A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Reformation Day, October 31.

October 31, 1517, is an important day in the history of Christianity. The next day, Nov. 1, was celebrated in the medieval church as All Saints Day, to honor the saints.

According to the cult and superstition of times, the relics of the saints were to be reverenced and the power of God could be manifest in them. Some relics could keep disease and storms away. Some brought healing. All were capable of working miracles especially in connection with images and pictures of the saints. Crosses of all sorts and sizes and richness were everywhere and possessed power beyond imagination, even to the quenching of fires.

There was a great collection of such relics at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and great crowds were expected to gather on All Saints Day in 1517.

The monk, Martin Luther, had been going through a transformation in his spiritual life for many months. He was distressed at the teaching of the church on the matter of indulgences. Rome taught that forgiveness of sins could be purchased with money through the instrument of an indulgence. The merit of the saints could be applied to a purchaser through the fiction of “works of supererogation,” works that the saints had performed above and beyond what was necessary for the saint’s own salvation.

In hearing the confessions of his parishioners, Martin Luther had come to understand the powerful influence of indulgences in their thinking.

Pope Leo X, in order to raise funds for the beautification and massive building program in Rome, had recently issued a new indulgence that was being offered for sale throughout Germany. A slick salesman, a Dominican monk named Tetzel, with a great show of pomp and ceremony, promised that the souls of loved ones would jump out of purgatory when money was dropped into the box. Thus, the power of the indulgence.

Luther’s holy soul was moved at the blasphemy. He had come to see that justification was by faith in Christ’s righteousness alone, and that there was no other righteousness except that of Christ which could save the soul—not the righteousness of saints, of indulgences, nor any works of his own, real or imagined.

As he put it later, under a powerful impulse Luther penned Ninety Five Statements, or Theses, against the selling of indulgences. According to the practice of the time, he fastened these to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on All Hallows Evening, October 31, offering to debate them with any scholar who would take his challenge.

This launched the greatest revival in the history of the church, the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s Theses were duplicated by the newly invented art of printing, and spread throughout Germany and Europe.

Never again would the Pope and superstition have such rule in the church, for men everywhere rediscovered their liberty and privilege of coming directly to God through Jesus Christ alone. To God be the Glory.
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