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October 31, 2001
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Today is Reformation Day, the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517. He was largely criticizing the practice of selling indulgences (forgiveness for sins). He didn't intend to split with the church. He left room for the Pope to slip out of the indulgences corruption. But the Pope didn't, and the split eventually came.
posted by Sean Meade (12 comments total)

 
Wow, and all this time I thought that he'd nailed 95 feces to the door of the church. Imagine my chagrin!
posted by MrBaliHai at 2:46 PM on October 31, 2001


And nearly five hundred years later, what is the record of this split? The Catholic church still claims to be the one and only church blessed by Jesus, although its tenets and what Jesus preached are absolutely incompatible. The churches that split at that time merely gained the permission to interpret scripture in more self-serving ways; from snake handlers to generic Mega churches to Jim Bakker, they are the ideological children of Martin Luther, who was inarguably a great thinker and extremely brave man.

The Catholics and Protestants have fought each other since, falling further away from teachings of love and peace and brotherhood (and sisterhood) of humankind that supposedly form the bedrock of the Christian faith. Of course, this wasn't the first schism of Christianity. The Orthodox church was split nearly a thousand years ago from the Catholics in the Great Schism, and the Unitarians left even before that, as did the Copts. The sectarian splittism that is the legacy of Jesus is the most eloquent critique of Christianity possible. Let us remember today as the anniversary of the beginning date of the revolution of the freedom of conscience.
posted by norm at 4:03 PM on October 31, 2001


today as the anniversary of the beginning date of the revolution of the freedom of conscience.
No matter your religion, we've ALWAYS had a freedom of conscience- that is the most basic gift God gave us. WE have a choice to sin or not to sin (i'm not saying not being Catholic is a sin (yes, i am a Catholic)). What really caused the split is The Pope sent whats called a papal bull to Martin Luther to tell him to retract what he said and Martin Luther burned it. Consqsequently, it caused the Church to excommunicate Martin Luther. if you really look at the 95 thesis, some of the stuff is, well, i think he was smoking crack at the time. Alas, for some reason i think the Reformation was the best thing to happen to the Catholic Chuch. Also, its not like the Reformation is the first split. There have been many splits called heresies from the Church. I don't know why the Church didn't call the break-offs heresies since technicaly they could seing as past differences were.
posted by jmd82 at 4:20 PM on October 31, 2001


I thought it was the "95 Cheeses."
posted by kindall at 5:07 PM on October 31, 2001


The Orthodox church was split nearly a thousand years ago from the Catholics in the Great Schism, and the Unitarians left even before that, as did the Copts.

Er...the Unitarians?

If you're referring to Socinianism, OK, but Unitarianism as a denomination was a post-Reformation innovation, last time I checked. (Although, like the Quakers, Unitarians are generally not considered "Protestants...")
posted by thomas j wise at 5:26 PM on October 31, 2001


So reformation day is the same day as Halloween? Strange. I suspect it's called the Reformation because Luther didn't intend originally to break off, but to reform the Church. It was later that he was officially repudiated by the Church.
posted by Charmian at 5:28 PM on October 31, 2001


humor recognized and smiled at.

sheesh, Nathan. dial it down a notch, okay? my friend, you have an alarming tendency to oversimplify when it comes to religion. in this mode, you rarely give credit where credit is do. every disad becomes a fatal flaw.

since Vatican 2 (late 60s), and even before that, the Catholic church has recognized Christians of other communions. indeed, many of these communions in America have come together in Catholics and Protestants together. we agree on many things.

Protestant churches gained much more. they reclaimed the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2). they reclaimed Scripture, putting it in the hands of the people in the common tongue. when any institution is the only game in the world, it tends toward corruption. the Reformation prompted much needed reforms in the Catholic Church.

some Catholics and Protestants have fought since, but this has often been more cultural than theological.

one of the geniuses of Jesus' work was that He started a movement. He did not start an institution. the resulting institutions are imperfect and corruptible, but the movement can always endure unsullied and is accessible to anyone. Luther's Reformation was one example of this. there are many subsequent. the Wesleys came along and reformed wayward Episcopalianism. Spener came along and reformed wayward Lutheranism.

jmd: i've never heard anyone refer to the 95 theses as the product of someone 'smoking crack'. they make perfect sense in historical context, written more than 400 years ago. how's your history? the Catholic Church was _unbelievably_ corrupt then and bore little resemblance to any reasonable vision of 'church'.
posted by Sean Meade at 7:28 PM on October 31, 2001


sheesh, Nathan. dial it down a notch, okay? my friend, you have an alarming tendency to oversimplify when it comes to religion. in this mode, you rarely give credit where credit is do. every disad becomes a fatal flaw.

Simplification does not prove the 'over.' Jesus said it well, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." (Matthew 5:17) I gave Luther credit for bravery and for standing up for what he believed. Beyond that, sorry for calling it the way I saw it. Please check some of the "Why did God let them hit the WTC?" threads some real polemics.

I am decidedly unimpressed by the Vatican II concessions for one; measured against nearly two thousand years of contrary history it is meaningless. Also, if you recall, the Popes have refused to consider that the church is not key to salvation -- you're still going to hell, Sean (if you buy their line).

one of the geniuses of Jesus' work was that He started a movement.

Christianity's wrong turn was when Christ became the message, rather than the messenger. Excluding the (forgery) John, the other gospels don't have Jesus making many claims about himself. Why is this? Separate the teachings from the later claims, and a whole different picture emerges; an anti-imperial, anti-wealth, revolutionary movement of lower classes reclaiming status and dignity within their culture. What does that have to do with Christianity as we now know it? Moreover, it seems ludicrous to think that only minor sects of upper class white people in America have the benefit of proper doctrine (read: salvation). Or do you believe most Christian sects get that right? My (mainline) Protestant church I grew up indefinitely came down on the "no" side. So many Christians, yet most of them think most of the other Christians are going to hell.

To thomas j wise: you are right-- I got the Unitarianism dates wrong. Mea culpa. First post written from memory, and I was incorrect (not even Socianism saves me; that was sixteenth century).
posted by norm at 9:23 PM on October 31, 2001


Rats. Thought I fixed that in preview. "indefinitely = in definitely."
posted by norm at 9:25 PM on October 31, 2001


My favorite is #14:

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.
posted by anewc2 at 3:21 AM on November 1, 2001


Nathan: oversimplification: you say it isn't. i say it is. guess it's up to each one to decide. i know what real polemics look like. you did give Luther some credit. and i agree that the church has often been corrupt. can we agree that the church, apart from Luther's courage and genius, has often been virtuous and sincere? traditionally i think you've been loathe to allow that.

seeing the proclamation of Jesus as the Word as Christianity's 'wrong turn' is a matter of buying into a minority opinion which has risen in the last 200 years or so. before that, the history of the interpretation of Scripture is fairly even. this is not the place to argue 'what did Jesus really say?'. if you think He didn't say what's attributed to Him in Scripture then we're going to have a hard time talking about what Christianity is and should be (as usual).

however, i agree with you that much Christian practice is far astray, especially in these patriotic days.

fwiw, i would say that Christianity was not so much anti-those things as it introduced a whole new paradigm - the Kingdom of God - where Imperial power is relatively worthless, where you can have lots of money and still lose your soul, where poor people count and Gentiles count and women count.

i don't think that most 'Christians' get their doctrine right, including me. i do think i've got mine more right than most, of course. anything else would be false modesty. and i've worked on it a lot.

but, more, i think we're not judged on doctrine. we're judged in relationship to Jesus. God looks at the heart. trust is what matters. that's why Jesus said we should have the faith of a child. we should trust God like children trust their parents. this doesn't mean check you head at the door. it does mean doctrine isn't everything. just as Luther taught that good works can't save, so neither can good theology. we are saved by grace through faith/trust.
posted by Sean Meade at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2001


can we agree that the church, apart from Luther's courage and genius, has often been virtuous and sincere?

No. Individual members of the church (including many I've known) are virtuous and sincere. The "church" as an edifice is at best amoral, which is amply proven through history.

I don't intend to carry on this debate solely between the two of us; I note with bemusement that our tone is not attractive to the most rabidly anti-intellectual zealots on either side of our debate. However, I do consider one point worth challenging:

seeing the proclamation of Jesus as the Word as Christianity's 'wrong turn' is a matter of buying into a minority opinion which has risen in the last 200 years or so

I really don't think this is true, and it's because the early years (say, up to and including the Council of Nicae) of Christianity was one of purges and coverups; ample "scripture" was banned as heretical and destroyed, lost to history, as was contrary history itself. Just because the Christ-centered theology has been unchallenged since then doesn't mean it has always been that way. Besides, my point earlier was that most Christian opinion is minority opinion, at least to other Christians -- I'm not sure what appeals to popularity do to undercut my point's validity.

If you want to continue you know my email address.
posted by norm at 2:36 PM on November 1, 2001


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