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John Knox
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Martin Luther
Martin Luther

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9. Reformation
Causes of Crisis in Medieval Church
Characterization of German Reformation – Martin Luther
Spread of Reformation and Its Importance
The Idea of Recatholization – the Council of Trent, the Jesuits etc.
Characterization of German Reformation – Martin Luther
Luther’s early years in the monastery were not very happy. He was troubled and full of fear. He felt he was a
sinner. He did not feel saved despite living a good Christian life and doing many good works. Then he was
sent to study the Bible in Wittenberg and there he found, in the Epistle to the Romans, his salvation. He
suddenly understood that apostle Paul is saying that salvation is „a free gift of God“ and that it comes „by faith“
and not through the good works or sacraments. Within a few years it took on a new meaning for half of Western
Christendom. The unity of Western Christendom was destroyed.
Luther’s most influential ideas were his views of salvation, religious authority, the priesthood, and the dark
role of the popes in history.
- salvation through faith (traditional view of the church: faith AND good works)
- unique authority of the Bible (traditional view of the church, Bible+councils+popes)
- priesthood of all believers, access to God through prayes (priests have special spiritual power)
- popes usurped the power, pope - the Antichrist himself
Spread of Reformation and Its Importance
1517 – Luther challenged the sale of indulgences (95 theses)
Leo X. signed a bull of excommunication, Luther burned it
Charles V. called the imperial diet in Worms, Luther: „I cannot and will not recant anything...“
„kidnapped by“ Frederick the Wise, lived at the Wartburg castle, Luther started translating the Bible
he urged the nobility to reform the church in his pamphlets „To the Christian Nobility of the German
Peasants’ War (1524-25) – demanded abolition of serfdom and manorial duties etc., the revolt started,
Luther was against, the revolt was suppressed in a „bloodbath“
the kings of Denmark and Sweden were converted to the new faith, rejected papal authority
1529 – German princes signed a „protest“ against the decree probihiting changes in religion
1530 – Lutheran „Augsburg Confession“ was rejected by both Charles V and the Catholic Church
results: Lutheranism spread all over Europe (but especially Northern Europe)
regional autonomy: 1555 - Peace of Augsburg „cuius regio eius religio“
other reformers: Jean Calvin in Switzerland, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox etc., divided the movement
catholic counter-reformation (popes, council of Trent, Jesuits and other religious orders)
translation of the Bible into national languages and given to the „people“(printing press)
the Christendom was now divided into Catholic and Protestant branches
The Idea of Recatholization – the Council of Trent, the Jesuits, etc.
Although many Catholics hated Luther’s attack on the church, the hunger for religious revival was also strong on
the Catholic side. The reform activities were divided among Reformation popes, the Great Council of Trent and
the Jesuit order found by Ignatius of Loyola.
The first reformation pope was Paul III who started the moral and spiritual revitalization of the Church. He
recognized the Jesuit order in 1540 and called the Council of Trent in 1545. The Rome itself has changed since
the times of Martin Luther. It was no longer a place full of brothels and relics sellers, it was now a holy city.
Council of Trent
recognized the need for reform in church practices
denied Luther’s claim that faith alone was suffucient, they insisted it is both faith and good works
denied Calvin’s view of the Mass as a purely symbolic commemoration of the Last Supper
attack on clerical concubinage, simony etc.
the Holy Office of the Inquisition to suppress all herecy
the Index of Forbidden Books etc.
The Reformation –
Document Packet #1
• What rationale does Tetzel give for obtaining indulgences?
• What are the “dangers” of not purchasing an indulgence?
Document 1
…..Blessed eyes indeed, which see what they see, because already they possess letters of safe conduct by
which they are able to lead their souls through that valley of tears, through that sea of the mad world,
where storms and tempests and dangers lie in wait, to the blessed land of Paradise. Know that the life of
man upon earth is a constant struggle. We have to fight against the flesh, the world and the devil, who are
always seeking to destroy the soul. In sin we are conceived,-alas! what bonds of sin encompass us, and how
difficult and almost impossible it is to attain to the gate of salvation without divine aid; since He causes us
to be saved, not by virtue of the good works which we accomplish, but through His divine mercy, it is
necessary then to put on the armor of God. You may obtain letters of safe conduct from the vicar of our
Lord Jesus Christ, by means of which you are able to liberate your soul from the hands of the enemy, and
convey it by means of contrition and confession, safe and secure from all pains of Purgatory, into the happy
kingdom. For know that in these letters are stamped and engraven all the merits of Christ's passion there
laid bare. Consider, that for each and every mortal sin it is necessary to undergo seven years of penitence
after confession and contrition, either in this life or in Purgatory. How many mortal sins are committed in a
day, how many in a week, how many in a month, how many in a year, how many in the whole course of life!
They are well-nigh numberless, and those that commit them must needs suffer endless punishment in the
burning pains of Purgatory. But with these confessional letters you will be able at any time in life to obtain
full indulgence for all penalties imposed upon you, in all cases except the four reserved to the Apostolic
See. Therefore throughout your whole life, whenever you wish to make confession, you may receive the
same remission, except in cases reserved to the Pope, and afterwards, at the hour of death, a full
indulgence as to all penalties and sins, and your share of all spiritual blessings that exist in the church
militant and all its members. Do you not know that when it is necessary for anyone to go to Rome, or
undertake any other dangerous journey, he takes his money to a broker and gives a certain percent-five or
six or ten-in order that at Rome or elsewhere he may receive again his funds intact, by means of the letter
of this same broker? Are you not willing, then, for the fourth part of a florin, to obtain these letters, by
virtue of which you may bring, not your money but your divine and immortal soul safe and sound into the
land of Paradise?
SOURCE: Johann Tetzel, 1517.

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