Tag Archives: Wittenberg

On Wittenberg’s Door

 

If you’re familiar at all with the history of Protestantism or if you follow any other blogs that are “Reformed” or true to the Doctrines of Grace, then you’re probably aware that this year, 2017, will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   In fact by this point, you’ve probably heard so much about the Reformation that you could care less if you hear anything else, but bear with me in this post and those related that follow because it may include somethings you weren’t familiar with.

Historically, the beginning date for this movement of reformation is traced to Martin Luther’s nailing of his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Church on October 31, 1517.  However, limiting this movement to a specific day, let alone year or decade, dare I say century, is far too narrowly focused.  While much has been said in recent months about Luther’s exploits and subsequent Reformers such as Zwingli, Calvin, etc., you’ve probably heard very little from first hand sources about the events and people leading up to the Reformation, let alone what actually happened (Though DesiringGod.org has a good series on this).  Largely at our hearts we are traditionalists and regurgitators of traditions we hear because, well, it’s easier.  Unfortunately we not only take this approach with history, and more specifically church history, but also with our biblical interpretations, which as you may imagine has led to a whole host of problems.

The motivations for addressing this particular blind spot regarding the Reformation are numerous, but chief among them has been my own journey in understanding this history.  For awhile I had loosely thought that after the time of the Apostles and “Church Fathers” (~2nd to 4th Century), the Church slipped into the darkness of medieval Catholicism only to burst forth in the light of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation under the guiding hand of Martin Luther.  I’d assumed that during this period there were true, genuine believers within the “Roman Catholic Church” throughout the centuries, but that largely it was a dark period for the Church.  In short, I would’ve concluded that the Church of Jesus Christ, the one purchased by His shed blood was within the Roman Catholic Church from the 4th to the 16th Centuries.  However, this assumes a monolithic church history, and despite the overwhelming majority of tradition that teaches this, it’s simply not the case.  Largely I’ve been ignorant of the details surrounding the Reformation, the streams of faithful believers outside the Roman Catholic Church,  the faithful men and women who fought for reforms prior to the 16th Century, and the influences and impacts on today’s “Church”.

One example of this, and the lead into this series (Lord willing), is the role that Luther played in the Reformation.  As the story is often presented, Luther defiantly nailed his 95 theses, a summation of all the contradictions of Scripture by the Catholic Church, onto the church door at Wittenberg thereby firing the proverbial shot  heard round the world and launching  the Reformation, a full-scale frontal protest against the Roman Catholic Church, specifically the Pope.

Does this brief summary sound familiar?  This is a rather glamorized and misleading recount of the details, but it is a common overview and until recently is how I would’ve summarized the event that lead to the Reformation.  However, this isn’t entirely accurate and certainly masks Luther’s motivation behind the theses.

Rounding out our general introduction to the Reformation and Luther’s infamous actions, we need to add that the Church at Wittenberg, after the construction of the University of Wittenberg in 1502, was annexed to serve as the University chapel, as well as the academic and worship center.  So when we think of the event of  Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door, it was essentially tacked to the university bulletin board in the hopes of generating academic debate among fellow professors and scholars, not for launching a theological movement against the Roman Catholic Church and certainly not fodder for the common man to rebel against their authorities.  Whoops…

In our next post in this series we’ll look at Luther in his own words to gain insight into his motivations and reaction to the response of Wittenburg.

Reformation Day 2011 – Martin Luther

In honor of Reformation Day 2011, this is a repost of an older post that highlighted the trial of Martin Luther, several years after he boldly nailed his 95 Thesis to the Castle Church door of Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.  An event which sparked the Protestant Reformation and changed the world forever: “Here I stand.  I can do no other.”

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In reading R.C. Sproul’s classic book, The Holiness of God, I was fascinated with the chapter entitled The Insanity of Luther in which he describes Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms (dee-et of vorms).  An interesting note that Sproul highlights is that at the initial inquisition, Luther was not the bold, fearless man that we’ve seen portrayed in movies or read of in books.  Like his first mass after his ordination, he faltered.  The first session met April 17, 1521 and prior to his arrival, Luther had spoken out boldly saying, “This shall be my recantation at Worms: ‘Previously I said the pope is the vicar of Christ.  I recant.  Now I say the pope is the adversary of Christ and the apostle of the Devil.”  Such was Luther and the crowd expected much of the same, but instead to his 95 thesis Luther replied “The books are all mine, and I have written more.”  When asked if he recanted them he replied, “I beg you, give me time to think it over.”  That night feeling the weight of the situation Luther prayed:

O’God, Almighty God everlasting! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens and swallows me up, and how small is my faith in thee!…Oh! the weakness of the flesh, and the power of Satan!  If I am to depend upon any strength of this world – all is over….The knell is struck….Sentence is gone forth….O God! O God! O thou, my God!  Help me against all the wisdom of this world.  Do this, I beseech thee; thou shouldst do this…by thy own mighty power….The work is not mine, but thine.  I have no business here….I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world!  I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace.  But the cause is thine….And it is righteous and everlasting!  O Lord! Help me!  O faithful and unchangeable God!  Does thou not hear?  My God! Art thou no longer living?  Nay, thou canst not die.  Thou dost but hide thyself.  Thou hast chosen me for this work.  I know it!…Therefore, O God, accomplish thine own will!  Forsake me not, for the sake of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, my defense, my buckler, and my stronghold.  Lord – where art thou?…My God, where art thou?…Come! I pray thee, I am ready….Behold me prepared to lay down my life for thy truth…suffering like a lamb.  For the cause is holy.  It is thine own!…I will not let thee go! No, nor yet for all eternity! And though the world should be thronged with devils – and this body, which is the work of thine hands, should be cast forth, trodden under foot, cut in pieces,…consumed to ashes, my soul is thine.  Yes, I have thine own word to assure me of it.  My soul belongs to thee, and will abide with thee forever!  Amen!  O God send help!…Amen!

And with that, literally one man against the entire Roman Church, the following day Martin Luther delivered the legendary defiant response similar to the scene captured in the movie clip below:

Oh that God would give us more Martin Luther’s to stand up against the attacks of God’s Word that are happening on a daily basis within the Church.  Men whose consciences are captive to the Word of God.