes in Rome taught unbiblical doctrines like the selling =
of indulgences, the treasury of merit, purgatory, and salvation through =
good works.

Spiritually earnest people were =
told to justify themselves by charitable works, pilgrimages, and all =
kinds of religious performances and devotions. They were encouraged to =
acquire this “merit,” which was at the disposal of the =
church, by purchasing certificates of indulgence. This left them =
wondering if they had done or paid enough to appease God’s =
righteous anger and escape his judgment. This was the context that =
prompted Luther’s desire to refocus the church on salvation by =
grace through faith on account of Christ by imputation of Christ’s =
righteousness to us. To those spiritually oppressed by indulgences and =
not given assurance of God’s grace, Luther proclaimed free grace =
to God’s true saints:

“God receives none but =
those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, =
gives sight to none but the blind, and life to none but the dead. He =
does not give saintliness to any but sinners, nor wisdom to any but =
fools. In short: He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace =
to none but those who are in disgrace. Therefore no arrogant saint, or =
just or wise man can be material for God, neither can he do the work of =
God, but he remains confined within his own work and makes of himself a =
fictitious, ostensible, false, and deceitful saint, that is, a =
hypocrite.” (Luther W.A. 1.183ff).

Instead of the treasury of =
merit that was for sale, Luther protested, “The true treasure of =
the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of =
God” (Thesis 62). This was Luther’s desire for Reformation =
day.

[All credit/thanks to Justin =
Holcomb for this outstanding summary. Holcomb
teaches theology at Reformed =
Theological Seminary and Knox Theological =
Seminary]

 

~~

Dr Bob Griffin =

bob@grif.net www.grif.net =

"Jesus Knows Me, This I =
Love!"