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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Martin Luther part 4 -- 95 Theses

After learning what Tetzel was doing to milk the people out of their money and giving only a worthless piece of paper in return; he was angry and needed to speak out. He wrote out 95 questions he wanted answered concerning the church's biblical support for indulgences. At this point he was only wanting to correct what he saw as error and mistakenly believed that the church could be persuaded to change this policy.
 Tetzel responded in writing refuting Luther's theses. His basic argument was that what he was doing was at under the authority of the Pope and he was only answerable to Him, and to question the Pope was to question God.
Luther responded that this wasn't an adequate argument. He insisted that the church show him from the bible that he was wrong. A number of other defenders of the pope rose up to denounce Luther.  The first of these was Sylvester Mazzolini of Prierio. They exchanged numerous letters with Pierio asserting the power of the Pope to be the only who interprets the bible. Luther maintained the power to interpret the bible belonged to the individual. Pierio went so far as to maintain relying on ecclesiastical law: "Although the Pope should make the whole world go with him to hell, he could be neither condemned nor deposed."
When Luther continued to quote the bible, especially on justification by faith, James Hochstraten, the inquisitor of Cologne, called for Luther's death. Luther responded by calling Hochstraten a raving murderer, blood thirsty man, and enemy of the truth.
His strongest adversary was a Johann Maier Von Eck. Doctor Eck and Luther debated at Augsburg. This was the first time Luther was required to travel and answer for  his writings. There was much haggling over a safe conduct. Frederick of Saxony guaranteed his safety. Politically Leo X needed Frederick to be on his side at first to keep Charles of Spain becoming the emperor and once he was emperor to keep Charles in check. Leo wouldn't do anything to damage the trust between them for a mere monk.
Eck was a master debater winning on points instead knowledge. This confrontation the church saw as a victory thinking that Eck defeated Luther by snide remarks, disdain and the point that hurt, comparing Luther to Huss. Many in the Empire had bad memories of the war caused by Huss. A number of the electors took sides against Luther. The general population saw things differently and became strong supporters of Luther. The scholars who were present became followers of Luther, many leaving their homes and traveling to Wittenberg to become students and attend Luther's lectures.
Luther's fame spread, his writings were changing thoughts across Europe, but the Saxon monk tried desperately to end the dispute. He wrote a letter to Leo X, declaring his loyalty to the church. The pope ignored it.

Next post will deal with the ultimate showdown between Luther and the Emperor Charles V.

Martin Luther part 3: Pre-reformers

Before I get into Luther's 95 Thesis, the book I'm reviewing mentions several men who made what Luther accomplish possible.

 Johannes Gutenberg: Without the printing press Luther's words and his challenge would have been only a local matter. Everything that Luther wrote and said was published and distributed through all of Europe. This was the major ingredient in the perfect storm of splitting the Church apart.

Desiderius Erasmus: Erasmus was a humanist, but his writings and work set the stage for the Reformation. He wrote against the excesses of the Church, but careful about getting too far under the Pope's skin. He compiled as many biblical manuscripts as he could find and buy and used them to compile a New Testament. It was these documents that Luther, and the King James scholars used to translate the bible into the vernacular (common language).

John Huss lived in Bohemia, modern day Czech Republic. He was a follower of John Wycliff of England. The Catholic Church of this day was divided between two Popes, the one in Rome and the other in Avignon, France. Alexander V in Rome controlled Bohemia.. Huss preached from Wycliff's writings and fought against Indulgences.
When the Church brought charges against Huss, he was given a Safe Conduct to attend his hearing. After he was condemned the safe conduct was revoked and he was burned at the stake.
His major crime was wanting to translate the New Testament into the Czech language.
Bohemia rose up in revolt and the Pope launched a crusade. A war was fought and the area was allowed to continue to follow the teachings of Huss. The teachings of Huss and the manner of his death would play a significant role in Luther's life and the Reformation.

Girolamo Savonarola lived in Italy and became significant in the city of Florence during the Renaissance. I used to tell my students that every party has an equal and opposite party pooper. The De Medici's ruled Florence and were patrons of the arts to some of the greatest artists of all time. There was money to lavish on splendid mansions and to decorate it with fine art. Quite a party. Then came the pooper: Savonarola was a monk who condemned the Medici's and the Pope for it's corruption and the sin of usury. The common people flocked to his sermons and rioted against the Medici's forcing them to flee for a short time. Condemning the sin of vanity by displaying artwork considered sinful countless masterpieces were piled in the plaza and burned in what he called "The bonfire of the vanities." He also burned people. After a while Alexander VI had enough of him and he was burned.

When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, the last thing on his mind was defying the pope or breaking away from the church. The pope looked upon this attack on indulgences as a personal attack on his authority, which as the church taught was derived by God and the only the pope speaks for Jesus. Savonarola and Huss were prominent examples of how far Rome would go to preserve it's authority.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The issue--indulgences

Enter stage left the villain: John Diez or Tetzel. He was given the commission by the Church of Rome to raise money in the Holy Roman Empire with indulgences. The purpose was to rebuilt the Basilica of Saint Peter. Tetzel was a con-man of the first mark. He had a traveling troop with guards, wagons of tables, chairs and other props, and casks to be filled with coin. In each village or town he would set up shop in the square and on a pedestal preach that for only a few coins all the people's sins could be forgiven in the past, present and future. He then preached about the pain and agony of their deceased loved ones suffering in Purgatory and if they really loved them they would buy an indulgence for them too.
Here is an example of an indulgence:

May the Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee ___________ and absolve thee by the merits of His holy passion! And I by virtue of the Apostolical power that has been confided to me, absolve thee from all ecclesiastical censures, judgements and penalties which thou mayst have incurred; moreover, from all excesses, sins, and crimes that thou mayst have committed, however great and enourmous they may be, and whatsoever cause, were even reserved for our most holy father the pope and apostolic see. I blot out all the stains of inability and all the marks of infamy that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I remit the penalties that thou mayst have drawn upon thyself on this occasion. I restore thee anew to participate in the sacraments of the Church. I incorporate thee afresh in the communion of saints , and re-establish thee in the purity and innocence which thou hadst at thy baptism. So that in the hour of death, the gate by which sinners enter the place of torments and punishments shall be closed to thee, and, on the contrary, the gate leading to paradise of joy shall be open. And if thou shoulst not die for long years, this grace will remain unalterable until thy last hour shall arrive,
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Friar John Tetzel, commissary, has signed this with his own hand.

This backfired on Tetzel once. A Saxon nobleman mentioned he wished to take revenge on someone and wondered if an indulgence would let him get away with it. For 30 pieces of silver he was given an indulgence. As Tetzel was leaving the city the nobleman and his retainers beat Tetzel and stole his chest of coin. When Tetzel took him to court the man pulled out his indulgence and was set free.

Numerous princes and electors in the empire were dismayed at the fleecing of their peasants and draining their economy dry, but felt powerless against the Church.

Enter stage right the hero: Marin Luther.
Wittenberg was only four miles from the border, so many of the people in the area bought indulgences. While hearing confessions Luther encountered a problem. After the person confessed he told the person they must stop what they were doing. 'Sin no more.' The person then replied, I don't have to I have an indulgence.
Luther was incensed at this immoral document which would allow people to commit crimes and go unpunished and led them to believe they would go to heaven purchased by a few coins.
This is what decided him to challenge the doctrine of indulgences. When he left the steps of Pilate's staircase (mentioned in previous post). He broke with penance and indulgences for salvation. For the just shall live by faith, became his focus of salvation.
He wrote down his 95 theses and nailed them to the doors at the cathedral of Wittenberg. All 95 articles attacked the doctrine of indulgences. That was his focus, he did not want to split the church. He did want to challenge the Pope's authority. He wished to debate the issue and hoped by this to end such an evil practice.

My next post will cover the different councils Luther attended on the issue. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

500 years ago, how the world changed

Recently I've read this commentary on Martin Luther. It's only partly biographical as the author expounds and embellishes on Luther's thoughts. It is insightful.
Over years of teaching World History and as the Reformation is a chapter in the book; mention is always made of Luther and his break with the church. Indulgences were mentioned as well as Tetsel who sold them which angered Luther leading to his 95 Thesis. How the Pope and Church reacted which started the Reformation. That's about all a high school text will say.
Being born and raised Baptist, Luther wasn't mentioned much in church or Sunday School. When I went to a Catholic church for my sister's husbands' Christening; I noticed that a number of Luther's hymns were in their hymnal. I still wonder if Leo X is rolling over in his grave.
I began reading this book out of curiosity and put it down a number of times. It was written in French of the year 1846. It's not easy to follow and the guy does ramble on and on about how God was guiding him and making miracles happen for Luther to live past childhood. He recovered from a sword wound where he nearly bled to death and different diseases. At first this was irritating. Once Luther begins his spiritual growth and his writing stirs up lethal opposition, his mentioning God's intervention makes more sense.
Here is a condensation of what enlightenment I've obtained from reading the book. Or what I learned.
1. Luther's road to reformation: while on his sick bed and an aged monk reassured him with the Apostle's Creed where it states "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." It was this simple, yet profound belief that flew in the face of The Churches teaching on penance to work sins out of your life. That got him questioning all he believed.
2. The scripture that was to define his whole theology: Romans 1:17 NASV For in it the righteousness of God revealed from a faith to faith it is written, But the righteous man shall live by faith. [Habakkuk 2:4] Luther's thoughts centered around this truth the rest of his life: The just shall live by faith.
3. Luther's first break with the Church occurred when he visited Rome. As many in his day who visited the city for the first time he was appalled at the wealth and the depravity the priests, bishops and cardinals. While there the Pope offered an indulgence to any who would on their knees go up Pilate's Staircase. While doing this penance to receive absolution from sin, the words: The just shall live by faith, kept repeating in his head. The just shall live by faith. He rose up and walked away leaving the superstition of the Church behind him.
4. Luther's doctrine. This is the condensed version of what he repeated many times: "I...confess this article, that faith alone without works justifies before God; and I declare that it shall stand and remain forever...This is the true and holy gospel, and the declaration of me, Doctor Luther, according to the Holy Ghost. There is no one who has died for our sins, if not Jesus Christ, the Son of God...it is He alone who taketh away our sins, it cannot be ourselves or our works. But good works follow redemption as the fruit grows on the tree. This is our doctrine."

My next post will deal with Luther's battle over indulgences.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Broken a review

I knew Terry Austin for three years at Wayland Baptist College (now University). He used to wax me all over the board in chess regularly. In the past few years we've reconnected by facebook. There are some good things about social media.
I was intrigued when he posted his latest book, pictured left. He has a prologue and epilogue explaining the book. The rest is in the words of Erik Daniels.
Terry explained why he agreed to work with the man who was in essence making a death bed confession of truly horrible crimes. The man was a sociopath. His entire life was pure freudian "id." Terry said he wanted to portray him as a "sympathetic protagonist" similar to Walter White in Breaking Bad. I found sorrow in Erik's life, but not sympathy. In my perspective Erik is an object lesson.
Walter White is fictional. The crimes Erik committed had real life victims. Walter White had a purpose and reason for his actions--to leave money for his family after he was gone. Erik existed only to satisfy his basic needs and he would harm anyone who got in his way.
Erik has a compelling story. I don't want to spoil it by providing too many details. As an object lesson his confession is a window into the mind of a career criminal. Erik sums it up by saying his life was "drinking and using drugs and he financed it by stealing." As crime escalates across our country there are countless Eriks doing the same thing. Knowing why the criminals around you do what they do may provide understanding, but not sympathy.
What I took away from the man's story is understood by "The Pursuit of Happiness."
When one is at the end of his or her life and looking back over his/her time on this Earth, did he or she leave something meaningful behind. Children, grand children, a happy marriage, or did he/she live a life of quiet desperation? Are they content in knowing they've lived a good life or bitter at what they think they've lost or missed?
Erik reached out for someone to guide him in telling his story as he was terminally ill and Terry answered him.At the end of Erik's life he found misery. He only recounts one instance in his life where he felt good about something, and that was when he was a child. In recounting his crimes he felt no remorse, his only concern was not getting caught. It broke my heart to read the hard life he lived as a child. No child should be so abused, but I found no sympathy for him as he embarked on a life of crime.