Religious reforms by Martin Luther and King Henry VIII

The motives of Martin Luther in the German states and King Henry VIII in England could not have actually been a lot more different than they were. However, their actions of bringing about reform likened them. Martin Luther was motivated to reform the church exclusively for spiritual reasons; primarily frustration with the corruption of the Catholic Church, while King Henry VIII was encouraged by both his personal life and his personal gain.

The entire concept to reform the church in England essentially began when King Henry VIII realized he would be not able to divorce his better half, Catherine.

He had currently set his sights on Anne Boleyn, so he required to find a fast loophole in order to divorce Catherine and marry Anne. Because the Catholic Church still headed England and even the King had to send to Papal guideline, Henry chose it would be far better if he could simply be sovereign (and for that reason be able to divorce Catherine).

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Due to this discovery, King Henry chose to reform the Catholic Church and produce "The Church of England". Theologically, he stayed with Catholic principals such as confession and clerical celibacy, however he closed monasteries in order to obtain the wealth they held. In essence, all King Henry did was alter the legality of the Church but he did not bring about revolutionary spiritual modification.

Martin Luther, on the other hand, had no individual intentions at hand when he chose he wanted to reform the church. Martin Luther had witnessed and rapidly became frustrated with the corrupt acts of the church such as simony, nepotism, overlook of the celibacy guideline, absence, and pluralism.

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The last straw that sent out Martin Luther over the edge was when Pope Leo X authorized the sale of extravagances by Johan Tetzel in order to money the building of St. Peter's Basilica. Luther wrote the 95 Theses in reaction to this since he thought extravagances weakened the severity of penance.

Luther went on to denounce the authority of the Pope and at the Diet of Worms, he did not recant so he was excommunicated. After this, he formed his basic theological tenets that differed greatly from the traditional Catholic tenets. He brought about immense religious change including: the dogma of consubstantiation, the abolishment of clerical celibacy and monasticism, the belief that the church was subordinate to the state, and the belief in only two sacraments versus seven. He also introduced new answers to theological questions that can be summed up in these three Latin phrases: sola scriptura, sola fide, and sola gratia.

The motives of Martin Luther and King Henry were different, and even though their common goal of reform was similar, their end results were even quite different. King Henry's personal, political, social, and economic motives resulted in a temporary reform because they were based off everything but religion. His heirs altered the Church several times so that the national religion would be to their personal liking. Although the Church of England still exists today, it is not based on the beginning principles King Henry VIII set up. Martin Luther's reformation of the church, however, proved permanent. His genuine religious motives were apparent to the people so his religious changes stuck. Proof of this is simply that Lutheranism is still a popular denomination of Christianity today that is based off of the original principles that Martin Luther set.


A History of Western Society: 7th edition (McKay)

Updated: Jul 07, 2022
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Religious reforms by Martin Luther and King Henry VIII. (2016, Jul 30). Retrieved from

Religious reforms by Martin Luther and King Henry VIII essay
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