ON OCTOBER 31, Christians around the world will commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his “Ninety-five Theses,” thereby sparking the Protestant Reformation. In the following years, Luther and other Reformers rescued God’s abundant grace from hushed, shadowy ecclesiastical corners to place it in the bright sunlight of gospel proclamation. Righteousness before God was achieved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) for the sake of Christ alone (solus Christus)—a truth revealed in Scripture alone (sola Scriptura). And for that we proclaim, “Glory to God alone” (soli Deo gloria).
Though Luther considered this salvific truth paramount, his quest for truth did not end there. One of his richest legacies was his commitment to academic accessibility and breadth. Luther consistently stressed the benefits of education: “You parents cannot prepare a more dependable treasure for your children than an education in the liberal arts.”
While affirming the primacy of Scripture, Luther called for wider intellectual inquiry: “True it is that human wisdom and the liberal arts are noble gifts of God, good and useful for all kinds of things, wherefore one cannot do without them in this life.” He added that Christ uses such “precious gifts . . . according to His good pleasure, for the praise, honor, and glory of His holy name.” In short, cultivation of the mind equips one to serve one’s fellow man and worship the Creator.
What is more, the developed mind is a blessing in itself, as Luther noted “the fine, delightful satisfaction a man derives from being educated.” Martin Luther celebrated the value of a liberal arts education. In 1524, the Reformer urged his fellow Germans to commit more resources to education, at an especially opportune time: “Now that God has today so graciously bestowed upon us an abundance of arts, scholars, and books, it is time to reap and gather in the best . . . and lay up treasure in order to preserve for the future something from these years of jubilee, and not lose this bountiful harvest.”
Such words are no less applicable to Wheaton College in 2017! In this 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, we celebrate and affirm the theological and academic commitments of our heritage.
Soli Deo Gloria, indeed.