Why should we still study the Protestant Reformation?

South American Division

Why should we still study the Protestant Reformation?

The Protestant Reformation, with one of the milestones on October 31, 1517, still has important echoes today in the way of reading and interpreting the Holy Bible.

Commentary | Brazil | Felipe Lemos

October 31st is still a significant date for those who like history and especially for those who want to revive their understanding of the religious movement known as the Protestant Reformation. Despite having occurred in medieval times with implications basically in ancient Europe, from a conceptual point of view, the Protestant Reformation heralded significant changes for many generations.

On yet another anniversary of the day that Martin Luther, back in 1517, posted his famous 95 theses on justification by faith at Wittenberg Castle, the South American Adventist News Agency (ASN) spoke to an Adventist theologian about the theme. Glauber Araújo has a master's degree in Religious Sciences and is a Ph.D. student in Systematic Theology. He is currently the editor of religious books at the Casa Publadora Brasileira (CPB). In 2017, he published the book called The Protestant Reformation - An Adventist vision. Below is the interview that was done with Araújo.

The Protestant Reformation is a historic landmark in Western civilization for political, economic, and, above all, religious reasons. Talk about three main contributions, in general, from this great movement to the current way of understanding the Holy Bible and Protestantism itself.

Indeed, the Protestant Reformation has managed to open the door to many changes. As it pertains to understanding the Bible, one of the methods of biblical interpretation used throughout the Middle Ages - allegory - was abandoned for a more literal reading. This allowed the Bible to be read with new eyes and for truths that had been abandoned before to be recovered. The Bible also became the main text of theological and doctrinal studies, leaving the tradition and the teaching of the Church in the background. Finally, the Reformation made it possible for many to read the sacred text in their own language, which was considered unthinkable by many during almost a millennium of Christianity.

Didactically, what main contributions, in the writings and studies, could you enumerate some of the main names of the movement made; like Calvin, Melanchton, Luther, Zingling, Martin Bucer, John Wycliffe, for example?

One of the first reformers, John Wycliffe, is known for the Bible that bears his name. He was primarily responsible for translating the Bible from Latin into English, paving the way for the English reform that would take place two centuries later. Martin Luther, too, realized the potential that the translation of the Bible into German represented, and tried to carry out this project right at the beginning of his reform. However, his greatest contribution was his personal willingness to face the Catholic clergy and defend his faith based solely on the study of the Bible.

His example inspired thousands across the European continent to do the same. John Calvin was one of those who, in view of Luther's example, decided to conduct the reform in Switzerland. His work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, is still used today among pensioners as a model of theological systematization. One reformer, who is not well known, but who contributed significantly to the future development of Adventist doctrine was Oswald Glait. He was one of the first reformers to proclaim the sanctity of the Sabbath and to create a community of Sabbatarians.

Protestant Reformation for today

What is Adventism's reading of the Protestant Reformation today because of the impact of this movement on the organization, including prophetic interpretation?

Seventh-day Adventists consider themselves heirs to the Protestant Reformation. Although they are separate religious movements for nearly 350 years, the Protestant ethos runs through Adventist “veins”. We are a movement that strives to exalt the Bible as the only article of faith and to restore biblical truths that have been lost over the centuries. Like the reformers, we have a very keen prophetic sense, allowing us to understand the solemnity of the times in which we are living.

These characteristics shape our understanding of the “present truth”, motivating us to always present it in an updated way to the times in which we live and based on prophetic revelation. Because of this, we understand that the reform that began with Luther and other reformers will only end when it reaches “every nation, tribe, language, and people” (Revelation 14: 6).

What could we expect from the future? Will Protestant Reformation concepts disappear from the imagination of Christians in the world or will they be taken up to some extent?

For many Protestants, the Reformation is over. Officially, the reform would have ceased after the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). However, the principles defended, and the truths recovered during this period produced fruits that can be noticed today in the faith of thousands of people around the world. As the Bible predicts, these truths must be proclaimed to the whole world before Christ's second coming.

However, we note that there is also an opposite movement, deconstructing and demolishing the truths that the Reformation upheld. Christianity today is much more segmented than in Luther's day. And the faith of many seems to be based more on tradition, ecclesiastical authority, and self-experience than on revelation. As we celebrate another anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, we have the opportunity to reflect on the effects it will have and what we must do to stay true to the message and mission that God has given us.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site