Global Anabaptism, a summer online class that consisted of several high schoolers, taught its students the history of Christianity. In August of 2017, students learned about Anabaptist history, important figures that shaped the religions into what they are today, the differences between Mennonites and other Christian denominations, and how the religion spread into other parts of the world. The students read Margaret’s Print Shop and Through Fire and Water: An Overview of Mennonite History. The purpose of the class was not only to inform students about the history that shapes Mennonites today, but also to help its students grow spiritually and “increase their appreciation for the Scriptures” (Yoder).
The students learned Anabaptists believe in pacifism, or nonviolence, and that makes Anabaptists different from other Christian denominations. They learned about the hardships that many Anabaptists faced because of their beliefs that differed from the ones of the Roman Catholic church. Some of their different beliefs include adult baptism, the importance of the separation of state and church, and pacifism.
Important figures in Christian history include Ulrich Zwingli, Conrad Grebel, Menno Simons, and Martin Luther. In addition to reading about Anabaptists, the students also completed a project that included research on a country of their choice. They learned about the Mennonites and Anabaptists in their chosen country. A very influential figure in Christian history, Martin Luther is the author of the famous 95 Theses. Martin Luther, a famous theologian, influenced Christianity by starting the Protestant Reformation and writing the famous 95 Theses almost five hundred years ago (Biography.com).
Luther’s father, Hans Luther, wanted him to become a lawyer (Hillerbrand). Well on the way to becoming a successful lawyer, he changed his mind during a violent thunderstorm (Hillerbrand). If he made it through the dangerous storm without dying, he promised to forget about his law studies and become a monk (Hillerbrand). Luther could have ignored that very sudden promise, created while he felt stressed and afraid, but he chose to keep that promise and become a monk (Hillerbrand). The choice to keep that promise and not abandon it shows that Luther had “much deeper motivations” (Hillerbrand) that compelled him to join a monastery.
Luther eventually completed a doctorate degree in biblical studies (History.com). Martin Luther’s studies influenced and shaped his teachings and beliefs. Many people disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church. One of those people includes Martin Luther. He believed “that the church was sending the wrong message” (Edwards) by offering people the option to buy indulgences. Luther even called the Roman Catholic Church the Antichrist because they did not accept his message that only Christ could save us (Edwards).
Luther did not agree with some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in 16th century Europe, so the church excommunicated him (Biography.com). His most well known work, the 95 Theses, “laid out a devastating critique of the indulgences, good works, (which sometimes involved monetary donations) that popes could grant to the people to cancel out penance for sins” (Biography.com). Forgiveness should be earned, not bought. In the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences, “an assurance of God’s forgiveness… forgiveness did not depend on what someone had done, but was a gift” (Nolt). These indulgences, sold to people to finance the building of Saint Peter’s Church, also helped Albert of Brandenburg pay his debts, but people who bought indulgences did not know this (Nolt). Martin Luther did not approve with this practice, so he wrote the 95 Theses about five hundred years ago (History.
com). Luther believed, like many other Christians who opposed some of the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings at the time, that forgiveness and salvation could only be granted through divine grace and faith (History.com). Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses, also known as “the Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” (History.com), on Wittenberg Castle church’s door on October 31, 2017 (Yoder).
Legend claims that Luther dramatically nailed it to the door, but many people believe that he hung the 95 Theses in a straightforward manner (History.com) The five-hundredth anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s famous 95 Theses is quickly approaching. The 95 Theses basically criticized some of the popes of the Roman Catholic Church and stated that only God can forgive sinners, not money (Nolt). Luther’s theses, originally written in Latin, have been translated into many other languages, including English (Nolt), showing the importance of them. People have also translated the theses into a more modern language, making them easier to understand.
Luther’s claims, stated more than once in the 95 Theses, shows the wrongdoings of the Roman Catholic Church. It is clear through his writings that Luther disagreed with the church. Luther states repetitively in his 95 Theses that God has the ability to forgive us, and he defends his argument by using Bible verses (Luther). He does not only state that buying indulgences is wrong, he also claims that those who buy indulgences, as well as their teachers, will face eternal doom (Luther). A truly repentant Christian will not purchase indulgences for forgiveness (Luther).
Many Christians believe that the church and state should not be mixed, but sadly, that was the case in 16th century Europe. Martin Luther, brave for denying some of the teachings of the church, also showed that God has all the power. Humans, incapable of not sinning, should not pay money to be forgiven for their sins. The church used the money purchased for indulgences to pay for the building of Saint Peter’s Church (Nolt). When people sinned and paid for indulgences, the church earned money. If the church gained wealth through the sin of the people, then wouldn’t they want more people to sin? The Roman Catholic Church had a lot of power in Europe. They had an alliance with the government, which strengthened their power (Nolt). The church also had money, but they gained their money through people.
They sold indulgences to sinful people to earn money. One of the purposes of a church is to encourage people to follow God’s commandments, but if they earned money through the sins of people, the mission is destroyed. Catholics, at one time, believed in purgatory, or the final purification that those who die go through to “achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven” (Rabiipour). Christians back then worried about going through a long purgatory, so they bought indulgences from the church in hopes of not spending too much time in purgatory (Edwards). Martin Luther emphasized that the church should not sell indulgences through his 95 Theses. Sins should be forgiven through God, prayer, and faith. Martin Luther’s influence on Christianity is phenomenal. He knew that the Roman Catholic Church in 16th century Europe earned money by selling indulgences to unknowing people.
Martin Luther believed that forgiveness and salvation, two main goals of Christians, can only be granted through Jesus Christ. The Roman Catholic church should not sell salvation and forgiveness. Luther did not just disagree with the church, he took action. Writing and posting the 95 Theses on Wittenberg Castle changed Christianity and showed people that the Roman Catholic Church was wrong. If Martin Luther had not created the 95 Theses, Christianity would not be what it is today.