Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 6 - Why Did People Believe the Indulgence Sellers? (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED TEXT CHURCH HISTORY 02 May 27, 2005 06-CH2 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> DAVID: Hello, Professor Robinson. My name is David. My ministry circumstances couldn't be more different from Josh�s. Yet, I suspect the same tough questions pop up among congregation members everywhere. I'm happy to have the opportunity to try and get a few steps ahead of them. I've been following your explanation of indulgences. You've talked about what the church officially taught about indulgences and what was being preached. Today, if such a discrepancy were that obvious, the sellers of indulgences might have a hard time convincing the public to buy. Why did so many people believe what the indulgence preachers were saying? >> DR. PAUL ROBINSON: Well, David, I think you're absolutely right about people today. And there you hint at probably the main reason people were willing to buy these indulgences. They're really, in many cases, didn't know any better. They�re reliant on what the preachers tell them. And so if a preacher like *Tetzel is telling you that your sins are forgiven if you buy this indulgence, people will tend to believe that. Now, people might not believe that today. They'd be a little more skeptical, a little better informed. And the reason your average Christian would be better informed today has a lot to do with Luther and the Reformation. Although the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, in a lot of ways, did its best to teach people the faith. It wasn't entirely successful, and most people knew very little about what they should believe as Christians. This is something Luther saw and tried to correct. And we'll see more about that later. But lack of knowledge is really the bottom line here. Of course, some people might have been skeptical. You can see that, I think, in the reaction to Luther's theses. Once they were translated into German and widely published, a lot of people read them with great delight and enjoyed the fact that they criticized the church and raised some of these awkward questions. But for all the people who were skeptical, most people in the late Middle Ages were generally concerned about their salvation. Everyone believed in God, and everyone believed in heaven and hell. And most people spent their lives worried about not getting into heaven, worried about how much time they would spend in purgatory, and doing their best not to do anything that would get them consigned to hell. So purgatory is a big issue here. And it's also something that comes up in the theses. Your average Christian in the Middle Ages assumed that he or she would be spending thousands of years in purgatory. So anything like indulgences that promised to lessen that, was probably worth doing. You might say that a lot of people thought about indulgences as an eternal life insurance policy. Whatever you could do to get in purgatory and lessen your time there and finally get in heaven was something that your average medieval Christian was interested in doing. So it's a mindset that was very much present, something that Luther would have to work hard to change in the church. And that difficult work really only began with the 95 Theses.