14 WEEKS BEFORE REFORMATION SUNDAY

Increased clerical resistance faced Martin Luther after his dramatic actions of October 31, 1517. The next year passed without a direct challenge. Soon, however, Johann Eck, a well-known Dominican scholar and defender of the Pope, criticized Luther’s theses. During June 1519, Eck publicly debated Andreas Karlstadt, the chancellor of Wittenberg University, over free will and good works. Then in July, Eck confronted Luther over issues raised in the 95 Theses.

In a series of highly tense exchanges, the two men battled over indulgences, purgatory and papal authority. During the course of the debate, Eck made a reference to “Lutherans,” the first use of the term to label supporters. Also, Eck forced Luther to admit that his reliance on “Scripture alone” was heretical by established church standards.

In the end, however, Luther used that admission to reiterate his belief in the primacy of Scripture in nurturing faith. In addition, he was able to reject publicly the use of indulgences, the existence of purgatory and the supremacy of the papacy because they were not mentioned in the Bible. Luther turned the tables on Eck at a crucial time when opposition was mounting.