Protestant churches, i.e., those that still believe and confess the theology, piety, and practice recovered in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, celebrate Reformation Day on October 31. This is the day, in 1517, that Dr Martin Luther (1483–1546), a German biblical scholar and theologian, mailed to the Archbishop his famous Ninety Five Theses against the abuse of indulgences. According to Roman (Catholic) Canon Law, an indulgence is “a remission before God of the temporal punishment of sins.” According to Roman dogma, Christians who do not complete those temporal punishments (penance) in this life must do so after this life before going to heaven. The church, however, Rome says, has the authority and power to release (remit) someone from those punishments. As a fund-raising scheme in the 16th century, a certain monk, Johann Tetzel (1465–1519), went about Germany selling plenary (full) indulgences. For the price of a donation, Tetzel, with the authority of the papacy and Roman ecclesiastical authorities behind him, sold indulgences by pleading with Christians to rescue loved ones from the pains and tortures of purgatory. He even had a jingle: “When the coin in the coffer clinks, the soul from purgatory springs.” Modern huckster like Kenneth Hagan or Kenneth Copeland are nothing new. Rome had been offering indulgences to the dead since the Council of Constance (1414–17). Remarkably, contrary to oft-repeated claim that the sale of indulgences ended with the Council of Trent, Rome continues to sell indulgences. Just a few years ago, Rome offered an indulgence for those who follow Pope Francis’ Twitter feed. Rome continues to claim the authority to sell indulgences. In §1471 of her Catechism she says that those who are “duly disposed,” who have already been forgiven [by a priest], gain “under certain prescribed conditions” an indulgence. Trading money for services rendered is one of those conditions as in the case of the Great Jubilee (2000) when Rome offered indulgences to those who made a pilgrimage to specified places or who “support by a significant contribution” works of a religious or social nature [emphasis added].
Luther was certainly right when he said, in thesis 28: “It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.” Read more»
R. Scott Clark, “Reformation is By Abounding Grace Alone” (October 30, 2018)