James R. White writes:
“Many historians mark the beginning of the Reformation at October 31, 1517, for it was on that day that Martin Luther nailed 95 propositions for debate on the subject of indulgences to the door (or possibly the door post) of the castle church at Wittenberg. Few today have read the ’95 Theses’ as they are called, and those who do are normally surprised that these articles, so often thought of as the beginning of Protestantism itself, are in fact very Roman Catholic in tone. But this should not be surprising, for Luther was at this point a loyal ‘son of the church.’ He had no intentions of leaving the Roman Church, let alone being branded a ‘heretic.’ He simply did not believe that the sale of indulgences was in any way compatible with the teachings of Scripture, and, in the style of scholars, offered to debate anyone who thought they were. At this point Luther had not thought through the ramifications of his belief. But, having made the challenge, he would very soon have to think those things through, for his challenge was picked up by some anonymous benefactor, translated from Latin into German, and then printed, copies being distributed throughout Germany. Luther was an overnight hero for all those who opposed the indulgence trade. That had not been his desire or plan, but God had much more in the future for Martin.” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications (1990). [underlining mine–CD]
Instead of obeying God’s command to come out of the Great Roman Catholic Whore Church (that “lady of kingdoms, the well-favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, and the abominations of the earth”), Luther attempted to daub over in debate a few of her unsightly theological imperfections. One demonic doctrine Luther did NOT take issue with, was the Romish falsehood that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception — this antichristian teaching puts the effort of the sinner in the place of Christ’s efficacious cross-work. The doctrine that says Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception is the VERY EPITOME of the spirit of antichrist — and the “great reformer” of the great whore embraced it (see Luther on John 1:29).
[And since we’re on the subject of great Reformers, HERE is John Calvin’s essential agreement with Luther on the atonement, or as many commonly referred to it back then, “satisfaction.” Calvin and Luther believed in a “satisfaction” or an “atonement” that did not actually satisfy or atone for all for whom it was made, which makes a damnable mockery of passages like Ephesians 5:2.]
A scholar named John Eck met Luther’s challenge. James White writes:
“Having engaged the debate, Eck then skillfully turned the discussion to the question of authority, for indulgences were sold with the full approval and authority of the Pope; hence, to question the selling of indulgences was to question the very foundation of the Roman Catholic Church: the Pope. Luther replied with citations from the early church…and with Scripture. Eck then made it clear that Luther’s position was parallel to the Bohemian priest John Hus, who had been burned for ‘heresy’ over a century earlier at the Council of Constance (1414).
At first Luther was taken aback by the claims of Eck, but, upon examining Hus’ writings, admitted openly that much of what he had said was Christian and true. This was a very dangerous admission to make, for obvious reasons. Upon further review at a later date, Luther was to confess that he was a ‘Hussite,’ as were, he claimed, Augustine and Paul the Apostle. Though Eck won the debate on a formal basis, he did much to lose the whole war, for his excellence in argument only served to make Luther think through his own position, and realize that he had to jettison the whole papal system if he was to believe what he found in Scripture about justification and redemption. Eck unknowingly sped up the process begun in Luther’s study in Wittenberg. The flame of Reformation spread. Luther was called before the Emperor, Charles V, and commanded to recant his beliefs. Luther, like Hus a century earlier, asked to be shown, from Scripture, where he had erred. He knew what was at stake. Not finding any evidence forthcoming from his inquisitors, and asked a final time to recant, Luther uttered these famous words:
‘Since your most serene majesty and your high mightiness require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other. Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning,— unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted,— and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other; God help me! Amen!’10” (James R. White, The Fatal Flaw: Do the teachings of Roman Catholicism Deny the Gospel? Crown Publications (1990).
10 D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987, originally published in 5 volumes in 1846), p. 245. See also Henry Sheldon, History of the Christian Church (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988, originally published in 1895,) 3:81-82.
Why we no longer call ourselves “Reformed” or “Calvinists”
John Calvin and Martin Luther: Universal Atonement Advocates