Friday, July 7, 2017

Walking in Martin Luther's footsteps 500 years later

Wittenburg is the town where Luther posted his 95 Theses and
changed the world forever  (wikipedia)
GERMANY, July, 2017 – On October 31, 1517, a monk and professor of theology named Martin Luther was instrumental in establishing the Protestant Reformation. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the act of defiance that prompted the Reformation movement. Luther's primary motivation was against the selling of Indulgences by the Catholic Church, a method for Catholics to buy their way into heaven.

For the church, Indulgences were actually a strategy to raise money. Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Mainz to protest the sale of "free passes" into heaven, claiming that only God had the power to admit souls into paradise.

According to legend, Luther posted his objections, which today are known as the "Ninety-five Theses," on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

Martin Luther (wikipedia)
While at least one account disputes that Luther nailed his protests on the door, the story is widely accepted as one of the turning points in the history of religion and the world.

Another scholar, Hans Hillerbrand, has also written that Luther had no intention of creating a controversy with the Catholic church, believing instead that his argument was merely an intellectual dispute that should be debated as an objection to church practices.

Whichever is true, the result was basically the same, and Christian pilgrims from all over the world will make their way to Wittenburg, Germany and other historic sites in 2017 to witness to locations where their faith was solidified against the Catholic church.
Sanssouci Palace in Pottsdam just outside Berlin  (wikipedia)
Coincidentally, and perhaps intentionally, a new Vaticandocument was drawn up earlier this year that officially recognizes Martin Luther as a "witness to the gospel." The document reverses hundreds of years of anti-Luther tradition saying "after centuries of mutual condemnations and vilification, in 2017 Lutheran and Catholic Christians will for the first time commemorate together the beginning of the Reformation."

In general, the proclamation was greeted enthusiastically by most in the Vatican, however, as with any change, there was also some resistance. Strangely, most of the backlash came in defense of Jews rather than Catholics, given that Luther was fiercely anti-Semitic.
Remnants of the Berlin Wall
Believing the end of the world was close at hand, Luther feared that the pope would unify Jews and the Muslim Turks against his "true" Christians which would result in an unholy coalition among God's enemies.

Writing in his book "On the Jews and their Lives" Luther could almost have been mistaken today for a Muslim in his thinking about Jews: "Let their houses also be shattered and destroyed… Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land."
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of unified Germany
Luther continued, "In sum, the Jews are the Devil's children, damned to hell."

Countering Luther's arguments, the Vatican responded saying  “Catholics are now able to hear Luther’s challenge for the Church of today."

Christian travelers and history buffs can journey to the locations where these major world events took place with an October tour called "Footsteps of Martin Luther." The eight day itinerary includes tours of Wittenberg, Dresden, Berlin and Eiselben, including the house and the city where Luther was born.
Berlin's State Opera House
Other inclusions are All Saints Church, Sanssouci Palace, the Brandenberg Gate and much more.
Departure is October 6, 2017.
Within two weeks of his protest, word of the theses had spread throughout Germany, and two months later the entire continent of Europe knew about them.
The floodgates had opened as students from all corners of Europe were flocking to Wittenberg to hear Luther speak.
In 1520, Luther was threatened with excommunication, and in April, 1521, he was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms.
During his testimony in Worms, Johann Eck asked Luther whether the copies of the writings he had placed on a table were his and, if so, did he stand by his opinions.
You can spend an entire day Museum Island in Berlin
Luther acknowledged authorship but requested some time to think about the second part of Eck's question.
The following day, Luther made a speech that he was not able to recant his beliefs. Upon concluding he remarks, it is said that Luther raised his arm "in the traditional salute of a knight winning a bout."
Boats on the River Spree in Berlin  (wikipedia)
According to Michael Mullett, Luther's stance and his speech were a "world classic of epoch-making oratory."
Steps to Sanssouci Palace, Pottsdam  (wikipedia)
And so half a millennium later, the debate continues with a new twist, how Christians can separate Martin Luther the man who defied the pope and hated Jews from the "true witness" to the gospel of Christ.