Lucas Cranach the Elder’s workshop – The Bridgeman Art Library, Object 329428, Public Domain.
In 1517, a chasm developed between Martin Luther and the Roman Church on matters of theology and church practices—a gap that became so wide that the Church likely would have executed Luther for heresy if he had lived in Italy. Wars were fought, countless people died, kingdoms were divided over differences between the two religious perspectives.
After 500 years, what’s the difference between Catholics and Protestants? A recent article* reports the results of a survey about religious beliefs, concluding that many, if not the majority, of Protestants agree with the Catholic position on some of the issues that were central to Luther’s protest. Like Catholics, more than 50% of Protestants today believe that good deeds as well as faith are required to get into heaven, and likewise that Christians need guidance from church teachings and traditions as well as the Bible. Would Luther roll over in his grave?
Luther’s protest may have pushed the Catholic church toward eventual reform, bringing it closer in some ways to Protestantism. A recent example: Pope Francis traveled to Sweden last October to commemorate the Reformation. He insists that in spite of the remaining theological differences, the two churches can work together on social issues like caring for the poor, migrants, and refugees, and combating persecution of Christians.
What do you think? Was the Reformation worth the pain it caused?