Our theological tradition hails from Protestant Reformation. About 500 years ago, Martin Luther (not Martin Luther King Jr. 😊) likely nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Germany. This event sparked a new chapter in church history. You likely know these facts. However, what you might not know is why this event was called the “Protestant Reformation.” What was it about this theological movement that led scholars to refer to this event with this nomenclature?
The word “Protestant” comes from the Latin term protestants which means “protesters.” Martin Luther, John Calvin, and those who followed in their footsteps “protested” Roman Catholic hegemony. These theologians rightly believed that Scripture did not give the Pope the type of power the Roman Catholic church taught that he had. Scripture should rule the church, not the Pope. What did these theologians do? They protested. Thus, they were given the name “Protestants.”
The word “Reformation” comes from the idea that Luther, Calvin, and company did not want to obliterate the church, nor did they want to preserve the status quo. It wasn’t the “Protestant Obliteration” or the “Protestant Preservation.” Protestants wanted to fix, repair, restore the church to what Scripture taught about it. Reform was their goal; thus, “Reformation” is the label they were given.
Today, we need to keep protesting. What do we protest? Those issues in the church that do not align with Christ’s purposes. We also need to continue reforming. What do we reform? The church. We never throw the church away, nor seek to obliterate it, but reform it according to the Word of God. Let us lovingly and graciously continue to carry on this theological identity bequeathed to us by the Protestant Reformers.