Luther'S Ninety Five Thesis
Modern Protestants and Catholics may not see eye-to-eye on the actions and legacy of Martin Luther, but there is one thing we can all agree on—the church of 1517 was in dire need of a wakeup call.
Popular legend asserts that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation when he nailed a document to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany.
Martin did just that; he did not succumb to the corruption and power of the Church, but took a stand.
The pope is not only powerless to forgive, Luther argued, but he is also powerless to grant assurance via letters of pardon, even though he were to “stake his soul upon it” (Thesis 52).Many of us have heard of this document, but few have read any of its contents. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them — at least it furnishes occasion for hating them. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. ” The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial. Again, “Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed? Again, “What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, beca use of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love’s sake? Again, “Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force? Again, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace! Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross! Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts ).So, without further ado, here are the original words translated into English: Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers? Again, “What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings? Again, “What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once? “Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy? To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Discover the story of the former monk who sparked the Reformation.He urges the people to come back to the Gospels, the true word of god,and put their faith in Jesus Christ and not on the blessings and hollow pardons of the church.He cautions the people to be wary of the many corrupt practices and of the people who spread such talk and to find their strength in the word of God.I could go on all day talking about how the Catholic Church was corrupted, anti-biblical and anathema to the Truth.But, instead, I will leave it to other readers to form their own opinions regarding the Church at that time.The Church knew that if people started following Luther, then their unquestionable belief in the Church would be challenged and this would put the Catholic Church in a very precarious position.It was to mark the beginning of a long ensuing battle between the Catholics and the Protestants.The church had the monopoly on the commodity of forgiveness, and its sale via indulgences was a significant source of revenue for the papacy.Luther marshals reasons against the legitimacy of indulgences by stressing the exclusivity of God’s ability to forgive (Theses 5, 6).