Thinking Out Loud

October 31, 2017

#Reformation500

At the very, very least; acting on his convictions Martin Luther started conversations which reverberate thousands of times each day, got people re-searching the scriptures for themselves, and paved the way for other reformations which would follow. Of greater significance, his bold courage was a challenge to the absolute authority of the Roman Catholic Church.

Evangelicalism isn’t marked by a single date, though modern Pentecostalism traces back to a specific time and even a location, Azuza Street. The more recent Charismatic movement was well documented by John and Elizabeth Sherril in the book, They Speak With Other Tongues.

But the reformation is marked by a specific date, 500 years ago today, and much will be posted online today on the subject. Basically, Luther followed the money and found the sale of indulgences — certificates of afterlife exemptions — particularly grievous; but in 2017, many preachers continue to offer the faithful a variety of spiritual promises if they will phone in “their best ministry gift;” which usually involves a credit card number. Operators are standing by.

At the History Learning Site there is a version of the 95 Theses posted to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel in modern English by C.N. Trueman. Apparently the original went viral, as only a single-copy document could in a pre-internet age. All surround the single issue of the sale of indulgences. Some include:

1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting
2. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.
3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.
6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.
20. Even the pope – who can offer forgiveness – cannot totally forgive sins held within.
27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.
29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved ?
43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys ‘forgiveness’.
45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.
46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.
54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.
58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.
60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.
61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.
62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.
77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.
79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.
84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.
86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.
94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.
95. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

Until today, I had never actually read all 95 and did not realize how they were single-focused. Sometimes it only takes one issue; the proverbial straw which breaks the camel’s back.

Luther’s greater contribution was to advance the idea of salvation by grace, not by works; and to offer Germans a Bible translation in their own language. Of his many hymns, the best known is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Far from perfect, his later anti-Semitic writing has been widely condemned. But his written rant on that October day 500 years ago is seen as the Ground Zero in the birth of Protestantism.


Other sources consulted:

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