By Paul Koch

500 years ago. Can you believe it? 500 years ago, an unknown monk and professor of theology at a small university in the town of Wittenberg, Germany let his frustrations with the bureaucracy of the church boil over. See, though the church was always a place where the gifts of Christ were given to the faithful, over the years it had become a place marked by systems of penance and work that obscured the gifts of Christ. To continue the growth and strength of the church, monetary payments were attached to your devotional activities. From viewing relics to buying indulgences the Christian was encouraged to ease their conscience and show their repentance by these acts of faithfulness. But this meant that the conscience of the people was always plagued with doubt. Did they give enough or do enough to be sure of their salvation? Where they good enough Christians? Perhaps just one more payment, one more pilgrimage, one more act of penance is needed. In fact, one more is always needed.

By Bob Hiller

So, are you tired of Martin Luther yet? As you well know by now, next Tuesday marks the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his “95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to the church door in Wittenberg. And though I’m sure by now you’ve read plenty about how those theses weren’t truly “Lutheran” as such (they are still pretty catholic in their theology), that event seems as good a time as any to mark the beginning of the Reformation. Now, 500 years after that incident, here we stand, rejoicing in and celebrating Luther’s “recovery” of the Gospel for the sake of the Church. Happy Halloween!

By Graham Glover

This past year has seen a number of articles, blogs, podcasts, books, documentaries, sermons, classes, etc., about the upcoming anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. No matter what “side” you think was right or how you understand the particulars of the people and events that transformed the Western Church and much of the world’s history, there is undoubtedly something out there for everyone to resonate with as we consider the events that took place 500 years ago.

By Scott Keith

Luther Under the Ban Melanchthon Hard at Work

In 1521—the same year Melanchthon married his wife—at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther was convicted of heresy and placed under a Papal bull and an imperial ban. The ban meant that he was an outlaw and could be killed or imprisoned on sight. It was only the grace and quick thinking of his elector, Fredrick the Wise, that saved Luther’s bacon. Elector Fredrick whisked Luther off to the Wartburg castle for safe keeping. Yet, while Dr. Luther was contending with the Papal bull against him, confessing the Christian faith at Worms, and writing sermons for preaching in the Castle Church and elsewhere, Melanchthon was at work developing the first Lutheran “system” of theology. This work was destined to exert a powerful influence on the Lutheran Reformation and marks an epoch in the history of Christian theology. The work in question was entitled the Loci Communes Theologici, or Common Topics of Theology.

By Scott Keith

Early Life and Education:

Philip(p) was born to George and Barbara Schwarzerdt in Bretten in 1497. Philip had four siblings: Anna (1499), Georg (1500 or 1501), Margarete (1506), and Barbara (1508). All were born in his grandparents’ house in the Electoral Saxon Residential town of Bretten. Melanchthon’s father, Georg Schwarzerdt, born in Heidelberg, was a master of gunnery founding and was skilled in forging lightweight, durable armor. Because of his skills, Georg was elevated to the office of electoral master of armorer and thus needed to remain in Heidelberg. Melanchthon’s mother, Barbara, came from the wealthy merchant family of Reuter.

By Scott Keith

Yesterday I taught a class on Philip Melanchthon at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Frasier, Michigan. At the end of class, I was asked if I would recommend a short biography on Melanchthon suitable for a layperson. Sadly, I said no. Most of the short biographies are out of print and very expensive, and most the modern works are written for academic audiences. So, I decided to do a short series as a brief introduction to the life and times of Philip Melanchthon. As we continue to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I think that this series of blogs will be helpful and pair nicely with the two forthcoming Thinking Fellows podcasts on Melanchthon.