Student-Centered World

“Tweeting” the 95 Theses by Martin Luther: A Great Class Activity

Teaching the 95 Theses by Martin Luther can feel daunting at times, though it is such an important part of modern history and explains so much of how we got where we are today in society. Finding creative lesson plans for Martin Luther’s 95 Theses can seem challenging, but it is possible to get your students engaged and excited as they take the time to decipher each of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther.

Whether you are looking for Martin Luther unit studies or just want an engaging way to teach teens about Martin Luther, there is something here that will work well for your class.

This lesson helps students understand the context of the Protestant Reformation, as well as to see how it has affected our world today by looking at Martin Luther and his 95 Theses.

This lesson plan is not only a great way to introduce students to Luther’s 95 Theses but also to teach them about the impact of Luther and his movement on European history, as well as its influence on western philosophy, by simply nailing his 95 Theses to the doors of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. It also helps fuel a dialogue with an in-depth look into what that act was all about.

What Are the 95 Theses by Martin Luther?

The 95 Theses by Martin Luther are a list of propositions sent to the officials of the Catholic Church demanding a reformation of how the church handled certain issues. Some examples include:

–       Punishments for those who have committed small offenses should not be as harsh as those who have committed more serious crimes.

–       Priests must be allowed to marry.

–       All people should have access to the sacrament of communion, not just those who were able to pay for it.

The list was originally composed in Latin so that all members of the Catholic Church would be able to read and understand it. The official stance has always been that Martin Luther nailed each thesis to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, but there are no records that evidence this. It is likely that Martin Luther sent his list to Albert of Mainz, who was responsible for calling a meeting to meet at Heidelberg in April 1518. Other records show that Martin Luther’s Theses may have been reprinted and spread across Europe in pamphlet form thanks to the recent invention of the Printing Press.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses by Martin Luther are famous the world over, and whether or not there is evidence that they were nailed to a door, they certainly changed the course of history.

The students are always really entertained about what happened “after” he nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the church, including a friend “fake” kidnapping him. He was eventually found and forced to make a public apology, but there was no turning back for him at that point. He was excommunicated from the church and moved around Europe. After returning to Wittenberg once again, he worked on his translation of The Bible into German.

The students are really excited to learn about the differences between life for Martin Luther at home in Germany vs. the developments of his life abroad, especially after he got married and had 6 kids and how he was a key figure in the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation that would occur about a decade or so after his 95 Theses.

How Do I Teach the 95 Theses by Martin Luther?

The beauty of teaching about The 95 Theses by Martin Luther is that it is a perfect springboard for other activities. The list is surprisingly varied in its content, and there are many different debates that can happen when students investigate each thesis.

–       Some of the theses demand more social justice than others, so you could split your student into groups to debate about what they feel should be done to address each thesis.

–       Other theses are quite modern in how they address access to social services, so you could ask your students to prepare a contemporary speech about why these needs still exist and that they deserve attention.

–       Use various sources to debate whether Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were the first call for change or if there were people who had similar opinions before him.

–       The list is filled with arguments about the forgiveness of sin, so you could prepare a role-play where two students are arguing about what actually happens when someone receives absolution for any sins they have committed.

Keep in mind your curriculum: is this a history class or a religious class? Make sure you are approaching your teaching of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther through that lens. It is always a bit tricky to teach religion factually in a history class, but it is possible, especially with an activity like “ Tweeting the 95 Theses “.

Tweeting the 95 Theses by Martin Luther

This is, by far, my favorite activity that I have ever done with my students. There are so many ways to go about this (having groups dive into all 95 theses, just a handful, each individual student researching a certain number, the whole class looking at specific ones, etc.).

Each of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther gets its own page in this document. The students then need to research the meaning (and sometimes, even the words) that are written and then determine what it meant, the effects, why it was important, etc. Then, they will fast forward to the modern-day and, instead of nailing the 95 Theses to the door of the Church, they will play Martin Luther and “Tweet” each of them (hashtags included!)

The reason this lesson is so engaging is that it is social media (which makes it something that the students are interested in). It seems like everyone loves this concept, even if it’s just for fun. And sometimes, if you make connections to what they already know, learning can become more engaging 🙂

I have had students get absolutely enthralled in this activity, even arguing with one another over the meaning and then comparing different theses to others to try to prove their point. It can be a lot of fun. However, it does require that the students do their own research and incorporate historical context as well as current events, but this is something you can help them through (you know your students best, after all).

How to “Tweet”

To understand this assignment, you must first understand how Twitter works.

Twitter is used as an effective tool for sharing information. The success of what you tweet is determined by the time, place, and content you tweet about…and the students know this. If you’ve ever heard about something go “viral”, you know how fast social media can spread.

Twitter has a character limit of 140 characters, so students have to be concise when they craft their thoughts. Once you have taught your class how to tweet, allow them to research each thesis and send their findings out as if they were Tweeting them. This can be done fully on paper, through a program like Socrative , or even on a class blog.

The beauty of using this technology is that there are no wrong answers. Students can take the list in any direction they choose as long as they back up their thoughts factually, so it isn’t about what is right or wrong. It’s more about checking out how the students feel after doing their research and having them use technology to communicate with each other – which is, let’s face it, what they are already doing!

Tweeting the 95 Theses by Martin Luther can be done at any time during your teaching of the 95 Theses, or even at the end. It can be done in class or as an assignment early on to get students researching right away.

The key is to find a way to make the 95 Theses more understandable and a bit more tangible for your students.

The key is bringing in the Twitter aspect to the assignment, especially once you encourage your students to use their “social media knowledge” in creating hashtags, using emojis, etc. It could be a fun assignment that will let students demonstrate their learning in a brand new way.

About the Author: Jenn Breisacher

After moving from a teacher-dominated classroom to a truly student-centered one, Jenn found herself helping colleagues who wanted to follow her lead.  In 2018 she decided to expand outside of her school walls and help those out there who were also trying to figure out this fantastic method of instruction to ignite intrinsic motivation in their students.  Read more about her journey with Student-Centered World at

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Six Activities to Teach Kids about the Reformation

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The Reformation, kicked off by Martin Luther on October 31 of 1517, is one of the largest turning points in history. It still affects us today. How can you help children in your church understand its importance? Here are six ways to dig deeper into the Reformation, along with some free downloadable activities .

See the 95 Theses

Kids know that 95 is a big number, but do they know just how big? Print out the 95 Theses and hang them up—even tape the pages end-to-end, making one long sheet that will trail on the ground! Or, create a paper chain with 95 links and hold it across your room. These visual representations can show kids just how many things Martin Luther wanted to talk about, and can start your own conversations about what specific changes were made.

Color Luther’s Rose

The famous seal of Martin Luther, Luther’s Rose, is a wonderful visual for explaining the Reformation. The colors and symbols can help students connect ideas with the images they see every day. With younger students, a Luther’s Rose coloring page allows them to have a hands-on experience with these major themes of the Reformation! Walk through each different piece and color, explaining the significance of the color and part of the seal while children color each part.

Eat A Diet of (Gummy) Worms

When students hear about “The Diet of Worms,” you may get some confused looks or giggles. Explain that, no, Luther did not have to eat actual worms, but instead the Diet was a major discussion of theology in the city of Worms. As Luther met with the Holy Roman Emperor, he demonstrated his conviction of using God’s Word for all teaching. When discussing this turning point in the Reformation, be sure to explain the roles of all the people involved—and maybe bring some gummy worms to share.

Host a Marty Party

Hosting a Reformation-themed event like a “Marty Party” can be a great way to have a fun event for the fall season in lieu of a Halloween party. Kids can dress in thematic Reformation wear and participate in Reformation or theme-based games. Trivia games can be especially popular, and your students can show off their knowledge!

Many of the events of the Reformation were affected by where they took place. Print out a map of Europe in the 1500s, marking major cities of the Reformation, such as Rome, Worms, Wittenberg, Eisleben, Erfurt, Wartburg, and Augsburg. As you “travel” from city to city, explain the events that happened in each place and how they affected Luther and the other Reformers. This is a great way to make a journey out of studying the Reformation. Hang up the map and refer to it each week or during each lesson.

Act out the Story of Martin & Katie

An important person in the Reformation who often gets overlooked is Martin’s wife, Katie Luther, or Katharina von Bora. In teaching about her experience, a new perspective can be brought to the table. Her beginnings as a nun and her eventual marriage to Luther, as well as their family life, can open the eyes of your students to the fact that Martin Luther wasn’t just a preacher and teacher—he was also a husband and dad! Choose students to play Martin and Katie, and have them dramatically act out their story as another student reads a summary of their lives.

The Reformation affected the entire world and still impacts us today. Teaching our children about the stand that Martin Luther and his fellow reformers took is an important responsibility. Just as Luther was committed to the church and its people, we can be too.

For more Reformation activities, check out our free Reformation activities for kids!

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95 theses activity

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Bible resources

95 Theses by Martin Luther Craft

  • September 19, 2021

The 95 Theses by Martin Luther craft can help students learn about the Reformation. It enhances memory and visual learning to help them recall this aspect of Reformation Day. In addition, students learn to appreciate aspects of our faith like the 95 theses that teach the love, grace, and mercy of God. Finally, students can work on their coordination and fine motor skills as they cut, paste, and put their crafts together.


What are the 95 Theses?

How many times did you hear about the 95 theses by Martin Luther as a kid? I learned about them being hammered on the church door. In recent years, I have seen many a meme about them, particularly during the Reformation anniversary. Yet, did you ever really know what any of them say?

Teaching the 95 Theses by Martin Luther

I wanted to help my students understand some of the theses. Therefore, I chose five that were fairly simple for students to understand. We used a large piece of brown construction paper and folded it half to look like a door. Students glued the five theses to the front of the door. Inside the door, the students wrote about the Reformation from information that they have learned from other activities.

If you are looking for a ready-to-print 95 theses craft for the Reformation, you can find it in my store .

Looking for related articles? Check out:

Luther’s Seal Meaning Explained

Martin Luther on the Ledge

Discover Beautiful Theology Posters

Looking for more related articles from other authors? Check out:

Six Activities to Teach Kids about the Reformation

Making Reformation Day Fun for Kids

Reformation Day Activities to Make Learning Fun

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95 theses activity

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Activity 1: Story - Martin Luther and the 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

Part of Building Bridges

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • Story, "Martin Luther and the 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences"
  • Leader Resource 2, Image of Theses
  • Optional: Set and costume pieces

Preparation for Activity

  • Make four copies of the story for volunteer readers.
  • Make copies of Leader Resource 2, Image of Theses.
  • Optional: If readily accessible, provide a few costume pieces (such as robes) and/or set pieces (desk, chair, pen, Bible or platform for speaking).

Description of Activity

Participants hear and discuss the story and the creation of the Protestant movement.

Seek four volunteers to help tell the story. Assign parts (narrator, three readers who will personify Martin Luther), give them each a copy of the story and a few minutes to look over their lines. If you are creating a set, the non-speaking youth can put the props in place while the speakers look over their parts.

Have participants perform the story. Thank the volunteers.

Ask for participants' initial reactions. What did they think of the story? What was most interesting about it? What did they think was most important?

Pass around copies of Leader Resource 2, Image of Theses, for participants to see the original text.

Continue discussion with the following points:

  • After he was declared an outlaw, Luther was kidnapped by a friend and taken to a castle where he hid for a year, wearing a disguise and going by an assumed name. Was this cowardly? Was it smart? He continued to write while he was in hiding, eventually returned to public life, preaching and writing prolifically, including rewriting the Mass and composing many hymns. In your opinion, would Luther have had more or less impact if he had allowed himself to be martyred-in other words, arrested, tried, and executed by the Church for being a heretic? Would his death have been more influential than his teachings? Could Jesus' impact have been even greater if he had hidden from authorities and continued teaching? Why or why not?
  • Luther translated the Bible into German so ordinary people could read it. Before, it was printed only in Latin, meaning only the well-educated had access. The Catholic Church disapproved of his translation; for the Church, Latin was the official language of the Bible, which insured that people needed clergy to deliver and interpret the sacred text. What do you think about Luther's decision? Was his wish to make the Bible directly accessible to more people worth disobeying Church authority? Would making the Bible available in the common language encourage independence among people? Would it have the effect of undermining Church authority? Why or why not? In your opinion, would that effect be a good thing?
  • There are now several dozen branches of Catholicism, but there are over 30,000 Protestant denominations. Why such a difference? Perhaps the initial "I don't agree with that; I'll do it differently" impulse of the Reformation continues, so every time a significant difference of opinion emerges, another denomination results. Is that impulse positive? What might some negative aspects be? How did the Protestant Reformation affect the history of Unitarian Universalism?
  • Many Christian denominations consider themselves the One True Church, believing that followers of other denominations do not have the truth and will go to hell. Consider the following questions carefully and with an open mind: Why would such a belief be appealing to believers? Would it confer a responsibility on believers toward other people? If so, what responsibility?
  • The Christian doctrine that Jesus was both fully God and fully man seems to be an irreconcilable contradiction. Unitarian Universalists believe that 1) each person is the ultimate authority to choose what faith is right for them, and 2) we are right in our conviction that people should have this freedom. Are these beliefs contradictions? Why or why not? Can contradictory statements both be true? Can you think of any examples?
  • Ultimately, Luther's most serious crime was encouraging independence: 1) independence for people to think for themselves and use reason in their faith; 2) independence from the Roman Catholic Church because a person's relationship with God was personal, not reliant on clergy, and only God, not the Church through indulgences, could forgive sins. Why was this independence so threatening? The Catholic Church feared that open debate of fundamental issues would destroy the Church. Has this turned out to be the case? Has active public disputation of theological issues ultimately strengthened or weakened Christianity?
  • Martin Luther opposed indulgences because they were a corruption, undermining the highest values the Church was supposed to be embodying. Invite youth to consider: is there a group or organization they are involved or familiar with that engages in practices that contradict or ignore the very values they espouse? (Examples: an environmental organization that wastes energy or water or does not recycle; a school that teaches good health but sells junk food on campus.) Ask:
  • If you were to write Theses, alerting some group or organization to what you consider abuses of power or inconsistencies, what would your document concern?
  • Are some kinds of abuses or inconsistencies more offensive than others? If so, what would those be? Why?
  • What organization would you want to give a wake-up call to?
  • Is there some area where you think you could use a wake up call, some way in which you are living in contradiction of your own values?

95 theses activity

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This Day In History : October 31

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95 theses activity

Martin Luther posts 95 theses

On October 31, 1517, legend has it that the priest and scholar Martin Luther approaches the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and nails a piece of paper to it containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation .

In his theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking payment—called “indulgences”—for the forgiveness of sins. At the time, a Dominican priest named Johann Tetzel, commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz and Pope Leo X, was in the midst of a major fundraising campaign in Germany to finance the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Though Prince Frederick III the Wise had banned the sale of indulgences in Wittenberg, many church members traveled to purchase them. When they returned, they showed the pardons they had bought to Luther, claiming they no longer had to repent for their sins.

Luther’s frustration with this practice led him to write the 95 Theses, which were quickly snapped up, translated from Latin into German and distributed widely. A copy made its way to Rome, and efforts began to convince Luther to change his tune. He refused to keep silent, however, and in 1521 Pope Leo X formally excommunicated Luther from the Catholic Church. That same year, Luther again refused to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany, who issued the famous Edict of Worms declaring Luther an outlaw and a heretic and giving permission for anyone to kill him without consequence. Protected by Prince Frederick, Luther began working on a German translation of the Bible, a task that took 10 years to complete.

The term “Protestant” first appeared in 1529, when Charles V revoked a provision that allowed the ruler of each German state to choose whether they would enforce the Edict of Worms. A number of princes and other supporters of Luther issued a protest, declaring that their allegiance to God trumped their allegiance to the emperor. They became known to their opponents as Protestants; gradually this name came to apply to all who believed the Church should be reformed, even those outside Germany. By the time Luther died, of natural causes, in 1546, his revolutionary beliefs had formed the basis for the Protestant Reformation, which would over the next three centuries revolutionize Western civilization.

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The 95 Theses – a modern translation

1. When Jesus said “repent” he meant that believers should live a whole life repenting

2. Only God can give salvation – not a priest.

3. Inwards penitence must be accompanied with a suitable change in lifestyle.

4. Sin will always remain until we enter Heaven.

5. The pope must act according to canon law.

6. Only God can forgive -the pope can only reassure people that God will do this.

7. A sinner must be humbled in front of his priest before God can forgive him.

8. Canon law applies only to the living not to the dead.

9. However, the Holy Spirit will make exceptions to this when required to do so.

10. The priest must not threaten those dying with the penalty of purgatory.

11. The church through church penalties is producing a ‘human crop of weeds’.

12. In days gone by, church penalties were imposed before release from guilt to show true repentance.

13. When you die all your debts to the church are wiped out and those debts are free from being judged.

14. When someone is dying they might have bad/incorrect thoughts against the church and they will be scared. This fear is enough penalty.

15. This fear is so bad that it is enough to cleanse the soul.

16. Purgatory = Hell. Heaven = Assurance.

17. Souls in Purgatory need to find love – the more love the less their sin.

18. A sinful soul does not have to be always sinful. It can be cleansed.

19. There is no proof that a person is free from sin.

20. Even the pope – who can offer forgiveness – cannot totally forgive sins held within.

21. An indulgence will not save a man.

22. A dead soul cannot be saved by an indulgence.

23. Only a very few sinners can be pardoned. These people would have to be perfect.

24. Therefore most people are being deceived by indulgences.

25. The pope’s power over Purgatory is the same as a priest’s.

26. When the pope intervenes to save an individual, he does so by the will of God.

27. It is nonsense to teach that a dead soul in Purgatory can be saved by money.

28. Money causes greed – only God can save souls.

29. Do we know if the souls in Purgatory want to be saved ?

30. No-one is sure of the reality of his own penitence – no-one can be sure of receiving complete forgiveness.

31. A man who truly buys an indulgence (ie believes it is to be what it is) is as rare as someone who truly repents all sin ie very rare.

32. People who believe that indulgences will let them live in salvation will always be damned – along with those who teach it.

33. Do not believe those who say that a papal indulgence is a wonderful gift which allows salvation.

34. Indulgences only offer Man something which has been agreed to by Man.

35. We should not teach that those who aim to buy salvation do not need to be contrite.

36. A man can be free of sin if he sincerely repents – an indulgence is not needed.

37. Any Christian – dead or alive – can gain the benefit and love of Christ without an indulgence.

38. Do not despise the pope’s forgiveness but his forgiveness is not the most important.

39. The most educated theologians cannot preach about indulgences and real repentance at the same time.

40. A true repenter will be sorry for his sins and happily pay for them. Indulgences trivialise this issue.

41. If a pardon is given it should be given cautiously in case people think it’s more important than doing good works.

42. Christians should be taught that the buying of indulgences does not compare with being forgiven by Christ.

43. A Christian who gives to the poor or lends to those in need is doing better in God’s eyes than one who buys ‘forgiveness’.

44. This is because of loving others, love grows and you become a better person. A person buying an indulgence does not become a better person.

45. A person who passes by a beggar but buys an indulgence will gain the anger and disappointment of God.

46. A Christian should buy what is necessary for life not waste money on an indulgence.

47. Christians should be taught that they do not need an indulgence.

48. The pope should have more desire for devout prayer than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught not to rely on an indulgence. They should never lose their fear of God through them.

50. If a pope knew how much people were being charged for an indulgence – he would prefer to demolish St. Peter’s.

51. The pope should give his own money to replace that which is taken from pardoners.

52. It is vain to rely on an indulgence to forgive your sins.

53. Those who forbid the word of God to be preached and who preach pardons as a norm are enemies of both the pope and Christ.

54. It is blasphemy that the word of God is preached less than that of indulgences.

55. The pope should enforce that the gospel – a very great matter – must be celebrated more than indulgences.

56. The treasure of the church is not sufficiently known about among the followers of Christ.

57. The treasure of the Church are temporal (of this life).

58. Relics are not the relics of Christ, although they may seem to be. They are, in fact, evil in concept.

59. St. Laurence misinterpreted this as the poor gave money to the church for relics and forgiveness.

60. Salvation can be sought for through the church as it has been granted this by Christ.

61. It is clear that the power of the church is adequate, by itself, for the forgiveness of sins.

62. The main treasure of the church should be the Gospels and the grace of God.

63. Indulgences make the most evil seem unjustly good.

64. Therefore evil seems good without penance or forgiveness.

65. The treasured items in the Gospels are the nets used by the workers.

66. Indulgences are used to net an income for the wealthy.

67. It is wrong that merchants praise indulgences.

68. They are the furthest from the grace of God and the piety and love of the cross.

69. Bishops are duty bound to sell indulgences and support them as part of their job.

70. But bishops are under a much greater obligation to prevent men preaching their own dreams.

71. People who deny the pardons of the Apostles will be cursed.

72. Blessed are they who think about being forgiven.

73. The pope is angered at those who claim that pardons are meaningless.

74. He will be even more angry with those who use indulgences to criticise holy love.

75. It is wrong to think that papal pardons have the power to absolve all sin.

76. You should feel guilt after being pardoned. A papal pardon cannot remove guilt.

77. Not even St. Peter could remove guilt.

78. Even so, St. Peter and the pope possess great gifts of grace.

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross is of equal value with the cross of Christ.

80. Bishops who authorise such preaching will have to answer for it.

81. Pardoners make the intelligent appear disrespectful because of the pope’s position.

82. Why doesn’t the pope clean feet for holy love not for money ?

83. Indulgences bought for the dead should be re-paid by the pope.

84. Evil men must not buy their salvation when a poor man, who is a friend of God, cannot.

85. Why are indulgences still bought from the church ?

86. The pope should re-build St. Peter’s with his own money.

87. Why does the pope forgive those who serve against him ?

88. What good would be done to the church if the pope was to forgive hundreds of people each day ?

89. Why are indulgences only issued when the pope sees fit to issue them ?

90. To suppress the above is to expose the church for what it is and to make true Christians unhappy.

91. If the pope had worked as he should (and by example) all the problems stated above would not have existed.

92. All those who say there is no problem must go. Problems must be tackled.

93. Those in the church who claim there is no problem must go.

94. Christians must follow Christ at all cost.

95. Let Christians experience problems if they must – and overcome them – rather than live a false life based on present Catholic teaching.

Luther's 95 Theses

95 theses martin luther nailed on the church door at wittenburg..

OCTOBER 31, 1517

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

  • When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, "Repent" ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
  • This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
  • Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.
  • The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
  • The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
  • The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.
  • God remits guilt to no one unless at the same time he humbles him in all things and makes him submissive to the vicar, the priest.
  • The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to the canons themselves, nothing should be imposed on the dying.
  • Therefore the Holy Spirit through the pope is kind to us insofar as the pope in his decrees always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.
  • Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
  • Those tares of changing the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory were evidently sown while the bishops slept ( Matthew 13:25 ).
  • In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.
  • The dying are freed by death from all penalties, are already dead as far as the canon laws are concerned, and have a right to be released from them.
  • Imperfect piety or love on the part of the dying person necessarily brings with it great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater the fear.
  • This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, to say nothing of other things, to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.
  • Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ the same as despair, fear, and assurance of salvation.
  • It seems as though for the souls in purgatory fear should necessarily decrease and love increase.
  • Furthermore, it does not seem proved, either by reason or by Scripture, that souls in purgatory are outside the state of merit, that is, unable to grow in love.
  • Nor does it seem proved that souls in purgatory, at least not all of them, are certain and assured of their own salvation, even if we ourselves may be entirely certain of it.
  • Therefore the pope, when he uses the words "plenary remission of all penalties," does not actually mean "all penalties," but only those imposed by himself.
  • Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
  • As a matter of fact, the pope remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to canon law, they should have paid in this life.
  • If remission of all penalties whatsoever could be granted to anyone at all, certainly it would be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to very few.
  • For this reason most people are necessarily deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of release from penalty.
  • That power which the pope has in general over purgatory corresponds to the power which any bishop or curate has in a particular way in his own diocese and parish.
  • The pope does very well when he grants remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of the keys, which he does not have, but by way of intercession for them.
  • They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
  • 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.
  • Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed, since we have exceptions in St. Severinus and St. Paschal, as related in a legend.
  • No one is sure of the integrity of his own contrition, much less of having received plenary remission.
  • The man who actually buys indulgences is as rare as he who is really penitent; indeed, he is exceedingly rare.
  • Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.
  • Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope's pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.
  • For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.
  • They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.
  • Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
  • Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.
  • Nevertheless, papal remission and blessing are by no means to be disregarded, for they are, as I have said (Thesis 6), the proclamation of the divine remission.
  • It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.
  • A Christian who is truly contrite seeks and loves to pay penalties for his sins; the bounty of indulgences, however, relaxes penalties and causes men to hate them -- at least it furnishes occasion for hating them.
  • Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
  • Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend that the buying of indulgences should in any way be compared with works of mercy.
  • Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.
  • Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better. Man does not, however, become better by means of indulgences but is merely freed from penalties.
  • Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God's wrath.
  • Christians are to be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they must reserve enough for their family needs and by no means squander it on indulgences.
  • Christians are to be taught that they buying of indulgences is a matter of free choice, not commanded.
  • Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money.
  • Christians are to be taught that papal indulgences are useful only if they do not put their trust in them, but very harmful if they lose their fear of God because of them.
  • Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence preachers, he would rather that the basilica of St. Peter were burned to ashes than built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep.
  • Christians are to be taught that the pope would and should wish to give of his own money, even though he had to sell the basilica of St. Peter, to many of those from whom certain hawkers of indulgences cajole money.
  • It is vain to trust in salvation by indulgence letters, even though the indulgence commissary, or even the pope, were to offer his soul as security.
  • They are the enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  • Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.
  • It is certainly the pope's sentiment that if indulgences, which are a very insignificant thing, are celebrated with one bell, one procession, and one ceremony, then the gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  • The true treasures of the church, out of which the pope distributes indulgences, are not sufficiently discussed or known among the people of Christ.
  • That indulgences are not temporal treasures is certainly clear, for many indulgence sellers do not distribute them freely but only gather them.
  • Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, for, even without the pope, the latter always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outer man.
  • St. Lawrence said that the poor of the church were the treasures of the church, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.
  • Without want of consideration we say that the keys of the church, given by the merits of Christ, are that treasure.
  • For it is clear that the pope's power is of itself sufficient for the remission of penalties and cases reserved by himself.
  • The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.
  • But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last ( Matthew 20:16 ).
  • On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.
  • Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets with which one formerly fished for men of wealth.
  • The treasures of indulgences are nets with which one now fishes for the wealth of men.
  • The indulgences which the demagogues acclaim as the greatest graces are actually understood to be such only insofar as they promote gain.
  • They are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
  • Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of papal indulgences with all reverence.
  • But they are much more bound to strain their eyes and ears lest these men preach their own dreams instead of what the pope has commissioned.
  • Let him who speaks against the truth concerning papal indulgences be anathema and accursed.
  • But let him who guards against the lust and license of the indulgence preachers be blessed.
  • Just as the pope justly thunders against those who by any means whatever contrive harm to the sale of indulgences.
  • Much more does he intend to thunder against those who use indulgences as a pretext to contrive harm to holy love and truth.
  • To consider papal indulgences so great that they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness.
  • We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
  • To say that even St. Peter if he were now pope, could not grant greater graces is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.
  • We say on the contrary that even the present pope, or any pope whatsoever, has greater graces at his disposal, that is, the gospel,spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written, 1 Corinthians 12:28 ).
  • To say that the cross emblazoned with the papal coat of arms, and set up by the indulgence preachers is equal in worth to the cross of Christ is blasphemy.
  • The bishops, curates, and theologians who permit such talk to be spread among the people will have to answer for this.
  • This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult even for learned men to rescue the reverence which is due the pope from slander or from the shrewd questions of the laity.
  • Such as: "Why does not the pope empty purgatory for the sake of holy love and the dire need of the souls that are there if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a church? The former reason would be most just; the latter is most trivial.
  • Again, "Why are funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continued and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded for them, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?"
  • Again, "What is this new piety of God and the pope that for a consideration of money they permit a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God and do not rather, because of the need of that pious and beloved soul, free it for pure love's sake?"
  • Again, "Why are the penitential canons, long since abrogated and dead in actual fact and through disuse, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences as though they were still alive and in force?"
  • Again, "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is today greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build this one basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?"
  • Again, "What does the pope remit or grant to those who by perfect contrition already have a right to full remission and blessings?"
  • Again, "What greater blessing could come to the church than if the pope were to bestow these remissions and blessings on every believer a hundred times a day, as he now does but once?"
  • "Since the pope seeks the salvation of souls rather than money by his indulgences, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons previously granted when they have equal efficacy?"
  • To repress these very sharp arguments of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies and to make Christians unhappy.
  • If, therefore, indulgences were preached according to the spirit and intention of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved. Indeed, they would not exist.
  • Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Peace, peace," and there is no peace! ( Jeremiah 6:14 )
  • Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross!
  • Christians should be exhorted to be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, death and hell.
  • And thus be confident of entering into heaven through many tribulations rather than through the false security of peace ( Acts 14:22 ).

95 theses activity

Martin Luther 95 Theses - Introduction Activity

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95 theses activity

Reformation Day Activities And Printables

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What Is Reformation Day And Why Is It Worth Celebrating?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This sparked the beginning of The Reformation as his public protesting of the heresies in the Roman Catholic Church resulted in what many theologians believe to be the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire.

By translating the Bible into German, Luther’s rediscovery of salvation in Christ alone, through faith alone, by grace alone caught on as people could read the Gospel truth for the first time in their own language!

To help celebrate this wonderful anniversary in Church history, we’ve put together a pile of fun Reformation Day activities the whole family (and friends) can enjoy doing together! In this post you’ll find:

  • A list of children and young adult books on the Reformation
  • Songs that remind us of the true Gospel
  • Fun food selections that bring the story of the Reformation home in a sweet way
  • A few short videos that summarize the Reformation and what life was like during that period of history 
  • Reformation Day games and activities, 
  • …and even a few ideas on decorating the house or dressing up yourself for the occasion! 

95 theses activity

And, In Celebration Of The Reformation , I’ve put together a 17-page download for you to use in conjunction with the activities listed here, or as a stand alone resource. 

In Celebration Of The Reformation is free to print.

It contains:

  • a review of the 5 Solas,
  • Luther’s most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
  • a couple coloring pages (including the history behind Luther’s specially designed seal, The Luther Rose ), 
  • a Reformation Word Search
  • an opportunity for quill writing practice,
  • and the 95 Theses to tape to the door and read!

You can download In Celebration Of The Reformation, here .

95 theses activity

Reformation Day Book List For Children 

  • Reformation ABC’s: The People, Places And Things Of The Reformation by Stephen J. Nichols 
  • Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World by Paul L. Maier
  • The Barber Who Wanted To Pray by R.C. Sproul 
  • Reformation Heroes by Diana Kleyn and Joel Beeke 
  • Martin Luther: What Should I Do? By Catherine Mackenzie
  • Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr
  • Johann Gutenberg And The Amazing Printing Press   by Bruce Koscielniak
  • Courage And Conviction: Chronicles of the Reformation Church by Brandon and Mindy Withrow 
  • Katharine Von Bora: The Morning Star of Whittenberg by Jenna and Channa Strackbein 
  • When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther by Danika Cooley 
  • In on His Fingers by Louise A Vernon
  • Spy for The Night Riders by Dave And Neta Jackson
  • Mr. Pipes And The Psalms And Hymns Of The Reformation by Douglas Bond 
  • Trial And Triumph: Stories From Church History by Richard Hannula 

Reformation Day Songs

  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God by Martin Luther
  • The Church’s One Foundation by S. J. Stone
  • In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend by Stuart Townend 
  • Grace, Greater Than All Our Sin by Julia Johnston 

Reformation Day Food

  • “Diet of Worms” – dirt cake with gummy worms! We make this by layering chopped up brownies, chocolate pudding, Oreo cookies, Cool Whip, and gummy worms together several times in a large trifle dish. 
  • 95 Reeses taped to a door
  • Chocolate coins (indulgences)
  • The hammer strike that was heard around the world – you can make edible hammers by inserting a pretzel stick into a large marshmallow and dipping it in melted chocolate.
  • Traditional German food for the Main Course: German Potato Salad, Sauerkraut, Schnitzel, Oktoberfest sausage, Rye Bread, Apple Strudel  

Reformation Day Videos To Watch 

  • Torch Lighter DVD: The Martin Luther Story
  • The Story of Martin Luther (Playmobil Animation) 
  • What Was The Reformation All About? by Ligonier Ministries 
  • Printing on a Gutenberg Press 
  • Luther: In Real Time (Podcast)

Reformation Day Games And Activities 

  • “Toss The Indulgences” – This is a fun way to remind children that we don’t need to pay for our sin; Jesus paid the price for all who trust in Him for salvation! All you need for this game is a waste basket and several crumpled up pieces of paper. Have the children stand several feet back from the waste basket and toss in their indulgences. Whoever gets the most in the basket, wins!
  • Quill Writing Contest – To gain a greater appreciation for the effort Martin Luther put into translating the Bible in the German language, try writing out Romans 1: 16-17 using a feather dipped in ink or black paint ( pg. 9 of In Celebration Of The Reformation. )
  • Complete The Reformation Day Word Search ( In Celebration Of The Reformation, pg. 5 ) 
  • Coloring Contest – You can find a picture of Martin Luther, and the Martin Luther Rose on pg. 6 and 7 of In Celebration Of The Reformation.
  • Make a lavender sachet to ward off The Bubonic Plague 
  • Play Musical Chairs with Renaissance music 

Reformation Day Decorating 

Consider printing out Luther’s 95 Theses ( you’ll find them written out on “parchment scrolls” on pages 10-15 of In Celebration Of The Reformation ) and posting them on a door for all to read.

Luther lived during the late Medieval, early Elizabethan period. The thrift store is a gold mine for replica decor from this era! Think gothic, castles, knights, and fair maidens, ornate carvings in metal and wood, dragons, swords, candles, coins, lanterns, brass goblets, candelabras, velvety fabrics in rich colors.

95 theses activity

Reformation Day Attire

Renaissance dress included beautiful gowns with longs skirts and trumpet sleeves for women. Men could dress as knights, monks or priests, court jesters, or the likes of Robin Hood! Girls can wear their hair in braids or an updo, and if your man doesn’t already have one, growing a beard is very on-point for the era!  

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  1. Martin Luther 95 Theses

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