Here is the story, and why I think the Church is back to where it was before the Martin Luther Reformation exactly 500 years ago.
1. Before 1517, everyone belonged to the Roman Catholic Church which was the official religion, with the Pope as the head. The Pope had the final say on all issues concerning religion.
2. Pope Leo X wanted to build a fanciful Church building called St. Peters Basilica in Rome. The building was going to cost him so much. Hence, he decided to raise money from the sale of purgatory.
3. Purgatory was invented by the Catholic Pope during the Crusades in order to get more men into the army. The pope claimed he could buy souls back from hell. His soldiers believed him and the practice continued.
4.The manipulation of the people through the sale of purgatory(Offering God money in order to get God’s favor) infuriated Martin Luther. The same idea of purgatory was why mandatory tithes and offerings got established in the early Church. ‘God gets excited at the sound of coins in the offering plate’.
5. On Oct. 31st, 1517, a Roman Catholic Monk named Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of the Church claiming salvation was by faith alone, among others. He claimed the Pope had no power to forgive sins or collect purgatory.
His 5 pillars were, 1) sola fide( faith alone), 2) sola scriptura (by scriptures alone), 3) solus Christus (through Christ alone), 4)sola gratia (by grace alone), 5)soli deo gloria (for God’s glory alone)
6. The posting of the theses happened at the early beginnings of the invention of the print media, just like today’s internet. Within weeks, Luther’s theses was widespread all over Germany, and all over Europe within months.
7. Before that, nobody had challenged the authority of the Church or Pope and lived. The Church had killed all scientists, historians or anyone who had a contrary view to the Pope. Often burning them publicly or beheading them.
8. Hence, the posting of the Theses was like Martin Luther posting his own death notice.
Ever heard the story of David and Goliath? The Pope was Goliath, Martin Luther was not even a David, he was a worm. The Pope could crush him easily. Somehow, the Pope was not able to. He referred to Luther as a wild boar. Luther often referred to the Pope as a ‘lustful dog’.
9. Martin Luther was summoned by the council of Church and State to recant his writings. He declared he wouldn’t as he was prepared to die for what his conscience believed.
10. Meanwhile, he remained in the Roman Catholic Church as starting another form of Christianity was not his goal. Luther’s mission was to reform the Roman Catholic Church.
11. The Pope declared Luther a non-grata, meaning whoever killed him was doing God a favor. His life was put at risk.
12. Martin Luther was then kidnapped by close friends and hidden in a castle. His physical form was disguised for fear that he would be killed. He had already become so popular in Europe through his writings.
13. While hidden away and in Isolation, he translated the entire Bible for the first time into German from Latin, giving everyone access to the Bible for the first time. From German, it was then translated into other languages.
14. Before Luther’s Bible, the Bible had only existed in Greek and Latin which only Priests had access to. You could be killed if found with a copy of the Bible. This gave the Priests so much power, similar to today’s Priests and Pastors.
15. As more people read the Bible for themselves, revolts broke out all over Europe as people saw how the Church had taken advantage of them over many years. The Pope lost so much power and the Roman Catholic Church became irrelevant. Luther called out the Popes, Bishops, and princes without mincing words, often challenging them to public debates.
16. Because everyone now had the Bible, different sections began to break out of the Catholic Church every man claiming his own revelation. There were the Lutherans, Calvinists, Puritans, Unitarians, Anglicans, and many more. The differences between them are so slight and insignificant.
17. Each of these grew so much in power, became capitalists and began to practice in new forms and with new languages, exactly what the Catholic Church was doing that led to the break out of the reformation in the first place.
18. Denominationalism then became Capitalism. Churches became more about big and beautiful buildings, selling cajoles to people in exchange for money in order to fund the lavish lifestyles.
19. 500 years after, we are back to where it all began. We are practicing that old form of Catholicism. The church now is about money and buildings, tithes and offerings.
20. Who shall write for us another 95 theses?
500 years of the Reformation. We are still bleeding…