Paradigms and dogma can be defended and enforced with guns and prisons, bullets and bonfires, threats and humiliations, fatwas and excommunications. But paradigms and dogma remain profoundly vulnerable with anomalies are present. They can be undone by something as simple as a question – a question about divine right of kings, the origin of species, the relation between matter and energy, how races can and should relate to one another, the motion of planets, and the standard operating procedures used by the church.
That’s what got a thirty-three-year-old seminarian named Martin Luther into hot water. On October 31, 1517, he dared question the issuance of indulgences, a procedure by which church officials transformed religious devotion into religious donations. The devoted, by making generous to the church treasury, could negotiate the early release of loved ones from purgatory to heaven. This ultimate commercialization of God’s house and commodification of salvation deserved to be questioned.
From “A New Kind of Christianity” by Brian McLaren