Every October, Halloween celebrations take over American society. It’s big money, and for many, it’s the kickoff to the Holiday Season.
I grew up in a Christian homeschooling family that sought to be as unlike the world as possible. So we did not celebrate Halloween after I was about 10. I have rarely let my own children participate in any Halloween activities in 27 years (except for the one time I remember letting my very young daughters trick or treat with their cousins).
But this post is not to list all the reasons for not celebrating Halloween. This post is about something much more important. Actually, world-changing.
It’s the Protestant Reformation. And it’s also celebrated on October 31, albeit only by a tiny minority of Christians.
When writers talk about the Protestant Reformation, they often use phrases such as “pivotal” and “lightning.” It was one of the most dramatic points in the history of the church after the apostolic age of the first century. The most important result of this movement was that the Word of God was translated and printed in the common tongues of the peoples of the western world. We in the 21st century have a difficult time putting ourselves in the shoes of those medieval Christians: church services held in Latin by church authorities who had private copies of the scriptures, again, only in Latin. Latin was a language for only the well-educated in most countries; in a feudal culture, very few people were able to get an education or read at all. This practice meant that Christians were wholly dependent on the church for their knowledge of God, holiness, and salvation. As we know, the Roman Catholic Church was abusing this power over the people in many ways, but some of the most egregious included selling assurances of salvation and heaven.
Steve Lawson writes:
The church was greatly in need of reform. Spiritual darkness personified the Roman Catholic Church. The Bible was a closed book. Spiritual ignorance ruled the minds of the people. The gospel was perverted. Church tradition trumped divine truth. Personal holiness was abandoned. The rotten stench of manmade traditions covered pope and priest. The corruption of ungodliness contaminated both dogma and practice.
But something happened on October 31, 1517 that ignited a fire.
Martin Luther, a Catholic monk, was convicted through his reading and studying of the scriptures about the differences between what the Bible taught and what the Catholic church taught. He was troubled, and then angry, and finally took bold action. He made a list of his reasons, known as his Ninety-Five Theses. On the day before All Saints Day in the town of Wittenberg, Germany, he nailed this list to the church door, lighting the spark that would become the fire of reformation.
By defying the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, men like Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, and others ushered in the age of freedom: freedom to read and know the Holy Scriptures, freedom to worship outside the dictates of the Roman church, and most importantly, freedom in Christ alone. These men risked (and some lost) their lives for this reformation.
We do not wish to abolish teaching and to make every man his own master, but if the curates will not teach the gospel, the layman must have the Scripture, and read it for himself, taking God for his teacher. (William Tyndale, later burned at the stake for daring to translate the scriptures into English)
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen. (Martin Luther, April 18,1521 in defence of his doctrines at the Diet of Worms.)
These men and their boldness produced a ripple effect. The invention of the printing press coupled with the zeal of the reformers created a new world in Christendom: the spread of the Holy Bible in the common tongue. Men and women around the world began to understand that salvation is through Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone, to the glory of God alone, as written in Scripture alone. The Reformed church knows this as the Five Solas:
1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”
But this did not just affect the church. It changed world history. The Protestant Reformation gave us the United States of America. (Read more here).
We owe a great deal to the Protestant reformers. Just as we teach our children the full text of the Bible, we should teach them about the great men (and women) of the Christian faith. In our public schooled, secular Marxist society, very few students learn the beauty and truth of the Protestant Reformation and the importance of the scriptures in every language. It’s not just for seminary students or college grads; the Reformation is important history for all of us.
October 31 is Reformation Day. It is a day that deserves our attention. It is because of this day that we have hundreds of Bible translations and the holy scriptures available to us in a variety of forms: print, audio, video, and digital. According to Wycliffe Bible Translators, at least some part of the scriptures has been translated into 3, 658 languages. The brave reformers dreamed of such a time as this!
The best-selling book of all time is the Christian Bible. It is impossible to know exactly how many copies have been printed in the roughly 1500 years since its contents were standardized, but research conducted by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 2021 suggests that the total number probably lies between 5 and 7 billion copies. (Guinness World Records)
So Christians, if you want to continue Halloween celebrations, it’s certainly your prerogative. But I’m asking that you will also give a fair amount of attention (perhaps priority?) to a holiday that has a deeper and more lasting meaning for the church and the world. This is not about legalism, but about so much more. The word of God printed in over 3,000 languages and freedom in Christ? Those are amazing things to celebrate!
Reformation Resources for the Family
Young Children and Families:
- Torchlighters – Martin Luther (YouTube)
- Torchlighters – William Tyndale (YouTube)
- Reformation Day Printable for Kids (free)
- A Reformation Unit Study for all ages (free printables, book list, hands-on activities)
- The 5 Solas: Signs to Follow on the Narrow Path (a family Bible study)
- BOOK: Reformation ABC (ages 3-12)
- BOOK: Martin Luther, A Man Who Changed the World
- A Mighty Fortress Is Our God hymn study
- Teach chronological world history with Mystery of History
Teens and Adults:
- Reformation Timeline (pamphlet)
- Luther: Life and Legacy of the German Reformer (Ligonier Ministries Documentary, YouTube)
- A Survey Through Church History: Introduction to the Reformation
- BOOK: Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther
- Read and copy the Ninety Five Theses
- Teach chronological world history with Mystery of History
How to have a Reformation Day Party: