Protestant Reformation Martin Luther Facts, Effects, Trivia, 95 Theses, Timeline

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Causes of the Protestant Reformation: Beginnings

Martin Luther was a German Monk who started the Protestant Reformation during the Renaissance.

Martin Luther disliked religious abuses of the Church, the superstition, fraud and purchasing of salvation or purchasing of freedom from sin. The Pope in 1476, declared that one could buy his own salvation and that of those already deceased. Martin Luther was alarmed at the sale of relics and artificial relics to raise money. The Church operated under the theology of St Thomas Aquinas. Godís grace is not irresistible and man can freely reject Godís advances. Sacramental ministrations communicate ongoing grace and help sinners improve changes at salvation. Only priests can administer sacraments. Martin Luther favored St Augustineís theology, God predestines who will be saved regardless of what we do on earth. Martin Lutherís theology states that man is saved through grace alone not good works but those who have faith will do good works anyway. This made religion more private and less ceremonial.

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Martin Luther Facts: Brief Biography

  • German Priest known as the Reformer
  • Biblical Scholar
  • Linguist
  • Son of a miner
  • Attended the University of Erfurt
  • Translated the Bible into the Vernacular German
  • Prolific writer
  • Works include commentaries, polemical and practical devotional works
  • Considered a heretic by the Catholic World

Martin Luther Life Timeline

  • born November 1,1483 Eisleben Saxony
  • In 1506, Joined Monastic Order of St. Augustine
  • In 1507, ordained priest
  • From 1508-1546, taught at the University of Wittenberg
  • In 1512, received doctorate in Theology
  • 1511, began preaching sermons in monastery
  • 1514, became preacher of Parish church
  • 1515, became Vicar over 11 other houses
  • 1515-1516, personal discovery of the doctrine of justification by faith alone
  • October 31, 1517, Nailed the 95 theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg
  • Died February 18, 1546

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History of the 95 Theses: Summary

Luther gave his 95 theses to his university colleagues October 31, 1517. Luther declared the Pope and all clerics were merely fallible men and the highest authority was in the truth of the scriptures. Luther set forth tenets of the Lutheran Church 1520, Justification by faith, Primacy of the scriptures (if not sanctioned in the scriptures donít do it), Priesthood of all believers. Luther came to accept baptism, penance and the Eucharist as sacraments but declared they were activities to aid the believer down the path of eternal life. The dissemination through print of Lutherís arguments and the 95 theses spread the theological arguments rapidly through Germany. The 95 theses was a list of what was wrong with Catholic doctrine. Popes were so bad during this period, Erasmus (who rewrote the New Testament) had proclaimed in his work, In Praise of Folly, that if Popes were ever forced to lead Christ like lives, no one would prove more disconsolate than themselves. The Popes were corrupt but still all-powerful.

Luther sent copies of the theses to the Archbishop of Mainz and to his own ordinary. However, copies got out to the public and circulated far and wide. It became a public controversy discussed most everywhere. This publication sparked the Protestant Reformation that spread over northern Europe and beyond.

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Lutheranism spread because it was an alternative that appealed to the Nobles. Lutheranism has its own bible which was translated in the vernacular so all could read not just priests. The newly invented printing press helped spread the Lutheran bible. The first translation of the Bible was in the German language not in Latin. Many translations of the bible sprang up. Many errors in print too. The wicked Bible (1631) had major mistakes in the book printing like thou shalt commit adultery. In 1551, the first list of Banned books was made.

European states were quick to adopt the principles of Luther for they trivialized the interference of spiritual bodies into the secular affairs (affairs of the state). Lutherís university adopted his suggestions and German princes adopted Lutheranism.

Martin Luther Quotes

  • In the bonds of Death he lay who for our defense was slain; But the Lord is risen to-day, Christ hath brought us life again, Wherefore let us all rejoice, Singing loud, with cheerful voice, Hallelujah! --- In the Bonds of Death
  • A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing --- Translated from Ein feste Burg
  • I can do no other --- From Speech at Diet of Worms, 1521

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Excerpts from Martin Luther's Writings - 1545

For however irreproachably I lived as a monk. I felt myself in the presence of God to be a sinner with a most unquiet conscience, nor could I believe that I pleased him with my satisfactions. I did not love, indeed I hated this just God, if not with open blasphemy, at least with huge murmuring, for I was indignant against him, saying " as if it were really not enough for God that miserable sinners should be eternally lost through original sin and oppressed with all kind of calamities though the law of the ten commandments, but God must add sorrow on sorrow and even by the gospel bring his wrath to bear." Thus I raged with a fierce and most agitated conscience and yet I continued to knock away at Paul in this place, thirsting ardently to know what he really meant.

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Reactions to Protestant Reformation: Church Reforms

Early church reformers met with resistance or slow paced reforms. Protestant revolt triggered Papal reform lead by five Popes from 1534-1590. The council of Trent called and reaffirmed basic Catholic tenets challenged by Luther, good works necessary for salvation, issuing of sacraments indispensable means of achieving grace, Pope is undisputed head of the Church and all Christianity, Approval of indulgences (buying grace but not for deceased ancestors).