In the past, I’d probably not paid enough attention in Church history. I’d imagined the moment of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses (click here to read them!) to the Wittenburg door in Germany to be a moment of defiance. After all, who would drive a nail through a giant wooden door of a holy place?
As it turns out, it was the proper way to go about doing what he was aiming to do. The door in question was used as a giant “Bulletin Board” of sorts, for the academic world to post inquiries, and where professors would post their intended curriculum.
As “History.com” writes...”Luther more likely hung the document on the door of the church matter-of-factly to announce the ensuing academic discussion around it that he was organizing.
The 95 Theses, which would later become the foundation of the Protestant Reformation, were written in a remarkably humble and academic tone, questioning rather than accusing. The overall thrust of the document was nonetheless quite provocative. The first two of the theses contained Luther’s central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two.
In addition to his criticisms of indulgences, Luther also reflected popular sentiment about the “St. Peter’s scandal” in the 95 Theses:
Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?
The 95 Theses were quickly distributed throughout Germany and then made their way to Rome. In 1518, Luther was summoned to Augsburg, a city in southern Germany, to defend his opinions before an imperial diet (assembly). A debate lasting three days between Luther and Cardinal Thomas Cajetan produced no agreement. Cajetan defended the church’s use of indulgences, but Luther refused to recant and returned to Wittenberg.”
Here we find an important question for our churches today: Are we places where the “Luthers” of our day find a welcome environment for questioning the status quo? What are our “sacred areas” that we feel we must protect to keep our integrity intact, and what are we willing to open for well-intentioned debate/change? I hope and pray we continue to be a place where conversations can question why we do what we do, with the resources we’ve been given. A place where we can search the scriptures together to see how we might more faithfully respond to the loving invitation of Jesus to both further and announce New Creation.