Tension rises between Martin and his father. Luther takes his monastic vows, and is loyal to the Augustinian order until his excommunication from the church of Rome. Ordained after a couple of years, and faced with conducting his first Mass, he expresses inordinate fear at the thought of the presence of God as he performs what he believed would be the miracle of transubstantiation.He rises through the ranks due to exemplary dedication. He is rewarded by being appointed to take a pilgrimage to Rome. This trip proves seriously disillusioning for Luther, as he witnesses many corruptions among the clergy there. He also sees the faithful coming to Rome and being taken advantage of by the hierarchy. Other accounts corroborate Luther’s claims of the rampant corruption in Rome, so although his account is written after his excommunication, his account is not entirely to be discounted. Among Luther’s concerns was that when the laity seek to do penance, their spiritual concerns should not be met with a sort of spiritual-monetary transaction. Sin is serious, Luther believed, and the Church ought to treat it as such.
A few years later he earns his doctorate, and is invited to be a professor of theology at a new university in Wittenberg, a small town in northeast Germany, quite out of the way of the more influential centers across the German provinces. Luther becomes quite a popular figure, and some time into this new phase of Luther’s life, the scandalous abuse of indulgences reaches Wittenberg. While they were not allowed to be sold in Wittenberg by the local prince, Wittenbergers crossed the river to purchase indulgences from the charismatic indulgence preacher, Johann Tetzel, who marketed them in an excessively crass way which even Catholic authorities today admit were not based in any teaching or practice commended by the Church of the day.
Luther’s response was to post ninety-five theses to organize a formal debate among scholars on the power and efficacy of indulgences. Written in Latin, Luther posted his theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on the eve of All Saints’ Day, October 31, 1517. Luther’s theology has not at this point changed, and his theses were no revolutionary stance, although he does make some valuable statements that reflect the teaching of Scripture and are rooted in sound logic.
It may be January 2018 now, but I am finally taking time to post the videos I made of our 2017 DFW Reformation Conference at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Bedford, TX the weekend prior to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The camera we used was borrowed from a generous member who did not attend the conference, and we were unable to prevent the camera from shutting off after about 15 or so minutes, so each lecture is uploaded in parts, with only a minute or so of material lost. Today, I am sharing part one of three of Dr. Jonathan Master’s opening lecture, “Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses” along with my own summary which follows.
Background summary of church history.
Rise of Islam (7th-8th centuries) is the most significant event that changed the landscape of the church in history. All the most significant, influential churches, councils and debates, took place in the eastern half of the Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople in Asia Minor (modern day Istanbul, Turkey).
Rise of the Papacy With the fall of Constantinople to Islam, Rome in western Europe arises as the more prominent city among the five Patriarchates across the empire. It is only after this that the Roman Popes begin to assume and claim primacy over other bishops.
Rise of Purgatory Vague references in the ancient era of church history to an intermediate state develop in the Middle Ages to become the penitential system that deals with sins after death. Medieval papal pronouncements establish the teaching of a “treasury of merits” and offer “indulgences” by which the Papacy holds out the hope of a shortened time in Purgatory in exchange for acts of charity. By the time of Luther, this had degenerated to a crass exchange of spiritual benefits for oneself and his loved ones for money.
Background of Martin Luther
Luther’s Father a Successful Entrepreneur who intends to educate his son for a profitable law practice which will not only give Martin a comfortable life, but also benefit the family business. Luther wavers about this life plan before he reaches a crisis point during a lightning storm in a field as he walks one night, pledging to Saint Anne that if he survives, he’ll become a monk.