Martin Luther: The Monk Who Challenged the Catholic Church’s Might
Martin Luther and the Battle Against Church Corruption
Martin Luther, born in Germany in 1483, grew up to be a monk, priest, Theology professor, and an important figure in the protestant reformation movement. He originally became a monk because of his concern for salvation. This all led him to become a Theology professor, and through his teachings, he questioned and judged some of the Catholic church’s actions, which led him to break into unity in the 16th century. More focused on his theology, he wanted to call out the church for misinterpreting the Bible. Additionally, his central belief was that one’s focus should be on following a literal translation of the Bible.
Martin Luther was also well known for his writings against the church. As a cause of this, the church found itself rifle with corruption and facing an onslaught of criticism. Unlike others who were also calling for reform, Luther decided to take a stronger approach and heavily attack the actual papal authority. ‘Therefore, when necessity demands it, and the pope is an offense to Christendom, the first man who is able should, as a true member of the whole body, do what he can to bring about a truly free council.”
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Luther used his writings to strongly criticize the papacy’s abundant corruption. He felt the church abused its power to appoint themselves to higher political positions of power within and outside the church and also used nepotism to appoint their friends and family to positions of power. Additionally, Luther was also widely known to criticize the selling of indulgences by the church as well as their opulent wealth. His writings became a basis for the Reformation movement.
Martin Luther: Challenging the Church’s Power and Doctrine
Furthermore, because Luther was such a controversial figure with a lot of loyal followers, I decided to ask him the following questions:
1. Being both a Monk and a priest, why did you decide to attack the catholic church so directly?
I became appalled by the glaring religious hypocrisy of the religious leaders. I also saw a break off in the way catholic religion was practiced. The Bible was intended to be a literal guide for Christians and should not be opened to interpretation. The true intention of the church, as is clearly dictated in the Bible, was to live a pious life. It is evident the popes used their power for their own advancement. For example, the practice of church leaders being entwined in politics. By finagling their way into positions of power, they manipulated themselves into untouchable positions. By attaining wealth from their own people, the church’s corruption grew, and the teachings of the Bible changed to whatever benefited their personal agenda, which isn’t correct. In addition, I don’t believe the Bible is not and should not be open to interpretation because it is evident it can lead to corruption and false beliefs.
2. What led you to believe the church was corrupt?
The opulent wealth of the church hierarchy. Throughout my studies on Theology in the church, I recognized that Jesus lived a simple, pious, and caring life, which the church clearly did not. I believe Christianity needs to return to its roots and follow a literal translation of the Bible. There is nothing in the Bible about selling indulgences. There is nothing about condemning those who speak out against you, and clearly, Jesus intended for his followers to live a simple, kind life.
With this said, the Bible should not be left for interpretation. This just leaves too much room for error. One cannot simply go to heaven because of one’s good deeds. Only faith can save you, “The word of god cannot be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith.” However, this does not mean they aren’t an important role in the Bible, but they are separate from faith in God. Furthermore, the primary message of Christianity is to love thy neighbor and have faith.
3. Considering that people who spoke out against the Catholic church were quickly labeled heretics and potentially killed, how did you begin the incredibly dangerous journey of seeking followers, spreading your message, and seeking to challenge the incredible power of the catholic church?
I began compiling and summarizing my thoughts in order to send them out to prominent members of the catholic church. One of my most notable works written in 1517 was; “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” also known as the 95 Theses, which I wrote in order to protest the selling of indulgences. By writing about these injustices, the printing press distributed a lot of my copies, which made it easier to spread my ideas. In the 95 theses, I advocated for the truth in which I know to believe that salvation is achieved not through good works or acts but merely by a predetermined gift from God due to faith. ‘Papal indulgences do not remove guilt. Beware of those who say that indulgences affect reconciliation with God. He who is contrite has plenary remission of guilt and penalty without indulgences.
The pope can only remove those penalties which he himself has imposed on earth, for Christ did not say, ‘Whatsoever I have bound you may lose on earth (Uncommon travel Germany).” With this said the pope has no power over the afterlife. Additionally, I didn’t want to “attack” the church and rebel against them as some would say instead I wanted to change their views on indulgences but when they accused me of Heresy and wanted me to recant my statements I simple could not. It is clear that my writings are supported by the Bible. This is how I am certain of my beliefs. Moreover, I will never recant my statements because they’re taken straight from the source. This is why I knew I was right and nothing but God himself can change my mind.
4. Clearly, leadership is an integral part of a religious organization. Can you elaborate on the errors you saw in the Catholic Church? How do you believe Christianity should be organized?
I did not see a need for one ruler. There is not a church government laid out in the Bible. I originally thought that Catholic leaders had simply lost their way, but as I attempted to bring light to these hypocrisies that myself and many others found so blaring, I realized the true extent of the problem. The Catholic hierarchy has completely lost touch with the true meaning of Christianity, and I dare to claim the pope is the antichrist.
Any foundation of Christianity must be found in the Bible, and to have a leadership *Martin Luther does air quotes with his fingers* that is steering so many away from salvation is evil. Additionally, as I’ve stated before, the Bible is not open to interpretation; that just leaves too much for error. It is a guide that must be followed as written.5. After being labeled a Heretic, excommunicated by the catholic church, and put on trial, why did you decide not to recant your statements accusing the church of having opulent wealth and also refused to repudiate your published works? In addition, how did you manage to escape execution?
Martin Luther: Using the Press to Challenge Church Corruption
Firstly, the widespread of the printing press made it easier to spread my writings. This led me to gain a substantial amount of followers with similar ideas to my own. Some very important people. One of my loyal followers was Frederick the Wise, the elector of Saxony, who supported me and defended me against the church. After being put on trial for Heresy, I knew I could not back down because I just couldn’t allow the Catholic church to continue to tarnish the Bible through its false teachings. I felt it was my duty to speak out because, as a member of the catholic church, it is my duty to do what I know is right, and if I didn’t, I was an accomplice to the church’s wrongdoings.
I did this by educating my students through my lectures on Theology and through various of my published works, including my most famous and more critical, “The 95 Theses.” It was more than clear how dishonest and unprincipled the church had become, and if you don’t believe me or haven’t realized this, then, “Why does not the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with the money of poor believers?.”
In addition, this led me to bring my concerns to the church leaders, but when my concerns were dismissed, I feared the church had become too corrupt and too powerful to realize their wrongdoings, so after being put on trial and awaiting my execution, Frederick and his army kidnapped me to keep me from being executed and to keep my ideas alive by allowing me to live to continue publishing my teachings.
Martin Luther: The Bold Architect of Reformation
More so, Martin Luther is a very important person whose beliefs were the central foundation of the protestant reformation, a religious movement in the 16th century that protested Christianity and created new protestant churches with different viewpoints. This was so revolutionary it helped shape religion, and still, to this time, his ideas remain as influential and powerful as ever. He not only opposed the catholic church for its corrupt actions (selling of indulgences, opulent wealth, nepotism, and more) but also challenged its teachings, knowing the harsh repercussions that could result from this.
Since the catholic church was so prevalent and powerful at this time, anyone who opposed them could be labeled Heretics. This meant they could be excommunicated and even killed. This is what was destined to happen to Luther if it hadn’t been for his many loyal and powerful followers who also believed in the injustices the church had committed and, therefore, wanted Luther to keep spreading his message.
In conclusion, “Martin Luther did not intend to start a movement away from the church of which he was a part. His intent was to reform, to change. His efforts were met with resistance. Instead of reforming, the church excommunicated Luther.” As an effect, this caused Luther to rebel and challenge the church. Even when on trial, he did not recant, sincerely believing his statements rang true and faithfully believing God was by his side. Furthermore, thanks to Luther’s widespread teachings, the protestant religion has over 900 million members in numerous countries around the world.
- “Martin Luther and the 96 Theses.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 29 Oct. 2009.
- “Martin Luther on Papal Power, Justification by Faith, Interpretation of the Bible and the Nature of the Clergy.”
- Zucker, Steven, and Beth Harris. “An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy.
- “Justification by Faith.” Sources of the Western Tradition. From the Renaissance to the Present, by Marvin Perry and Howard E. Negrin, 9th ed.
- Woodard, Colin. “The Power of Luther’s Printing Press.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Dec. 2015.
- “The 95 Theses: A Summary.” Uncommon Travel Germany.
- Hillerbrand, Hans J. “Martin Luther.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 16 Oct. 2018.