ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Martin Luther: Two of his Key Writings - Part 2

Updated on May 22, 2014
Nick Burchett profile image

Nick is a US Army veteran, husband and father of three, and has a BA in History. He is a Civil War aficionado and also enjoys genealogy.

Probably the main theme in both of Martin Luther's writings were the excesses and the extra-biblical conduct of the Church. When Johann Tetzel came upon the borders on Wittenberg selling and advertising the indulgences sanctioned by the Pope, Frederick the Wise forbade the preaching in his territory, yet the citizenry cross the boundaries to purchase them. Some returned and questioned Luther on their validity, and when he refused word spread to Tetzel and eventually to the Pope himself.[1]Luther then posted his Ninety-Five Theses in response to what he wanted to clear up any idea that these indulgences were abuses of the ministers of the Pope, not from the Pope himself and in the process correct any misconceptions on the validity of these indulgences.

Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses
Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses | Source

However, many of his statements were bold and from face value would appear to indeed direct comments to the Pope. He points out that the pope cannot remit sins or penalties other than those he issued,[2] that the pope desires prayer for himself, more than money,[3] that if the pope knew what these “pardon-preachers” were doing he would be against it, [4] and that the “true” treasure of the Church was the Gospel of Christ and not any monies the Church builds up.

The sale of indulgences shown in A Question to a Mintmaker, woodcut by Jörg Breu the Elder of Augsburg, ca. 1530.
The sale of indulgences shown in A Question to a Mintmaker, woodcut by Jörg Breu the Elder of Augsburg, ca. 1530. | Source

Indulgences were just one point of contention that Luther had with the Church and its doctrine. By the year 1520 Luther had seen his plan for a debate evolve into something he himself could not have guessed when he stated he, “got into these turmoils (sic) by accident, and not by will or intention.”[5] He also garnered the attention of Pope Leo X who, on 20 June 1520, issued the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which for all intents and purposes, condemned Luther and his writings – excommunicating him from Christendom. Luther’s period of “grace” was over, and he began publishing not in Latin, but in native German, a jab in the eye at the intellectual class.[6]

One his main writings during this period was his “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”, which took aim at the corruption within the Church, its abuse of authority, and the right of the laity to spiritual independence. This letter was broken down into three “walls that he believed surrounded the Church and that needed to come down. The first wall addressed the idea that the temporal power has actually no power over the spiritual power. He makes his point that all believers are equal to the clergy, and even the Pope himself, by using Scripture (1 Peter 2:9 and Revelation 1:6) to reiterate this point.[7]


Luther Before the Diet of Worms" by Anton von Werner (1843–1915)
Luther Before the Diet of Worms" by Anton von Werner (1843–1915) | Source

He then addresses the second wall, that of Scriptures only being interpreted by the Pope, also as false and upfront states boldly,

Therefore it is a wickedly devised fable—and they cannot quote a single letter to confirm it—that it is for the Pope alone to interpret the Scriptures or to confirm the interpretation of them. They have assumed the authority of their own selves. And though they say that this authority was given to St. Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter alone, but to the whole community.[8]

He then addresses the third wall which states that no one may call and confirm a council except the pope. Luther, defies this plainly by stating that nowhere does Scripture show the power giving the Pope this authority and that any authority they wield is simply over their own, man-made laws.[9]


Statue of Martin Luther outside St. Mary's Church, Berlin
Statue of Martin Luther outside St. Mary's Church, Berlin | Source

Luther’s reform ideas that questioned the social hierarchy caused an already brewing pot to boil over. While the Reformation in Germany was not the cause of the German Peasants Revolt of 1525, it certainly was a factor. Will Durant writes that the “peasants felt that the new religion had sanctified their cause”[11], they were armed with Luther’s belief that they were equally a part of the priesthood of believers and that as such their rights and privileges were equal to that of the clergy and even the nobility. In essence they took a mixture of the spiritual and the material and combined the two, a recipe that erupted into extreme violence. At the end of these revolts, which Luther condemned, many were left confused and unsure of their faith. Some returned to the Catholic faith while others began to follow radical groups who took Luther’s teachings and them in a way that Luther had never intended, such as the Anabaptists.[12]These radicals were the forerunners of variant forms of Protestantism that can still be seen today in the variety of Protestant denominations across the world.

What is your opinion of Martin Luther?

See results

Another result of Luther’s reform movement was the change in power the papacy and papal-back rulers had over the European people and its non-Catholic rulers. Charles V had rejected the Augsburg Confession and demanded the prices of his empire to revert back to Catholicism. Undeterred, the princes created the Protestant League to oppose Charles V.[13] Henry VIII boldly used Protestantism to go against the papacy and declare himself “Head of the Church of England” and deeming the Church subservient to the State.[14]

Martin Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” and “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” were just two of the many key writings that Luther created and distributed during his lifetime. Both had enormous effect on culture of Europe at a time when change was ever present. They both presented shortcomings that Luther saw within the Catholic Church and its excesses and extra-biblical conduct. They also brought to the laity a new sense of spirituality they had never experienced before. The ramifications of these and other writings reverberated across Europe and influenced later reformers who applied his teachings directly or radically, and forged a new world that he himself did not anticipate until there was no turning back.

Works Cited

Durant, Will. The Reformation: The Story of Civilization. New York, NY: MJF Books, 1957.

Luther, Martin. Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate. New York, NY.: P.F. Collier & Son Company, 1914.

Luther, Martin, and C.M., ed. Jacobs. Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915.

McGrath, Alister. Christianity's Dangerous Idea. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007.

Nystrom, Bradly P., and David P. Nystrom. The History of Christianity: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • GreenPrince profile image

      Prince Edike 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      Great hub Nick. The world needs people of such caliber to enable transition and transformation in to a new level of our existence. If left the world's affair to be controlled by few, we are bound to stray along with their ignorance.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)