Tag Archives: Transubstantiation

Martin Luther and the Ninety-Five Theses, part 2/3

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.

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