As many of you know, the German Monk – tried as a heretic at the Diet of Worms by the Roman Catholic Church – spoke ‘truth to the powers that be’ in 1521. That was 500 years ago. Alternatively, by my count, the Protestant Reformation began a mere 50 years past. A decade = one year, according to my life calendar.
Whereas many of you also know, ‘Here I stand’ was not part of the historical text. The poignant line was later added to give more moral maybe even divine punch – which was clearly not needed – to the Theologian’s parting shot to his Papal accusers and false witnesses at his Inquisition. That is according to what many ‘expert’ critics say now.
Nevertheless, it is important to the overall verdict. Luther would not recant his writings. He stood in the breach during his showcase trial where the Papist agents arrayed all of his tomes against him as evidence; the most significant being his 95 Theses. In it, Luther rails against Papal excesses and edicts, chief of which was the selling of indulgences: Necessary for the buyer’s remission of sins and reduction in time spent in the hot place, or Purgatory. In addition, said indulgences would help fund the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica. According to Pope Leo, such construction was necessary... In order to save Christendom!
To engage in such folly, Luther reasoned using Sola Scriptura; the Holy See transgressed the very essence of Sola Fide. The Popes – past and present – possessed no exclusive domain to interpret much less define God’s Word. Luther was clear: The Vatican does not possess papal infallibility even though it claimed such lofty status.
Moreover, Luther charged any Roman Vicar of Christ clinging to such fallacies amounted to grand hypocrisy. For that accusation alone, Pope Leo X took personal umbrage to Luther’s reasoning; the debate got so heated that Leo placed a bounty on his head. Sad to state, Luther’s problems were only beginning.
While in protective custody in the Wartburg Castle, Luther – some say in as little as 11 weeks – translated the New Testament into his native German. Aided by the Gutenberg printing presses, ordinary commoner Germans could read The Word for themselves. The ‘New Bible’ would separate them from the Vatican forever. They would no longer have to obey a Papal Bull, which Luther called a ‘blast of wind’. Nor would the people have to worship ‘in the Roman manner’. German faithful had religious freedom, at last. They needed it now more than ever.
To wit, Emperor Charles V’s promise to Prince Frederick of Saxony – Luther’s protector – whereby he guaranteed Luther’s safety was now seemingly coming to end. Emperor Charles as well branded the German Augustinian friar a heretic and outlaw. Even went as far to call Luther’s writings a plague on the German State; in essence Luther’s new doctrine was a cancer that infected his Holy Roman empire; he was destroying the Roman Church that endured for millennia. Consequently, Luther, had to go; by any means/methods available. Red Lines were drawn. The situation seemed hopeless.
Then in 1530, The German Princes when summoned to Augsburg delivered the parting blow, not only to the Vatican, but also to Charles’ draconian rule, through his religious persecution of Luther’s writings as well as against his followers, over the German State. In presenting ‘The Confession of Our Faith’ to Charles, the Princes defied his edict. They would not forbid the distribution of the New Bible. It was there to stay.
Not only did the New Bible stay, it gained credence. The Protestant Reformation spread across Europe.
Where do we, the common people of the wider world and things in general, stand now in our modern times?
Departing from a strict religious context, suffice to say, we ordinary folk are just as much in the dark about what constitutes truth, and by extension, what gives hope and real meaning to an ordinary life. The setting was the same for parishioners back then while under a Papist’s broad, threatening thumb. They needed someone, to lead; give them hope.
Is there a Martin Luther on our horizon? Will someone similar arise? Will a brave man willingly take a strong stand; stand in the breach; call the increasingly entrenched authorities on their lies; challenge their tyranny?
We need such a person.
There are plenty of modern events to justify such a clarion call. Covid-19 is one such example. Most of us remember the state’s overreach. Governments round the world were convinced that ‘the science was settled’. Ensuing economic lockdowns thrust the whole world at Recession’s door. Mask mandates, quarantines and mandatory clot shots – multiple doses of the unproven efficacy of the socalled ‘vaccine’ – were the order of the day. Dissent was not allowed. Punishments were not limited to censure and possible jail time. In Australia, police even shot those Patriots commemorating ANZAC Day. There are many more examples…
The war in Ukraine is unraveling. Some say that depending on what happens next, we all could be staring into the abyss of World War III. The nukes are about to fly, barring some miracle. America – the ruling class – insists on maintaining its increasing hegemony status. Theirs is an exclusive uni-polar world. BRICS nations as well as many others prefer a multi-polar international order; one in which mutual respect leads to peacetime.
What would Luther say?
Well, he would be wise to mention a third sola: Sola Gratia.
Almighty God’s grace never ceases. It endures all things; until Jesus Christ returns to set things straight. Once… For All Eternity.
Here I stand.
"There should be no Russian who goes to sleep without wondering if they're going to get their throat slit in the middle of the night,” Milley said