Joseph Loconte, an associate professor of history at King’s College in New York, wrote an interesting piece about Martin Luther in the Wall Street Journal today (subscription required). Loconte writes:
Luther always elevated the individual believer, armed with the Bible, above any earthly authority. This was the heart of his defiance at the Diet of Worms: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand.” Neither prince nor pope could invade the sanctuary of his conscience. This, he proclaimed, is the “inestimable power and liberty” belonging to every Christian.
It would be hard to imagine a more radical break with centuries of church teaching and tradition. Luther’s intense study of the Bible—part of his anguished quest to be reconciled to God—made these great innovations possible. Convinced that the teachings of Christ had become twisted into an “unbearable bondage of human works and laws,” he preached a gospel of freedom. Salvation, he taught, was a gift from God available to everyone through faith in Jesus and his sacrificial death…
Luther offered more than a theory of individual empowerment. He delivered a spiritual bill of rights. Generations of reformers—from John Locke to Martin Luther King Jr.—would praise his achievement. Half a millennium later, his message of freedom has not lost its power.
As we enter the 500th Anniversary year of the Reformation, it is good to be reminded just how much Martin Luther helped changed the world by the simple pronouncement of freedom that one is saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Throughout the 95 Theses, Luther seeks to balance the role of the Church with the truth of the Gospel. Even as he desired to support the pope and his role in the Church, the false teaching of indulgences and the pope’s unwillingness to freely forgive the sins of all repentant Christians compelled him to speak up against these abuses.
Luther’s pastoral desire for all to trust in Christ alone for salvation drove him to post the 95 Theses. This same faith and hope sparked the Reformation that followed.
Have you ever read Martin Luther’s 95 Theses?
Most people haven’t read them.
And for those who have, they can be slightly difficult to understand.
I received an email note last night from someone calling themselves “the millennial queen,” whatever that means. All I know is that the queen is a freshman in college in Milwaukee. At least that is what she wrote. Her note contained the following hypothetical:
“Pastor, imagine for a moment you’re in a fertility clinic and there is a raging fire all around you. Behind one door, you hear a screaming child. The door to the adjacent room has a container of 1,000 fertilized eggs. You can save only one. Do you save the child or the eggs?”
The motivation behind the hypothetical story is that if a pro-lifer chooses to save the child over the fertilized eggs, then the argument that “life begins at conception” is futile since you could have saved a thousand “children” over the one child behind the door.
And yes, the question was a little odd since she wrote that the door to the adjacent room had the eggs, not the eggs being in the room.
My response: “So, if I save the child, then I’m a hypocrite, and if I save the eggs, I am a … what?A cold-hearted killer? ”
“Let’s play hypothetical for a moment. You’re in a preschool and there is an out of control fire all around you. In one room, you have a crying little boy. The other room, a crying little girl. All things being equal, you only have time to save one child. Whom do you choose? If you choose the girl, does that make you a sexist?