Continued from previous post –
Martin Luther's advent
Martin Luther, a man both solemn and passionate, is an Augustinian friar teaching theology at the university recently founded in Wittenberg by Frederick the Wise, the elector of Saxony. Obsessed by his own unworthiness, he decides finally, that no amount of virtue or good behavior can be the basis of salvation (as proposed in the doctrine known as justification by works). If the Christian life is not to be meaningless, he argues, a sinner's faith must be the only merit for which God's grace might be granted. This doctrine was based on St. Paul's teachings. Martin Luther developed sizable follower-ships amongst his companions in the Church and out side. They began to protest against the claims made by prevalent authority that Popes have ecclesiastical powers over people. Later on, that group was called Protestants. These Protestants tend to deny that Peter and those claimed to be his immediate successors had universally recognized supreme authority over all the early churches. The same Protestants said that Rome's prominence may be seen as only moral, and political not ecclesiastical, and that emergence of the Roman pontiff to supreme power and prominence happened by natural (man made) circumstance rather than divine appointment.
Luther therefore becomes a passionate believer in an alternative doctrine, justification by faith, for which he finds evidence in the writings of St Paul. In a way, Martin Luther encouraged devotion against intelligent method for salvation, the doctrine that proposes justification of work. This doctrine says, virtue and good behavior or righteousness is responsible for salvation. St. Paul had recommended that devotion for Jesus is more important than righteousness. This he recommended in time when they were interested in collecting as many people around Jesus as possible by way of a market strategy to promote creed of Jesus; that helped them in garnering maximum support for his Christianity. Eventually religion of Christianity grew phenomenally in Europe. Actually, this was a total deviation from the real teachings of Jesus but nobody bothered about it as nobody was really, interested in Jesus and his teachings. Everybody in the Church was interested in business of religion. Therefore, Martin Luther got big support from interested parties such as king of England particularly because that king had a grudge against the papal authority, which had put him to task on the matter of his marrying many women and not because that king has anything to do with what Martin had in his plans.
Nothing could be farther from the concept of justification by faith than Tetzel's impudent selling of God's grace. Luther has often argued against the sale of indulgences in his sermons. Now he takes a more public stand. He writes out ninety-five propositions about the nature of faith and contemporary church practice. Both Tetzel and Luther were far away from Jesus and his teachings but now they being against each other a fight of propaganda began amongst them. The tone of these 'theses', as they come to be known, is academic. However, the underlying effect, apart from overt criticism of indulgences is that, truth is to be sought in scripture rather than in the teaching of the church. By nailing his theses to the door of All Saints' in Wittenberg, as Luther does on 31 October 1517, he is merely proposing them as subjects for debate.
This raised tremendous turmoil in Europe as three ideologies (Indulgence of Tetzel, devotion to scriptures of Luther and original philosophy of Jesus, righteousness) conflicting with each other began to confuse common European faithful and it continues to create conflicting in that continent for many centuries. Instead of launching a debate in Wittenberg, the ninety-five theses spark off a European conflagration of unparalleled violence. The Reformation ravages western Christendom for more than a century, bringing violent intolerance and hatred, which lasts in some Christian communities down to the present day. No sectarian dispute in any other religion has matched the destructive force, the brutality and the bitterness, which begins in Wittenberg in 1517. Church stoutly stood by the Indulgence of Tetzel and intellectuals in favor of Martin Luther.
Luther is as surprised as anyone else is by the eruption, which now engulfs him - slowly at first but with accelerating pace after a year or two. Its violence derives from several unusual elements. The papacy is determined to suppress this disrespect for papal authority. Luther's writings are burnt in Rome in 1520; his excommunication follows in 1521. This is the predictable part; the unexpected elements are the groundswell of support in Germany, nourished by a deep resentment of papal interference; and the effect of the relatively new craft of printing. Printing technique was developed during this time. The Europeans had copied the idea of printing paper from Chinese; only difference was that they in Germany had mechanized the whole process so that multiple copies of the same print became possible. A new market for books developed simultaneously and people were interested in reading the new material. There was not much to read and so whatever little was printed became popular in literate people. In that, Luther's ninety-five theses attracted their attention and as a result, his thoughts spread like wild fire in all Germany. A fierce debate develops, with pamphlets pouring from the presses - many of them from Luther's pen. Within six years, by 1523, Europe's printers produce 1300 different editions of his tracts. In these circumstances, it was impossible for the issue to be swept under the carpet. Any action taken against Luther in person is certain to provoke a crisis - though in the early years his safety depends heavily on the protection of Frederick the Wise, proud of his university and reluctant to hand over to Rome its famous theologian, however controversial he was. Now in the new situation Pope has to answer more public than what was in early days. The number of owlish persons had increased tremendously due to printing. Facing them all was not so easy.
Continues in the next post –
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