Martin Luther (1483 - 1546)
Martin Luther was a German priest and teacher of theology (religion). He was worried about the possibility of not going to heaven. He led a strict life, but was worried about sin. Luther read the writings of early Christian theologians, including St. Augustine, and the Bible. He found the answer he was looking for in Paul's Letter to the Romans (Romans 1:17 - "The righteous shall live by his faith.")
Luther understood that only faith (in the ultimate goodness of Jesus), not good deeds, could save a person. No good works, rituals, etc. would save a person.
Martin Luther prepares to burn the papal bull.
Overall, Luther was a rather crude man. He had no trouble with talking about taking up arms (using violence) against those who opposed him. He also used bad language to combat those he disagreed with. For example, he dismissed the Jewish rabbis' interpretations of Scripture as "Jewish piss and sh_ _." He thought his physical illnesses were caused by the devil, who was trying to stop him.
Before Martin Luther died, when he was very ill, he told his wife, "I am fed up with the world, and it with me. I am like a ripe stool (smelly piece of poop) and the world is like a gigantic anus, and so we're about to let go of each other."
Tetzel, a friar, collected money for indulgences.
Doctrines of indulgences taught that Christ and the saints had stored up a treasury of merit. Indulgences could reduce the amount of time spent in purgatory after the forgiveness of sin. They were understood as a way to make up for the evil one had done.
Money was needed to complete the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome so people were told that if they made a donation of money for the church that they would receive an indulgence, or reduce their time in purgatory. To many this seemed like selling God’s pardon.
Friar Tetzel would travel around
selling indulgences to people.
(Another reformer named Erasumus also criticized the corruption among the Catholic clergy, but he did not break away from the church like Martin Luther. Erasmus remained loyal to the Church of Rome and worked for reform through his writings; he wrote: "I laid a hen's egg; Luther hatched a bird of quite a different species.")
A homeade indulgence
certificate from Tetzel
The 95 Theses
Luther began to oppose the Catholic Church. Some of his beliefs about the church were:
• Indulgences do not exist and confession to a priest is wrong since only God could forgive sins.
• People were naturally sinful and should seek salvation by believing in God
• The Pope has no authority
• Priests do not have any spiritual powers
• All people should be allowed to read the Bible, not just priests. They should interpret the
Bible for themselves.
On October 31, 1517 Luther posted, on a church door in Wittenburg, his 95 theses claiming that salvation is achieved through faith alone. He not only criticized the corruption in the Catholic church but he also denied the teaching and role of the Catholic church itself.
People started to follow Martin Luther. These people became known as "Lutherans."
Diet of Worms
In 1520 Pope Leo X ordered Luther to give up his beliefs and return to the teaching of the Catholic church.
Luther burned the order in front of a cheering crowd and was excommunicated by Leo X.
In 1521 Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, declared Luther an outlaw when he wouldn't give up his views.
Martin Luther went into hiding in a castle (castle of Frederick of Saxony, a German Prince) and translated the New Testament into German, making it possible for more people to read the Bible.
Acceptance of Reforms
Some local German princes and their kingdoms accepted Luther's ideas. Lutheranism won enormous support and spread throughout Europe because:
• People saw that some priests were living immoral lives.
• Princes wanted to control their own churches.
• German princes saw a chance to get rich quick by taking over church property. In 1529, German Princes issued a formal "protest" against efforts by the Church to suppress the reforms.
The reformers came to be known as "Protestants." They broke away from the Catholic Church, thus beginning the Protestant branch of Christianity.
Protestant Reformation (at least 3 sentences each question)
1. Who was Martin Luther?
2. What were Martin Lutherʼs religious views?
3. In what way was Martin Luther a “crude” man? Explain the 2 of the statements that he made.
4. What were indulgences? Why do you think they became so popular?
5. Which of Martin Lutherʼs disagreements with the Catholic Church do you think were most influenced by the Renaissance idea of humanism? Why? (Look up “Renaissance humanism” online).
6. What did Martin Luther do in response to his disagreement? What was the initial reaction?
7. What was the long-term impact of Martin Lutherʼs break from the Catholic Church? What do we see today as a result of his “revolution”? (Use internet)