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Issue Date:  May 5, 2006

By Matthew Fox
Inner Traditions, 134 pages, $12.95
Matthew Fox plays Martin Luther in Wittenberg

A year ago this May, Matthew Fox nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg.

In Frankfurt, Germany, to give a speech on Pentecost Sunday, Dr. Fox, the foremost proponent of Creation Spirituality and a former Catholic priest, was inspired to follow Martin Luther’s example after receiving e-mail from Catholics unhappy at the recent election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. The idea of drawing up theses that would speak to the concerns of those writing to him came at 3: 30 in the morning and by 5:30 a.m. 95 theses “had poured out of him,” he writes in his new book, A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity.

But in an age of bureaucracy, posting the theses on the famous door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church proved more troublesome for Dr. Fox than it had been for Martin Luther 500 years earlier.

Dr. Fox needed permission from city hall to post his theses. City officials gave him and his friends only one hour to do so and required them to be 45 feet away from the doors to avoid interfering with tourists visiting the historic site. City officials were eventually persuaded to allow Fox to get up to the actual doors, but these confronted him with another problem. The Castle Church doors may have been wooden in 1517, but they are now made of metal. Dr. Fox and his crew had to fashion a wooden frame to which they fastened the new theses.

The cover of A New Reformation shows a photo of Dr. Fox successfully pounding in his nail, along with a painting of Luther doing the same thing. Throughout the book, Dr. Fox lays out the conditions in the modern church that led him to call for this new Reformation. About a third of the book is devoted to presenting the “95 Theses or Articles of Faith for a Christianity for the Third Millennium” that he wrote on that early morning in Germany. Anyone familiar with Dr. Fox’s thought will recognize ideas like “Religion is not necessary, but spirituality is” (Thesis 11) or “The cosmos is God’s holy temple and our holy home” (Thesis 58). Says Dr. Fox: “One person who has read the theses told me: ‘The 95 theses are actually a summary of your previous 25 books.’ ”

-- NCR staff

National Catholic Reporter, May 5, 2006

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