Martin Luther - a History

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Unlike his predecessors, Martin Luther was able to spread his ideas rapidly due to the social, economic and political state of Europe at that time. Through technological advances, growing unrest with current leaders, the threat of a foreign invasion and a high rate of poverty, Luther’s ideas influenced many people within Germany that change was necessary. By picking up where those before him had left off, Luther was able to bring in a new era of ideas that forever changed the views people had of religion.

Martin Luther was not the first man to try and inform the masses of the corruption that was forming within the Church. Hundreds of years prior to Luther and his 95 Theses, English philosopher John Wyclif objected against the power that the Church had gained due to the Petrine Doctrine as well as the amounting wealth clergy members had gained. He called for the Bible to be available to all who wanted to read the word of God, rather than just for the literate. While Wyclif gained many followers, after his death, they were stamped out as heretics by the English government. Because of government persecution and censorship, these ideas went underground. The question is then how was Luther successful when others had failed before him. This can be seen by examining the time period and the crises people faced.

One of these crises that people faced was a decentralized political state. Germany at this time was a group of collective, independent territories under one elected emperor. Each of these territories denied the emperor the ability to rule with authority. Instead, they had their own rulers, such as nobility or members of the clergy. Due to this strain of power, the emperor was unable to maintain a mandate of sorts against Luther and his ‘heretical’ ideas, like the English rulers did against Wyclif. As well, this made Germany all the more vulnerable to the growing Ottoman Empire. Many rulers feared that a Turkish invasion was on the horizon....
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