The Cost of Indulgences: Anti-Christian Doctrine
by Ben Kinchlow

It seems the gentleman was very upset, because every time he went to his mailbox, or turned on his TV or radio, there was some preacher asking for money. He was extremely distraught because he needed money himself, so he prayed day after day. One day, one angel said to another, "Well, here he comes again?.. asking for money."

There is some controversy regarding whether or not too much emphasis is placed on raising money. People sometimes question why ministries need "so much money". Of course, the ministries all have good reasons why they need "barely enough money to do what God called them to do". So, the controversy rages.

Talk about fund raising strategies! The head of a certain ministry was engaged in an expensive cathedral building program. He needed some extra ducats (that's Roman for "money'). So he authorized a fundraiser to go to Germany and raise the ducats. How's this for a fund raising proposition? "Indulgences are the most precious and most noble of God's gifts? Come and I will give you letters, all properly sealed, by which even the sins that you intend to commit may be pardoned? But more than this, indulgences avail not only for the living, but for the dead?. Priest! Noble! Merchant! Wife! Youth! Maiden! Do you not hear your parents and other friends, who are dead, and who cry from the bottom of the abyss? 'We are suffering horrible torments! A trifling alms would deliver us; you can give it, and you will not!'"

(FYI: Indulgences were personalized certificates issued by the head of the church, which promised forgiveness of sins and assurance of salvation. An indulgence was good for so many years off your torment in eternity.)

Fee schedule:

Witchcraft - 2 ducats
Polygamy - 6 ducats
Murder - 8 ducats
Sacrilege - 9 ducats
Perjury - 9 ducats

(By the way, if you shopped around, you could get a bargain, because other indulgence sellers in other regions charged different fees.)

A faithful minister objected to the fundraisers tactics and went to the head of the church "on whose trustworthiness he leaned strongly". To his dismay, he found that the head of the church not only supported his fundraisers, but kicked him out because he refused to be silent.

What had started as a debate over fundraising turned up a more serious issue. Can salvation be purchased? Can the wages of sin be ameliorated through works? Is it possible to have God's sentence adjudicated in the court of cash? This issue, as strange as it seems, is still alive in today's church world. In spite of centuries of preaching to the contrary, there are still those who believe, and teach, that salvation has something to do with good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. Scripture could not be more graphic. "All our righteousness, good works, religious activities are, in His sight, as filthy rags." (Isaiah 64:6 )

"There's only one way!", wrote the defrocked minister. "Every idea or practice contrary to Scripture has no authority and is, in fact, anti-Christian." He continues, "We are saved not by works, but by faith? Solo fid?!" thundered Martin Luther.

The 95 theological propositions nailed to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany 500 years ago turned the world upside down and became the foundation of western civilization as we know it. Ideas such as democracy, civil rights and liberties, constitutional governments, religious liberties, and the free market all grew out of what we call "The Reformation".

One committed man with a God idea changed the world. Now, what did you say your New Year's resolution was?


We gratefully acknowledge the Trinity Foundation publication, "Civilization and the Protestant Reformation", copyright 1994, John W. Robbins.

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