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October 31, 1517


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"Martin Marty is the most widely respected historian of Christianity in the United States today. In this little book he with clarity, compassion, and a good dose of common sense shows how Luther's story is meaningful today." -Rev. John O'Malley, S.J., University Professor, Georgetown University "Martin Marty's attention to October 31, 1517, the day that Martin Luther promulgated his 95 Theses, provides valuable insights for the past, the present, and the future--why Luther's articulation of"repentance" meant so much then, why his commitment to "justification" has now built a bridge for Catholics and Lutherans to work with each other, and why this great event of 500 years ago might herald a hopeful future for Christian believers and all others. There is an awful lot packed readably into this one small book." -Mark Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame "I would not dream of preparing my mind and heart for the celebration of Luther's role in the Reformation without finding out what Martin Marty has to say on the subject. And he says it here in this wonderful little book. The gifted historian that he is, Marty gives us much solid information. But he also writes eloquently about how best to prepare our souls for the kind of commemoration that also includes some prayers of repentance." -Richard Mouw "This pithy book offers valuable insight on how Luther's 95 theses have had a profound influence on he ecumenical movement, and can help Christians today understand what it means to be a member of a truly 'catholic' church." -Kathleen Norris

About the Author

Martin E. Marty is the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he taught for 35 years. An ordained Lutheran minister since 1952 and an historian, he has written on Christian history, Reformation era topics - including a biography of Martin Luther, American religion, and world religions in recent times. The author of over sixty books, he is a National Book Award winner and was honored with the National Medal of Humanities. His passion is to stress how Christianity relates both to public life and to the classic personal themes of faith and hope and love. He has participated in Christian ecumenical programs and reported on the Second Vatican Council and other events involving Catholics and Protestants.


The date that entitles this brief quincentennial prologue may not be immediately recognizable, but it as momentous. On it, Martin Luther posted 95 theses about Christian faith on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Saxony, and launched the Protestant Reformation. While directly prompted by the selling of indulgences, whereby the buyer reduced suffering for sins, the document was fundamentally about salvation through Christ. Luther asserted that salvation was effected by God's grace alone, approached by faith alone. Faith was manifested by repentance: "the whole life of believers should be penitence," says the first thesis. Marty, the dean of American Lutheran church historians, argues that, eventually, Luther's stance, from the beginning acknowledged by the Catholic Church as essentially correct (disagreement's in the details), became the means of reunifying Christianity through ecumenism, a movement that became explicit and official with the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65. This volume is small but weighty and a solid addition for all modern Christianity collections. - Ray Olson, Booklist On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, angry and disappointed with the corruption of the wealthy Catholic church, nailed on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, 95 theses calling for a Reformation. This momentous moment in Christian history is captured and assessed by Martin E. Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he taught for 35 years. The author of more than 60 books, he has participated in Christian ecumenical programs and is, according to Catholic theologian James Martin in the foreword, "a peerless scholar and superb writer." The central point of Luther's bold act of protest was a call for repentance or a change of heart within the Catholic Church which at the time was overrun with corruption due to the selling of indulgences. Instead, Luther emphasized justification by faith and an acceptance of the grace of God. Marty mentions that in 1983, the 500th anniversary of Luther's birth, there was talk that more books in the Western world had been written about this reformer than anyone else except Abraham Lincoln and Napoleon. Other interesting topics covered in the book are the present day existence of some 40,000 Christian denominations (part of Luther's legacy), the continuing dialogue between Lutherans and Catholics, and their sincere efforts to come together in common prayer and joint action. -Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality & Practice, Resources for Spiritual Journeys

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