Scott Lumsden, Executive Presbyter
Many of us were reminded this past Sunday (Reformation Day) of a not so little tidbit of church history. If you missed it, here it is in a nutshell: On October 31, 1517 (the day before All Saints Day), Brother Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and lecturer in theology at the University of Wittenberg, posted Disputation of the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences (known thereafter as the Ninety-Five Theses) on the Castle Church door of Wittenberg. Written in Latin, Luther's 95 theses were meant to invite debate between his brothers and colleagues in the Catholic Church on the meaning of true repentance and forgiveness. Instead, what Luther received was the attention not just of his theological colleagues, but of the entire Catholic Church as what Luther was really questioning was the foundation and legitimacy of the whole of Catholic dogma. One needs only to read a sampling to see the clarity of Luther's argument and the power it would have on the direction the whole church:
1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” [Matt. 4:17], he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
and ending with this call to discipleship...
94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their head, through penalties, death, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace [Acts 14:22].
Remembering Brother Martin Luther on this All Saints Day.