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Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation

Updated on August 27, 2012
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
95 Theses being nailed to the Castle Churchs door on October 31, 1517
95 Theses being nailed to the Castle Churchs door on October 31, 1517

In the center of the religious, political and social revolution that broke the hold of the Catholic Church over Europe, one finds the founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546) (Mullet, par. 1).

Luther, born in Eisleben in Eastern Germany, (Mullet, par. 1) was ordained priest in 1507 (Mullet, par. 3) in spite of his father’s wishes to train for the legal profession (Mullet, par. 2).

Luther’s life was haunted by the fear of God’s judgment and spent his life seeking everlasting salvation (Mullet, par. 2); however, Luther gradually found assurance in the scriptures: “the Psalms of the Old Testament and the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans in the New” Testament (Mullet, par 4). Consequently, Martin Luther, with a courageous and bold act, brought about one of history’s symbolic moment known as the Protestant Reformation.

Contrary to the Catholic Church’s teachings, Luther argued that sinners won acceptance, not by good deeds (Mullet, Par. 4) and not by the "practicing of rituals or doing pious works” (Boggis, p. 3), such as the selling of indulgences, but simply by faith that Christ had died on the cross (Mullet, Par. 4) to atone for their sins (Mullett, par. 22).

On October 31, 1517, in protest against the sales of indulgences in Germany, by Friar Johann Tetzel, Martin Luther challenged the papacy with 95 Theses and nailed the theses to the door of "the CastleChurch in Wittenberg, in the German principality of Saxony- and thereby precipitated the Reformation” (Mullet, Par.7).

The unsuspecting Luther, who only urged moderation in the indulgences, marked the beginnings of a major "future change of rites” (Mullett, par. 9). This sole act was not significant or unusual, since universities are known for their posters advertising forthcoming events on the door of the Castle Church and theologians convened and debated legitimacy of religious issues (Mullett, par. 15); it was the publicity that turned this act into a world-shattering event by the printing of the manifesto that sensationalized and precipitated the change and rebellion in a country filled with a mix “of religious, moral, political, and financial grievances against the Roman Church” (Mullett, par. 16).

In 1520, according to Gritsch, Luther was threatened by Rome, and was to be excommunicated if he did not recant his teachings, however, Luther refused to do so (Gritsch, par. 4). In 1521, following the challenge to the papacy’s “claimed divinely-endowed power to pardon,” (Mullet, Par. 5), “under pressure from Elector Frederick and other princes, Emperor Charles V agreed to hear Luther at a German diet scheduled to meet in Worms” (Gritsch, par. 4). Meanwhile, virtually all of Germany was supporting Luther (Gritsch, par. 5). Luther appeared before the diet, where he was asked, “did he acknowledge the authorship of books that had been brought to the diet and bore his name?” and “Would he stand by them or retract anything in them?” (Gritsch, par. 6). According to Gritsch, at Luther’s request, he was allowed to meditate for a day to reflect before answering, nonetheless, Luther refused, maintaining his ground, and was asked to leave Worms (Gritsch, par 7, 10).

On May 26, 1521, Charles excommunicated Luther and declared him a criminal, demanded the capture of Luther and his disciples, and condemned him to death; however, according to Gritsch, an arranged kidnapping by his supporter, Elector Frederick, Luther was hidden at Wartburg, thus saving his life (Gritsch, par. 9, 10).

According to Mullet and Gritsch, the search for everlasting salvation through personal reflection and lectures of the scriptures, led Martin Luther to challenge the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences, and argued that sinners were forgiven for their sins, not by good deeds and rituals, but simply by faith. By nailing the 95 Theses to the CastleChurch’s door, and the events that followed at the Diet of Worms, Luther spurred a historical movement that lead to the Protestant Reformation.


Boggis, Jay. The Western Tradition- Third Edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.

Gritsch, Eric W. “The Diet of Worms.” Christian History 1990: 36. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. 1 March 2005 <>

Mullett, Michael. “Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses.” History Review September 2003: 46-51. EBSCO. 24 February 2005 <>

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      the answer hunter 4 years ago

      indulgenses is the answer

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Thanks for the added information. I see you used one of my cited authors/works (Michael Mullett) for your comment. I agree that his roots were founded in the teachings of the Catholic Church, however, so do the teachings of other religions. Some also teach the Trinity doctrine and many other false teachings. This was a historical paper I wrote for school a while back and it does not go in depth into the character and teachings of Martin Luther, but on the Protestant Reformation and how it came about. Thank you for expressing your opinion and adding to the topic.

    • ro-jo-yo profile image

      ro-jo-yo 4 years ago

      Of course if the ultimate plan is to decieve the whole world then one is not going to find a direct statement that Luther was working for the Catholic Church, but if we look at all the facts in history and piece it all together one would ultimately come to that conclusion. He kept the same false doctrines like the Trinity and Sunday worship, which is the foundation that the Catholic Church is built on. That qualifies Lutherans as a Daughter of the Mother Church (Catholic Church). After the Protestant Reformation, school was made obligatory and the false names were reinforced. And also his hatred for the Jewish people is another clue ( The Jewish people have the true name of the Creator which is Yehowah and of the Messiah, not 'the Christ', which is Yehowshuwa.) Here are some qoutes that suggest that he was working for the Catholic Church.

      Martin Luther was a German monk, Catholic priest, professor of theology

      “Townspeople themselves were eager for change and experiment. From their point of view, Catholicism was tied in with customs and festivals that made sense in a farming community. People in towns and cities needed to have their industries work without being interrupted by all the feast days of the Catholic faith.” ― Michael A. Mullett, The Catholic Reformation

      In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood, and in 1508 von Staupitz, first dean of the newly founded University of Wittenberg, sent for Luther, to teach theology. He received a Bachelor's degree in Biblical studies on 9 March 1508, and another Bachelor's degree in the Sentences by Peter Lombard in 1509. On 19 October 1512, he was awarded his Doctor of Theology and, on 21 October 1512, was received into the senate of the theological faculty of the University of Wittenberg, having been called to the position of Doctor in Bible.

      At times, Luther's practical reforms fell short of his earlier radical pronouncements. For example, the Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors in Electoral Saxony (1528), drafted by Melanchthon with Luther's approval, stressed the role of repentance in the forgiveness of sins, despite Luther's position that faith alone ensures justification. Mullett, 186–87; Brecht, 2:264–65, 267.

      In response to demands for a German liturgy, Luther wrote a German Mass, which he published in early 1526. He did not intend it as a replacement for his 1523 adaptation of the Latin Mass but as an alternative for the "simple people", a "public stimulation for people to believe and become Christians. Brecht, 2:251–55

      His translation of the Bible into the vernacular (instead of Latin) made it more accessible, which had a tremendous impact on the church and on German culture. It fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and influenced the writing of an English translation, the King James Bible. His hymns influenced the development of singing in churches.

      During the Reformation in 1524, Martin Luther advocated compulsory schooling so that all parishioners would be able to read the Bible themselves.

      “[Martin] Luther was a kind, warm-hearted man. But he attacked anyone he felt was an enemy of Christ. The worst side of him was expressed in his attacks on Jews. He also attacked Turks, who were Muslims, Catholic followers of the Pope, and even other groups of Protestants. These attacks became more and more violent as he grew older.” ― Michael A. Mullett, The Catholic Reformation

    • Faithful Daughter profile image

      Evi Lopez 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Hello ro-jo-yo,

      Thanks for your comment. Will you give me references where it says Luther worked for the Catholic Church (I'm assuming you meant he continued to work for them) and that's why he was never killed and did their bidding. While researching this topic a while back, I didn't come across the information you gave. Thanks.

    • ro-jo-yo profile image

      ro-jo-yo 4 years ago

      Luther also advocated mandatory schooling where everyone is forced to believe the false name Jesus Christ. Just like the Catholic Church with their Jesuit schools. The true name of the Messiah is Yehowshuwa. Luther worked for the Catholic Church, that is why he was never killed, he did their bidding in forcing all to conform.