Reformation Theologians. All Material Written By Thomas Perez

Written By Thomas Perez. May 7, 2010 at 7:25PM. Copyright 2010.


1. Desiderius Erasmus (1466?-1536)

Major works

• 1516 edition of the Greek New Testament

• Diatribe on Free Will (1524)


• Leading Christian humanist of the Reformation

• Advocate of reform through scholarly effort. He was the epitome of Renassiance Humanism.

• Criticized the Pope and the Catholic Church for its corruption but did not advocate leaving the church as Luther would eventually do.

• Encouraged Luther before the Leipzig debate and thereafter began to criticize him. Erasmus disagreed with Luther over the issue of free-will.

• Rejected Plato’s concept of the “Philosopher-Kings.” According to Erasmus, philosophers would make the worst political leaders.

2. Andreas Carlstadt (1477-1541)


• German Protestant Reformer

• Sided with Luther and then split with him

• Repudiated his Thomist beliefs and became a supporter of the Protestant movement

• Key leader while Luther was in hiding

• Stressed Bible’s authority

• Said ministers should marry

• Opposed church music, religious images, and religious fraternities

• Bestowed the theology doctorate on Luther in 1512

• Debated Eck at Leipzig (1519)

• On Christmas Day 1521 he celebrated communion without a priest

3. Balthasar Hubmaier (1480-1528)

Major works

• On Free Will

• Booklet against the burning of heretics


• South German Reformer and writer

• Was a Catholic priest who broke from Catholicism and became a key Anabaptist leader

• Was the most educated of the Anabaptist theologians

• Gave a strong statement of believer’s baptism

• Strong view of free will

• Opposed abuses of the Mass and the worship of images

• Was not a pacifist

• Studied with John Eck

• Affiliated with Zwingli for a time

• He and his wife were martyred while Zwingli supervised his torture

4. Martin Luther (1483-1546)

I. Introducing Martin Luther

A. Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany

B. He died in Eisleben on February 18, 1546

C. Martin’s father was an upper-middle-class mine owner

D. His mother was deeply religious and superstitious

E. Martin’s father wanted him to become a lawyer so Martin entered the University of Erfurt.

F. He got a B.A. in 1502. He ranked 30th in a class of 57.

G. Luther received an M.A. in 1505 ranking 2nd out of 17.

H. On a summer day in 1505 he was almost killed by a bolt of lightning that knocked him to the ground. He cried out, “Saint Anne, help me! I shall become a monk!” (St. Anne was the patron saint of those who were in distress.)

I. After this, Martin sold his law books and joined an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt.

J. He received his Th.D. in 1512.

II. The searching Luther

A. The monk, Luther, agonized much over the state of his soul.

B. He sought relief for his soul in God but became angry with God when he viewed God as mostly wrathful and not loving.

“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly . . . I was angry with God” (Luther’s Works, 34, 336-37)

C. Luther was not certain of his own repentance and punished himself often.

D. Luther went to confession often. So much so, that he was instructed to stop going to confession until he really had something worthy of confession. Luther was constantly afraid that he had forgotten some sinful thought or deed.

E. Luther’s confessor in the monastery was Johannes Staupitz who was the vicar-general of the Augustine order of monks in Germany. Staupitz took a more lenient approach to God emphasizing God’s grace and mercy. He had a good influence on Luther encouraging him to be more concerned with the Bible than with Roman Catholic theology.

F. Staupitz sent Luther out of the monastery to the University of Erfurt where he studied philosophy and theology. He also was commissioned to do business for the Augustinian order.

G. Luther did not agree with the scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas and did not like its emphasis on natural theology and reliance upon Aristotle whom Luther designated as a “great whore” that seduced people from the mind of Christ (Olson, 376).

H. In 1511, Luther went to Rome which was a great opportunity to walk around the great capital city of the church. Luther was extremely disappointed by the immorality and blasphemy of the city.

I. Luther returned to Germany dismayed by what he saw but also determined to find an answer for the spiritual and theological decay that he had seen.

J. Luther earned his doctorate of theology degree in 1512 from the University of Wittenberg.

K. At the UOW he taught in the area of biblical studies.

L. While preparing lectures on the Book of Romans Luther had what is now called his “tower experience.” From 1513–1518 Luther was struggling with the issues of God’s righteousness and mercy, particularly how both could be true at the same time.

M. Luther was struck by the Bible’s teaching that “the righteous shall live by faith.” He believed in “the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith.”

“I beat importunately upon Paul…At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, ‘In [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.’”

N. “Luther’s view of God and salvation was revolutionized by his new interpretation of the righteousness of God and the gospel of justification by grace through faith alone” (Olson, The Story of Christian Theology, 377).

O. “Soon he was lecturing about it and writing tracts and treatises explaining it in contrast to the standard ways of interpreting the gospel of salvation in his own time” (Olson, 377).

P. Other developments in Luther’s thinking:

1. He started to develop a more literal hermeneutic for understanding Bible passages.
2. He became more Augustinian in his theology.
3. Grace comes through faith, not the sacraments.
4. He gained a new concept of the sovereignty of God including predestination and efficacious grace.

III. The Road to the Reformation

A. In 1517, the indulgence seller, Tetzel, came to a town near Wittenberg. Commissioned by Pope Leo X, he was selling indulgences to raise funds for the rebuilding of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. His slogan: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings another soul from purgatory springs!”

B. The selling of indulgences infuriated Luther and was the stimulus for the posting of his 95 Theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

1. Thesis 82 challenged the pope as to why he lets souls out of purgatory for money. Why not just let all souls out of purgatory? Luther thought.
2. Luther’s 95 Theses included more than just challenges to indulgences including popular beliefs and practices of the church.
3. Luther was only intending an academic debate when he posted his theses.
4. In an effort not to arouse the laity he wrote his theses in Latin.
5. Eventually, the 95 Theses was translated into German. The German people liked it.

C. Luther became a hero to many in Germany but was viewed as a threat to the Roman Catholic Church.

D. On August 7, 1518 Luther received a papal summons. The pope demanded that Luther appear in Rome within sixty days on suspicion of heresy. Luther appealed to his Elector, Frederick the Wise to protect him. This request was granted.

E. From 1518 to 1520 Luther debated leading Catholic scholars on issues such as indulgences and the authority of the pope.

1. From June 27-July 16 1519 the Leipzig Debate occurred with the Roman Catholic scholar, John Eck. Luther asserted the following:

a) The pope is not infallible.
b) The church of Rome was not supreme over other churches.
c) Church councils have erred since they were made of human beings.
d) Scripture was the ultimate divine authority.

2. Luther began to turn to Scripture even more for his doctrine. He reexamined the issue of sacraments saying that there were only three, not seven—baptism, Lord’s Supper, and penance.

F. In 1520, Luther wrote “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.”

1. This was an attack on the sacramental system of salvation of the Roman Catholic Church.
2. It was a defense of justification by faith.
3. It denies transubstantiation and promoted consubstantiation.

G. The Papal Bull of Condemnation, Exsurge Domine was published on October 10, 1520. Luther was given sixty days to recant. Luther responded by burning Exsurge Domine and other Roman Catholic books.

H. Luther was excommunicated by the pope Jan 1521.

I. Luther was summoned to appear before emperor Charles V at his imperial court in the city of Worms in 1521. When ordered by the pope’s representative to repent of his heretical views he declared:

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God. This I cannot and will not recant, for going against my conscience is neither safe nor salutary. I can do no other, here I stand, God help me. Amen.”

J. Luther was declared an outlaw by the emperor but was protected by the prince Frederick “The Wise” of Saxony.

K. Luther’s life was in danger but his supporters secretly had him placed in a castle in Wartburg. He stayed there for a year disguised as “Knight George.”

L. At the Wartburg castle, Luther translated the New Testament into German in eleven weeks. Five thousand copies were sold in two months; Two hundred thousand were sold in twelve years.

M. While absent, Andreas von Karlstadt, a colleague of Luther at Wittenberg, began a reform movement in Wittenberg. Luther viewed Karlstadt as inept and thus returned to Wittenberg.

N. Luther launched a strong attack on Roman Catholicism and the papacy, even referring to the pope as the antichrist.

O. Luther married Catherine von Bora in 1525 when he was forty-two years old. Catherine was a former nun. Affectionately Martin called her “Katie.” They had six children.

V. Martin Luther’s theology

A. Luther was not a systematic theologian and he did not produce a systematic theology.

B. He wrote two catechisms and helped with the Augsburg Confession and the Schmalkald Articles

C. Luther’s writings were mostly treatises aimed at a particular issue or controversy. He also wrote biblical commentaries, hymns, and sermons.

D. “Luther was a dialectical thinker, meaning that he reveled in the paradoxical nature of truth. He believed that God’s Word reveals a message beyond human reason or comprehension and that its truth is often couched in apparent contradictions” (Olson, 379).

E. Luther was primarily a biblical theologian. He was a professor of bible, primarily Old Testament exegesis at the University of Wittenberg.

F. “The heart and essence of Luther’s theological contribution . . . was salvation as a free gift of divine mercy for which the human person can do nothing” (Olson, 380).

G. Luther’s theological contributions: The main contributions we will focus on here is Luther’s views on (1) the theology of the cross; (2) knowledge of God; (3) justification; and (4) sacraments.

1. Theology of the cross

a) The foundation for Luther’s theology was his “theology of the cross.”
b) The theology of the cross is contrasted with the “theology of glory.” The theology of glory is any approach that tries to discover God through human reason apart from supernatural grace (Olson, 381).
(1) The theology of glory focuses on human reason and natural revelation.

(2) Luther believed that Thomas Aquinas and the Roman Catholic Church focused too much on human reason and natural theology and did not emphasize the cross of Christ and God’s special revelation enough.

(3) Luther could not accept a theology that relied heavily on secular philosophers like Aristotle.

(4) The theology of glory was synergistic in regard to salvation. It places high value on the human will and human ability to cooperate with God.

(5) According to Luther, the theology of glory is a human-centered theology that overestimates the ability of human power and ability (Olson, 382).

c) The theology of the cross, on the other hand, stressed the following:

(1) The sufferings of Christ as the way to salvation. The cross is central to salvation.

(2) The total inability of man in regard to salvation. Thus, Luther stressed a strong monergism in which God is solely responsible for salvation. (Luther believed in double predestination.)

(3) The human will is in bondage to sin.

(4) The doctrine of predestination.

(5) The necessity of special revelation through the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

d) Luther rejected the classical arguments for God’s existence.

2. Knowledge of God

a) According to Luther if God is to be known at all He can be known only through His choice to reveal himself. “Thus the basis of all true knowledge of God can only be God’s self-disclosure by his Word and his Spirit” (Olson, 384).

b) According to Luther, natural revelation could reveal God before the fall of man, but the Fall destroyed both the will and the ability to intellectually know God through nature apart from special revelation.

c) Luther had no use for Scholasticism’s natural knowledge of God. He had no use for the natural theology of Thomas Aquinas. He had no use for Aristotle.

d) Luther referred to reason in this context as a “great whore.”

e) Luther emphasized faith alone as the instrument for understanding God and the mysteries of divine revelation.

f) Luther’s corrective to the epistemology (theory of knowledge) of the Roman Catholic Church was sola scriptura—the Scripture alone was the ultimate guide and authority for Christian belief and practice.

g) Luther disagreed with the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church on the following:

(1) Luther did not accept that unwritten tradition was as authoritative as Scripture.

(2) Luther did not accept that the Bible was the church’s creation and thus only the church hierarchy could properly interpret it.

3. Scripture

a) For Luther Scripture was of higher authority than both philosophy and tradition.

b) Luther did not reject the concept of tradition altogether and believed that the Anabaptists had gone too far in their rejection of tradition. For Luther, tradition was in accord with Scripture and should be kept. (It was not, though, another source of authority in addition to Scripture.)

c) Although Luther had an exalted view of Scripture he did not believe that all parts of Scripture were of equal value.

(1) For example, Luther rejected, at least in part, the value of the Book of James: “Away with James. . . . His authority is not great enough to cause me to abandon the doctrine of faith and to deviate from the authority of the other apostles and the entire Scripture.”

(2) “St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it.”

d) For Luther, Scripture has levels of authority. The test for Scripture was whether it promotes the cross of Christ and salvation by grace through faith alone.

e) Luther did not call for the expulsion of James from the New Testament but he forbade Lutheran ministers from preaching from it or the Book of Revelation.

f) Luther expelled the Apocrypha from the Bible.

g) Luther promoted principles in regard to understanding Scripture.

(1) Nothing in Scripture is obscure.

(2) Anything that seems to be obscure is so because of the ignorance of man, not the obscurity of Scripture.

(3) Some texts are obscure because the reader does not understand key words and grammar.

(4) Satan tries to blind our eyes to the meaning of Scripture.

(5) If a scriptural topic appears to be obscure in one place, it will be clear in other places.

(6) The Holy Spirit helps people understand Scripture.

(7) The Roman Catholic Church has wrongly kept people from reading and studying the Bible.

4. Justification

a) Justification in history – Luther’s understanding of justification was revolutionary. In order to understand his views on this topic, it is necessary to survey the history of the doctrine of justification before he came on the scene.

(NOTE: page numbers below are from Alister McGrath’s book, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification.

(1) Pre-Augustinian Tradition

(a) Put simply, “Justification was simply not a theological issue in the pre-Augustinian tradition” (19). Thus, the church’s understanding of justification was “inchoate and ill-defined” (23).

(b) Any statements that appear to teach ‘works-righteousness’ in this period are “quite innocent” and not explicit attempts to add works to grace (23).

(c) The pre-Augustinian era was mostly known for its Christological and Trinitarian dogmas, not soteriology. Interestingly, Pauline literature was scarcely considered in the first 350 years of the church.

(2) Augustine

(a) Augustine had an enormous influence on soteriology. He is the first major theologian of church history to seriously address the issue of justification (24).

(b) Although Augustine’s views would undergo development and change in his own lifetime, many of his positions would eventually become predominant in the medieval era.

(c) Some of Augustine’s key views include:

(i) Man’s election is based on God’s eternal decree of predestination.
(ii) Free will is not lost; it is merely incapacitated and may be healed by grace.
(iii) The righteousness of God is that by which God justifies sinners.
(iv) God’s prevenient grace prepares man’s will for justification.

(d) In specific relation to justification, Augustine held the following:

(i) The motif of amor Dei (“love of God”) dominates Augustine’s theology of justification.
(ii) The verb ‘to justify’ means ‘to make righteous.’ Thus, justification is about being ‘made just.’
(iii) Justification is all-embracing, including both the event of justification and the process of justification.
(iv) Man’s righteousness in justification is inherent rather than impute

(3) Medieval Period

(a) According to McGrath, “the framework of the medieval discussion of justification was essentially Augustinian” (38). The theology of this period was a systematic attempt to restate and reformulate Augustine’s theology to meet the needs of the new era (38).

(b) The predominant view of justification in the medieval era was this: “Justification refers not merely to the beginning of the Christian life, but also to its continuation and ultimate perfection, in which the Christian is made righteous in the sight of God and the sight of men through a fundamental change in his nature, and not merely his status” (41).

(c) With this understanding, there was no distinction between justification and sanctification that would later characterize Reformation orthodoxy. Other views associated with the medieval era include:

(i) The infusion of grace initiates a chain of events that eventually leads to justification.
(ii) Justification consists in the remission of sins.
(iii) Justification involves a real change in its object.
(iv) Man has a positive role to play in his own justification.
(v) A human disposition toward justification is necessary.
(vi) Justification takes place within the sphere of the church and is particularly associated with the sacraments of baptism and penance.

(d) Key theologians of the medieval era include Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Anselm, Peter Abelard, and William of Ockham. Aquinas is especially important because of his substantial Summa Theologiae and his attempt to unite Christian doctrine with Aristotle. Gottschalk and his view of double predestination are also important.

(e) Important schools of thought include Dominican, Franciscan, and Augustinian schools. Interestingly, the school that claimed Augustine often differed with Augustine on significant issues. McGrath points out that “It is impossible to speak of a single homogeneous ‘medieval Augustinian tradition’ during the Middle Ages in relation to justification” (179).

(f) SUMMARY: The Catholic doctrine of justification which stretches back to Augustine was that justification is a gradual process in which a sinner is actually made righteous. This occurs as God’s righteousness is infused into the Christian through baptism and the sacraments, faith, and works of love. Thus justification is a process (like sanctification). Justification can be lost and one cannot be assured of his justification.

b) Luther’s views on justification

(1) Luther is best known for his contribution to the doctrine of justification.
(2) According to Luther, justification is the act by which God declares a person to be in a right relationship with himself.
(3) For Luther the doctrine of justification is the “chief article of faith with which the church stands or falls, and on which its entire doctrine depends.”
(4) Luther himself tried to achieve justification through the Roman Catholic approach. He starved himself and did self-flagellation but he found no rest for his soul.
(5) In his reading of Scripture Luther found the concept of the imputed and alien righteousness of Christ. “Through faith in Christ . . . Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness.”
(6) Luther said that justifying righteousness is solely Christ’s, not that of the believer. Thus, the believer does not immediately become righteous himself, but he is declared righteous because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to him.
(7) Justification is by God’s grace through faith.
(8) Essential to Luther’s legal and forensic understanding of justification was that the justified believer is simul iustus et peccator—“always righteous and a sinner.” The believer is righteous in principle, but a sinner in actuality.
(9) Good works would naturally flow from the one who has been declared righteous, but works in no way contribute to salvation.
(10) Luther’s view of justification is linked to his understanding of “the righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17. In his early study of Romans he understood this phrase to refer actively to the quality in God that punishes unrighteous sinners. Later he saw it passively as the gift God imputes to sinners through faith in Christ.
(11) “Luther’s doctrine of justification fell like a bombshell on the theological landscape of medieval Catholicism. It shattered the entire theology of merits and indeed the sacramental-penitential basis of the church itself” (Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, 72)

5. Priesthood

a) According to Luther all true Christians were priests unto God
b) There are no elevated class of priests that are mediators between God and sinners.
c) Everyone in the church is part of the “communion of saints” and the “evangelical priesthood.”
d) All Christians can go directly to God in prayer

6. Sacraments

a) In Luther’s day the established church recognized seven sacraments that worked grace in the lives of those who received them.
b) Luther said there were only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
c) In order for a sacrament to be efficacious in strengthening faith, faith must be present (Olson, 393). Thus, faith must be present for the sacrament to have any benefit. The sacraments do not work ex opera operato—they do not work regardless of the faith of the person.
d) Baptism

(1) Luther rejected the idea of Roman Catholicism that baptism merely restores the original righteousness lost by Adam and begins the process of growth in grace.
(2) “Instead. . . baptism, when performed and received by faith, fully justifies the sinner through the Word of God that is mysteriously bound to the water” (Olson, 393).
(3) Baptism is the visible sign of unmerited justification through God’s grace

e) Lord’s Supper

(1) Luther rejected the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation.
(2) He believed in consubstantiation—there is a real presence of Christ “in, with and under” the elements of bread and wine.
(3) Luther strongly rejected Zwingli’s memorial view of the Lord’s Supper.
(4) He took literally the words of Jesus—“Hoc est corpus meum”—“This is my body.”
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531)
Posted by Thomas Perez on Thursday, August 26, 2010

Major work

• “Ten Theses of Berne” (1528)


• Third most important early Protestant reformer

• Leader in Zurich

• Held to a memorial view of Lord’s Supper

• Was strongly predestinarian

• Strong commitment to Scriptural authority

• Opposed relics and penance

• Strong view of providence

• Held to inclusivism believing that there were “pious heathen” who were saved.

• Inspired and then opposed Anabaptists

• Was a Catholic priest

• Preached exegetical sermons beginning with Matthew

• Died in battle while serving Zurich troops

• Had organs removed from church services

5. Thomas Muntzer (1489-1525)

Major work

• Prague Manifesto


• German radical reformer, mystic and revolutionary

• Advocated a violent form of apocalypticism

• Joined Peasant’s revolt

• Died after Battle of Frankhausen

• Some say he was the father of the Anabaptists but did not practice adult baptism

6. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)

Major work

• Homilies


• Archbishop of Canterbury

• Told Henry VIII that he need not wait to hear from Rome for the annulment of his marriage to Queen Catherine but he could refer the question of the legality of the marriage to university scholars

• Became archbishop of Canterbury in 1533

• He was the highest ecclesiastical authority in England and exercised prerogatives traditionally reserved for the pope

• Pronounced the King of England as head of the church

• Rejected allegiance to the pope

• Tried to unite church of England and the Lutheran church

• Recanted his reformation beliefs and then recanted his recantations

7. Guillaume Farel (1489-1565)

Major work

• The Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster)


• Early voice of French Protestantism

• Asked John Calvin to assist Geneva in the city’s reformation movement

• Calvin and Farel were asked to leave Geneva in 1538.

8. Henry VIII (1491-1547)


• King of England

• Initiated the Protestant Reformation in England

• Rejected the authority of the pope and the Roman Catholic Church

• Confiscated church lands and promoted religious reformers to power

• Founded Anglican church

• Fell in love with Anne Boleyn

9. Martin Bucer (1491-1551)

Major works

• Summary

• Book of Common Prayer


• Leading figure in the European and English reformation movements

• Held to symbolic view of sacraments

• Said the church is an extension of the incarnation

• Held to two stages of justification

• Said the third notae of the church is church discipline

• John Calvin was his colleague

10. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Major works

• Constitutions

• Spiritual Exercises


• Founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits)

• Was a crippled soldier

11. William Tyndale (1494-1536)


• Reformer

• Translator of the Bible; known as the “Father of the English Bible; 90% of his words passed into the King James Version

• Held to double justification by faith and works

• View of Lord’s supper view similar to Zwingli’s memorial view

12. Menno Simons (1496-1561)

Major works

• On the Ban

• The Foundation of Christian Doctrine


• Famous Anabaptist leader

• Known as the founder of the Mennonites

• Rejected transubstantiation

• Held that baptism should follow conversion

• Held to doctrine of peace and nonresistance

• Believed in separation of church and state

• Said Jesus had heavenly flesh that was not from Mary (Melchiorite doctrine of incarnation)

• People are not condemned for original sin

• Did not accept Luther’s forensic doctrine of justification

• Said New Testament took precedence over the Old Testament

• Accepted the apocryphal books as canonical

• Gave detailed instructions about the ban

• Former priest

• Strongly condemned the Munsterites

• Died a natural death at 66 (rare for Anabaptist leaders)

13. Philip Melancthon (1497-1560)

Major works

• Loci Communes (first systematic statement of Luther’s ideas)

• “Visitation Articles”


• German Reformer, theologian and educator

• Close ties with Luther (went with Luther to Leipzig disputation in 1519)

• Wrote Augsburg Confession (1531)

• His main contribution to Lutheran movement (although still controversial with Lutherans) was that he changed views on the Lord’s Supper. He adopted a real, spiritual presence view that was closer to Calvin’s view

• A fine grammarian and biblical humanist

• Was part of Erasmus’s circle

• Was professor of Univ. of Wittenburg (1518)

• Officiated Luther’s funeral

• Sat in on Trent II

• Some say he weakened Luther’s views

14. Heinrich Bullinger (1504-75)

Major work

• Decades (50 long sermons on Christian doctrine)


• Major role in Protestant Reformation

• Successor to Zwingli in Zurich

• Became a leader of the Swiss Reformation

• With Calvin helped unite Protestants

• Authored Second Helvetic Confession (1566) that united Calvinistic churches throughout Europe

• Wrote on providence, justification, and the nature and centrality of the Scriptures

• Said the church is composed of all the elect

• Two marks of church—preaching of Word and the two sacraments, Baptism and Lord’s Supper

• Apostolic succession found in preaching and teaching

15. John Calvin (1509-64)

Major works

• Institutes of the Christian Religion

• Commentaries


• Along with Luther, the most important Protestant reformer

• Magesterial Reformer of Geneva

• Father of Reformed and Presbyterian theology

• Great systematizer of theology

• Held to sola scriptura

• Held to historic view of Trinity

• Held to secret predestination (absolute, particular, and double)

• Held to sola fidei

• Held to infant baptism

• Held to spiritual presence view of the Lord’s Supper

• Stressed Christ’s role as mediator

• Believed there were two marks of church—Word preached and sacraments rightly used

• Had Servetus put to death

• His views contrasted with those of Arminius

16. John Knox (1514-72)

Major work

• Helped produce ‘Confession of Faith’


• Scottish reformer who wrote on behalf of Protestantism

• Said Scripture is the sole and sufficient rule of faith and practice

• Justification is through faith alone

• The minister of Gospel is simply a servant and steward

• The people have a voice in electing pastors and office-bearers

• Was ordained as a Catholic priest

• Was in exile on the European continent

17. Theodore Beza (1519-1605)

Major work

• Biography of John Calvin


• French theologian who succeeded Calvin and upheld Calvin’s views, emphasizing God’s eternal decrees, predestination, and supralapsarianism (some believe he took Calvin beyond Calvin)

• Was head of a school at Geneva

• Contributed two Greek editions and an annotated Latin translation of the New Testament ( the KJV was based on Beza’s works)

18. Pilgram Marpeck (1556)

Major work

• Verantwortung (reply to Schwenckfeld)


• Major spokesman of South German Anabaptism from 1530-56

• Tried to synthesize theologically and bring together federatively different Anabaptist groups

• Called for an ecumenically separatist ecclesiology and discipline

• Opposed infant baptism

• Known for views on the incarnation–stressed Christ’s physical, historical humanity

• Opposed Hoffman’s apocalypticism

19. Jacob Arminius (1560-1609)

Major works

• Commentary on Romans 9

• Declaration of Sentiments

• Examination of Perkins’ Pamphlet


• Father of Arminianism

• Believed God’s predestination of individuals is based on foreknowledge of whether people believe or reject Christ (conditional predestination)

• Argued against supralapsarianism (did not believe destiny determined before the Fall)

• Believed in human freedom

• Held to unlimited atonement

• His views picked up by Methodists and Holiness groups

• Known as “the quiet Dutchman”

20. Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)

Major works

• On the Truth of the Christian Religion

• Concerning the Law of War and Peace


• Dutch jurist, statesman, theologian, and historian

• “Father of international law”

• A leader of the Arminians

• Held to a governmental view of the atonement

• Wanted unity and restoration with Rome

21. John Owen (1616-83)

Major works

• Numerous writings on theology


• Puritan theologian committed to the congregational way of church government

• Held to major themes of high Calvinism (particular redemption, election), Trinity, Christology, church polity, and pursuit of holiness

22. Blaise Pascal (1623-62)

Major work

• Pensees


• French mathematician, scientist, philosopher, and religious thinker

• Known for “Pascal’s Wager”–belief in God is a good bet because the consequences of not believing are much greater

• Said it was possible to have reasons for believing something without evidence (moderate fideist view of faith)

• Rejected philosophy’s worth

• Believed original sin explains mystery of man

• Wrote against views of the Jesuits

23. Francis Turretin (1623-87)

Major work

• Institutio (full expression of Calvinsim)


• Calvinist theologian

• Proponent of orthodox Calvinism formulated at Synod of Dort (1618-19)

• Institutio became a standard textbook for American Presbyterianism

24. John Bunyan (1628-88)

Major works

• Pilgrim’s Progress

• The Holy War


• Known for the classic Pilgrim’s Progress

• Influential Puritan author of 17th century

• Imprisoned for his faith for 12 years

Martin Luther's 95 Theses

Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther
on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1517
Published in:
Works of Martin Luther
Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.
(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38.


OCTOBER 31, 1517 

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, 
the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, 
under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, 
Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in 
Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that 
those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, 
may do so by letter.  

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam 
agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be 

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, 
i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by 
the priests.  

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no 
inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers 
mortifications of the flesh.  

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as 
hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward 
repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom 
of heaven. 

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any 
penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his 
own authority or by that of the Canons. 

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that 
it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God's 
remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases 
reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in 
such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely 

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same 
time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His 
vicar, the priest.  
8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, 
according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.  

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, 
because in his decrees he always makes exception of the 
article of death and of necessity. 

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, 
in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for 

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of 
purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown 
while the bishops slept.  

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

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are 
already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be 
released from them. 

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the 
imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, 
great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.  

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (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 as do despair, 
almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.  

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror 
should grow less and love increase.  

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that 
they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of 
increasing love.  

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all 
of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, 
though we may be quite certain of it.  

20. Therefore by "full remission of all penalties" the pope 
means not actually "of all," but only of those imposed by 

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who 
say that by the pope's indulgences a man is freed from every 
penalty, and saved;  

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, 
according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this 
23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission 
of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission 
can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very 

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the 
people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding 
promise of release from penalty.  

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over 
purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate 
has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.  

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in 
purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not 
possess), but by way of intercession.  

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles 
into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory]. 

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the 
money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result 
of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God 

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be 
bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and 

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much 
less that he has attained full remission.  

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also 
the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most 

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their 
teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation 
because they have letters of pardon. 

33. Men must be on their 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 these "graces of pardon" concern only the penalties of 
sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man. 

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that 
contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls 
out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.  

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

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in 
all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is 
granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.  

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the 
blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in 
no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the 
declaration of divine remission.  

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest 
theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people 
the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.  

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal 
pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at 
least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].  

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest 
the people may falsely think them preferable to other good 
works of love.  

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

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor 
or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;  

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes 
better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more 
free from penalty.  

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in 
need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, 
purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation 
of God.  

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more 
than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary 
for their own families, and by no means to squander it on 

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is 
a matter of free will, and not of commandment.  

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting 
pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for 
him more than the money they bring.  

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are 
useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether 
harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God. 

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the 
exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. 
Peter's church should go to ashes, than that it should be 
built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.  

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope's 
wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many 
of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, 
even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.  

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, 
even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, 
were to stake his soul upon it.  

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the 
Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order 
that pardons may be preached in others.  

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, 
an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this 

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, 
which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, 
with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which 
is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred 
bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies. 

56. The "treasures of the Church," out of which the pope. 
grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among 
the people of Christ.  

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, 
for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so 
easily, but only gather them.  

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even 
without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, 
and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man. 

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

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given 
by Christ's merit, are that treasure;  

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of 
reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.  

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of 
the glory and the grace of God.  

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes 
the first to be last.  

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 
they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.  

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they 
now fish for the riches of men.  

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the "greatest 
graces" are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote 

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared 
with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.  

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of 
apostolic pardons, with all reverence.  

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and 
attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own 
dreams instead of the commission of the pope.  

71 . He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let 
him be anathema and accursed!  

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the 
pardon-preachers, let him be blessed! 

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, 
contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.  

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who 
use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love 
and truth.  

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could 
absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and 
violated the Mother of God -- this is madness. 

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not 
able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its 
guilt is concerned. 

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could 
not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter 
and against the pope.  

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and 
any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, 
the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written 
in I. Corinthians xii.  

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, 
which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal 
worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.  

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk 
to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.  
81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy 
matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to 
the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of 
the laity.  

82. To wit: -- "Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the 
sake of holy love and of 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 
reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."  

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

84. Again: -- "What is this new piety of God and the pope, 
that for money they allow 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 that pious and beloved soul's own 
need, free it for pure love's sake?"  

85. Again: -- "Why are the penitential canons long since in 
actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, 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 to-day 
greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one 
church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the 
money of poor believers?"  

87. Again: -- "What is it that the pope remits, and what 
participation does he grant to those who, by perfect 
contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?" 

88. Again: -- "What greater blessing could come to the Church 
than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now 
does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and 

89. "Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of 
souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences 
and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal 

90. To repress these arguments and scruples 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, pardons were preached according to the 
spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily 
resolved; nay, 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!  

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

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in 
following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and 

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather 
through many tribulations, than through the assurance of 

End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Martin Luther's 95 Theses

This text was converted to ascii format for Project Wittenberg by 
Allen Mulvey and is in the public domain.  You may freely 
distribute, copy or print this text.  

Disputatio pro Declaratione Virtutis Indulgentiarum.''
by Dr. Martin Luther, 1483-1546
1. Band (Weimar: Hermann Boehlau, 1883). pp. 233-238.
PW #001-001La

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