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The Protestant Reformation: Why it happened Essay

The Roman Catholic Church, in the sixteenth century, following the pattern and model of the Holy Roman Empire, had evolved into a powerful entity on the outside, but was rotting on the inside due to rampant corruption (Orange Pages). As the Church became preeminent in the life of the Middle Ages, so was the resulting increase in its wealth (Vernon Johns Society). The movement began when Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and theology professor at the Univesity of Wittenberg, nailed to a church door a list of his “Ninety-Five Theses (Vernon Johns).

This began the spread of the changes in Europe’s social and geo-political changes known in history as the Protestant Reformation (Orange Pages). The Bone(s) of Contention Luther’s contention mainly lay in the granting of the Catholic Church of “indulgences”-papal decrees that if bought by people, could mean a reduced term of punishment once the person dies, or from serving in purgatory (Area Handbook, U. S. Library of Congress).

But the Reformation, if seen only from this standpoint, would not be complete. The Reformation in the 16th century was in essence a movement to rid the Catholic Church of abuses and to re-establish the doctrines and practices that, according to the reformers, were in conformity with the Holy Bible, in terms of the New testament church (Believe Religious Information Source).

Called by Church authorities to expound on his theses at the Diet of Worms, with the hope that he will retract, he became more entrenched in controversy, in 1520 penning his most famous tracts, An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian (Believe), Luther’s “Reformation Treatises” (Believe) in which he laid assault on the papacy and anomalies in the Church (Area Handbook).

The treatises were seen by the Papacy as an attack on the Church, looking to try Luther as a heretic (Believe). To Luther, the Church had used the sale of these “indulgences” to sustain their lavish lifestyles, to fund their extravagant building programs, and more importantly, to fund their wars with the Muslims and Turks in their Crusades (University of Alabama-Birmingham). To illustrate the point, Pope Boniface VIII declared a “Year of Jubilee”, wherein an invitation was sent out to Christians wishing to make a pilgrimage to Rome (Alabama).

When the pilgrims arrive, they will be able to avail of what the Church called “Jubilee Indulgences”, at a price (Alabama). It was this same Boniface VIII that ordered the murders of the Knights Templars (Alabama). The increment in the abuse, both in theology and in practice, attached to penance, recompense, and merit, became the foundations of the granting of these indulgences (Believe). These practices were the beliefs that Luther targeted in his “Ninety-Five Theses” (Believe).

In essence, the Protestant Reformation was just as the term evokes: it was a reformation (Robert Lewis). It wasn’t a call to establish a new religion (Lewis), but a call to the return to the Scriptural dispensations as ordained in Scripture (Believe). Martin Luther, refusing to recant his teachings, was eventually issued a papal bull, excommunicating the monk in 1521, under the Edict of Worms (Area Handbook).

The gap caused by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the church refromers came to be known as Protestantism (Believe). The beliefs of Luther, and other reformers such as John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, cost many on both sides to lay down their lives, as both parties struggled to wrest control of the Christian world in the Western part of the globe (Alabama). In the end, the Reformation introduced the world a non-orthodox view in though and in political placings that the modern world still follows today (Believe).


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