Tag Archives: Roman Catholic

The Roman Catholic Church is Not the Enemy

Martin Luther supported the Roman Catholic Church and did not want to leave her

The name of Martin Luther remains unknown to most in the Roman Catholic Church, and many of those who know of him blame him for dividing Christianity and causing disunity. Yet remember Martin was a Catholic.

He tried to bring about change within the Catholic Church. He didn’t want to start a revolution against her. Only after Church leaders expelled him did Luther resort to pursue a new church practice apart from the Roman Catholic institution.The Roman Catholic Church is Not the Enemy

However, Protestants lessen their Christian heritage if they view Catholics with disdain for pushing Luther away. In the same way, Catholics miss a greater faith perspective if they regard Protestants as rebels. We’re on the same side. We pursue a comparable faith in the same God.

The Bible is common to our faith. Christian unity should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. We must strive to get along. Our unity will point people to Jesus. Our lack of harmony will repel them.

Protestants can celebrate that the Roman Catholic Church later went through its own mini-reformation. This Counter-Reformation corrected many of the errors Luther had pointed out. Though the Roman Catholic Church leaders’ reactions to him (and others like him) sparked the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy of Protestantism. We are not at war.

Though not his intention, Luther, however, did divide the Church. He diluted the Christian stream of Catholicism.

Furthermore, note that Protestantism never enjoyed unity within itself. It started as multiple opposing factions. These groups further divided over the centuries that followed to become 43,000 splintered denominations today. For all the good the Protestant Reformation accomplished, the painful outcome produced massive division, something the Roman Catholics have smartly avoided.

The Roman Catholic Church’s initial response to Luther and his criticism of their practices was opposition. This stands as a typical posture of an institution when attacked. Yet, their attitude went beyond resistance to Martin’s words. They grew hostile, both vicious and vile, toward his person. Though not excusable, we can understand this reaction.

The Catholic hostility toward Luther continued for over four centuries. A turning point came in 1937 when Joseph Lortz, a Catholic professor, published a two-volume book on Luther. His work provided a balanced, scholarly review of Luther. This advanced a better understanding for Catholics of this much-maligned man.

Lortz’s work provided a path to thaw Catholicism’s icy attitude toward Luther. Aided by the later ecumenical efforts of Pope John XXII and the second Vatican Council (1962-63), the culmination of Lortz’s work may have occurred in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI spoke in Germany, to Lutherans, about Luther in a positive way. Though this didn’t resolve the issue, it served to reorient attitudes. Christian unity should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. Click To Tweet

To move forward, we can embrace both Catholicism and Protestantism as equal facets of Christianity. We both follow the teaching of Jesus, albeit from different historical traditions. With much more to unite than to divide, both groups must acknowledge that neither approach to faith is error-free or superior, just different.

More importantly, Jesus desires we pursue Christian unity. In his prayer before his death, he pleaded that we, his future followers, would be one, just as he and the Father are one. TThe Roman Catholic Church in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanhis harmony will let the world know that the Father sent Jesus to us, John 17:21, 23. May Catholics and Protestants work together to point the world to God the Father, through Jesus.

May we pursue unity.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Martin Luther Sought Reform and Unity

The Church opposed Martin Luther and eventually excommunicated him

Longing for unity, Martin didn’t want to see the church divided. But when reconciliation didn’t happen, he had no choice but to form a new church practice aligned with what the Bible taught and apart from the Church he loved. A new faction of Christianity emerged, one separate from the Catholic Church.

In the end, Martin realized the changes he sought, but instead of the Catholic reformation he desired, he ended up with the Protestant Reformation he never intended.Martin Luther Sought Reform and Unity

Not only did October 31, 1517 mark a turning point in the history of the Christian church but also in the life of Martin Luther. At that moment, just short of his thirty-fourth birthday, his life would forever change.

At first Pope Leo X dismissed Luther’s ninety-five theses as the work of a drunk monk, who would think better of his words once he became sober. As the Church tried to ignore Luther, the groundswell of interest that followed the publication of his theses made this impossible.

The Church attempted to silence him, using increasingly severe methods. First they made several attempts to force him to recant his views. When that failed, they tried to manipulate him into making a public statement they could label as heretical. Though they came close to succeeding, Martin dodged their carefully-planned scheme before they could snare him.

The Church also ordered Luther to appear in Rome to defend himself. Martin, along with his supporters, knew this ruse would result in his death. For, once in Rome, he could be easily arrested, imprisoned, and left there to die. A change in venue, perhaps through the intervention of an ally, removed the immediate threat of death; however, he still needed to evade a rumored arrest attempt as he traveled to the meeting’s new location.

These were not the only occasions he faced danger. Other times, in fear for his safety, supporters—often students—armed with sticks and clubs went with Martin to protect him. On one occasion they numbered two hundred. Pope Leo X demanded Martin Luther recant his views or be excommunicated. Click To Tweet

Yet another time, Martin’s adversaries maneuvered him into publicly admitting that the pope could be in error. This provided the damning evidence they sought. Pope Leo X demanded Luther recant or be excommunicated. Attempts by his supporters to broker a solution failed. The pope expelled Martin Luther from the Church on January 3, 1521.

Martin Luther excommunicated. Read 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanAfter that, Martin hid in a castle in Wartburg, posing for a time as a knight. Safely protected there, he translated the New Testament into German. Though other German translations existed, these all had a regional focus and weren’t accessible to all Germans. Luther’s translation addressed this and connected with all the people in his country.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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 Concerns of Martin Luther

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.

Conerns of Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanAlso, 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, and the heretical teaching that accompanied this abuse of indulgences, prompted him to act.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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).

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 Turning Point for Martin Luther

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.

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.

Learn about the turning point for Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanYet 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.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

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.The Early Years of Martin Luther

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, 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. 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.

The Early Years of Martin Luther in 95 Tweets - Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaanYet 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.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Tweeting Martin Luther

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.500 years ago, Martin Luthers' 95 theses went viral

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.

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 Luther’s talking points 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.

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.Tweeting Martin Luther in 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century, by Peter DeHaan

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.

This is from Peter DeHaan’s book 95 Tweets: Celebrating Martin Luther in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible

Many streams of Christianity include the books of the Apocrypha as part of their canon of scripture

Christians Should Consider the Entire BibleThe book of Revelation ends with a severe threat to anyone who would add to it, that God will afflict that person with the plagues mentioned therein.

Though the warning clearly applies to the book of Revelation—“the words of the prophecy of this scroll”—some people, even preachers who should know better, wrongly apply this omen to the words of the entire Bible instead of just Revelation.

Adding to their error, they proceed to criticize the Roman Catholic Church (as well as other streams of Christianity) for “adding to the Bible.” Shame on these preachers; they don’t know their history. It was Protestants who removed content from the Bible, but this didn’t happen five hundred years ago during the beginning of the Protestant Reformation but more recently: about two centuries ago. Until then the books of the Apocrypha were part of the King James Version, the venerable KJV.

Yes, you may be shocked to know the original King James Version of the Bible (1611) included the Apocrypha. About two hundred years later the books of the Apocrypha were removed from the KJV. (This officially started in 1796 but took until the mid-1800s to effectively occur). This news stunned me and angered me that people had removed part of the Bible, lessening my ability to more fully comprehend God in the process.

Fundamentalists call the four hundred year gap in their Bible, between the Old and New Testaments, “the silent years” because they believe God had nothing to say or do. In reality, the Apocrypha clearly shows God at work during this time, but these fundamentalists don’t know this truth because they’re unwilling to consider what God had to say.

I’ve read and appreciate the seven books, along with additional text for two others, that Catholics have in their Bible and Protestants don’t. I wish I had encountered these amazing words much sooner. The books of the Apocrypha were part of the original KJV Bible. Click To Tweet

I recently received a copy of the text removed from the KJV Bible (Apocrypha, Authorized King James Version). I expected it to include seven books. Instead there were fourteen. Now I’m twice as mad about what was taken away from today’s Protestant Bible and its sixty-six books.

But that’s not all. The canon of the Ethiopia Bible (The Apocrypha: Including Books from the Ethiopic Bible) contains even more. This Bible has eighty-one books in all, fifteen more than the Protestant’s sixty-six. I’m currently reading these books of the greater Bible. This will help me better understand God, just as other parts of the greater church of Jesus are able to do.

(There are also other historical writings, contemporary to the contents of the Bible, but since no stream of Christianity has included them in their canon of scripture, I’m content to follow their lead. Though I’m a bit curious about what these nonbiblical texts have to say, I’ll ignore them and hide only God’s word in my heart, Psalm 119:11.)

The Bible provides the foundation of my faith. As a Christian, part of the universal church of Jesus, I contend we should consider all of the words any part of Christianity includes in their canon of scripture. As I do this, I don’t expect my core theology to change, but I do expect it to expand into a more holistic comprehension of God.

Don’t dismiss the words of the Apocrypha. If you’re a serious student of the Bible, then you need to consider the whole Bible.

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In Jesus We Are the Same: It’s Time We Start Embracing One Another

In Jesus We Are the SamePaul writes that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Jewish or Greek, slave or free, male or female, circumcised, uncircumcised, barbarian, or uncivilized (1 Corinthians 1:10). Stop to think about this, to really contemplate the ramifications. He tells us to break down all divisions over ethnicity, social status, gender, and religious practices.

Paul wants us to function as one and live in unity. In the same way Jesus wants us to live as one, just as he and his Father exist as one (John 17:21).

Today we need to apply this vision for unity to the church Jesus started. We need to add that when we follow Jesus there’s no real difference between being Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant; Mainline, Evangelical, or Charismatic.

But to our shame we divide Jesus’s church. We live in disharmony. We fight with each other over our traditions and our practices and how we comprehend God. We spar over worship style, song selection, and a myriad of other things that relate to church practices and right living. Or to avoid these errors we simply ignore one another, and that’s almost as bad.

But the world is watching, and they judge Jesus through our actions. They test what we say by the things we do. And we fail their test.

With our words we talk about how Jesus loves everyone and with our deeds we diminish our brothers and sisters in Jesus with a holier-than-thou discord. If we can’t love those in the church, how can we love those outside the church?

It’s no wonder the world no longer respects the church of Jesus and is quick to dismiss his followers. We bring it upon ourselves with our church splits and 42,000 Protestant denominations, with our petty arguments over practices and theology and everything in between.

But with a couple billion Christians, mostly living life contrary to God’s will by not getting along with each other, what can you and I do to truly make a difference?Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your practice of following Jesus. Click To Tweet

We can change this one person at a time. Find another Christian who goes to a church radically different than yours (or who has dropped out of church) and embrace them as one in Christ.

If you are a mainline Christian, find a charismatic follower of Jesus and get to know him or her. If all your friends are evangelicals, go to Mass and make some new friends. If all the Christians you know look just like you, find some who look differently. Diversify your Christian relationships to expand your understanding of what following Jesus truly looks like.

It’s time we embrace one another. The whole world is watching.

How can we live out Paul’s command to break down our divisions? What is the biggest obstacle to us living in the unity Jesus prayed for?

Reflecting on Church #50: Best in Class

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #50.

This church holds five services each weekend, and we attended the first one. I was disappointed over the lack of college students present, despite its proximity to campus. I doubt many students would attend the two Sunday morning services either, but I wonder about the two Sunday evening ones. I suspect a different demographic shows up then. Maybe I’ll make a return visit but on a Sunday evening, hoping to meet some college students. Would those services be different or are all five the same?

Of the three Roman Catholic churches we attended, this one interests me the most. The people were more friendly, the structure less formal, and the message more accessible than my other two experiences. Even so, they still have a way to go to match some of the more engaging Protestant churches we’ve attended.

If I wanted a Catholic experience, this would be my go-to church. Yet I also know a steady diet of it wouldn’t be good for me. It’s a nice place to visit, but finding true community there would be a challenge.

[See my reflections about Church #49 and Church #51 or start at the beginning of our journey.]

Reflecting on Church #18: More Liturgy, More Struggles

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #18.

We’ve now been to three liturgical services (Church #5, 17, and 18), and I’ve struggled at each one. I’m quite sure God is present, but we don’t connect. I could blame the church, the priest, or tradition, but it’s no one’s fault but my own.

The people arrive silently, worship subtly, and exit quickly. Without interaction, connection, or community, I leave feeling alone and isolated. The ritual and rhythm of Catholic practices intrigue me, but the impersonal nature of their gathering discourages me.

God, may I learn how to connect with you in all settings and circumstances. May my worship be sincere and true, regardless of the style of church service.

[See my reflections about Church #17 and Church #19 or start with Church #1.]