Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 13 - How Did the Controversy over the 95 Theses Get So Large? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CHURCH HISTORY 02 May 27, 2005 13 CH2 CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY: CAPTION FIRST, INC. P.O. BOX 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 1 800 825 7234 * * * * * This is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * * >> If these Theses were meant only for debate at the university and, as I understand it, written in Latin, how did they cause such a disturbance? Was it a surprise to Luther? Did he intend for the controversy to become so large? >> Well, there are a couple of different answers to that question. The first is: Luther didn't intend to cause a disturbance. He didn't intend the Theses to be published as widely as they were. This happened because the printers in Germany got hold of the copies of the 95 Theses, translated them into German and published them. This was all done without Luther's knowledge, without his approval. But it does give you a sense of how welcome his criticism of the church was in certain areas of Europe. After all, printers didn't bother to translate and print something that they didn't think they could sell. And in the 95 Theses, they realized right away that they had a best seller because it questioned these abuses of the church and because it voiced some criticism of the way things were normally done in the church. Luther did, of course, mean to have a debate among church leadership, and this is getting into the other way to answer the question. I mentioned in regard to the preface to the 95 Theses, in Luther's introduction, he makes a point that he welcomes responses in writing as well as by people actually present at the proposed debate. So he did mean to have a little broader debate than simply the University of Wittenberg. He might have been expecting responses especially from Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. He had sent a copy of the Theses to Albrecht because it was in his name that the indulgences were being sold. Now, Luther assumed at this time that Albrecht would want to know the crazy things that Tetzel was preaching in his name in order to sell indulgences. What Luther found out later was that Albrecht had to sell these indulgences in Germany to pay back a debt, because he had taken out a loan in order to pay the fees that were required of him in order to become Archbishop of Mainz. So what Luther didn't realize at the time was that Albrecht wasn't as interested in the theology of indulgences as he was in raising money from the sale to pay back this debt so that he could occupy this very important position in the church. And this is what I mean when I say that Luther didn't understand, in a way, what he was doing at the time. In fact, as he reflected on this later in his life, in 1545, he said, "I had no idea what a stir I would cause with this. I didn't know that this deal had been arranged with Albrecht and I didn't understand how the Pope would resent my touching his pocketbook." So, in those two ways, Luther didn't desire the debate to take the course it did. But the fact is that happened, and Luther had to respond. And this is where his response became important. If he had simply backed off and apologized and said he didn't mean to do that, the reformation as we know it wouldn't have happened, and he would have been allowed to finish his days peacefully teaching in Wittenberg. But when the matter became public and when people throughout Germany were debating indulgences, Luther stood by what he had said. And even though he hadn't originally intended for the common people to be debating this, he realized they were, and so he preached to them in German about the matter of indulgences and laid out his views on the subject. Well, John Tetzel, among others, replied to this with their defense of indulgence and their attacks on Luther for heresy. As I mentioned before, as we discussed, Luther's views on indulgences weren't terribly different from the official theology of the church. So you wouldn't get very far attacking Luther purely on the matter of indulgences. but a theologian by the name of John Eck, who had previously been a friend of Luther's, now came up with an angle for proving Luther to be a heretic. And that was to assert that in the 95 Theses, Luther had attacked papal power because indulgences were being preached with papal approval. And so that was the course that the debate took in subsequent years. And the issue of indulgences, in a way, was left behind; and papal authority became, really, the primary discussion between Lutheran his opponents for the next couple of years. And, again, that's not an issue that Luther wished to raise in 1517, but he wasn't willing to back off from his ideas about indulgences, either. * * * * * This is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in Order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings * * * *