On October 31st 1517, four hundred and 92 years ago yesterday, Catholic monk Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses on the front door of a Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This officially started the Reformation Period which centered mainly around Luther's dissatisfaction with the abuse of indulgences within the Catholic Church.
Luther must have had some valid points, because in Pope Leo X's Papal Bull, he only asked Luther to recant 41 sentences in all of his writings within 60 days or risk excommunication. Luther also received a summons from Rome to answer for his 95 Theses. For whatever reason, Luther never went to Rome. He publicly burned Pope Leo's Papal Bull thus resulting in his excommunication.
What was the end result of this today? There are now over 25,000 different Christian denominations, many sending conflicting messages of salvation. With so many denominations, subsets of denominations, different practices and beliefs within Christianity, it is no wonder that there are so many agnostics. Confusion is the work of Satan, not of God:
- 1 Corinthians 14:33: For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
Why did all of this happen? It was the work of Satan. Let me explain:
In Luke 12:51 Jesus Christ said:
Unfortunately, Satan, the Master Deceiver, has the same objective. The division Christ sought to bring in the above scripture was the division the New Covenant would bring. The "Turn-the-Other-Cheek" New Covenant was radically different than the "Eye-For-An-Eye" Old Covenant. Christ wanted to Divide and Conquer the World with Love.
Satan is a Master Tactician who wants to Divide, Conquer and Destroy:
- 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18: But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us.
- 2 Corinthians 2:10-11: If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
The division Satan seeks is unsurping God and taking great pleasure in destroying lives, our Kingdom on earth and dividing Christians. Anything Holy and good, you can bet that Satan will seek to destroy it.Satan understands this scripture quite well:
- Matthew 12:25: Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand."
When researching the history of Christianity, this knowledge, is one of the reasons that led me to the Catholic Church, which origins can be traced directly to Jesus Christ and the Apostles and not to a man (Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc).
Since Martin Luther broke off the the Catholic Church in the 16th Century, so many different Christian churches have formed and most have seen their own divisions.
Apostle Paul warned about church division
1 Corinthians 1:10-12: I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
If Apostle Paul wrote this epistle during the 16th Century, the last line in this scripture might read like this:
One of you says, "I follow Luther"; another, "I follow King Henry the Eighth"; another, "I follow Calvin"; still another, "I follow Christ."
As Paul brilliantly points out in the next verse:
- 1 Corinthians 1:13: Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
If greater humility and love was displayed on both sides, the Protestant Reformation may have never happened--at least not with the magnitude that is has today that has fragmented and divided the Christian faith.
Luther was once a humble monk but he did not so much want to reform the Catholic Church as he wanted to establish his own church and teach his own theology. Luther developed and promoted his own beliefs of Sola Fide (by Faith Alone), Sola Scriptura (by Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (by Grace Alone), Solus Christos (by Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (glory to God Alone).
Discussing the validity to the Five Solas Luther promoted is a topic for another blog. But I will say that I place greater faith in theological interpretations of a group of Holy men, the Magisterium of Catholic Church, than any one man's theological interpretation and theories. Many beliefs have been debated and discussed for centuries within the Catholic Church. Some beliefs, for example, whether every soul having a Guardian Angel, is accepted by many but has yet to become Catholic dogma.
With any theological teaching or interpretation, it is always important to consider the following scriptures:
The danger of private interpretation:
- Acts 8:30-31: "So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
- 2 Peter 1:20-21: "knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
The necessity of testing the spirits:
- 2 Peter 3:15-16: "as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
- 1 John 4:1: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
When you review the life of Luther and his writings, you can see a lot of anger, that he had a problem with his temper, you can see his animosity towards the Pope and a lack of humility.
"First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them... Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed..."
For anyone who is Christian, they will recognize that this doesn't jive with Christ's Turn-the-Other-Cheek teachings. And no, this is not Catholic propaganda, the Lutheran Church acknowledges and denounces Luther's anti-Semitic remarks but cling to his final and more Christian viewpoint towards Jews. See source below.
Overall, Luther deserves credit for bringing some necessary changes to the Catholic Church. However, "The Father of Protestantism" was no saintly man and Pope Leo X was never canonized a saint either. However, despite the wrongdoings within the Catholic Church at the time, Luther seemed to be filled too much with anger, hatred and lacked necessary humility for me to be a spirit to follow.
And does wrongdoings in the Church justify many new theological teachings? It is not like Luther recreated the Catholic Church. He took seven books out of the Old Testament, placed them in the back of his bible and said they were useful reading but not inspired by God (apocrypha). Today, these seven books have slowly disappeared from most versions of Protestant bibles.
In some of Luther's statements and actions towards the Pope and the Catholic Church, and how Pope Leo X handled Luther, it brings to mind a couple of scriptures:
- Hebrews 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you
- 1 Peter 2:17: Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
- Philippians 2:1-3: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
And always remember that no church is free from those tempted and succumbing to Satan, not even when Christ walked the earth:
- John 6:70-71: Then Jesus replied, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!" (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Perhaps, someday we Christians will be united again.
Until then, we have to work together and be united front on many issues adversely affecting the world today.
Peace be with you,
© Michael J. Cox