500 Years of the Reformation

Upcoming events mark anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses

Something big is happening this fall at Walla Walla University to celebrate and discuss the meaning of the Protestant Reformation. Five hundred years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on Oct. 31, 1517, the WWU Department of Student Life, the Department of History and Philosophy, the Department of English, the School of Theology, Adventist Forum, and the University Church are planning several events to mark the Reformation.

A special CommUnity program about the Reformation on Tuesday, Oct. 31, will feature speaker Greg Dodds, professor of history and dean of the Department of History and Philosophy. Dodds will speak at 11 a.m. in the University Church. That evening, a colloquium event will be held on campus as well. The following Sabbath, Nov. 4, 2017, the University Church will host a special Sabbath School in Village Hall, and the church service will feature a children’s play and a sermon focused on the Reformation. Watch the WWU website for complete event details to come.

Worldwide study of Romans and Galatians
The Reformation—the 16th century movement to reform the Catholic church—began in 1517. At that time, the Catholic church in medieval Europe held a tight grip on the continent by limiting access to the Bible and other sources of knowledge. A German scholar and Catholic clergyman named Martin Luther discovered in the Bible that eternal life with God was something that the Catholic church did not have the power to grant people. This new doctrine transformed the way people viewed the Catholic church. As a result, the newly enlightened scholars began a protest against papal teachings.

Some of the influential Bible teachings that transformed Luther’s understanding of salvation are found in the letters of the apostle Paul to the Romans and Galatians. According to Carl Cosaert, WWU professor of biblical studies and New Testament scholar, “It is in these two letters that Luther discovered that his own good works would never be sufficient to earn God’s approval. His only hope was in accepting what God had done for him in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, or as Paul says, in being ‘justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law’ (Galatians 3:16).”

As part of the celebrations marking the anniversary of the Reformation, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is encouraging Adventist churches around the world to focus more closely on the message of righteousness by faith by studying Galatians and Romans this summer and fall as part of the adult Sabbath School study curriculum. The Sabbath School study guide on the book of Galatians, which Cosaert wrote in 2011, was reissued this summer. Cosaert also wrote a companion book on Galatians that offers a more in depth explanation of the ideas in the study guide. While the book is currently out of print, copies from the original printing are available by contacting Cosaert at carl.cosaert@wallawalla.edu.

Posted Sept. 3, 2017

Poster with a sketch of Martin Luther.
Martin Luther was a German scholar and theologian who was a major figure in the Protestant Reformation.