Categories
Christian Living

The Downside of the Protestant Reformation

For all its good, the Protestant Reformation also spawned a wave of disunity that continues to this day

Reformation Day is one October 31. It celebrates the Protestant Reformation. I love the Reformation even though it was actually a spiritual revolution against the established status quo. (But perhaps that’s part of its allure.) After all, the root of Protestant is protest.

Though the actual reformation isn’t fixed in one date, on one person, or from one location, as a matter of convenience Martin Luther emerged as its posterchild, Germany became its setting, and Luther’s posting of 95 points of contention on October 31, 1517 set the date.

Hence we have established Reformation Day to communicate our celebration of this much larger movement.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

I understand that Luther didn’t intent to spark a religious revolt. What he sought was to bring about needed change within the established church, a most admirable and lofty pursuit. Though most of the changes he advocated did eventually occur; they didn’t happen quickly.

Instead it took decades. In the meantime impatient change backers, anxious to correct religious errors, set out to form a new church, a reformed practice with the Bible as its anchor.

This was fine, except that not one new church emerged, but many, all variations on a theme but lacking tolerance and love for one another. They argued, they fought, and they killed one another in the name of their brand of religious theology.

Each variation of Protestant thought assumed it was right, which implied everyone else was wrong.

Each variation of Protestant theology assumes it is right, which implies everyone else was wrong. Click To Tweet

Today, almost five hundred years later, we’re still stuck in this mindset. Each person and each preacher and each church establishes their sincerely held view of spiritual thought and then rejects all others who disagree.

But that’s not a problem, they say. The dissenters, the ones rejected, just go out and start their own church, complete with their own spiritual litmus test of who’s in and who’s out. As a result we now have 43,000 Protestant denominations.

How deeply this must grieve Jesus who earnestly prayed that his followers would live in harmony, that we would be one. And, for all the good it produced, we have the Reformation to thank for this most unbiblical result of division, dissension, and disunity.

God help us all.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Martin Luther’s Concerns

Martin Luther’s 95 Concerns Were Distributed in Printed Form and Essentially Went Viral

Martin Luther lived five hundred years ago. He was born at the dawn of the modern era. He became a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. A key technology in birthing the modern era was the printing press.

The printing press also helped drive the Reformation. It propelled the spread of information. This moved a premodern society into the modern era. (A similar change occurs today, as the internet helps us move from the modern era into the postmodern era.)

This printing technology broadcast a message of spiritual enlightenment to a people poised for religious change. We politely refer to the transformation that emerged as the Protestant Reformation, but the word revolution might better describe the spiritual rebellion that followed.

Luther’s List of Concerns

The fuse that ignited this came from a list of ninety-five concerns that this German monk had about the abuse of one specific church practice: the sale of indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to buy their salvation.

We call Martin Luther’s concerns, his talking points, as his ninety-five theses. He wrote it in Latin, so the masses wouldn’t know about his concerns.

However, without Luther’s knowledge, well-meaning followers translated his ninety-five theses into German and printed copies for the people to read.

This turned his handwritten list into a printable tract, which saw wide distribution throughout the country and spread his concerns to a much larger audience.

Widespread Distribution

Though not all Germans could read German, they could understand it as others read to them. What they heard disturbed them, likely in part because many of them had paid for full indulgences, which Martin essentially outed as a scam.

Then others translated his ninety-five points into other European languages. This spread his message across the continent. Though five centuries prior to the internet, his list of ninety-five theses went viral—long before the information super highway and Twitter existed.

The private discussion Martin Luther sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead... Click To Tweet

Outrage ensued. The private, internal discussion he sought with Church leaders never happened. Instead, a revolution resulted.

But Martin never wanted to lead a rebellion or become its figurehead, he didn’t intend his ninety-five points to attack the Roman Catholic Church, and he certainly didn’t mean to spark a revolt.

Martin wanted to work for change within the system. But the laity, now aware of his concerns, were poised to rebel against what they saw as an unsympathetic Church that exploited them and didn’t care about them or their plight. The people wanted a religious revolt, and that’s what they got.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the Fervor They Caused

Once the people read Luther’s 95 theses they pushed for a change he hadn’t intended

Though most Protestants know of Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, few have ever read them. Here’s why:

First written in Latin and then translated into German, neither of these versions of Luther’s ninety-five theses helps us as English-speaking readers. Several English translations exist, but their formal language, complex sentence structure, and unfamiliar terms make them hard to understand.

The fact that Martin wrote his original document five hundred years ago in another culture further complicates our ability to understand them today.

So difficult to comprehend, few people invest the time to wade through Martin’s ninety-five points of contention. And most who try give up after the first few.

Understanding Luther’s 95 Theses

In considering Luther’s ninety-five points of debate, it’s important to remember that they don’t stand alone. Many build upon prior items.

If some of his theses seem contradictory, it may be because there exists a fine line of distinction between what Martin opposed and what he approved. Or that we fail to grasp his subtle nuances.

When Luther’s followers distributed printed copies of his ninety-five theses, they essentially went viral and sparked a religious rebellion. Many mark this as the birth of the Protestant Reformation.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther stepped forward to post his ninety-five theses. Click To Tweet

Support from Others

However, aside from Martin Luther, many notable theologians and ministers breathed life into this movement, too. They helped advance the cause, of which Luther played a part.

These include John Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli, along with William Tyndale, Jan Hus, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, John Knox, and George Wishart, among others. Some were peers, some preceded Luther, and others followed him, yet their common goal was reform.

In determining a date for the onset of the Protestant Reformation, the most accessible one is October 31, 1517. This is the day Martin Luther stepped forward to post his ninety-five theses.

As such, many assign this date as the beginning of the Reformation. And they put Luther, the man behind the list, as its chief advocate.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

The Early Years of Martin Luther

Martin Luther went to school and studied to become a lawyer to please his father

Hans Luther, a German peasant, and his bride, Margaret, who came from the middle class, committed their lives to each other. Though having different social backgrounds, Hans pledged to work his way up in life. He promised to provide for Margaret and their future family in the way she grew up.

Devout Catholics, Hans and Margaret welcomed their firstborn into the world on November 10, 1483. The couple baptized their baby the next day on St. Martin’s Day. It seemed fitting to give their son the name Martin.

As Hans worked in the mines, Margaret, a stern disciplinarian, taught little Martin the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed. The Luthers celebrated Mass each week. They instilled in Martin a love for singing, both in the church choir and at home with family.

Consistent with the Church’s teaching of the day, young Martin learned of a Jesus who not only came to save but who also judged, demanding holy living and exacting a dreadful wrath over those who fell short. This tough teaching gripped Martin and caused him great agony for the first part of his life.

At eight years old, Martin started school. He learned Latin from strict teachers who governed with harsh discipline. Despite the school’s rigid setting, he performed well.

At age thirteen and showing promise, Martin continued his education. He progressed through a series of schools, as was the practice of the day for students with potential.

Luther’s Career Dilemma

This prepared him for a professional job, possibly in law, which his father desired for his son. For the most part, Martin accepted his dad’s career preference. A highly respected occupation, a career in law would provide Martin with a good income.

But Hans could afford to pay for only part of Martin’s schooling. As the accepted practice of the day, the lad would try to make up the difference through begging and street singing.

Despite this, Martin relished learning. He desired to honor his dad by becoming a lawyer, even though young Martin felt occasional pulls to serve God and the Church, a profession that lacked both the pay and the prestige of law.

Martin Luther struggled to balance spiritual concerns with his father’s push to pursue law. Click To Tweet

At eighteen, Martin began the final phase of his education, which his dad could now fully cover. An excellent student, Martin soon earned his bachelor’s degree and then his masters two years later.

Yet he continued to struggle to balance his personal worries about spiritual issues of sin and punishment, as taught by the church, with his father’s push for him to pursue law.

Martin vacillated between honoring the wishes of his dad—a man he both loved and feared—and responding to God’s call. Despite not liking the legal profession, Martin chose to follow the wishes of his father.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

The Turning Point for Martin Luther

God used a lightning storm to get Martin Luther’s attention and change his life

While studying law and not yet 22, Martin Luther went home for a visit. What he experienced along the way reminds us of Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-4). It was the turning point for Martin Luther.

Martin Luther’s Storm and Turning Point

Caught in a thunderstorm, a nearby lightning strike knocked Martin from his horse. Fearing death from the next flash of electricity, he pledged himself to a lifetime of service to God if Saint Anna—who protected the miners—would also save him.

The nearness of death and fear of eternal judgment gave him the push he needed to pursue God’s will instead of his father’s. Martin stopped his education in law and entered a monastery under the order of Saint Augustine.

Despite following God’s call on his life, Martin’s struggle with his perception of God’s high demands and inevitable punishment continued at the monastery. There he engaged in extreme, self-inflicted practices of mortification, which he later called his martyrdom, to try to conquer his desires of the flesh.

His mortifications included fasting to the point of being unable to move, locking himself in an unheated cell for prayer until anxious friends broke down the door to save him, and praying at the altar until he passed out.

Yet none of his efforts lessened his terror over God’s judgment. In fact, the harder he tried to keep God’s commandments, the worse he felt. Even participating in the Church’s sacrament of penance failed to provide the relief he sought.

Though many in the monastery tried to ease Martin’s internal spiritual struggle, no one had much success.

Later, in 1510, while on a trip to Rome, what Luther saw there shattered his idealism over Church practices. Rome had become anti-Christian, with the pope and cardinals giving in to worldly pursuits and corrupt practices.

They strayed far from what the Bible taught and made up doctrines that suited them to wield power and amass wealth. In doing so, they pushed God aside.

Disillusioned, this experience scarred Martin, and his despair deepened.

Teaching Others

Two years later, he received his doctor of theology degree, which permitted him to teach. He chose Wittenberg University.

There he continued to wrestle over church teaching that emphasized doing things to earn salvation from what he read in the Bible, which says that righteous people will live by faith (Romans 1:17, which references Habakkuk 2:4).

Martin Luther continued to study the Bible, and he struggled with what he read. Click To Tweet

Students flocked to his classes. They embraced his bold teaching and his fresh examples that gave his words meaning, so different from the methods of other professors. In 1516, Martin published his first book, based on his lectures on the book of Romans.

His renown as a scholar, professor, and preacher grew. Over his lifetime, many more books would follow.

Martin continued to study the Bible, and he struggled with what he read.

Though a devout Catholic and not a rebel by nature, his anxieties wormed their way into his teaching. Martin loved his Church, its traditions, and its common people—which he was by birth.

Yet out of integrity, he spoke with honesty instead of blindly repeating what the Church leaders decreed; he saw some of the instruction from Rome as heretical. This prepared him to act, something that would change his life, along with the rest of Christianity.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

The Concerns of Martin Luther

Martin Luther studied the Bible to see if it supported Church practices

As Martin studied the Latin translation of the Bible, he grew worried about the lack of biblical support for the Church’s misuse of indulgences, of essentially allowing people to buy their salvation. Instead, he found the Bible overflowing with grace. This disconnect alarmed him.

The practice of indulgences confuses many outside the Catholic Church. A simple explanation is that an indulgence offers a way to reduce the amount of punishment for sins by taking a specified action.

These acts might include repeating a prayer a certain number of times, traveling to a specific place on a pilgrimage, or performing an assigned task, such as doing a good deed.

Indulgences can tie in with the sacrament of penance, which involves remorse, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment, and absolution. Among other things, penance is a partial indulgence that can reduce the time spent in purgatory for a sacramentally absolved sin.

Though his view seems to have changed later, Martin viewed the practice of indulgences as acceptable. His alarm centered on their abuse.

Here’s What Happened

Some overeager church leaders had turned the concept of indulgences into something more. Taking indulgences to an unhealthy extreme, they offered them in exchange for money to raise funds for a church building project—rebuilding Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Martin Luther objected to the idea that people could buy their way into heaven, without repenting. Click To Tweet

This overzealous application changed indulgences from taking a conciliatory action to making a monetary payment.

This fundraising scheme escalated out of control and further impoverished already poor people, as they spent what little money they had trying to make themselves right with God.

Also, these misguided church leaders sold a full indulgence, which guaranteed a quick release from purgatory upon death—a complete pardon, if you will. In effect, they sold the promise of eternal salvation.

Martin objected to the idea that people could essentially buy their way into heaven, with no need to repent. This led the concerns of Martin Luther

This, and the heretical teaching that accompanied this abuse of indulgences, prompted him to act.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Martin Luther Grew Concerned over the Abuse of Indulgences

Luther’s 95 theses detail his objection to the sale of indulgences

As we consider Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses, it’s important to note that his initial objection centered on the abuse of indulgences, not indulgences themselves. He didn’t object to the concept, but merely how it had morphed into something he found unsupported by scripture.

It’s also an overstatement to suggest he started out opposing many of the church’s practices as unbiblical and in need of reform. Martin sought not to provoke a revolution against the Church, but to spark a civilized, theological debate within its leadership.

He wanted to address what he saw as an overreach of one specific church doctrine.

He preached publicly on this to the laity and sought to discuss his concerns privately with Church leaders. The leaders weren’t interested.

Frustrated, Martin drafted a list of ninety-five points of contention. Some say he wrote on impulse and out of anger. Others insist his concise words resulted from a carefully informed study.

His points of dispute addressed purgatory, a place between heaven and hell. Indulgences, a payment of money to escape purgatory; and the pope’s unbiblical role in this.

Writing in Latin, to keep the uneducated masses from overreacting, Martin intended his ninety-five theses to be a document for the learned that would spark debate among Church leadership and bring about needed reform within the Church.

October 31, 1517

According to legend, and consistent with his fiery personality, here’s what allegedly happened: On October 31, 1517, on the eve of the Feast of All Saints day, he took a hammer and defiantly nailed his list of grievances to the wooden door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

His bold act of rebellion symbolized revolution.

This myth, while compelling, is unlikely. It stands in contrast to his calling to serve the Church and his character as an academic, professor, and preacher.

An alternative understanding shows Martin respectfully posting his theses on the church doors, which served as a bulletin board for the local university housed there.

This wasn’t a show of brazen rebellion, but the accepted practice of the day: attaching a notice, written in Latin, on the church’s door of the items he wanted to debate. Since only learned scholars could read Latin, the masses would have no idea of the issues he raised.

This would allow the Church to consider this issue in isolation.

Martin Luther desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. Click To Tweet

Or so was Martin’s intent. Regardless of which explanation we follow, his action brought attention to his words, but not in the way he hoped.

His attitude wasn’t rebellion, but respect. He desired to offer correction to his beloved Church and change her from within. His short preamble to his list of ninety-five items confirms this. In it, he conveyed his humility and called for a discussion to discern truth.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

You Can’t Buy Salvation: Heaven Is Not For Sale

Some of Martin Luther’s 95 theses counter the practice of buying salvation

Martin Luther objected to the abuse of indulgences; you can’t buy salvation. Though he mentioned the Church and the pope in some of his theses, he focused on the unbiblical excess of this one practice.

Here’s the background:

In a creative, though misguided, fundraising effort, some church leaders began selling full indulgences. Through the purchase of indulgences, people could essentially purchase their salvation. They could also secure the eternal deliverance of others, both dead and alive.

They could buy their way into heaven.

The money raised was supposed to go to Rome to build the new Saint Peter’s Basilica (Church), replacing the old Saint Peter’s. It had stood over a millennium and reportedly served as the burial site for Jesus’s disciple Peter, also recognized as the first pope.

Historians debate how much of the money collected actually made it back to Rome to help erect this shrine, but the promise of payment secured the permission to sell indulgences.

The pope granted this authority to peddle eternal pardons to archbishop Albert of Brandenburg. Albert in turn tapped John Tetzel, among others, to carry this out. Tetzel pursued his assignment with much zeal. In the process, he earned Martin’s ire.

In the years leading up to this approval to market indulgences, Church decisions began to depart from a biblical understanding of salvation. This became a slippery slope that made their latest ruling feasible. The Church headship at that time had become corrupt and greedy.

Ambitious religious leaders no longer saw the papacy as a way to serve God and lead his people. Instead they viewed it as a means to live a life of luxury and wield unrestrained power.

Martin Luther Had Concerns

But Martin objected to the Church selling what Jesus died to give away with no strings attached. You can’t buy salvation.

Martin’s main concern was that a full indulgence removed the need to repent to become right with God. Instead of professing remorse for sins, a person could pay a fee to secure their eternal reward. The price was often disproportionate to their economic condition.

Beyond that, people could purchase the release into heaven for loved ones who had already died. They could also secure a future liberation for those still living.

For these souls, their salvation happened without any action on their part. It wasn’t an act of personal repentance or their decision to purchase forgiveness.

Martin advocated that we become living temples through our bodies instead of constructing church buildings. He placed Saint Peter’s as the least important of all Church structures.

Martin may have considered Saint Peter’s Church last as a matter of hyperbole. However, as the costliest of Church facilities, he saw it as the biggest distraction to people from becoming living temples.

Martin Luther Looked at What the Bible Said

He based this view on what he read in the Bible. Paul wrote that our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we’re built on the foundation formed by the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as our chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).

Ironically, Peter—for whom the building was named—wrote that we are like living stones, which are being built into God’s spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5; also see Ephesians 2:22).

Martin also noted that the wealthy pope already had enough money to finance the new Saint Peter’s Basilica. He had no reason—other than greed—to approve a fundraising campaign.

Yet by him granting authority to Albert to sell indulgences, even more money could pour into the Church’s treasury. This essentially grew the pope’s personal wealth.

Instead of building this grand shrine, Martin advocated giving the money to the poor. These were the very people Tetzel and others fleeced when they hawked indulgences.

Besides, few of Martin’s fellow Germans would ever make a pilgrimage to Rome. They would never see the building they helped finance with their purchases of indulgences.

Martin Luther based his views on what he read in the Bible. Click To Tweet

Martin provided a voice for their simmering angst.

This message resonated with the German people. They had suffered under the corruption of Church leadership and felt the Church in Rome overlooked their plight in Germany.

They also rankled under Martin’s revelation that they had wasted money to purchase indulgences. He said the certificates they received held no value, either in this world or the next.

But Martin Luther had more to say…to be continued.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Christian Living

Should We Deconstruct Christianity?

Celebrate Reformation as an Ongoing Process

If you investigate what the word deconstructionism means, you may encounter a disconnected understanding, which seems to vary depending on the context. At a basic level, to deconstruct means looking at what is and asking, “Why?”

This question opens the door to dismantle status quo conventions and practices to explore the foundation beneath them. Then deconstruction rebuilds on that foundation from an informed perspective. The effort to deconstruct results in the opportunity to reconstruct.

Deconstruction

Deconstructionism is something most Millennials embrace. Though I’m not a Millennial by birth, I do share much of their mindset and many of their ideals. To adapt the present-day lingo, I identify as Millennial.

Most of what I write about in my books and blog posts embrace this underlying theme of deconstruction from a Christian perspective. I look at what is and ask why?

It seems, I’m always wondering, “why?

I dismantle the status quo to its biblical foundation. From there I reconstruct faith practices using Scripture as the basis for truth. For example, at a basic level, I recently looked at the proper posture for prayer. On a more serious note, I also explored how to be saved.

In between these bookends, I’ve examined and attempted to reform a plethora of God-honoring spiritual practices and faith perspectives over the years.

I don’t do this because I’m questioning my faith. I do it to grow my faith and my relationship with Jesus.

Reformation

If the idea to deconstruct concerns you, here’s another word: reform. To me, spiritual deconstruction and reformation are two words with the same lofty goal.

The Protestant Reformation happened five centuries ago, often pinned to the date Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door on October 31, 1517. But this work of Luther and other like-minded Christian inquisitors wasn’t a once-and-done initiative. Reformation is ongoing. And we may need it today more than any other time in the past 500 years.

Though Luther’s reform efforts eventually expanded to cover a wide plethora of unbiblical faith practices, it all started with indulgences. For many followers of Jesus, the word indulgence is an unknown idea and a confusing concept. In simple terms, an indulgence is a way to reduce the amount of punishment for sins by taking an action, such as saying a specific prayer (often a stipulated number of times), going to a certain place, or performing a specified good deed—as in doing penance.

These actions are all admirable, yet in Luther’s day the practice of indulgences expanded to an unbiblical, unhealthy, and selfish level. Indulgences, which, at the risk of oversimplification, allowed people to effectively buy their salvation without repenting or making any effort to follow Jesus. It was a church fundraising effort run amuck.

This practice of indulgences so concerned Luther that he wrote a treatise listing ninety-five concerns he had that related to the churches then practice of indulgences. We refer to this list as Luther’s ninety-five theses. His goal was to reform—that is, to deconstruct and then reconstruct—indulgences.

Though Luther sought a respectful discussion among church leaders about the overreach of indulgences, he lost control of the discussion when his well-meaning followers translated his concerns into German, printed the list, and shared them with the masses. This removed his hope for making an informed and intentional change within the Church.

Many other voices lent their concerns to the church’s practices of the day, with each one pointing toward the need for reform—to deconstruct and reconstruct. But it was Luther’s 95 theses that we often point to as the central impetus for the Protestant Reformation. The date pinned to this Reformation is the above-mentioned October 31, 1517, even though significant reform work by others preceded and followed that date.

The collective result of all this work to deconstruct and reconstruct was a new faith practice, eventually known as Protestantism. Note the root word protest, which is what the movement was: a protest against the Church. For its part, the Roman Catholic church later embarked on its own mini reformation, addressing many of Luther’s concerns.

Let us better inform and reform our spiritual practices to grow our faith and walk closer with our Lord. Click To Tweet

Ongoing Reforms

Many who embrace the Protestant Reformation don’t view reform as a singular act. Instead, they see it as a principal that points to the need for ongoing reformation.

Whether we call this work deconstruct or reform, may we forever ask the imperative question of why? As we do so, let us better reform and inform our spiritual practices to grow our faith and walk closer with our Lord.

Toward that end, I pledge to continue to ask why and will share my conclusions here and in my books.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

Categories
Peter DeHaan News

New Book: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

Have you ever wondered what Martin Luther’s 95 Theses actually said?

If so, you’re not alone. Finally, there’s an accessible guide to Luther’s most revolutionary words.

Martin Luther changed the course of church history. His 95 Theses are considered a groundbreaking document that sparked the Reformation and altered countless lives.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

But most people today have never read them and don’t understand them.

In Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century, Peter DeHaan takes Luther’s contentions and turns them into understandable, bite-sized snippets, short enough to keep your attention. He explains their meaning and makes them accessible for today’s reader.

With a helpful snapshot of Martin Luther’s life, you’ll get an easy-to-understand overview of the historical and religious context of his day, as well as the impact of his history-making document.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses combines a concise history lesson with an easy-to-digest breakdown of each one so that you can:

  • Uncover the basics of the Reformation
  • Learn why Luther was inspired to write his 95 theses
  • Understand Luther’s words in today’s language
  • See how the theses are relevant to your life and your church
  • Discover how his message can inspire and transform your faith today

In Martin Luther’s 95 Theses you’ll get the inside story of what led Luther to post these vital statements and how they apply to people today. A discussion guide to use with your small group is included.

An advocate for authentic church practices, Peter DeHaan, PhD sees reform as an ongoing process in order to advance the kingdom of God. His desire is to encourage Christians to better align their lives with their faith.

Let Martin Luther’s 95 Theses inspire you to learn more about the radical document that changed the course of church history and still impacts people today. You’ll finally understand what Luther’s words mean and how you can apply them to your life.

Get this accessible guide to the 95 Theses and start your journey to a new understanding of Martin Luther’s most important work.

[Martin Luther’s 95 Theses was originally published as 95 Tweets.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.