Reformation Day Matters
Many people ignore the past. I can’t stand studying history in general. I never was good at remembering dates and places. However, when it comes to theology, I think it is important to remember the ones of the past that laid the ground work on which we stand now. Many people don’t know names like John Hus, John Wycliffe, and John Colet but you should. I may post a few more articles on these great men of faith but for now we will focus on what Reformation Day stands for.
In the time of Martin Luther the Catholic Church was exceedingly corrupt. The teaching of indulgences was increasing because Pope Leo X wanted to build a new church dedicated to St. Peter. So, he used indulgences to raise the money to build his basilica. Just like any fund-raising endeavor, the Catholic Church had a spokesman named Johann Tetzel.
Tetzel had a catch phrase that most people know, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” This caused Martin Luther to fight against the Catholic Church. He fought for two reasons. One was theological and the other was for social justice.
The theological problem that Luther saw was that the Catholic Church turned the Gospel into a money grab. But even further than that they, in essence, were teaching that the sacrifice of Christ wasn’t enough to cleanse people from all sin. This theological reason drove Luther into nailing the 95 Thesis on the door of the Wittenburg Church (95 Thesis written on Oct. 31, 1517). Luther didn’t stop there. He had another reason beyond the theological problems indulgences introduced. Luther was concerned with an important social justice issue. And that was looking out for the poor.
Johann Tetzel was travelling around asking people for their money and giving them a piece of paper in return saying that their loved relative was relieved from the pains of purgatory. The problem Luther saw with this was that the people they were taking money from were poor. The average person of that day was barely able to pay for their food, let alone, pay for an indulgence. And just like any good salesman Tetzel was able to cut to their hearts by his dramas and speaking. Luther took offense to this seen in the 86th point in his 95 Thesis:
“Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”
Luther saw this for what it was…a money grab. The Catholic Church was willing to take money from those who had little to build a huge building that they would never walk into. This was the spark that ignited a fire that even the powerful Catholic Church could not put out. Luther stood against the destructive teaching of the church and began to work in highlighting the true Gospel of Grace.
So, why should we, as Christians, celebrate this day? We should celebrate it because it is a great example of standing for what you believe in. It is an example that the Gospel matters. It stands for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It is an example for fighting against the injustices in our time. And while Luther had some wild ideas we should all be grateful that God used this man to light the fire that freed people from the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church of his time.
Allow me to end with the words of Martin Luther who at the Diet of Worms in 1521 stood for his beliefs even in the face of possible death:
“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen”
Posted on October 31, 2011, in Christianity, Life, Theology and tagged Catholic Church, Christianity, Faith, halloween, Johann Tetzel, Martin Luther, Ninety-Five Theses, Reformation Day, reformed theology. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.