Three Causes of the Protestant Reformation
The sixteenth century was a time when the acts and teachings of all religions came under a great amount of scrutiny. As a result, there was a great division from the dominant Roman Catholic Church; this was known as the Protestant Reformation. There were many factors in the coming of the Reformation, but the three worthy of note are the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, the leadership of Martin Luther, and the invention of the printing press.
The Roman Catholic Church was a strong force in sixteenth century Europe and as such became overly voracious in its desire for both political and economical power. Under Pope Leo X the church began the sale of indulgences in Mainz, Germany. According to Ostling an indulgence is a pardon granted by the church from "temporal punishment due in purgatory for sins committed" (1). Indulgences presented a way to buy your way into heaven, despite the grace-based biblical model for salvation. Along with indulgences was the issue of papal supremacy, meaning that the Catholic Church claimed that the authority of the Pope was over that of the secular rulers and that the Pope was the final authority on the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The word of the Pope was to be taken as the word of God himself. To many believers these practices and beliefs were without fault, but to others such as Martin Luther they were inexcusable and unfounded.
Born in 1483 in Saxony, Eisleben Luther originally studied law before turning to the religious field. In 1505 he joined the monastery of the Augustinian friars at Efurt and was ordained as a priest in 1507. Luther went on to study at the University of Wittenberg where he would later become a professor. Luther was known for frequent bouts of depression regarding his unhappiness with the Catholic system of works-based salvation. His studies led him to believe in a loving God who offered salvation by grace through Christ. But an area of special disgust to Luther was the selling of indulgences, which led him to write the famous ninety-five theses on the subject. In 1517 Luther marched up to the castle church at Wittenberg and nailed the theses to the door, the first of many events for which he became known as the founder of the Reformation. Luther's protest was met with rage from the church; the Pope demanded that he recant his views and, according to Ostling, called him "the wild boar which hath invaded the Lord's vineyard" (2). Luther came to not only question indulgences but to reject the papacy all together. The former monk turned rebel refused to turn back and went on to argue his views in front of the Diet of...