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. 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". 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.
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.