95 Theses for Today

95 Theses for Today October 31, 2023

Happy Reformation Day, also known as Halloween!  (Both involve monsters, dead things, and sinners in deceptive disguises being given a sweet gift that they have not deserved.)

On this day 506 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences–through which the church claimed to release sinners from the punishments of Purgatory–thus igniting the Reformation.

That happened because Luther’s protest of an obviously corrupt practice on the part of the church led to bigger and bigger issues.  Luther said the sale of indulgences violated the teaching of the Scriptures.  Vatican emissaries trying to squelch the protest said that the indulgences were issued on the authority of the Pope.  Luther insisted that the Pope therefore must be wrong and that the Scriptures are a higher authority.

Vatican apologists said that indulgences were a means of remitting the punishment due to sin.  Luther said that Christ atoned for the sins of the world in His death on the cross, so that forgiveness can be found through faith in Him alone.

And so on.

You can read Luther’s 95 Theses here.  Most of them deal with indulgences, a dead issue for most of us.  And yet while the Roman Catholic church doesn’t sell indulgences anymore, but it still offers them.  Some of Luther’s theses, though, have universal relevance even today.  For example:

(1) Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said “Repent”, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

(36) Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

(37) Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

(62) The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

(94) Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

(95) And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

Today’s churches are also in need of a Reformation, and others have put together lists of theses according to the issues they think need to be addressed.  My fellow Patheos blogger Layne Wallace has given us a Baptist version. Here are 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling and 95 Theses for Today’s Church—A Declaration of Diversity

There are also new Lutheran versions, such as here and here.

Let us here at the Cranach blog celebrate Reformation Day by posting theses of our own, not on a church door but upon a website, the modern day equivalent.  (We won’t worry about getting 95 of them.  Few of us today have the attention span for that many.)

I’ll start:

(1)  Churches cannot bring the forgiveness of a sin by claiming that there is nothing wrong with the sin.

(2)  Churches cannot evangelize the world by becoming exactly like that world.  In that case, the world has evangelized the church.

(3)  Churches cannot reach secularists by giving them what they already have, but by giving them what they do not have but need.

Your turn.


Image from rawpixel, Public Domain

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