A Catholic priest in the small town sent his complaints against the Pope and the Catholic Church on October 31, 1517. Martin Luther sent his Ninety-Five Thesis on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the Archbishop of Main, which criticized the Church and the papacy focused on the practice of priests selling indulgences.
Practice of indulgence was based on the Catholic doctrine that a person must be completely cleansed of all sins before they could be accepted by God. However, for those sins which a person did not repent for before they died, another person can perform specific “good works” as an act of penance on their behalf. Of course, the Church called itself “the minister of redemption” and claimed the authority to prescribe actions that would satisfy God, including specific prayers, pilgrimages, and performance of “good works,” which meant giving money to the Church.
While there were many had protested various issues in the Church, most had focused on the corruption in the life of the Church. Martin Luther, however, attacked the theological root of the problem – the perversion of the Church’s doctrine of redemption and grace. Deploring the entangle
ment of God’s free gift of grace in the complex system of indulgences and good works, he insisted that the pope had no authority over purgatory or heaven.
Luther claimed that the pope, a human being, had no authority in God’s realm, and the Church, a human institution, did not have the ability to cleanse people of their sins. He outlined his call for the ethical and theological reform of the Church, and at the core was Sola Fide, justification by faith, not works.
The 95 Theses argued that the only way to God is through faith, and God is the only one who can determine whose faith is accepted or not. Luther argued that the Church did not have the authority or the power to declare who is and who is not accepted by God. Luther nailed on the church door that the Church was not God.
The 12th-century Church used indulgences to claim the power to say who can access heaven, and the 21st-century Church claims the power to deny access to heaven to the LGBTQIA+ community.
The message of Reformation is that God delights in faith. The 21st-century Church needs to be reformed again. Just as Luther pointed out the theological flaw of the dominant Church at the time, we also need to continue to point out the theological error of conservative evangelicalism. We need to help them see the heresy of their claim of being a God.
The First commandment says there is only one God, and it is not humans.