Faces on Faith: 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a monk and Biblical teacher challenged the church to debate 95 propositions. Using the internet of his day, he nailed these 95 theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg Germany. There are many celebrations of this special year all over the world, for the Reformation did more than just split the church, it had economic, political and social consequences that are still felt today.
But a 100 and more years before Luther there was also a reform movement in the church and today (July 6) marks the death of one of those early reformers, the Czech priest John Hus. On this date in 1415, he was burned at the stake for heresy. Hus was the leader of the Czech reform movement. He called for a return to scripture and the living out of the word of God in one’s life. He was a preacher at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague where he spoke to the people in their native language. Each day hundreds gathered to hear his call for both institutional and personal reform.
In 1415, the Council of Constance opened and Hus traveled there hoping to clear his name of charges of heresy. He had been given a pledge of safe conduct from the emperor, but his enemies talked council officials to imprison him. Even though there were several leaders of the council who were in favor of moderate reform, the council sought to obtain a speedy admission and recantation from Hus. He maintained that the charges against him were false and refused to recant to things he did he did not hold to. When he was told to recant or die he chose the latter.
As he approached the stake on July 6, 1415, he said: “The principal intention of my preaching and of all my other acts or writings was solely that I might turn men from sin. And, in that truth of the Gospel that I wrote, taught and preached in accordance with the sayings and expositions of the holy doctors, I am willing gladly to die today.” His death did not end the movement, and the Czech reformation continued. Hus’ rousing assertion ‘Truth will conquer!’ is the motto of the Czech Republic today.”
Note: quotes from “Holy Women, Holy Men” c 2010, The Church Pension Fund.