How Dare You Question the Holy Church?
Luther's blasphemous claims: The 95 thesis was only the first domino in the Reformation. Once it fell, a number of others would soon topple. One in particular was the issue of the church's over reaching claim to authority.
In raising the question regarding indulgences, Luther was doing something that you really weren’t supposed to do back then. He questioned the extent of the church's authority.
Through the preceding centuries, people always held the church in high regard. The church was God’s divine instrument, after all.
While having a high view of the church is a good thing, having too
high of a view is not so good. The church came to be viewed as so holy that its teaching was considered just as authoritative as the Bible.
In sum, questioning the church was on par with questioning God himself.
One of Luther's arch-opponents in the Roman Church, Sylvester Prierias, wrote in response to Luther's 95 theses and captured this idea. He said, "He who does not accept the doctrine of the Church of Rome and pontiff of Rome [i.e. the pope] as an infallible rule of faith, from which the Holy Scriptures, too, draw their strength and authority, is a heretic" (1
You can see why Luther’s disputes with the church’s doctrines ruffled a lot of feathers. He flipped that idea on its head and said that the church derives its authority from the Bible!
So maddened were they that Luther's defiance was perceived as blasphemous.
This is why Luther ended up articulating the doctrine we now know as “Sola Scriptura” (i.e. the Bible alone). Luther argued that the popes and church counsels were fallible. That is to say, he believed that they could err and contradict themselves. As such, they must be subservient to the perfect word that God had laid down in the Scriptures.
Luther would never debunk the church altogether. He recognized that the church’s testimony was useful in understanding the Scriptures. However, he made it clear that the Bible was the final authority. No matter how helpful the church and its clergy may be (or princes and political figures for that matter), they are not the ultimate standard for life and faith.
It always comes back to "What doth the Bible say?"