The Atlantic

Why Can’t Christians Get Along, 500 Years After the Reformation?

Martin Luther left behind a rich legacy of protest and reform. But the global church still isn’t over the fractures he helped create.
Source: Max Rossi / Reuters / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

Elizabeth Eaton is in a bit of a bind. Exactly 500 years ago on October 31, Martin Luther allegedly nailed his famous “95 Theses” to the door of a German church, decrying the Catholic Church’s abusive sale of indulgences, or reprieves from punishment for sins. The monk’s dramatic declaration set in motion years of theological sparring and bloody wars. It also led to the flowering of Protestantism and its many distinct denominational traditions, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, over which Eaton presides as bishop.

The thing is, “that was not good for the church,” Eaton said, referring to the global body of Christian believers. The New Testament calls for followers of Jesus to be “completely one.”By Luther’s time, Christianity had been split from East to West as the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches parted ways. Within those traditions, dissidents had already formed a number of prominent sects. The Protestant Reformation catalyzed further breakdown.

“In the 16th

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