Ninety-Five Thesis

Luther’s official response to indulgences came in the form of an academic document he addressed to the local archbishop, who happened to be the same Albert of Mainz who’d authorized the campaign.Significantly, Luther penned his grievance—titled “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” but known to posterity as the Ninety-five Theses—in Latin rather than in the common vernacular.

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Luther is known mostly for his teachings about Scripture and justification.

Regarding Scripture, he argued the Bible alone () is our ultimate authority for faith and practice.

[Notice that Luther is not yet wholly against the theology of indulgences.] And even financial well-being: 46.

Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.

Although the Ninety-five Theses doesn’t explicitly lay out a Protestant theology or agenda, it contains the seeds of the most important beliefs of the movement, especially the priority of grasping and applying the gospel.

Luther developed his critique of the Roman Catholic Church out of his struggle with doubt and guilt as well as his pastoral concern for his parishioners.

Luther was calling the pope and those in power to repent—on no authority but the convictions he’d gained from Scripture—and urged the leaders of the indulgences movement to direct their gaze to Christ, the only one able to pay the penalty due for sin.

Of all the portions of the document, Luther’s closing is perhaps the most memorable for its exhortation to look to Christ rather than to the church’s power: 93.

Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences. Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better.

Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.


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