Tell about a Saint

Today is All Saints’ Day.  It commemorates the Christians who have gone before us and the way Christians can help each other in the “communion of saints.”  Use this space to tell about a “saint” who impacted your life.  Not anybody famous.  I’d like to hear about a regular, everyday Christian who helped build up your faith.

Who split the Church?

I’ve been reading some Reformation Day reflections by Roman Catholics, some of whom have expressed a little grudging appreciation for Luther, while blaming him for splitting the Church.  (You can find some here.)

But Luther was excommunicated.  Why?  Because he criticized the sale of indulgences.  In the case that precipitated his nailing the theses to the door, a salesman named Tetzel was participating in a manifestly corrupt venture–having to do ecclesiastical bribery and simony–that was theologically untenable.

Here is an excerpt from Tetzel’s sermon “On Indulgences” (1517):

Consider that for each and every mortal sin it is necessary to undergo seven years of penitence after confession and contrition, either in this life or in Purgatory. How many mortal sins are committed in a day, how many in a week, how many in a month, how many in a year, how many in the whole extent of life! They are nearly numberless, and those that commit them must suffer endless punishment in the burning pains of Purgatory.  (via Primary Sources.)

This was no Purgatory as “taking a shower” before entering Heaven, as in some contemporary Catholic apologetics.  Nor was it ascending Dante’s mountain.  It was penal fire that people were taught might last hundreds, even thousands of years.  (7 years per sin; do the math.)  And this was for sins that were forgiven!  Sins that were repented, confessed, and absolved STILL had to be punished.

Luther believed this teaching and this practice obscured the Gospel.  He just wanted to debate it! His attempts at reform were repudiated.

The Church of Rome, meanwhile, upped the ante.  Luther said that these teachings could not be supported by Scripture.   The reply was that they rested on the authority of the Church and of the Pope, which, in practice, trumped Scripture.  Luther, still thinking of the obvious distortions in the indulgence traffic, could not accept that.

So Luther was cast out of the Church, which refused to even consider his concerns, and things escalated after that.   Luther was given a death sentence, and many who agreed with Luther were burned at the stake.  Then new ecclesiastical orders were set up, now that Rome cut the ties.

(The Church, in effect, later conceded many of Luther’s points.  Exchanging indulgences for money was later forbidden.  The duration of Purgatorial punishment has since been softened, saying that no one knows how long it will last and that time doesn’t exist in the afterlife as it does on earth.  The number of years each indulgence remits–some were for tens of thousands or even millions of years–has been reinterpreted to mean that it is the equivalent of that period of time devoted to earthly penance.

Still, the doctrine of Purgatory remains, along with the need to be punished for each forgiven transgression, as does the doctrine of Indulgences, including the notion of the Treasury of Merits, that the Church administers all of the surplus good works of the saints, which can be credited to the account of those in Purgatory.  Also, much of Roman Catholic devotional practice–such as the repetition of specific prayers, each of which earns an indulgence–is tied to this theology.)

At any rate, isn’t it clear that the Church of Rome at that time, in the way it handled the controversy, split the Church?  Not Luther, who never intended such a thing, though his protest was certainly a catalyst for what happened?   And since, for Roman Catholics, the church doesn’t err, shouldn’t they consider Protestantism one of its good creations?

Death is better than Taxes

The estate tax kicks back in on December 31, unless Bush’s tax cuts are extended.  Reportedly,  some elderly folks who want to give a big inheritance to their children planning to discontinue  life-saving medical treatments so as to die before that date.  So says Wyoming Congressional representative Cynthia Lummis, reporting that she is hearing this from some of her constituents, specifically, children of those who are planning their deaths.  See   Wyoming Rep. Lummis: Estate tax rise has some planning death.

If this is so, what would be the moral status of that action?   Does it matter that those who choose death would be doing it for the good of their children?

Nail your theses onto this blog

In honor of Reformation Day on Sunday, let’s make our own theses for the Reformation of today’s church and post them not on a church door but, in accord with our new information technology, here on this blog.

A thesis is ONE SENTENCE, stating a position you would be willing to defend.

I will start, posting some sentences, one per comment, drawing on a couple of my recent rants.

I am aware that some people will have different opinions and that some of the theses might contradict each other. That’s OK.

Let’s discuss them not on this thread, which would mess up the numeric order of our theses, but on the post below, put together just for that purpose.

Let’s see if we can come up with at least 95. If we have 613, that’s fine too.

So what do you think needs to be said to help get contemporary Christianity straightened out? Let’s get this Reformation going.

[UPDATE:  We are getting away from the one sentence rule.  Also, don't hijack this post for old arguments!  I'm moving some of these to the discussion post below.  We have some great material here, so let's keep going in that vein.  We passed Martin Luther in quantity of theses by the end of the noon hour!  UPDATE:  I am deleting comments that aren't theses and that violate the rules I have set up for this post.]

Discuss the theses here

Take a thesis you want to discuss from the thread above, copy and paste it into a comment on this post, and talk about it, whether to expand upon the point or agree with it or take issue with it or whatever. (Again, do that here rather than interrupt the growing list of theses.)

[UPDATE:  Stop hi-jacking this thread to continue the notorious 637-comment argument of weeks ago.  I'm going to start deleting comments.  (Mike, I'm not talking about you.  You were an innocent by-stander who wandered into a bar fight.  Sorry about that.)]

Grisham’s latest hero is a Lutheran pastor

Lutheran pastors must be considered cool, at least in popular fiction.  There is the one in
Warrior Monk.  Now bestselling author John Grisham features one in his latest blockbust of legal suspense, The Confession.  From a review in the Washington Post:

The novel opens with a classic noir situation in which an ordinary Joe finds himself suddenly thrust by fate into a nightmare. In this case, our flummoxed hero is the Rev. Keith Schroeder, pastor of a Lutheran church in Topeka, Kan. Sitting in his church office one cold morning, Keith is paid a visit by a monster. Travis Boyette is a convicted felon, out on parole, whose rap sheet for sexual assault is as long as a fresh roll of yellow “crime scene” tape. Boyette tells Keith that he’s dying from a malignant brain tumor and that he (maybe) wants to confess to the abduction, rape and murder of Nicole Yarber, a high school cheerleader from the small town of Slone, Tex., who disappeared almost 10 years ago.

After a couple of days of agonized dithering, Boyette shows Keith convincing proof of his guilt and the unlikely duo hatches a plan of action: If Keith drives Boyette to Slone — and, thus, becomes his accomplice in breaking parole — Boyette will confess to the authorities and take them to the spot where he buried Nicole’s body. By the time the two men pile into Keith’s clunker for the ultimate road trip from hell, speed is of the essence. In less than 24 hours, Donté Drumm, a former classmate of Nicole’s, will be put to death for a murder he didn’t commit.

via John Grisham’s “The Confession,” reviewed by Maureen Corrigan.

Buy the novel here.

If any of you have read it, please report.


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