Thursday, June 24, 2010


Here I was thinking we were finished with satisfaction, and here come indulgences which are one way to make satisfaction - according to the Roman church.  Before I get into what Calvin wrote, I think a little background on indulgences would be helpful for some.  In the early 1500's, Pope Leo X wanted to have a capital campaign for the church.  The proceeds from this campaign would go to build St. Peter's Basilica.  The reasoning behind the indulgences (as claimed by the Roman church - the sellers of the indulgences) was that there were so many good works performed by the saints and an infinite number performed by Christ stored up in what was called the Treasury of Merit.  If a loved one was stuck in purgatory, all one had to do was purchase an indulgence and the loved one was freed from purgatory and could go on to heaven.  You could even buy them in advance so you could go straight to heaven, bypassing purgatory all together.  This was a "get out of hell free" card.  Johann Tetzel was the number one salesman of indulgences.  He won all the sales awards.  It is said that he even started using little rhymes in his sales pitch like, "When a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs."  When Mr. Tetzel reached the small German town of Wittenberg, a certain monk named Martin Luther took issue with the sales tactics, which led to a question of the entire selling of indulgences, the idea of the treasury of merit, and eventually the purity of the Catholic Church.  This is the thing that Luther was wanting to debate when he posted the famous 95 thesis on the church door.  All he was wanting at that point was a scholarly debate, but it eventually lead the the Reformation.

As I was reading these first sections of chapter five, I could not help but hear how angry Calvin was about indulgences.  I guess they had not started writing in all caps to express anger back in his day, but now he would be writing it that way.  I did really laugh out loud on one sentence early on.  Calvin writes about those who were attempting to distribute the merits of Christ through indulgences, "These men are fit to be treated by drugs for insanity rather than to be argued with."  There is no way to purchase good works performed by others who have died, no matter how holy they are.  And (maybe even more importantly), there is no need to rack up a bunch of good works.  Salvation is not earned in that manner.  Luther's battle cry was "Justification by faith alone" as opposed to the Roman doctrine of justification by faith and works.

Calvin makes an interesting point about indulgences that I don't remember ever hearing.  He calls indulgences, "a profanation of the blood of Christ."  He called them other things, but this profanation is what I want to look at for a second.  
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
  • Indulgences take away Christ's role and transfer the power of sanctification to the blood of the martyrs.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:13 reads, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" This means that Christ alone died for our sins, not Paul or anyone else.
  • Indulgences end up claiming that Paul and other martyrs died for us, not just Christ.
  • Acts 20:28b reads, "to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
  • Indulgences incorporate the blood of martyrs, not just Christ's blood.
  • Hebrews 10:4 reads, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins."
  • Indulgences teach that sanctification by itself is insufficient, but  the sacrifice of the martyrs perfects it.
  • Revelation 7:14 reads, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
  • Indulgences claim the ability to wash robes in the blood of the saints.

Tomorrow's reading: 3.5.3-3.5.5

I thought I was not going to be able to write at all this morning, but I was confused about the day of the week yesterday.  So tomorrow there is question if I can find coffee in the morning, but we shall see.

One more note: a good, historically accurate movie to learn more about the corruption of the Catholic Church in the 16th century is Luther starring Joseph Fiennes.  It really is a good movie and you will see how the people of the time were preyed upon by the church through the selling of indulgences.

1 comment:

  1. George, under the heading "Hebrews 10:4" you have a misspelled word.
    Regarding indulgences: remember, Michelangelo didn't work for free. Think what the whole project would cost now!


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