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Happy Reformation Day, 2016!

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Exactly 499 years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. To be a little different, I'll just go ahead and post those theses right here: The 95 Theses


Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

  1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ``Repent'' (Mt 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.
  3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
  4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
  5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
  6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
  7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
  8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
  9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
  10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
  11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).
  12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
  13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
  14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
  15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
  16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
  17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
  18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
  19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
  20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words ``plenary remission of all penalties,'' does not actually mean ``all penalties,'' but only those imposed by himself.
  21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
  22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
  23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
  24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
  25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
  26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
  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.
  29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
  30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
  31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
  32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
  34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
  35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
  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.
  38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
  39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
  40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
  41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
  42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
  43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
  44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
  45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.
  46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
  47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
  48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
  49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
  50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
  51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
  52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
  53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
  55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
  57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
  58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
  59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
  60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
  61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
  62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
  63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).
  64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
  65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
  66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
  67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
  68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
  69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
  70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
  71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
  72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
  73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
  74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
  75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
  76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
  77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written. (1 Co 12[:28])
  79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
  80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
  81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
  82. Such as: ``Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church?'' The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
  83. Again, ``Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?''
  84. Again, ``What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?''
  85. Again, ``Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?''
  86. Again, ``Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?''
  87. Again, ``What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?''
  88. Again, ``What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?''
  89. ``Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?''
  90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
  91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
  92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Peace, peace,'' and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)
  93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, ``Cross, cross,'' and there is no cross!
  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).


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Hey Brother, Happy Reformation Day to you as well :)


If I am not mistaken, the Pope decided to be part of the Reformational festivities this year too, as I believe he is (or was) a keynote speaker at the kickoff of a yearlong celebration of the Reformation's upcoming 500th birthday in Sweden (much to the chagrin of many of my Roman Catholic friends, I might add). So I am, as a result, forced to cross off one more thing from my list of "things that could never happen" ;)


It's hard to believe that the list that you posited for us above, which Dr. Luther clearly posted/intended for the purpose of discussion only, could have caused such a stir, but PTL that it did :)


Yours in Christ,


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Two regents, the Duke of Somerset (Edward's uncle) and the Duke of Northumberland, ruled England until he came of age. They were both Protestants and worked at persuading young Edward to pass legislation favorable to the Reformation.   It was during this time that a number of Reformed theologians from the continent settled in England and were assigned by Cranmer to influential positions at several universities. Among the more influential were Martin Bucer (Strasbourg reformer and mentor of John Calvin), Peter Martyr Vermigli (an Italian by birth), and John a Lasco. Their contribution to the Protestant movement in England was profound.   (6) A few changes were made: the reading of the Bible in public services was approved, the Six Articles of Henry were abolished, the clergy were allowed to marry, and the cup was granted to the laity. In 1549 the Book of Common Prayer was published, reflecting a conservative, Calvinistic theology. A doctrinal confession called the 42 Articles was drafted, largely by Thomas Cranmer, with the help of John Knox of Scotland (1553). Three weeks after signing it, Edward died. The significance of Edward's reign is that during this time England broke with Rome theologically. This was not to last.   An ill-fated attempt to prevent the Catholic Mary from succeeding to the throne was launched by Northumberland. He persuaded Edward to set aside his father's will (on the grounds that both Mary and Elizabeth were illegitimate) and to bestow the crown on Lady Jane Grey, daughter of the duke of Suffolk, to whose heirs Henry VIII had bequeathed the throne in the event that all of his children died without posterity. But Mary escaped and Edward died a month later, saying, "My Lord and God, save this realm from popery, and maintain it in true religion."   (7) On July 11, Lady Jane Grey was proclaimed queen in London, but her reign did not last long. Mary marched on London with an army of supporters. People supported her both because of their disdain for the ambitious Northumberland and their deep sentiment for a hereditary monarchy. Northumberland recanted, but was still executed. Jane Grey was imprisoned and beheaded a year later.   Mary was Henry's daughter by Catherine of Aragon and thus had ties with the RCC. Her reign, although only five short years (1553-1558), coincided with the Catholic Counter-Reformation on the continent and she was undoubtedly influenced by it. She forced Parliament in 1553 to repeal everything Edward had done and returned England to the religious conditions that prevailed under her father, Henry.   Persecution was intense and martyrdom frequent [Foxe's Book of Martyrs chronicles much of what occurred]. Among the more than 300 who died for their Protestant faith were Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) and Nicholas Ridley (1500-1555).   These two stalwarts of the reformation were ordered to be executed outside the city gate of Oxford. As they were being led to the stake, they passed the prison in which Thomas Cranmer (see below) was jailed, hoping to catch a glimpse of him and shout a word of encouragement. Indeed, Cranmer was brought to the tower of the prison by the government to watch the proceedings. Their aim was to frighten him out of his defiance. Whereas Cranmer was overcome with anguish by what he saw, falling to his knees and bewailing the event, he remained steadfast.   Ridley's brother-in-law (George Shipside) attempted to hasten his death by heaping on the fire more wood, but inadvertently stemmed the progress of the flames and prolonged Ridley's death. Latimer, by contrast, died more quickly. With his last breath he uttered the famous words: "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." (8) Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII and is generally regarded as the founder of English Protestantism. Cranmer’s doctrine of salvation was virtually identical with that of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, but he often appealed to the church fathers and tradition as authorities in matters where Scripture is silent. He opposed the RC sacramental system but “held on to the hierarchical structure of the medieval church and its Constantinianism. For Cranmer and the later Anglicans, the monarch of England was the supreme governor of the Church of England even though Christ is its sole head" (Olson, 438). He was imprisoned when Mary ascended the throne. He was brainwashed while in solitary confinement and was compelled to write a denial (recantation) of his Protestant faith.   Despite his recantation, the law required that he suffer death. He was led to a packed church on the day of his execution, at which time the government and RCC anticipated that he would publicly denounce the reformation and affirm the authority of the Pope. Much to everyone's surprise, Cranmer seized the opportunity to proclaim his faith in the doctrines of the reformation. "And as for the Pope," he shouted, "I refuse him, as Christ's enemy, and Antichrist, with all his false doctrine."   Shocked, the authorities rushed to pull Cranmer from the pulpit and led him immediately to the stake. As he stood before the flames, he fulfilled a promise which he had made in his last shouts in the church. He stretched forth into the fire the hand that earlier had signed the document of recantation, declaring aloud: "Forasmuch as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished for it."   He was then heard to repeat the words of Stephen, the first Christian martyr: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit . . . I see the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." It was said that in the ashes of the fire his heart was found unburnt. The Catholic explanation was to suggest that it was due to his evil character or perhaps some form of heart disease.   Virtually all those who were martyred lost their lives because they would not embrace the RC mass and its doctrine of transubstantiation. Those who were able to escape Mary's bloody persecution fled to Geneva (called Marian Exiles) where they studied under Calvin and Beza (among whom was John Knox).   (9) When Mary died in 1558 she was succeeded by Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. Elizabeth (who ruled from 1558-1603) sought a middle ground between Protestant and Catholic. She passed the Act of Supremacy in 1559 that made her supreme ruler in both ecclesiastical and temporal affairs. She re-instituted the Book of Common Prayer with slight revisions and adopted the 39 Articles, a revision of Edwards' 42 Articles. In 1571 the 39 Articles were adopted by Parliament as the official creed of the Anglican Church and remain such to this day.   The theology of the 39 Articles is decidedly Reformed in emphasis. The sole authority of Scripture is affirmed, as is justification by faith alone, unconditional election, and the Calvinistic view of the Lord's Supper (spiritual presence in the elements).   The leading Anglican theologian under Elizabeth was Richard Hooker (1554-1600) “who was raised Reformed but converted to Anglicanism with strong Catholic sympathies while studying at Oxford University” (Olson, 432). Hooker outwardly agreed with Cranmer and the continental reformers on both the doctrine of Sola Scriptura and Sola Gratia et Fides. Yet he also endorsed the Eastern orthodox concept of salvation as deification, i.e., salvation is a process by which human nature is gradually transformed into the divine nature through the sacraments. He seriously undermined the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer by endorsing the catholic concept of church government by Bishops who possessed apostolic authority through a visible succession.   (10) One of the Marian Exiles who returned was John Knox, the Scottish reformer. Having studied in Calvin's Geneva, Knox insisted on purifying the church of every last vestige of RC influence. He wrote a treatise entitled, First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment [rule] of Women (1558), in which he protested the idea of a female ruling a country. His target was Mary, but Elizabeth was sure the book was aimed at her. Thus Knox was immediately forced into exile in Scotland where he directed his attack against the Catholic, Mary Queen of Scots! Knox's protestant convictions were quite vocal: he once declared that "one Mass was more fearful than if ten thousand armed enemies were landed in any part of the realm."   All of this angered Pope Pius V who proceeded to excommunicate Elizabeth and sent Philip of Spain to take back England for the RCC. Philip himself laid claim to the English throne via his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots [Mary's grandmother was Henry VIII's sister.] Philip's Spanish Armada was defeated in 1588. Countless explanations have been given for the demise of the purportedly superior Spanish fleet, one of which is noted by Thompson: "As the armada came around the northern coast of Scotland and met the gales of the Atlantic Ocean, what remained of the great Spanish engine of war was hurled against the rocks or swamped in midocean. No more than half of the Spanish Armada managed to struggle back to Spanish ports in 1589. History interprets the defeat of the Spanish Armada as an English victory. It was not thought so at the time. The armada had not sunk under English bombardment, but under the wind of God. ' Afflavit Deus ,' said the English --- 'God blew!' (And the God who blew was no doubt Protestant). . . . It is probably an instance in which Divine Providence is given too much credit" (656-57).   Source: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/10-things-you-should-know-about-the-protestant-reformation-in-england

      in Christian History

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      in Christian Satire

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      in Christian Satire


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