Reformation Spotlight III

LUTHER’S 95 THESES

Martin Luther had published his first set of theses for the express purpose of public academic debate, but it never happened. So, on October 31, 1517, when he nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, attacking the sale of indulgences and ultimately papal authority, he expected the same response. His second set of theses, however, garnered him a notable following and not a few opponents. The Church and the Emperor began calling on Luther to give an account.

At the Imperial Diet of Augsburg in August of the next year, Cardinal Cajetan confronted Luther and demanded that he recant, but Luther had not been convinced that he was wrong. In June and July of 1519, the young reformer was forced to defend himself again during the Leipsic Disputation between John Eck and Andreas Rudolph Bodenstein von Karlstadt. This time, not only did Luther defend his views, he also aligned himself with John Huss who had been burned at the stake a hundred years earlier. In doing so, Luther officially marked himself as a heretic.

A year later, with Eck’s help, the Pope issued Exsurge Domine, a papal bull denouncing Luther and demanding that all of his books be burned. When Luther received his copy, he burned it publicly and in January of 1521 he was excommunicated.

Luther, however, would get one more opportunity to address his views publicly. In April of 1521, he was summoned to the Diet of Worms. There he was presented with his own works and asked to recant. When forced to reply ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ by the Emperor, Luther uttered his famous words:

Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”

And so all of Christendom was changed forever.

 

 

**Sources: A History of the Christian Church 4th Edition by Walker et al., A History of Christianity in the World by Manschreck, The Story of Christianity Vol. II by Gonzales, encyclopediabritannica.com, & Christianity through the Centuries 3rd Edition by Cairns

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