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OCTOBER 29, 2016 BY WILLIAM H. SCARLE, JR. 813-835-0129

Reformation Sunday will be celebrated in many protestant congregations on this coming Sunday, October 30.  It was the eve of All Saints Day, November first, when Martin Luther is reported to have nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the All Saints Church at Wittenberg.  The Ninety-five Theses were the product of a long study of the theology of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church and were seen by many as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Luther was member of the Roman Catholic order of priests known as the Augustinian Hermits.  Their monastery was located in Erfurt. Germany.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1507 and because of his exceptional intellect was selected to lecture at the newly founded University of Wittenberg in 1508.  He became a Doctor of Theology in 1511 and was recalled from Rome to serve as professor of biblical studies at Wittenberg, a position he held until his death in 1546.

Luther was an academic.  The Ninety-five Theses was an academic document designed to be the basis of a formal scholastic disputation.  The original copy was sent to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz.  There is some confusion as to whether they were actually posted on the doors of the Wittenberg Church.  This would have been the accepted procedure however for initiating an academic disputation.  The invitation to such a disputation was a privilege Luther held as a Doctor of Theology and it was not an unusual action, although there is no evidence that such a disputation ever took place.

What Luther did is instructive in the light of the present situation on main line colleges and universities in our own time.  Luther was disturbed about the way the church was dealing with sin and repentance.  His biblical studies did not match up with what he was seeing taking place in the life of his parish at the instigation of Rome.  His first thesis says in part, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

On today’s campuses we dare not talk about repenting for anything.  Everything is acceptable.  Neither do we want any discussion of moral issues lest someone get their feelings hurt.  The college should be a “safe zone” where students can depend on not getting their life style feathers ruffled.  “Politics forbid” that we should be challenged by someone else’s Moral code.

The reaction of Rome to Luther was essentially that he was to keep quiet and not interfere with the workings of the religious political structure which was paying for the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Church.

Luther’s insistence that certain matters of theology be discussed and even disputed was absolutely rejected.  The call for academic consideration was answered by excommunication.  One way to win an argument is to silence the opposition.

In this increasingly secular culture we need a reminded that “The wisdom of the world is folly with God (I Cor. 3:19).”  The reality is that God cannot be excommunicated.  The very heavens declare his glory.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs