The Protestant Reformation
Throughout the Middle Ages the Catholic Church was subject to much criticism and disappointment. The Great Schism brought about a feeling of mistrust and separation. More and more people of Europe were beginning to lose their faith in the church's leadership. One man by the name of Martin Luther ignited a group of people who believed that the Church had fallen away from the teachings of Jesus and their meanings. They also believed that the Church was overly obsessed with money. These believed faults compelled Luther to take action. In 1517, on the eve of All Saint's Day, Luther posted up on the doors of Wittenberg Cathedral, ninety-five problems with the Church. They are more popularly known as the Ninety-five Theses. This action set of a spark for all to catch in the protest against the Church. It began the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther was born in the year 1483 AD. He was the son of a miner who lived in Eisleben in Saxony. His father wished for him to grow up and study canon law since Luther showed much intellectual promise. Instead, Luther went on to the University of Erfurt and moved into theology and contemplation. Soon he entered the order of the Austin Friars at Erfurt (1505). Three years later, in 1508, he was named as a professor at the University of Wittenberg. He was a very religious man who always struggled to find salvation from God. Luther continually sought to be acceptable to God. This was hard for him because what he saw in himself was sin, an inevitable sin that was unavoidable and unforgivable. After reading from St. Paul, St. Augustine, and the gospels, he discovered that God was filled with mercy and compassion. Luther was exceptionally upset now because the Church, at the time, was engaged in the practice of indulgences. This practice was very prevalent and frequent in the Church. Luther, unlike the corrupt leaders of the church, believed that God was the only one great enough to offer such a great gift. More and more Luther was finding faults in the Church's everyday practices. The pope, bishops and priests of the time also thought it was acceptable to sell a person's remittance from purgatory. Where would this stop? How greedy would the church leaders become? Luther hoped no one would find out. He heavily attacked indulgences. Luther also attacked the lavishness of the papal life. In his Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (1520), Luther addressed several abuses of the Church, one being that "
the vicar of Christ
lives in such worldly splendor
and is more worldly than the world itself." Another abuse was the cardinals who sucked the people dry. Then, when there was no more left, they moved on to a different state. What was more was the extreme amount of useless positions in the Church. All of these "extras" were taking the people's money to keep their positions. The purpose of the Church was to lead and set example for Christians all over the world. It was not established to benefit its administrators. The recent pioneering of the movable type printing press was the number one advantage that Luther had. Because of this wonderful Renaissance invention, he was able to spread his word and beliefs to people especially his colleagues at the university. These influential people helped increase the number of ears that heard Luther's powerful message. If it had not been for this, the Reformation would not have taken place. Who knows? Could this possibly mean that the only Christian faith today would be Catholicism? More and more people began to take Luther's side. His chance to ignite the crowd was beginning to present itself. On October 31, 1517, Luther took advantage of his opportunity by posting to the doors of Wittenberg, ninety-five areas for argument against the Catholic Church. These soon came to be called the Ninety-five Theses. Some of the...
Bibliography: Bainton, Roland H. The Age of the Reformation. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., 1956.
Bainton, Roland H. The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. Boston: The Beacon Press, 1952.
Chadwick, Owen. The Reformation. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Company, 1964.
Elton, G.R. Reformation Europe: 1517-1559. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1963.
Luther, Martin from: Beatty, John L. and Oliver A. Johnson. Heritage of Western Civilization. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1987.
Mosse, George L. The Reformation. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1953.
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