95 Theses: 45-54

“Luther clearly composed the 95 Theses as theses for debate. Yet, when compared to other theses that he and other professors were composing at around the same time, the 95 Theses contain some aspects that were decidedly not intended for classroom debate using logic and syllogisms. They have a far more rhetorical flare than one finds in other university theses, both before and after 1517. Indeed, it may help to consider this document as a mixture of logical argument and impassioned speech, as Luther addresses what he viewed as a looming pastoral and theological problem in the church. His defense of the Theses published in the summer of 1518 contains lengthy arguments gleaned from Scripture, the church fathers, papal decrees, and canon law, and thus takes the form of an academic debate. But the Theses themselves, the letter to Albrecht, and the Sermon on Indulgences and Grace aim at both the head and the heart of the reader” (The Roots of Reform, p.26)

Statement 52 “summarizes themes brought up in theses 27, 32, and 33 before contrasting preaching of indulgences and the gospel in theses 53-55. The agent (commisarius – ‘commissary’), is the highest authority under whose supervision the indulgence preachers operated.” (ibid, p.41)

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

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.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.

49. Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.

52. It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.

53. They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.

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