Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown
Luther saw a power grab perpetrated by the Pope in selling “indulgences,” and in response on October 31, 1517 wrote his 95 Theses (a list of 95 grievances against the Pope and the church). Luther tacked the document to the door at Wittenberg Cathedral with the intention of defending his position against Catholic leadership in an open forum or series of debates. Luther laid out his objections to indulgences and also took aim at a priesthood that had grown lax, shallow and corrupt.
The Pope responded by charging Luther with heresy and ordering him silenced. But the prince in Germany as well as the local church protected Luther and allowed him to continue his critique. In 1520 Luther published his most confrontational polemic against the church titled, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” Here Luther actually called the clergy a “cabal” and argued that only two of the churches Sacraments (practices where people receive God’s grace) were truly biblical in nature: baptism and communion. The church ordered Martin Luther to recant and seek forgiveness; instead, Luther penned an Open Letter, where some of his most famous words were penned:
“Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture…my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”
With this, Luther was kicked out of the church, excommunicated. But his “Protest” as it would eventually be named, recovered five great doctrines of the early church and returned them to the heart of Christianity. These five great teachings emerged only after Luther, in 1522, published the first-ever version of the New Testament in the German language. For the first time, church members who had only heard the Bible read in a Latin they could not understand were now hearing God’s word in their common tongue. And wherever recovery of Scripture occurs, great things follow….
Luther’s famous line, “On this I take my stand; I can do no other” speaks of a man who fears God so much there is no place for fear of men. Where is God calling you to take a stand upon the Word of God? I’d love to know…
Fun Fact: Did you know that the first president to add Luther’s words, “So help me God” to the end of the Presidential Oath of Office was Chester A. Arthur in September 1881, after the assassination of James A. Garfield?