Flames of Protestant Reformation: The Success of Martin Luther

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Success depends on timing, talent, and potentially turmoil. Martin Luther is a man remembered for being the leader of the Protestant Reformation, or to the Catholic church, a successful heretic. Now, Luther was not the first to speak against the errors and the corruption of the church; there were several men before him who spoke out as well; albeit unsuccessfully. Martin Luther succeeded due to several factors. Just as society has the pleasure to build on what others had done previously, Luther built on the growing opposition others had with the church. Before the oppositions reached its climax with the protestant reformation, there were Christian men who desired that the church would return back to a holy institution. Jon Hus was one of the precursors of the Reformation. Many a time did leaders choose to make an example to prevent further dissent, which was seen when Jon Hus was burned at stake. The blood of a martyr is worth more than costly oil; just as blood signifies life, his death was a log that fueled fiery flames of the Reformation.

Decline of the church: corruption- indulgences under Johan Tetzel

Every institution has its weaknesses, whether secular or religious. Because of this, no institution is immune to the temptation of greed. Other areas, such as England and France were able to have large-scale religious reforms, which prevented further declining Catholic influence. An additional reason for Martin Luther’s triumph was the gradual weakening of the Catholic influence in Germany, as well as the inability or unwillingness for Germany to reform church doctrine. Perhaps if Germany had the unity to do the same, even Luther might have been reconciled. If not, the Protestant Reformation could have been quelled much easier or at the very least, weakened. His greatest contention with the established Catholic Church involved selling indulgences. During the first crusade, Pope Urban II gave indulgences to knights, so that if they fell in battle, they would be in heaven instead of paying for their sins in purgatory.

During the latter part of the Middle Ages, the practices of indulgences were abused. The pope during this time period offered indulgences to those that donated money for the restoration of Peter’s Basilica. Luther saw indulgences as grave mistake in church doctrine because it gave people an excuse to sin, a way for the church to make money for self-interest and especially the fact that the practice was not found in the Bible. Luther’s wanted the church to reform its theology. While other men that challenged the authority of the church were suppressed, Martin Luther was successful for several reasons.

One reason why Luther was successful was he, unlike his predecessors, had physical protection from his both religious and secular opponents such as Frederick the Elector. While the Protestant reformation stemmed from religious disagreement, the results were more than religious and theological reforms. The papacy’s influence was felt in virtually every area of the Holy Roman Empire. Like the Lord of the Rings ‘One to rule them all,’ the Pope’s authority was vast throughout the land. Furthermore, the Protestant reformation benefited others, not in the church and[[[ had safety under a prince. It was in a ruler’s best interest for a spiritual revolution of Christendom, whether it be to fill up their treasures or strengthen their political power. This would downplay the pope’s influence in the land.

How it spread

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Ideas can be powerful, but ideas must be fleshed out using words. For thousands of year, communication was done primarily though word of mouth. Other limited ways of communication was through cave drawings, parchment, and scrolls. The result of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press was the ability to mass-produce books and literature. As such, what added strength to Luther’s resolve was using the printing press to spread his thoughts to the German people. The spread of books resulted in a need to be more literate. As more people were reached, it only resulted in deepening the people’s doubt to the authority of Roman Papacy.

His actions against the practices of the church caused a chain reaction in Germany. The Protestant revolution also appeared in Switzerland and in France. While Luther’s reformation was the first, the fact that this happened in other countries shows how that others were feeling the same way, which gave the Protestant movement more traction.

To add further intensity to the restless time of Germany, Luther declared that all Christians were of “the same estate”. By saying this, he meant that all Christian people, no matter what class they were, were spiritually equal with one another. Throughout the years after Luther told the German people that, the peasant’s landlords wanted to add more regulations and taxes to the already destitute peasants. German peasants misinterpreted Luther’s words; they used that idea to say they are socially and politically equal to their rulers. The poor people wanted Martin Luther to help them and justify their frustration and actions using the Bible, but Martin Luther instead condemned the rebellion and urged the princes to stop the peasants. It was estimated that 70,000 to 100,000 peasants lost their lives by the time the revolt was quenched. Luther’s Protestant revolution perhaps added more strength to the movement, but he did not make it; both these events: the Protestant Reformation and Peasants’ War were separate and occurred independently. The German Peasants’ War was Europe’s most widespread popular uprising of the Middle Ages.

Peace of Augsburg was a major milestone in the Reformation; in this decision, the main principle was the ruler of an area had the power to establish that area’s religion. This certainly did have its weaknesses, for religion was one of the nation’s core way to be united. Not only were Lutherans were becoming more powerful, Calvinism, a different Christian denomination was not protected under the Peace of Augsburg. The Calvinists, as well as different types of Protestants, would certainly want their freedom to worship their way as well because there was no provision for them to worship as they pleased. Despite the issues, it was a step in the right direction, because it was an attempt for Catholics and Protestants to live peacefully with one another. Theory and reality, however, are two different things. While the Peace of Augsburg did much to end the immediate clash between Catholics and Lutherans, it did not focus on the core differences between these them. Just as two different winds with different temperature creates a tornado, tension and conflict became inevitable.

The wars of Christendom led to both internal national conflicts and truly international wars. One reason was the stark contrast in how Protestants and Catholics viewed government: Calvinism, a protestant group different from Lutheranism opposed totalitarian rule of the pope, whereas Catholicism favored the monarchy under the leadership of the Pope. France, Spain, England, and several others had animosity between Catholics and Protestants. It was a cycle of the Protestants gaining religious freedom and losing their given freedom. In France, the Duke of Guise with some men massacred dozens of Protestants. In England, Mary Tudor restored the Catholic doctrine and persecuted the Protestants. Though these countries experienced violence, the Thirty Year’s War was the climax of the “Wars of Religion”, for both Catholics and Protestants were willing to die and suffer for their religion. Germany was fragmented during this unstable time until the Treaty of Westphalia was made that asserted the principles in the previous decision in the Treaty of Westphalia and also gave Calvinists the legal recognition that they cried out for.

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