“Here I stand. I can do no other.” So said Martin Luther, the 16th century German monk now considered the father of the Protestant Reformation. When it came to doctrine, particularly the doctrine of salvation, he stood boldly before Church councils, insisting on the supremacy of Scripture. On Luther’s correct reading, only the Bible can show us how to be saved. Pardon of sin and reconciliation to God come only through faith. We can do nothing to earn heaven’s favor.
While Luther was clear that the Bible is the basis for theology, he was less clear when it came to the question of Church tradition. Traditions are time-honored practices that have grown up in the community of faith. One example is the practice of Lent, the forty day period preceding Good Friday and Easter. While some Christians wanted to eliminate this annual period of solemn reflection, since Scripture does not mandate it, Luther argued that it should be maintained as a practice that strengthens faith. Luther was willing to keep as part of worship or the life of the Church meaningful practices that – while not taught by the Bible – neither were they forbidden.