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The Lutherans win 2 out of 3

by Greg Krehbiel on 31 October 2017

On the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses, I declare Luther the winner.

Once upon a time I read that Philip Melanchthon (Luther’s collaborator and a significant Lutheran theologian) wanted three things to make peace with Rome: the mass in the vernacular, allowing the laity to receive communion in both kinds, and allowing priests to marry.

To quote Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad.

The 95 theses were primarily about indulgences. The church doesn’t sell them any more. (Thank God.) After misrepresenting the dispute over faith and works for centuries, Catholics by and large don’t talk about it much these days, and I’m often surprised at the Protestant-sounding language I hear at mass. We even sing “A Mighty Fortress” from time to time.

There are still important matters in dispute, but on the whole I think it’s fair to say that Luther won.

2017-10-31  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 5

  1. Robin R.
    31 October 2017 @ 11:09 am

    I think that it’s really cool how you raise this issue on Facebook and suddenly it’s like old times again. 🙂

  2. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    31 October 2017 @ 11:14 am

    Yeah. Silly me. 🙂

  3. Robin R.
    31 October 2017 @ 11:27 am

    That was meant to be a smile. 🙂

  4. Ken Crawford
    1 November 2017 @ 10:20 am

    I’ve done a fair amount of reading on Luther and the reformation, enough to know I only know a little of an amazingly complex situation. But I’d say that indicating those were the 3 things that kept them apart significantly mis-categorizes the situation. From what I’ve read, it started about Indulgences (which Luther mostly won), transitioned to be about authority and the nature of divine revelation (which Protestants have made little ground in changing the Catholic Church) and then moved to areas like the three you mentioned.

    But the Church never meaningfully entertained these later ones at the time because it was more concerned with the authority issues. If the discussions had been about those three issues (say discussed among Roman bishops in the proper authoritative circles), I think the Church would have conceded those things would be acceptable, but would argue they weren’t prudent at the time.

    And I’d argue that the Church was right at the time and right when it realized that the 20th century was a different time and what was prudent was different 4 centuries later.

    But the fundamental theological issues: Indulgences (which the Church still has in non-financial means) and the issues of authority and divine revelation, it would be hard to argue that Luther won on anything but a significant yet still partial victory on Indulgences, but nothing else.

  5. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    1 November 2017 @ 10:22 am

    Yes, there were plenty of issues, but I’m pretty sure there was some conference where Melanchthon was willing to make peace if they got a compromise on those three issues.