MARTIN LUTHER AND THE LUTHERAN REFORMATION
HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY II—525_B01_201320
DR. MARTIN KLUBER
GEORGIA R. BOSS
MARCH 3, 2013
The Lutheran Reformation was a movement in the 16th century to reform the Catholic Church in Western Europe. The Reformation was started by Martin Luther with his 95 Theses on the practice of indulgences. Luther’s action inadvertently precipitated a religious controversy which gave rise to the Protestant Reformation.
The Lutheran Reformation not only shattered the tradition of the Catholic Church but it changed the secular aspects of society as well. The Lutheran tradition or denomination evolved out of the reformation.
The comprehensive authority of the Church was coming under scrutiny and many factors contributed to the religious turmoil. Proponents of reform fell generally into three categories. There were spiritual reformers, who deplored worldly pursuits and advocated program of piety and austerity. There were advocated of conciliar theory, who wished to see an ecumenical council reform the Church institutionally. Finally, there were humanists, who believed that knowledge of the Bible would restore the purity that had characterized the early Church.1 The concerns for reform were further broken down as follows: the sale of indulgences—these indulgences supposedly remitted the punishment due for sins, and in exchange the penitent made a cash contribution to the church;2 immorality of the clergy; ecclesiastical politics and unethical dealings; problems with authority in the church; leadership in Rome; deviations in Christian’s teachings; questionable practices for penance; failure of conciliarism; loss of monastic discipline; declining economic conditions for the poor with no defense from the church; the fall of Constantinople; the end of ancient feudal system and the development of powerful monarchies; the rise of nationalism and humanism.3 The humanist believed that man was essentially good, and they looked to education for his improvement. If men were educated, they believed, their standard of ethics would naturally rise—to the benefits of society and Church alike.4
Although, as stated above there were many causes leading to the Protestant Reformation, however, this writer will attempt to present a detailed literary analysis of the related literature as it specifically addresses the sale of Indulgences, and the Reformation. Martin Luther, the Sale of Indulgences, and the Reformation
The dilemma or problem began as a result of Luther’s very strong and vehement objection of the Church doctrine on the sale of indulgences and the Pope’s claim of having powers to remit sins. These actions caused Luther to post his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on November 1, 1517. He protested against the doctrine of the church of what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. Thus, his protest sparked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. So, what is an indulgence? An indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of temporal punishment due, in God’s justice, to sin that has been forgiven, which Remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for just and reasonable motive. There are two ideas involved in the idea of an indulgence: 1. Christians receive “temporal punishment” for sin, even after guilt and eternal punishment have been forgiven by God.
That temporal punishment must be paid either here on earth or in a temporary, after-death holding place called purgatory.6
2. The Roman Catholic Church has a “treasury,” composed of the “superabundant merits of Christ and the saints,” which the Church, through the exercise of the “power of the keys,” can transfer to the benefit of those who are due temporal punishment.7