[Note: There will be an abundance of thoughtful and serious articles written today about the pivotal event that took place on October 31, 1517. Challies‘ 2008 Reformation Day Symposium will have links to dozens of those articles. If you are looking for serious, this is not one of them.]
Today is the 491st anniversary of the day on which Martin Luther, published an “article” that outlined his objections to some of the theological doctrines and practices that were common in his day. He figured it was a good way to express his thoughts and get reactions from others. The title of the article that he published 491 years ago today was Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. That was quite a mouthful, but it, and the contents of the article were intended to shock readers and elicit a strong reaction. And, that it did.
Luther published his article, not on the World Wide Web, as Al Gore had not yet invented it, but on a site that was reflective of the low-technology, that characterized the early 1500’s. He published it where people customarily went to be enlightened by reading articles written by other persons who had an interest in sharing their thoughts. The site where Luther and others published their articles was the door to the Castle Church in Luther’s hometown of Wittenburg, Germany.
When articles were written in Luther’s day, the term they might have used for publishing was “nailing.” I am not certain when the term changed from “nailing” to “posting.” But “nailing” was the literal means by which they physically published their articles on the door.
And even more interesting, “nailing” is exactly what Luther did to the object of this particular article.
At the time Luther posted, sorry, “nailed” his article, he invited comments from his readers. Based on the information I found, Luther evidently had a comment policy for this particular article which was found at the site. It was originally in German, but here is the translation:
Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will the the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and dully appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally, to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.
Isn’t it interesting that article writers today, who have adopted the name “bloggers,” share in Luther’s desire and anticipation that someone will read their article and make a comment. Apparently Luther received lots of comments to this particular “nailing.” He even received comments from the POPE. Can you believe it, the Pope! Pope Leo X apparently objected to what Luther had written. And from what I was able to read about this exchange, apparently Luther himself got involved in the comment thread, back and forth with the Pope.
I was not able to determine which of the 95 points that Luther wrote about in his “nailing” were the ones the Pope was most upset about. That said, I thought number 79 might have hit pretty close to home. Maybe Leo thought the same. In the end, it seems that Martin Luther and Pope Leo X ultimately agreed to disagree.
By no means trying to suggest that anything I will ever write will accomplish what Luther’s writing did, but I wonder if he ever imagined that his “Disputation” would have resulted in what IT did? Words matter, and who knows what blaze might be ignited by the collection and assembling of words that appear in our day in some “nailing” out in cyberspace?