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THE 95 THESES ^ | 2/3/02 | Martin Luther

Posted on 05/02/2002 10:18:42 PM PDT by RnMomof7


by Martin Luther

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.

11. Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept (Mt 13:25).

12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.

14. Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.

17. It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.

18. Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.

19. Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.

20. Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.

21. Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.

22. As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.

23. If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.

24. For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.

25. That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.

26. The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.

30. No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

38. Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.

40. A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.

41. Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

44. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.

46. Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

47. Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48 Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

55. It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.

57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.

61. For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.

62. The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last (Mt. 20:16).

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.

68. They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.

71. Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.

72. But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.

73. Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.

74. Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.

75. To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.

76. We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.

77. To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78. We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Co 12[:28].

79. To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.

82. Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.

83. Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"

84. Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"

85. Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"

86. Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"

87. Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"

88. Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"

89. "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"

90. To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! (Jer 6:14)

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!

94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: 95theses; calvin; catholic; catholiclist; gospel; luther; martinluther; pope; protestant; rcc; reformation; theology; truth
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The 95 Theses and their Results (1517-1519)


From 1514 Luther was not only theology professor at Wittenberg University but also the priest at the City Church in Wittenberg. So he was also responsible for the salvation of his parish.

Luther observed that many people in Wittenberg were not coming to him for confession any more. They were going to towns in Brandenburg or Anhalt like Jüterbog or Zerbst to buy Indulgences (primarily the Peter's Indulgence).

The practice of buying indulgences, which quasi replaced confession and allowed people to buy their salvation, was completely repulsive to Luther. He strongly believed that one lived a life of humility in order to receive God's grace.

The rest of the story

Martin Luther changed the face of the "church " with a nail, and a piece of paper

I thought it might be interesting to see how all of us would see those articles today..

1 posted on 05/02/2002 10:18:42 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: Claud; dadwags ;SoothingDave;al_c;Notwithstanding...
For discussion... Looking at it today, are there things modern Catholics can agree with? Are there things that the diverse protestant body disagrees with.?
2 posted on 05/02/2002 10:22:29 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Thanks, good post,...thought provoking and holy directed.
3 posted on 05/02/2002 10:32:44 PM PDT by Cvengr
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To: Cvengr
Sorry I did not flag you.
4 posted on 05/02/2002 10:39:06 PM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Thanks for the post.
5 posted on 05/02/2002 11:16:06 PM PDT by irishtenor
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To: RnMomof7; Catholic_list

Myth 1: A person can buy his way out of hell with indulgences.

This is a common misunderstanding, one that-anti-Catholic commentators take advantage of, relying on the ignorance of both Catholics and non-Catholics. But the charge is without foundation. Since indulgences remit only temporal penalties, they cannot remit the eternal penalty of hell. Once a person is in hell, no amount of indulgences will ever change that fact. The only way to avoid hell is by appealing to God's eternal mercy while still alive. After death, one's eternal fate is set (Heb. 9:27).

Myth 2: A person can buy indulgences for sins not yet committed.

The Church has always taught that indulgences do not apply to sins not yet committed. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "[An indulgence] is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power."

Myth 3: A person can "buy forgiveness" with indulgences.

The definition of indulgences presupposes that forgiveness has already taken place: "An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven" (Indulgentarium Doctrina norm 1). Indulgences in no way forgive sins. They deal only with punishments left after sins have been forgiven.

Myth 4: Indulgences were invented to money for the Church.

Indulgences developed from reflection on the sacrament of reconciliation. They are a way of shortening the penance of sacramental discipline and were in use centuries before money-related problems appeared.

Myth 5: An indulgence will shorten your time in purgatory by a fixed number of days.

The number of days which used to be attached to indulgences were references to the period of penance one might undergo during life on earth. The Catholic Church does not claim to know anything about how long or short purgatory is in general, much less in a specific person's case.

Myth 6: A person can buy indulgences.

The Council of Trent instituted severe reforms in the practice of granting indulgences, and, because of prior abuses, "in 1567 Pope Pius V canceled all grants of indulgences involving any fees or other financial transactions" (Catholic Encyclopedia). This act proved the Church's seriousness about removing abuses from indulgences.

Myth 7: A person used to be able to buy indulgences.

One never could "buy" indulgences. The financial scandal around indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms-indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: "[I]t is easy to see how abuses crept in. Among the good works which might be encouraged by being made the condition of an indulgence, almsgiving would naturally hold a conspicuous place. . . It is well to observe that in these purposes there is nothing essentially evil. To give money to God or to the poor is a praiseworthy act, and, when it is done from right motives, it will surely not go unrewarded."

This article was taken from the November 1994 issue of "This Rock," published by Catholic Answers, P.O. Box 17490, San Diego, CA 92177, (619) 541-1131, $24.00 per year. Used by Permission. Copyright (c) 1996 by James Akin. All Rights Reserved.

6 posted on 05/03/2002 12:45:50 AM PDT by oremus
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To: RnMomof7
One of the causes of the Reformation was the selling of indulgences. Does the Catholic Church still sell them?

That's like asking, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" The Catholic Church does not now or has it ever approved the sale of indulgences. This is to be distinguished from the undeniable fact that individual Catholics (perhaps the best known of them being the German Dominican Johann Tetzel [1465-1519]) did sell indulgences--but in doing so they acted contrary to explicit Church regulations. This practice is utterly opposed to the Catholic Church's teaching on indulgences, and it cannot be regarded as a teaching or practice of the Church.

In the sixteenth century, when the abuse of indulgences was at its height, Cardinal Cajetan (Tommaso de Vio, 1469-1534) wrote about the problem: "Preachers act in the name of the Church so long as they teach the doctrines of Christ and the Church; but if they teach, guided by their own minds and arbitrariness of will, things of which they are ignorant, they cannot pass as representatives of the Church; it need not be wondered that they go astray."

The Council of Trent (1545-1564) issued a decree that gave Church teaching on indulgences and that provided stringent guidelines to eliminate abuses:

Since the power of granting indulgences was conferred by Christ on the Church (cf. Matt. 16:19, 18:18, John 20:23), and she has even in the earliest times made use of that power divinely given to her, the holy council teaches and commands that the use of indulgences, most salutary to the Christian people and approved by the authority of the holy councils, is to be retained in the Church, and it condemns with anathema those who assert that they are useless or deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them. In granting them, however, it desires that in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church moderation be observed, lest by too great facility ecclesiastical discipline be weakened. But desiring that the abuses which have become connected with them, and by any reason of which this excellent name of indulgences be blasphemed by the heretics, be amended and corrected, it ordains in a general way by the present decree that all evil traffic in them, which has been a most prolific source of abuses among the Christian people, be absolutely abolished. Other abuses, however, of this kind which have sprung from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from whatever other sources, since by reason of the manifold corruptions in places and provinces where they are committed, they cannot conveniently be prohibited individually, it commands all bishops diligently to make note of, each in his own church, and report them to the next provincial synod" (Sess. 25, Decree on Indulgences).

In 1967 Pope Paul VI reiterated Catholic teaching on indulgences and added new reforms in his apostolic constitution Indulgentarium Doctrina (cf. Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery, O.P. [Northport, New York: Costello, 1980], 62-79).

Copyright © 1994 Catholic Answers. Reprinted with permission from the April 1994 issue of This Rock magazine.

7 posted on 05/03/2002 1:00:04 AM PDT by oremus
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To: RnMomof7


8 posted on 05/03/2002 1:03:20 AM PDT by oremus
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To: Catholic_list
When considering the concept of indulgences, it may also be helpful to understand the necessity of PENANCE for sins:

Doing Penance by James Akin

In the piece on temporal and eternal salvation we commented on the statement from Proverbs 16:6, "By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of Yahweh a man avoids evil." At the time we noted that the kind of atonement this verse was referring to is temporal atonement. Now we are ready to look at the concept of temporal atonement in more depth, for the biblically-mandated practice of temporal atonement is the same as the practice of doing penance over one's sins. Penances can be formal (such as setting a day of fasting) or informal (such as deliberately going out of one's way to be nice to someone), but they amount to the same thing.

In this regard, it is helpful to note that Protestants, especially those who assert that it is impossible to lose salvation, often stress the difference between forgiveness and fellowship. They will point out, rightly, that even when the eternal consequences of one's sins have been forgiven, one's relationship with God can still be impaired. Thus even though one is in a state of eternal forgiveness--what Catholics call the state of grace--one may still need to repent in order to restore one to fellowship, or at least full fellowship, with God.

It is in this sense that love and faithfulness atone for iniquity, and this is the concept behind the historic Christian practice of penance. Anti-Catholics often base their attacks on the practice of doing penances to atone, make reparations, or for one's sins. However, they fail to realize that the atonement penances involve is temporal rather than eternal. Catholics are not trying to pay off the eternal debt of their sins by doing penance. Christ paid all that off in one fell swoop almost two thousand years ago. No more payment of the eternal debt of our sins is needed. In fact, no more payment of the eternal debt of our sins is possible. And though it would surprise many Protestants to learn it, this precise point was vigorously and vociferously stressed by the Medieval Catholics that Protestants (wrongly) credit with coming up with the whole system of penances.

These Christians recognized the fact that Christ's merits on the cross were superabundant, that is, more than enough to cover the debt of our sins. This fact is often ignored and sometimes even denied in Protestant preaching, as when some Protestants, especially Calvinists, claim that Christ's sufferings were sufficient but not more than sufficient to cover the sins of the elect, but the Medieval Christians understood it.

The great Medieval saint and doctor of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, for example, writes: "[B]y suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion, and the greatness of the grief endured, as stated above. And therefore Christ's Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race; according to 1 Jn. 2:2: 'He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world'" (Summa Theologiae 3:48:2).

This teaching was by no means unique to Aquinas, but has been the common teaching of Catholics both before and since him, as it is to this day. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The Christian tradition sees in this passage an announcement of the 'New Adam' who, because he 'became obedient unto death, even death on a cross,' makes amends superabundantly for the disobedience, of Adam" (CCC 411).

Yet this teaching is then a puzzlement for Protestants who deny the need for penances. "If Christ's sufferings were more than sufficient," they ask, "why then should we do penances?"

There are three answers for this: First, remember the former section on forgiveness and fellowship, and how we saw that even if a person is in a state of forgiveness they may have impaired fellowship with God and need to correct this? Acts of sorrow over one's sins (penances) are a key way in which this is done. Thus, as we will see below, people in both testaments of the Bible would do penances in order to restore fellowship with God by mourning for their sins.

Second, when God remits the eternal penalty for a sin, he may (and often does) choose to leave a temporal penalty to be dealt with. Thus when he forgave David for his sin concerning Uriah, he still left David the temporal punishment of having his infant son die and having the sword pass through his house (2 Sam. 12:13ff). Similarly, when Moses struck the rock a second time God forgave him (for Moses was obviously one of the saved, as his appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration illustrates), though he still suffered the temporal penalty of not being allowed to go into the promised land (Num. 20:12). And finally, even physical death itself is a temporal penalty that is our due because of original sin, and it is a penalty which remains even when our sins are forgiven by Christ. Forgiven Christians still die.

Why does God leave or implement some temporal penalties in place when he removes the eternal penalties for our sins? Part of this is a mystery, since Christ's sufferings are surely sufficient to cover even the temporal penalties of our sins. However, one reason is to teach us our lesson. Sometimes (in fact, often) one learns one's lesson far better if one has not just a head knowledge that what one did was wrong, but if one has an experiential knowledge of its wrongness through feeling negative consequences. Thus parents often allow their children to burn their fingers a few times or tell them, "Look, I've forgiven you and we all friends again, but you're still going to have to be grounded/get a whipping/etc." Thus the Bible tells us:

"And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? -- 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed" (Heb. 12:5-13).

God thus often leaves in place a portion of the temporal retribution we deserve that this chastisement, on the model of punishing a child, may have a rehabilitative effect on us. Penance is one way in which we willingly embrace this discipline in order to learn from it, just as a godly child may consciously embrace his parent's discipline (see my piece A Primer on Indulgences for further discussion of this issue).

Third, humans have an inner need to mourn over tragedies, as indicated by the fact Christ himself wept and mourned over tragedies, such as when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus or wailed over the faith of Jerusalem. This inner need must not be short-circuited; humans must be allowed to feel grief over tragedies (a fact which became very apparent to me when my wife died). And because our sins are tragedies, we have an innate need to mourn over them. We also have an inner need to make a gesture of reparation for our sins, even when real reparation is impossible. These are things penance does -- allow us to feel the grief we innately have and need to express when we have done wrong and repented.

Unfortunately, in Evangelical circles this process is often completely short-circuited. People will immediately be told, "Hey, Jesus has forgiven all your sins! Now stop mourning them!" This is exactly like immediately telling a person whose spouse has died, "Hey, Jesus has taken your wife to heaven! Now stop mourning her!" In other words, it is an insane, idiotic and harmful thing to do.

Of course, if a person mourns too much for their sins and fixates on them then he must be discouraged, just as if a man mourns too much for his wife and fixates on her death then he must be discouraged and told to get on with his life. But the point is that this must not be done right after her death, and in the same way a person must not be told to stop morning for his sins right after he has repented of them. To do so shuts down a psychological process that he innately needs to go through -- the mourning of a tragedy -- a process to which even the sinless Jesus himself naturally underwent.

For all of these reasons we can see how, even though Christ's atonement was superabundant to cover both the temporal and the eternal consequences of our sins, we still have a need to mourn our sins, God still often leaves in place a temporal punishment even when he has remitted the eternal one (as, for example, to teach us our lesson), and we still need to have fellowship restored with God even when we are in a state of forgiveness. It is these things that the discipline of penance allows us to pursue.

And this has been recognized by God's people all throughout the ages. The system of penance goes back beyond the middle ages, through the patristic age, through the New Testament, and into the Old Testament. It has been part of the religion of Yahweh since before the time of Christ, it was part of the religion of Christ and his first followers, and it has been part of Christianity ever since. It was not until the rise of Protestantism that anyone in Christendom thought to deny it.

As always, a few pertinent quotes will help to document this fact. Virtually nobody who has read the Old Testament will deny that the ancient Jews did acts of penance--external deeds of sorrow and reparation for sins--as part of their spiritual discipline.

Thus before the time of Christ we read:

"Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before Yahweh. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to Yahweh.' (Judges 20:26)

"When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite: 'Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son'" (1 Kings 21:27-29)

"Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of Yahweh, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from Yahweh; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him" (2 Chronicles 20:3-4)

"There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, 'The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.' So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer" (Ezra 8:21-23).

"The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.' When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven" (Nehemiah 1:1-4).

"The Lord, Yahweh Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! 'Let us eat and drink,' you say, 'for tomorrow we die!'" (Isaiah 22:12-13).

"So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes" (Daniel 9:3).

"Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of Yahweh your God, and cry out to Yahweh" (Joel 1:13-14)

"'Even now,' declares Yahweh, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' . . . Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly" (Joel 2:12, 15).

Especially informative here are the passages where God himself or where his prophet commands fasting or other penance. These passages show that the practice of penance has God's endorsement.

It is also instructive when God explains the purpose of fasting as a means of humbling oneself before the him. Because they have rejected the ancient Christian practice of penance, Evangelicals often have a hard time understanding the reason for fasting. I remember when I was a Presbyterian having one otherwise very sharp PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) teaching elder tell me that the idea behind fasting was to give yourself more time to pray by skipping lunch/dinner/whatever. When one reads what the Bible has to say about fasting, one realizes how laughable this answer is. The purpose of skipping the meal(s) is not to generate more time but to humble (or, to put it more bluntly, to humiliate) oneself before the Lord and thus seek his favor from a state of humility (more bluntly, a state of humiliation).

And of course the idea of fasting, like other penances, is clearly endorsed in the New Testament:

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:16-18).

"Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, 'How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?' Jesus answered, 'How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast" (Mark 2:18-20).

"While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:2-3).

"Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust" (Acts 14:23).

"Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:8-10).

"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth" (Revelation 11:3).

Protestants often skim over these verses without thinking about them or taking them seriously. This is shown especially in sermons on the passage from James. Protestant pastors will often tell their congregations to humble themselves before the Lord so that they will be lifted up, but they completely rob the self-humbling (more bluntly, self-humiliation) of all its content because they fail to tell the congregations to humble themselves in the way James has indicated, i.e., "grieve, mourn, and wail; change your laughter into mourning and your joy into gloom." Instead they will be told (if they are believers) that they don't need to do any of that to humble themselves because they have already been forgiven by Christ or (if they are unbelievers) that they don't need to do any of that to humble themselves before the Lord because all they have to do is say and believe a little prayer and Jesus will take away from them all need of mourning and weeping over their sins. The way this passage is normally preached in Protestant circles, the only people who need to wail and mourn are those who don't repent and thus who don't humiliate themselves before God. The minute a person repents and humbles himself, in a Protestant church he will be told he doesn't need to do any of the weeping and mourning and wailing James tells him to as part of his self-humbling.

And of course, if we find the penitential discipline in the Old Testament and the New Testament, it goes without saying that it is found right throughout the patristic age.

Thus around A.D. 70 the Didache tells us: "Before the baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days. . . . [After becoming a Christian] Do not let your fasts be with the hypocrites. They fast on Monday and Thursday, but you shall fast on Wednesday and Friday" (Didache 7:1, 8:1).

Around A.D. 80 Pope Clement I tells the Corinthian rebels: "You, therefore, who laid the foundation of the rebellion [in your church], submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility" (Letter to the Corinthians 57).

Around A.D. 110, Ignatius of Antioch wrote: "For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ" (Letter to the Philadelphians 3).

Around A.D. 203, Tertullian records the practice of Christians and says: "Likewise, in regard to days of fast, many do not think they should be present at the sacrificial prayers [at the Eucharist], because their fast would be broken if they were to receive the Body of the Lord. Does the Eucharist, then obviate a work devoted to God, or does it bind it more to God? Will not your fast be more solemn if, in addition, you have stood at God's altar? The Body of the Lord having been received and reserved, each point is secured: both the participation in the sacrifice and the discharge of duty [concerning fasting]" (Prayer 19:1-4).

Around A.D. 253, Cyprian of Carthage writes: "[S]inners may do penance for a set time, and according to the rules of discipline come to public confession, and by imposition of the hand of the bishop and clergy receive the right of communion" (Letters 9:2).

Around A.D. 388 Jerome writes: "If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound . . . then his brother and his master, who have the word [of absolution] that will cure him, cannot very well assist him" (Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:11).

Around A.D. 395, Augustine instructs his catechumens: "When you shall have been baptized, keep to a good life in the commandments of God so that you may preserve your baptism to the very end. I do not tell you that you will live here without sin, but they are venial sins which this life is never without. Baptism was instituted for all sins. For light sins, without which we cannot live, prayer was instituted. . . . But do not commit those sins on account of which you would have to be separated from the body of Christ. Perish the thought! For those whom you see [at the church] doing penance have committed crimes, either adultery or some other enormities. That is why they are doing penance. If their sins were light, daily prayer would suffice to blot them out. . . . In the Church, therefore, there are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptisms, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance" (Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed 7:15, 8:16).

So as we can see, the practice of penance has been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ, at the time of Christ, and after the time of Christ, nobody thinking to deny it until the Protestant Reformers came and gutted the historic Christian faith. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright (c) 1996 by James Akin. All Rights Reserved.

9 posted on 05/03/2002 1:12:34 AM PDT by oremus
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To: RnMomof7
Boy, you really like a challenge, Rn!
10 posted on 05/03/2002 6:23:22 AM PDT by anniegetyourgun
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To: RnMomof7
We need a Luther with a nail today.
11 posted on 05/03/2002 6:40:04 AM PDT by ppaul
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To: RnMomof7
Isn't it interesting that Martin Luther had a completely different view of indulgences than his 21st century critics?

(A little "revisionist history" perhaps?)

12 posted on 05/03/2002 6:59:36 AM PDT by Jerry_M
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To: oremus
Excellent post. I agree with virtually everything the author stated including that a lot of evangelicals proclaim that Christ said: "It is finished", and then assume that there is no need for any additional repentance. My question to the catholics is: How does paying for indulgences accomplish the humility the author was speaking of in the essay you posted?

31. The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.

13 posted on 05/03/2002 7:30:54 AM PDT by lockeliberty
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To: ppaul
We agree PPaul...we have substituted the "can't we all just get along Theology "of tolerance inplace of contending for the faith.
14 posted on 05/03/2002 7:58:22 AM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: oremus
I did not ask for a explaination of indulgences TODAY (which I would still reject) But rather how everyone looked at Luther's 95 observations, that changed the face of the church forever....both the RC church (as they led to reforms there) and the Protestant churches..that do not all agree with Luther today.
15 posted on 05/03/2002 8:02:43 AM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Luther, as evidenced by his own writings, was emotionally imbalanced.

"Most Holy Father, prostrate at the feet of your Holiness, I offer myself with all that I am and have . . . I will acknowledge thy voice as the voice of Christ."
{Letter to Pope Leo X, May 30, 1518}

"The true Antichrist, according to Paul, reigns in the Roman Court: I think I am able to prove that he [the Pope] is now worse than the Turks."
{Letter to Wenceslaus Link, December 11, 1518}

"I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity . . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted . . . It is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better."
{Letter to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519}

"I do not know whether the Pope is Antichrist himself, or his Apostle: so miserably is Christ (that is, truth) corrupted and crucified by him in the decrees."
{Letter to Georg Spalatin, March 13, 1519}

Inasmuch as I know for certain that I am right, I will be judge above you and above all the angels, as St. Paul says, that whoever does not accept my doctrine cannot be saved. For it is the doctrine of God, and not my doctrine; therefore my judgment also is God's and not mine . . . It would be better that all bishops were murdered, and all abbeys and cloisters razed to the ground, than that one soul should perish . . . If they will not listen to God's Word . . . what can more justly befall them than a violent upheaval which shall root them out of the earth? And we would smile did it happen. All who contribute body, goods . . . that the rule of the bishops may be destroyed are God's dear children and true Christians. {Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522}

The Orthodox vs. The Heterodox Luther

16 posted on 05/03/2002 8:51:30 AM PDT by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

So you still disagree with this?

17 posted on 05/03/2002 9:54:12 AM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: SMEDLEYBUTLER;;anniegetyourgun;OrthodoxPresbyterian; Jerry_M;the_doc;CCWoody
So was Luther nuts? Is that your point?

I am old enough to remember the teaching of "buying "time off purgatory time for loved ones with roseries and masses and saying indulgences. Not much different than as Luther put it the sound of coins in the box..

I posted this thread with the hope that some RC's could agree that there were needed reforms in the church that Luther had a hand in prompting...but the same inability to admit to ANY ERROR is what keeps Cardnial Law in his position of power....

18 posted on 05/03/2002 10:11:58 AM PDT by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
You didn't read the material, and it is very relevent.
19 posted on 05/03/2002 11:23:32 AM PDT by oremus
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To: RnMomof7
Yes, Luther was nuts, amongst many other things. His fabrication of statements made by Johann Tetzel, which resulted in the paraphrase as the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs, were bogus. We know from Tetzel's Vorlegung that he in fact wrote "The indulgence remits only the pain of sins which have been repented of and confessed. No one merits an indulgence unless he is in a truly contrite state." That doesn't jibe with Luther's slant on Tetzel: "He wrote that an indulgence is a reconciliation between God and man and takes effect even though a man performs no penance, and manifests neither contrition nor sorrow." Or "He sold grace for money at the highest price." Tetzel blew out of proportion the monetary aspect of the indulgence, in violation of Church teaching. Tetzel had no foundation in Papal Bull or teaching, as Luther, once again, falsely charged. Tetzel needed correcting by the Church and that's what he got.

Was Luther totally in the wrong? No. Some Catholic theologians would even say that the Church owes Luther thanks for some of what he did. There were abuses and the church dealt with them, just as it will deal with the abuses of today; perhaps not as quickly as many Catholics and non-Catholics would like, as well as those that will most certainly surface in the future. It's interesting, though, how some of Luthers supporters pick and choose from his writings and actions. One would be well served to read his writings concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary. Writings that most Protestants cavalierly dismiss. However, Luther must be taken in totality, whether it be his discarding of Scripture, his racism: "On the Jews and Their Lies", his rejection of Apostolic tradition, doctrine and discipline: "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church", "The Freedom of a Christian", and his personal faults. His many contradictions need to be taken into account.

Religious leaders should rightfully be subjected to a higher standard, something Luther didn't do to himself. In comparison, true reformers like St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. Catherine of Siena and St. Ignatius of Loyola stand head and shoulders above Luther. A thorough study of Luther shows what he truly was, a heretical revolutionary, not a reformer.

20 posted on 05/03/2002 11:23:48 AM PDT by SMEDLEYBUTLER
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