This Week in Christian History: Protestant Reformation, CMA Founder Dies, 'Rock of Ages' Hymnist Born

Christianity is a faith with a long and detailed history, with numerous events of lasting significance occurring throughout the ages.

Each week brings the anniversaries of great milestones, horrid tragedies, amazing triumphs, and everything in between.

Here are just a few things that happened this week, Oct. 29 to Nov. 4, in Church history. They include the start of the Protestant Reformation, the death of a prominent pastor, and the birth of the man behind a very famous hymn.

Protestant Reformation Begins - Oct. 31, 1517

This week marks 500 years since a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, beginning what would become the Protestant Reformation.

Luther posted the theses, or points of argument, in response to various corruptions within the Roman Catholic Church, as well as objections to the official teaching on salvation.

The impact on Christianity and western civilization by what happened on that Eve of All Saints five centuries may never be understated.

In addition to theological debates that continue to this day, Luther's work influenced hymns and the modern German language.

A.B. Simpson, Missionary and Nyack College Founder, Dies - October 29, 1919

This week marks the anniversary of the death of Albert Benjamin Simpson, a noted Canadian preacher who founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance as well as Nyack College.

In 1873, Simpson moved to America and evangelized immigrant populations in New York City before founding an organization later named The Christian And Missionary Alliance in 1887.

"Simpson resigned a prestigious New York City pastorate to develop an interdenominational fellowship devoted to serving unreached people," noted Nyack College, which Simpson helped found in 1882.

"Simpson's view was shared by a wide group of men and women, including mainline church leaders, laborers, and theological scholars ... An important step towards making their vision a reality was the founding of a training school for missionaries (the Missionary Training Institute), the first Bible college in North America. This school was the forerunner of Nyack College."

Augustus Toplady is Born - November 4, 1740

This week marks the anniversary of the birth of the man who wrote one of the most popular English language hymns in western civilization.

Augustus Toplady was the mind behind the beloved "Rock of Ages," the famous song that dominated hymn collections and continues to be referenced in pop culture to the present day.

"There is a common story of the hymn being inspired by (and even written from within) a rock cleft that Toplady once took refuge in during a storm. The particular rock is in Burrington Combe gorge in North Somerset, England, and it has a plaque on it with this claim to fame. However, the story is probably apocryphal," wrote author and blogger Tim Challies.

"Toplady was most likely inspired to write the hymn after reading the preface of John and Charles Wesleys' Hymns on the Lord's Supper (1745) which contains a prayer voicing many of the themes and words that are also found in the hymn. This is ironic, given the poor condition of Toplady's relationship with John Wesley; but one can perhaps see the hand of God in it."