A hundred years prior to Martin Luther, John Hus was a late 14th century Czech priest championing the principles of the Reformation. However, unlike Luther, John Hus, in 1415, was burned at the stake for his beliefs. What motivated John Hus to put his life on the line? A fairly recent film, John Hus: A Journey of No Return, produced in the Czech Republic, and dubbed into English, tells the story. In 1999, Pope John Paul II formally apologized to the Czech people for the “cruel death” inflicted upon Hus at the Council of Constance.
Here is the teaser trailer for the film.
Martin Luther (1483-1546), by Cranach (credit: Wikipedia). “Imputation” was the core theological concept behind Luther’s thinking. So then, what is “imputation?”
Imputation. Have you ever heard of that word? We do not use it in normal conversation. But in the 16th century, imputation became a battleground idea for the Reformation. This crucial theological concept helps us think through a true understanding of the Gospel, even today.
Theologian Michael Horton, one of the scholars interviewed in the film documentary This Changed Everything, about the Reformation, likens imputation to a cooking analogy. If you try to make chocolate chip cookies, but leave out the chocolate chips, then you have pretty much left out the main ingredient. Likewise, many Protestants would argue that if you talk about the Gospel, but leave out imputation, then you end up with a chocolate-less cookie. Before we get at the definition of imputation, let us see why this might be so important. Continue reading
Not having grown up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I was always puzzled by the whole idea of mortal versus venial sins. What is all of that about, and where is it in the Bible, (or is it)?
Well, it all stems back to one of the more difficult passages in the Bible to interpret:
- If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (I John 5:16-17 ESV)
Bible scholars have been scratching their heads for hundreds of years on this one. Who is his “brother?” What are some examples of the different types of “sin“? What is meant by “death?” In other words, what in the world is John talking about here?
Spiritual Anxiety: Mortal vs. Venial Sins
Johann Tetzel, 16th century indulgences promoter, and “used car salesman.” Tetzel never visited Wittenberg, Germany, seeking to avoid the direct barbs of Martin Luther’s scathing critique (credit: Wikipedia)
When the German Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel (1465-1519), began to travel across Europe, urging people to contribute to the church fund for building St. Peter’s basilica, it fired up the indignation of one monk, Martin Luther. Many have quoted Tetzel’s couplet, that appeared to endorse the idea that the medieval Church was “selling indulgences.”
- “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
The idea here is that Tetzel was encouraging almsgiving to the Church in exchange for offering more “time off” for loved ones in purgatory. Luther’s protest soon brought the Christian world into turmoil. But were Tetzel’s actions merely an abuse of the teachings of the medieval Church, or did they signal a deeper, more fundamental problem with the Church’s theology?
When Martin Luther first nailed up his Ninety-Five Thesis to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, it may not have been clear to him as to how to answer that question. But as Luther began to receive more and more pushback from Church authorities, he began to think that Tetzel’s “used car salesman” tactics were more that just an abuse of an otherwise, acceptable doctrine. Rather, the whole theology of indulgences was based on a dangerously false interpretation of the Bible.