When last I blogged about church history, I had given a synopsis of Martin Luther's life up until that Halloween when he nailed the 95 theses to the Wittenberg door. How he was raised in fear of the God of the Bible because he could never satisfy his own guilt with the many acts of penance that he performed. Finally, he read Romans, and he met Jesus for the first time, the one who paid the perfect penance on our behalf, and began to follow him.
When Johann Tetzel began selling papal indulgences in Germany and people bought them without truly repenting, he finally had enough and nailed 95 Theses to the church door. The same 95 Theses that are mostly very much Catholic and in support of the Pope, but which call the Church to reexamine its practices.
Whatever the reaction, Tetzel worked to silence Luther. At first the Reformation was labelled a "squabble of monks." The thing is, people began agreeing with Luther. He debated at Heidelberg in 1518. Martin Bucer accepted his ideas. Philip Melanchthon came to teach Greek at Wittenberg. If Luther was the Moses of the Reformation, then Melanchthon was his Joshua. He was an equal face in the struggle with Luther, and often better at communicating.
At this point, if there was a debate brewing, or even a war, the authority for Luther would not be the pope or the church. His only authority would be the Bible. Cardinal Cajetan first met Luther at the Diet of Augsburg to get Luther to recant his views. Luther refused to recant unless he could be convinced by Scripture of his fault.
After that, Luther wrote three pamphlets.
The Address to the German Nobility concerned authority. Rome at the time, claimed spiritual authority with only the pope able to interpret Scripture. Luther used Scripture to demolish this ego of the church trying to upstage Jesus.
Babylonian Captivity is where Luther began to attack the central beliefs of Rome -- mainly the Sacraments. Rome believed that the priesthood distributed the sacraments. Luther argued that Baptism and the Lord's Supper were the only sacraments instituted by Jesus and that only he can distribute the means of grace in them.
The Freedom of the Christian Man explained that all people in the church are priests. They all have access to God the Father through Christ's intercession. They can all interpret Scripture and come to God with only Jesus as their priest.
In June 1520, Leo X excommunicated Luther in a papal bull and burned his works at Cologne. Luther proceeded to burn the papal bull on December 10, 1520. Luther got called to testify at the Diet of Worms, to see if he would recant. He was promised safe passage, but he also remembered the promise not kept to Jan Hus and was very frightened. In fact, Luther requested another 48 hours to form a reply. But finally he said, "unless I am convinced by the Scriptures that I am wrong, I will not go against my conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God!" His friends then staged a kidnapping and took him to Wartburg Castle where he lived until 1522. The "Holy" Roman Emperor ordered that his books be banned, which of course will make people read them all the more.
Looking at the church today, I still lean on Luther's three pamphlets as the reason I cannot come back to Rome. I can fight abortion with them, celebrate Christmas with them, and love them until it hurts, but I cannot come back to the church as it is a false church. It has never recanted its insistence that the Pope sits in Christ's seat and not Christ himself, its insistence that God can change his mind simply because the Pope made a new decision. It refuses to see that Christ is the distributer of the sacraments and gives to whom he elects to give. Christ alone made the perfect penance and we go on his righteousness credited to us. And after centuries of Christ not being the center of the Church, now they deny that he's even necessary for salvation, continuing their own excommunication.
Gladly, I see Christ slowly bringing up back together, but we still cannot have peace under what is not the truth, what is not Christ. Christ must be center, and not church hierarchy.