Stone Washington
Rediscovering Martin Luther – 500 years of Protestant Reformation and revolution
By Stone Washington
January 28, 2018

"This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified."

"I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth."

~Martin Luther

Background to Martin Luther & the Origins of the Protestant Reformation

October 31st 2017, Halloween day of this past year, officially marked the 500th year anniversary of the Historic Protestant Reformation in Germany. The Reformation was initiated by the revolutionary acts of the Protestant monk and theologian, Martin Luther (November 10th 1483-February 18th 1546), who nailed his famous Ninety-five Theses on the doors of his village church in 1517, directly challenging the established authority of the Roman Catholic Church and demanding substantive reforms from its numerous institutional abuses. Luther's unprecedented stance against the Catholic Church was greatly fueled by the many disagreements with the practices of the Faith, disputing such views as the belief in indulgences, establishing that freedom from God's punishment for sinning against Him could be purchased with money from the Church.

Luther's Theses argued for an alternative to indulgences, claiming that true repentance of one's soul requires grace by Christ in order for sins to be forgiven, as opposed to merely external sacramental confession. The Theses also argued that the practice of indulgences swayed Christians away from true repentance of the heart, discouraging members of the Church from giving unto the poor and performing acts of mercy for one's neighbor. Luther believed that indulgence certificates were held as more spiritually valuable, and declared a dramatic end to this in his writings.

Despite becoming excommunicated by Pope Leo X (1521), Luther openly challenged the Pope's authority and continued his proud stance against the perceived corrosions of the Catholic faith, teaching that the Bible is the sole source of divinely revealed knowledge from God, while advocating a philosophy of universal priesthood, believing that all baptized Christians to be worthy of becoming Church leaders and holy. Luther's revolution would transform the course of Christian History, as he ushered in the Lutheran denomination of Christianity with a firm belief in the doctrine of justification "by grace alone (Sola gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide), on the basis of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura)," 3 parts to the 5 Solae, created to summarize and express the Lutheran and Reformed leaders' pillared beliefs during the Protestant Reformation.

Throughout this essay, I will describe the profound significance of Martin Luther's revolutionary stance against the intolerable corruptions of the established Catholic Church of his time, and why 500 years later Luther's message still holds many profound connotations for the state of religion in America and the World at large today – a dystopian, evil, globalist World in dire need of a Second Protestant Reformation. I will also examine the expert perspective of a Professor at Yale University, Dr. Bruce Gordon, who gave a speech explaining the significance of the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at my school of Clemson University on November 9th 2017.

Martin Luther's Biblical Philosophy

Dr. Gordon provides a preview of his understanding of Martin Luther's ideas through a revelatory piece called, "Reading the Bible with Authority" published in the Marginalia Review of Books. Gordon asserts that perhaps the most well-known aspect of the Reformation was how it allowed the Bible to be translated to the languages of common and clerically untrained people, a crowning achievement iconically represented by Luther's full German translation of the Bible in 1534. Luther's translation of the Bible was unlike any other in terms of wide reaching success, as it utilized the early ingenuities of the printing press, capable of spreading copies to people who would normally have never had access to the printed word due to it's cost-prohibitive expense. The rapid speed of the printing press allowed for Luther's Biblical texts to spread like wild fire throughout Europe. Luther taught at the University of Wittenburg as a Professor in Theology, at first pursuing an obscure teaching role at the school. It wasn't until the 1510's that Martin Luther experienced a theological epiphany in the midst of his extended period of study and lecturing on the Bible at the school, transforming himself principally on the Pauline epistles and the Psalms.

Through analyzing Paul's work through Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews, Luther ultimately adopted the Apostle Paul's revolutionary stance against the established church authority of his time, challenging that true faith in Christ is not found within the preserved traditions of the clergy, but through the Holy scriptures that preached revival and renewal by the Gospel.

Luther wholly rejected the scholastic theology of the medieval doctors of his time, instead inviting the opportunity for any church official or supporter of the Catholic establishment to challenge him and if possible expose any error in his philosophy of strict reliance upon the scripture as the supreme authority of Christian doctrine. Concerning what aspect of Martin Luther's revolutionary ideology truly inspired the launch of the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Gordon argues in his writings that,

"Protestant biblical culture did not arise solely from Luther's sudden conversion, profound as it was. Rather, the emergence of the Reformation Bible and its interpretation is the story of a lofty ideal that owed much to its medieval inheritance and required of the reformers repeated defense and refinement of argument."

Luther's Bible thus provided a framework for a reactionary response to the status quo of established church precedent, calling upon Protestant reformers to preserve a revolutionary faith through defending the Lutheran Biblical narrative from dissenters and naysayers. Thus, began the basis of the Latin concept of Sola Scriptura, meaning: by scripture alone, which was at the core of Luther's biblical philosophy. Luther convinced himself that the medieval church was ultimately corrupt in its ways and had grown out of touch with what he viewed as several of the central truths of Christianity. According to Luther's Theses, the greatest discrepancy between the church and the true essence of the faith was their misunderstanding of the doctrine of justification – God's holy act of declaring a sinner righteous – by faith alone through God's divine grace. Mirroring the teachings of the prominent Latin theologian, Erasmus (specifically his 1516 Greek New Testament), Protestants began to incorporate a more mythical and spiritual approach to the Bible, as opposed to what was formerly conceived as literal based scripture. Protestants were now able to perceive the Bible in a literary and historical sense, according to Dr. Gordon, establishing a doctrine known as loci commune (local places?), able to recognize the distinctive voices of God in various periods throughout the Bible, while drawing a mutual similarity between God's chosen.

It is here that Dr. Gordon states the true meaning behind Protestant interpretation of the Bible, stating: "This brings us to the core of the classic Protestant position on the Bible. That subjective experience of faith confirmed the message of scripture was a position shared by all the major reformers, despite their significant differences on other issues. The Bible's message is apparent to those who believe, for God's word is without contradiction"; defined as being perspicuous, able to be clearly seen and perceived. This breaks with the long standing Catholic tradition in where Biblical precedent is objective in nature, dependent only upon the eternal traditions of what the established Church deems as permissible to express. Lutherans made a mission to adhere to the tenets of John Calvin through unifying a literal and spiritual understanding of the Bible.

Martin Luther's Revolutionary philosophy – 95 Theses

This next section will analyze the most significant aspects of Luther's ground-breaking 95 Theses and revolutionary ideals to reform the established church of his time. Luther's 1st Thesis appropriately emphasized his stance on the importance of universal repentance, stating: 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent' (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. Luther hammers at the misconstrued pardoning privileges of the clergy, whom he believes act more upon their own judgement when absolving individuals from sin, than that of the authority of Christ and the Commandments, 12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition. A major point in relation to his view on true contrition comes when Luther emphasizes the extremely difficult but very essential dichotomy between the price of obtaining indulgence while striving toward true contrition, 39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition. Luther denotes an excellent lesson on how indulgences are not to be used for frivolous benefit or freely given out by those under the authority of the Pope, which leads only to outward sin, but are to be properly earned and used in cleansing man's inward self through faith in God and strict adherence to the scripture, 57. That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them. 58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man. Luther finishes out his Theses with a very significant lesson toward Christians concerning their following of Christ, emphasizing for mankind to abide by His holy command instead of resting upon a false sense of safety by the liberties of indulgence and protection of the Church. Luther suggests that this will inadvertently lead to the damnation of one's soul, 94. Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell. 95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace (Acts 14:22).

Martin Luther for Modern Day

In conclusion, Luther's revolutionary and historic 95 Theses are celebrated even 500 years later as being the greatest stance against established Church authority and perceived clerical corruption. Today, Luther's revolutionary emphasis on a proper call to Christian worship is needed now more than ever when concerning the growing secularization of America's school system, government, and society in general. While the Catholic Church has since reformed its rigged traditions and cronyisms, the Left has only grown in corruption toward vehemently discriminating the integration of Christianity in America, and should be the new target of Luther's criticisms. Many schools across America have adopted an anti-Christian sentiment toward the teaching of the Bible in schools, whereas it was once required by all schools to equip students with an expert understanding of Biblical scriptures. According to an Huffington Post article, perhaps the most popular argument toward defending the Left's mandate for a "separation of Church and State" derives from the basis of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which supposedly dictates a "wall of separation" between the two entities. But many who advocate for separation of church and state often misinterpret this meaning to invoke a total alienation of church in the context of academic and governmental affairs, which is completely false.

My father, Professor Ellis Washington, has written extensively about the Left's perversion of the First Amendment using the second clause ("nor prohibit the free exercise thereof") as a cudgel against the first clause ("Congress shall make no law against religion").; The Progressive Revolution, Vol. I, p. 298 (2009).

When constructing the Establishment Clause in the 1st Amendment, which ordains that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...," the Founders intended for the government to defend the right to practice any religion, while withholding itself from acting in a hostile manner toward all religions in general. In other words Jefferson's 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists where the origin of the phrase 'separation of church and state' derives, was meant to declare the self-evident truth that the State would have no power over the Church (not vice versa as it is held in modern times) and that there would be no single government controlled church like the Anglican or Episcopal Church in England.

The Establishment Clause does not withhold any governmental body from allowing the teachings of Christian texts in public schools, nor does it give license for schools to punish individuals for expressing their religious beliefs in public. Like most modern conservatives in America, Luther would be vehemently opposed to the establishment of academic and governmental authority dictating whether or not students were provided Biblical-based curriculum and learning. Like the opening quote of this article states, "I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth," Luther knew of and warned against the inherent dangers of secularization in school teachings. Luther's powerful Theses were arguments constructed toward a differing branch of Christianity, namely Catholicism, based on the perceived corruptions of indulgences and Papal supremacy, but the nature of which would be furiously opposed to America's growing secularization of once Christian based ideas and principles.

There have been many instances of the Leftist predominated State usurping Church authority, yet having the audacity to argue for its total separation, such as former Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson's (D- TX) unconstitutional decree ordering the IRS to take away or threaten to take away American churches' 501(C)(3) status if pastors refuse to include political discussion or Democrat favoritism from the pulpit. Other instances have included the seizure of the Ten Commandments from an Alabama state house set in place by former Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore, who defended his placement of the 5,280-pound (2,400 kg) granite Commandments against lawyer Stephen R. Glassroth and a group of others arguing for its removal in the court case Glassroth v. Moore (2003). In a bold stance, Justice Moore subsequently refused to enforce the appeals case decision to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse, and was suspended from the court by a judicial ethics committee.

Thankfully, America has elected its most proud proponent of unfettered Christian practice in U.S History, with President Donald Trump echoing the bold stances of Christians who oppose the climate of secularization in American governance and academics. Like Luther proclaiming the tenets of his creed in advocating for the tripartite philosophy of: Sola gratia (by grace alone), Sola Fide (through faith alone) and Sola Scriptura (on the basis of Scripture alone), President Trump revolutionary and repeatedly declares that: "IN AMERICA WE DON'T WORSHIP GOVERNMENT – WE WORSHIP GOD!" Spoken throughout many of his fiery campaign speeches and Presidential decrees, President Trump builds an unconquerable argument against government's perceived dictation over Church affairs, yet, like my Father Professor Ellis Washington, also argues for the inseparability of law and Christian morality embedded within America's founding documents. President Trump is well aware of the history of infringing the free practice of Christian doctrine in public spaces in America, ever since the land mark Supreme Court case Engel v. Vitale (1962), but like Martin Luther, refuses to back down from centuries of corruptible legal doctrine and encourages revolution against the untruths that plague many people's understanding of Church and State authority.

Thus, we must hope that under the Trump Presidency, more and more Americans wake up to the reality of American Church authority under siege by a growing tide of atheistic secularization, and unite behind the revolutionary ideology of Martin Luther to openly stand against corruption, whether in Church or State bounds, and nail the Theses of spiritual truth upon the walls of each and every heart of the American citizen and Globalist citizen of the world as an impenetrable barrier against existential tyranny and injustice.

*N.B: This article is based in part on Dr. Bruce Gordon's, "Reading the Bible with Authority", published by Marginalia Los Angeles Review of books.

© Stone Washington


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Stone Washington

Stone Washington is a Junior History Major and Political Science Minor at Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina, home of the 2016 College Football National Champions. Stone is currently involved in the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, interning in the Development Department.... (more)


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