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Christian Concepts: A captive conscience

On April 17, 1521, a diet (a church tribunal) was convened in Worms, Germany. The Roman Catholic Church tried a monk named Martin Luther for the charge of heresy. Johann Eck was prosecuting the church’s case and on this day accused Luther of saying and writing things that contradicted current church teachings. When Luther was asked if these things were written and said by him, he admitted they were his words. Eck asked Luther a simple question, “Will you recant or not?” Luther requested an adjournment to consider his answer. If he refused to recant and was convicted of heresy he could be executed. Luther gave his answer the next day. “Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by plain reason…I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything.” These are partial quotes from both Eck and Luther, but they accurately portray what was at stake. The issue was one of authority. Luther believed the Pope and the decisions reached by councils of cardinals had led the church away from the fundamental teachings of Christ and he had challenged those decrees. Would he recant and bow to the authority and words of men, or would he bow to the authority of the Word of God?

His answer, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Ever since God has had church leaders and a people who will reject human teachings and ideas that conflict with the authority of the Scriptures. They embrace the Bible as the rule for what they believe and the way we should live. The watch cry of the Reformation sola Scriptura, Latin for “Scripture alone,” is a constant reminder of our belief in the authority of the Bible as our only guide for what we think and do. I believe each of us is born broken and flawed as the Bible says. We subsequently make flawed contributions to society, industry and government that cause relational, economic and political problems. While these problems are great they are fundamentally spiritual in nature and the Bible alone contains the remedy for our spiritual needs. This is why I write about the issues we face from a Biblical perspective. I believe the only solutions for society’s problems are found in the Christian Scriptures, the Bible. My theology (all of us have one) is conservative and comes from an orthodox interpretation of Scripture. I trust a plain understanding of Scripture with a simple and direct application of its principles. Like Luther, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, because I believe God knows what is better for us than we do. We would be better served if we had a higher regard for what God says than for what we think. Gary B. King welcomes comments or questions and can be reached at Christian Concepts are archived at

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