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Martin Luther was a monk and a professor at the University of Wittenberg. Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517, which was a common way to call an open debate during this time period. In this list, he questioned the Catholic church and called for reform. The ninety-five theses ultimately sparked the Protestant Reformation. Despite the impact of his writings, he had no intention of creating a divide in the church and only wanted to unify it in what he believed was that “true teachings of the Bible”. In theses one, Martin is telling them that God expects the life of a Christian to be filled with repentance. He follows by stating that only God can give salvation and that the clergy cannot give this. Martin is saying that the sacrament of penance that is given by the clergy is not the same as the salvation that comes from God. He did not agree with Tetzel, who said that indulgences would save the dead in purgatory for their sins. He explains that canon law applies only to the living. Martin writes that priests should not threaten the dying with the penalties of purgatory and that they are ignorant in doing so. In theses three, he explains that repentance is useless if it is not followed by a change in actions and lifestyle. Martin believed that Christians that believe they are saved simply because they have indulgence letters are damned. Luther states that those who teach that remorse is not needed when the individual has bought “confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.” Martin Luther was strongly against that abuse of indulgences. He was particularly angry with the fact that Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences to fund the renovation of the St. Peter Basilica in Rome. He viewed this as the church commercializing repentance and questioned whether the sale of indulgences granted forgiveness. Martin wanted Christians to know that buying pardons did not compare to doing works of mercy. He believed that Christians were expected to provide for their families first. Martin wondered why the Pope, who was richer than others in the community, didn’t provide the funds for the building of the basilica with his own money instead of selling indulgences to the poor. In the sixth theses, Luther writes “the pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgement. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.” Basically, he is saying that only God can forgive people and that the pope can only assure them of this forgiveness that comes for God. This is giving the pope less power. By saying this, it is lowering the power and role of the pope in the lives of the people. It also changes his religious authority. Also, by saying that God provides salvation, he is basically taking the authority that the church has over salvation. In theses twenty, he states that the pope cannot offer forgiveness for all sins and only for the penalties that he himself imposed. In this list, Martin questioned the ability of the pope to remit the guilt of sin. He believed that any intercession of the church was only allowed and successful because of the authority and power of God. The two central themes of the ninety-five theses were very controversial and opened the debate that led to the Protestant Reformation. These beliefs are that the Bible is the central authority of he religion and that humans obtain salvation through faith alone instead of the belief that good deeds were required. These ideas were at the core of Protestantism. Martin Luther’s writings started this time of reform and set the foundation for what would be the Protestant Reformation. His protest for reform within the church inspired others to follow his lead and do the same. Some of his ideas had been brought up in the past, but a few things made this particular instance stand out. First of all, Martin was fearless when it came to questioning the authority of the church and did so during the debate. Secondly, the printing press spread his writings all over Europe into the hands of citizens. Martin Luther translated the Bible to German so the ordinary people could read it and interpret it on their own in hopes that they would discover what he considered the truth. Luther also believed that the German princes should reform the Catholic churches in their states and this began to occur. This was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Lutheranism spread and became the state religion in Germany and Scandinavia. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Henry VIII challenged the church. This led to wars and persecutions. The reformation ended with the Peace of Augsburg and the Treaty of Westphalia. The reason that Luther’s document and the other works of reformers were so influential was because of the use of the printing press to spread their ideas. Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian theologian, monk, and professor that voiced his ideas and used the printing press to share them with others. His ninety-five theses was a very important document that led to the Protestant Reformation. In this document, he questioned the sale of indulgences and the authority of the pope. He opened a debate on this by posting it on the door of the cathedral at Wittenberg. This common act sparked one of the most influential reformations in history.

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