Though human beings are innately compelled to venerate forms of god or higher beings, they also have the tendency to remove themselves from the bonds of undesirable groups and established norms when they feel already most uncomfortable or when new alternatives ready to be explored have presented itself. This tendency have also propelled many individuals to deviate from the grip of Catholicism during the time when irregularities in leadership by religious superiors have spread doubt on the Catholic faith.
Before Martin Luther was excommunicated and called a heretic, he was a brilliant student from a catholic monastery. Having been obsessed with whether he is going to be saved by his actions and practices as a catholic, he arrived to some questions regarding the “legality” of some catholic practices and rites with respect to the teachings from the bible. From there he concluded that portions of catholic teachings do not coincide with the holy scriptures and certain practices of church people are out of their religious requirements. From here he created his 95 theses, containing his criticisms on the religion.
He is particular about the claims of the catholic church that it is capable of bringing salvation of people from sins and later lead them to the paradise they promised. Luther contradicted this by citing the bible’s reference to God as the only savior. Also, he notes that faith alone is necessary in order to follow the Words of God, not prayers to some saints, like Mary who is venerated in the catholic church as someone higher in being. His 95 Theses however is focused mainly on his renouncement of the practice of indulgences, religious acts that include prayers, attendance in mass celebrations, charity, and penance.
Indulgences are done in order to remove one’s soul out of purgatory, an extra-temporal state where souls who are not “clean” enough of heaven is being purified before entry. Prayers sent with regards to the people in purgatory helps in purifying them, eventually granting them passage to paradise. This is contested by Luther, saying in general that indulgences is not commanded by the bible and followers should only practice those directed by the bible. His letter to the Archbishop of Mainz in 1517 voiced his objections over the sale of indulgences done by friars in many parts of Germany.
Priests, encouraged by a permission from the pope, collects “contributions” which will be included in the funds necessary in building a church in Rome. Johann Tetzel, a friar in Germany, advocated that indulgences will purchase a soul out of purgatory and fly to heaven. Also, he stressed that the money offered can remove one’s sin and the penance required thereof. The Catholic Church however denied Luther’s objections, noting that the church is needed in interpreting the bible and God’s Word to the people. From there they excommunicated Luther and called him a heretic.
The church commanded its followers to burn Luther’s book which spread already in Germany where it was received with much appreciation and acceptance by the state who have conflicts with the Holy Roman Empire that time already. The over-reaction of the church may have contributed in Luther’s success in influencing people away from the church. Though Luther’s intention is not to build a new church but only to reform the existing due to its wrong ways, the excommunication and the conviction of heresy stray away from catholic teachings.
However, other reasons are being cited to explain the spread of Lutheranism and the defiance of people to the Catholic Church (Kreis, 2002). Considering that his goal is only to reform certain practices of the church, his arguments are not enough to make a new church in itself. This is why many practices of the Protestant church is similar to those practiced by catholics. The desire of rich people to save their money while at the same time being saved from sins gave them a reason to remove themselves from the Catholic church.
Since Luther argued that only faith is needed to be saved, the rich found it unnecessary to pay indulgences consequently saving their money for themselves. This is the same with the poor people who cannot pay indulgences. Because they have no money to literally pay for their sins, they feel hopeless and lack sense of dignity and esteem as a follower of God. When they heard of Luther’s arguments against indulgences, they are given new hope for salvation without even paying a single copper coin. Later achievements of Protestantism received contributions from John Calvin, another reformist influenced by Luther.
He argues that God alone have the final say on who is going to be saved, not the church nor the priests. This is explained in his concept of predestination, which stresses that human beings are not capable to understand God, even the pope of the Catholic Church. However, The growth of Protestantism is still accountable to Martin Luther and the surprising number of his initial followers. The spread of Protestantism marks the capability of people to deviate from the undesirable group or norms that they belong to.
Martin Luther found that the practices of the Catholic Church and its leaders are no longer in accordance to what their belief states, particularly the orders of the bible. However, the number of people who followed him did not do so because of the righteousness of his claims. Their motives are propelled by their personal desire to remove themselves from the seemingly corrupt and repressive leadership of the church and their objections on the purpose of giving money when a more effortless and pretentious action, faith, is necessary.
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