Sunday, October 31, 2010


Ein' Feste Burg


With this being the 31st of October, I thought I'd do a quick blog about the other aspect of this day. I know the first tends to be Halloween with the giving of candy and sweets to those who knock on our door. After all, any day in which people give you candy has got to be a good day.

This day is also Reformation Sunday. The day Martin Luther nailed on the door of the Wittenberg Church his 95 Theses. The full name of the document was: "95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences". He was protesting the prominence and theology behind the granting of indulgences. The purpose for an indulgence was to offer a way, through the giving of a gift to the Church for the purpose of shortening your personal stay in Purgatory, or to grant release from a loved one in Purgatory. What bothered Luther was the way it was being marketed and used, it was truly a fund-raiser. The Pope wanted to build himself a large church- St. Peter's in the Vatican area and needed the money for such a project. Here is the Wikipedia entry for indulgences:
The false doctrine and scandalous conduct of the "pardoners" were an immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation.[4] In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs".[40] The Ninety-Five Theses not only denounced such transactions as worldly but denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf in the first place: the only thing indulgences guaranteed, Luther said, was an increase in profit and greed, because the pardon of the Church was in God's power alone.[41]

While Luther did not deny the Pope’s right to grant pardons for penance imposed by the Church, he made it clear that preachers who claimed indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error.


What began as an attempt to have believers intercede for each other became abused and so Martin Luther decided that enough was enough and called for an end to them, or perhaps an end to the abuses of them all. The full document can be found here. It is truly an amazing document. Here Luther takes on the very belief system of indulgences and calls for the church to have the right priority. Some of his thoughts were struck me are these:
Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.


These articles became quickly known and quickly spread throughout Germany. They were spread by the printing press, so one of the first instances of technology being used to spread ideas. From the Wikipedia article, it states within 2 month the document was spreading through Europe. Obviously Luther had touched a nerve and had expressed the feeling shared by a lot of people.

From this commenced a spark which became the Reformation. Was this simply an attempt by Luther to bring about reform within the church. Doubtful he wanted to start his own movement, but when you're thrown out of an organization, you might as well start your own. Actually his thoughts and his later teaching on sola scriptura and sola fide brought about a wildfire that spread- preachers grabbed hold of his thoughts and began to preach the gospel that was not based upon Rome. The Reformation commenced.

Did he want to start a break-away from Rome? Again, probably not, but the lines were drawn for him and he responded.

So to conclude, I will quote the first verse of his great Hymn "A Mighty Fortress"
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2 comments:

Michael Gormley said...

Is Half of The Story Sufficient For Salvation?

How many sides are there to a story? If you say two, then you are wrong. If you had one side and I had one side that would make two sides. However, there is a third side, the side of truth.

Rule # 1... One half of truth does not a truth make. Neither does one half of a story make the full story. No intelligent person can hear one side of a story and decide which side has the truth.

Both sides have to be heard, then analysed, and then a decision has to be made as to which side (if either) has a valid story, and after that, the right side(s), or truth side, can be determined.

This thinking holds true for discerning what Holy Scripture tells us.

Throughout the Bible there are double standards, yet the fundamentalist thinking shows only one standard, or one side of the story, or only one half of the truth.

Their thinking is in violation of rule # 1. With only one half of truth, you do not have truth. Anything less than the whole truth is error.

In the following example, side 'A' is the first side, side 'B' is the second, and side 'C' is the right, or truth side.

Example ... Sola Scriptura...? Only the Bible. Fundamentalist thinking is that the Bible is sufficient and nothing else is needed for salvation.

First of all, in order to believe in the 'Bible Only' philosophy, you have to show that Scripture says it. Is that not true? The doctrine of 'Sola Scriptura' is not to be found in Scripture.

A. Tradition is condemned in many places in Scripture, such as Job 22:15, Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:3-13, Galatians 1:14, Colossians 2:8, 1Timothy 1:4, Titus 1:14, and 1Peter 1:18. Look at these verses and grasp their meaning.

They all address 'vain' human traditions and are rightly condemned. This is one half of the truth.

B. Tradition is supported in more places in Scripture than it is condemned. Study Isaiah 59:21, Luke 1:2, 2:19,51, Luke 10:16, 2Thessalonians 2:14-15 - "Stand firm and hold the traditions you have learned..", 2Timothy 1:13,2:2, 1Peter 1:25, 1Jn 1:1,2:24, 2Jn 1:12, Revelation 12:17,19:10.

These are different traditions than mentioned in 'A'. These are the Traditions of GOD, or 'Apostolic' Tradition.' Again, this is only half of the truth.

C. The truth is, yes, we do condemn the vain tradition of men, as shown in 'A', and we must keep the Tradition of GOD, as shown in 'B'.

Thus we have half the truth in 'A', and the other half in 'B', and combined we have the full truth.

The false doctrine of Sola Scriptura adds A and B together and puts the total in A, rejecting all of tradition. A+B=C.

Michael Gormley said...

Some Protestants have the notion that Catholics do not “believe” in the Bible, so they bring up Second Timothy 3:15-16 to support their belief of Sola Scriptura:"... from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."

Certainly Catholics believe in the Bible (Catholics put together the Bible!) but this verse does not really support the belief of Sola Scriptura; it does not say that scripture alone is an adequate guide to the faith For that matter, the whole Bible does not say that we should believe in the Bible alone, nor does it say which books are inspired by God. This is only one hole in the belief of Sola Scriptura; there are many more.