Monday, October 31, 2011

Luther's 95 Theses

While most folks associate October 31st with the celebration of Halloween, historians remember the day as the occasion on which Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg Chapel in 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation.  Luther, an Augustinian monk within the Roman Catholic Church, had become disenchanted with the Church’s internal corruption.  One practice in particular prompted his revolt—the selling of indulgences.  The Catholic Church offered to sell forgiveness for sins for a price—an indulgence.  The notion that forgiveness could be purchased prompted Luther to compose the 95 Theses to debate this and other issues with the Catholic hierarchy.  It was the study of Romans that proved to be the deciding factor in Luther’s conversion to the gospel.  As he read “the just shall live by faith,” Luther discovered that his previous attempts to appease an angry and wrathful God (as he conceived Him) through his own efforts were misguided.  He was convinced that one is made right with God through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross and not through any human works.  Luther’s break with the Catholic Church and proclamation of the gospel in Germany would be followed by other Protestant reformers—Calvin in France and later Switzerland, Zwingli in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and numerous lesser known Anabaptists who took the additional step of denying the legitimacy of infant baptism and insisting on believers’ baptism.  The Anabaptists went beyond Luther in insisting on religious liberty and the separation of church and state, major emphases that their Baptist successors would also champion.

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