The Ninety-Five Theses

The strokes that nailed Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses to the local church door marked a defining moment in history. It was one of the greatest turning points in Western Civilization, and they struck a blow at the Roman Church, causing the much needed Reformation.

Print of Luther Posting His Ninety-Five Theses
Martin Luther nailing the Theses, October 31, 1517

Martin Luther’s Theses were aimed at errors in the Roman Church’s view of indulgences. The Roman Church believed that acts of piety or charity or a donation to the church could reduce or even remove the eternal punishment for sin. Such sayings as “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory into heaven springs” were fiercely objected to by Luther, who believed that only God can forgive sins (Mathew 9:6, Colossians 1:14). If forgiveness of sins can only be obtained through the blood of Jesus, than a coin cannot do so, and it is blasphemy against God to declare that that could be the case.

The Theses also strikes at the pope. Luther states in Thesis 86, “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?” A similar point can be made like this; if the pope has the keys of heaven and hell, why doesn’t he let everybody into heaven? Would that not be a Christian thing to do? Would not he have the “merit” necessary to do so? Is he not “God on this earth”?

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Roman Church on Eve of Protestant Reformation

The state of the Roman Catholic Church on the eve of the Protestant Reformation was absolute shambles. The priests, bishops, and the pope kept the scriptures from the people. The clergy would use the Church for their own gain, leaving many thousands of people without any teaching at all. The Bibles were barred from the pulpit, and obscure verses would be preached in Latin to the ignorant serfs. The Dark Ages were a time of spiritual backwardness, all such knowledge being withheld by the Roman Church and possibly a few of the higher ups in the nobility.

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An Illuminated Manuscript in Latin

Some would argue that the Roman Church kept Western Civilization alive. Except for the preservation of ancient documents, which would easily have been done by others and been more widely available than ever, the Roman Church did little to nothing to advance or even protect Western Civilization. It wasn’t until those documents were removed from the monasteries through war, or from learned men becoming Protestants following Martin Luther’s stand against the Papacy, that a free market was allowed to flourish. As the Scriptures became more available via such Protestant inventions like the printing press, and the common man learned to read and write, was Western Civilization truly able to establish a foothold in the world.

As the Roman Church finally began to fall apart, and true light began to reach the common people, they took that light and changed the world forever.