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The 95 Theses

On October 31, people across the world will celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. While the Reformation took decades, October 31st marks the day in which Martin Luther first posted the 95 theses; a list of erroneous practices of the Roman Catholic Church and theological truths that were being misinterpreted or ignored.

Most of these theses addressed the selling of indulgences. Indulgences were official documents that were being sold by the church, which promised that the recipient of the indulgence would be forgiven of their sins and freed from purgatory. In theses 32, Martin Luther condemned the selling of indulgences, stating that those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers. Luther went on to assert that a person could purchase an indulgence without being sorry for their sins; but that forgiveness cannot truly be obtained unless a person is indeed sorry for their sins. He wrote in theses 35 that 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. Finally, Luther reminded the church that all Christians who repent are forgiven for their sins, not simply those who have purchased indulgences. He wrote in theses 36 that any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

The 95 Theses do not include every detail in which Martin Luther disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church. He does not include the marriage of priests or prayers to the saints. He includes very little about the role that good works play in the Christian life. These topics would be addressed 13 years later in 1530 and 1531 in the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession. If you would like to read the 95 Theses in their entirety, click here.


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