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The Wittenburg Door


On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in the city of Wittenburg ultimately serving as the starting gun for the Reformation. Luther was at that time a local priest and doctor of theology at the local university and was therefore charged with the responsibility of guarding the teaching of the church as well as the souls of his flock.  Luther had come to a new conviction about the doctrine of justification not more than a year earlier, but had not yet seen his position as being in direct contradiction to the teaching of the church. However, earlier in the year 1517, pope Leo X had authorized prince Albert of Brandenburg to offer an indulgence offering a reduction of time in purgatory to anyone who paid, with the amount of time reduced being in accordance with what one paid. Indulgences were nothing new.  The church had been offering them for a few centuries, but this time was different.  Prince Albert had enlisted the service of Johannes Tetzel to raise the greatest amount of money possible, by whatever means necessary, in the selling of this indulgence.  Tetzel began to offer new dimensions to the benefits of indulgences.  He told his audiences that they could not only purchase them for themselves, but also for dead loved ones.  He scared them into purchasing this indulgence by dramatically encouraging them to consider the terror that their departed loved ones were experiencing and how with just a pittance they could grant them liberty.  Luther was incensed and decided to make his concerns known to prince Albert and other leaders in the church.  To do so, he nailed 95 points of concern on the church door, an action which today would be quite dramatic.  But in 1517, Luther’s action was not nearly as revolutionary as we might expect.  The Wittenburg door was comparable to a modern day deli window; a place where public announcements could be made and viewed by anyone.  Luther posted his Theses there in order to inspire discussion and healthy debate.  Here at DSC, we have chosen “The Wittenburg Door” as the title for our blog.  This will be a place where our ideas are nailed for anyone to read and comment on.  Though its content may not be as world changing as the original door’s was, we hope that there will be plenty of fresh food for thought.