The major reason for the separation of belief from the Catholic Church to the protestant churches was the perceived corruption in the Catholic Church. This was seen through the sale of indulgences and buying and holding of multiple offices within the papacy. The buying and selling of indulgences was put forward as a way to secure salvation, and it was deemed that faith alone could not ensure ones salvation. The indulgences were in the form of donations to the Catholic Church. It was also true that many officers of the church held multiple offices, and these offices were acquired through bribery and other such tactics. Humanists, merchants and women appeal to Lutheran religious views under all circumstances.
Humanists, merchants and women appeal to Lutheran religious views under all circumstances
The reason why most people chose the Lutheran beliefs was because the Lutheran way presupposed freedom of worship, personal salvation, the freedom from the immorality within the Catholic Church, the view that the people did not have to pay homage to the church to receive salvation and a number of other reasons. This made Luther a heretic in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and it was allowed for anyone to kill him, but he was well liked. He lived and continued his writings and published a number of books on which the Lutheran faith is based. This works appealed to the common man because they helped them save, pray for themselves and hold some hope that they would be saved through the grace of God. He also stated that one did not have to go to church to have the word of God interpreted for them but could also read the Bible and get the advice there in.
Luther held that only those who God had saved would go to heaven, and it was not possible to get one’s salvation or that of their loved ones through the purchase of indulgences. The indulgences that infuriated Luther particularly were those sanctioned by the pope to pay for the construction of a church at St. Peter’s in Rome. The money for the indulgence was being collected all over Germany at the time. At the time, it was widely known of the immorality within the Catholic Church. Such matters as the purchase of office and bribes within the Catholic Church made people loose faith in the Church. They were ready for a new and better way of worship that had fewer constraints and restrictions.
His works thus led to the Lutheran movement which advocated for education for all (including women). He also stressed the importance of marriage stating the importance of gender roles. He said that the wife was supposed to manage the economy within the family while the man was to control the household. He also stated that it was okay for clergy to marry. He believed that salvation was held through faith in the Lord and not through works or money. He also viewed religious authority to be found in the Bible, not from the Pope. He believed that each man could be his own priest. He also saw a need in holding religious services in vernacular instead of Latin to ensure that the message was passed to the congregation. Luther stated that of the seven sacraments held by the Catholic Church only two were important: Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. To him, the sacrament Lord’s Supper was a metaphor for the partaking of the suffering of Christ and thus accepting his salvation and mercy. The benefits of partaking in the sacrament came from Christ’s promises and not from the physical eating of the sacrament. This showed that the sacrament was a representative of the gospel and as such was fulfilled by God’s own words and promises.
Women, merchants and humanists would appeal to the Lutheran religious views for a number of reasons. For women, these reasons might be the idea that they should be educated and have a basis in the economy of the household. This would give women the moral standing to care for the family in any way they deemed fit. It would also be prudent to deduce that the fact that salvation was not for sale but rather, held through faith in God, made people think that they would not have to spend much of their time worrying about buying indulgences to ensure that they would have a place in heaven.. Luther held the Bible as the supreme authority of God and as such deemed it feasible that anyone could interpret it to fit their lives. As such, women were given the freedom to choose what to read and how the Bible helped their lives at different points in time. Since it was part of the pope’s role to interpret the Bible, this was seen as heresy. Luther offered women individual dignity and respect in that it was not the hard work or homage to Rome that could guarantee salvation but faith and the grace of God.
Martin Luther captured the people’s needs and set for them a religious system that best suited them. This would have played a great role in the success of Luther’s new system. Luther gave women an avenue to learn and thus increase the productivity of their homes as they were given the role of the economists. This may have given a lot of women some faith in the new belief system that later came to be known as the Lutheran religious system. Women thus were more pulled to the Lutheran church. Luther also stressed the importance of marriage and the role of the husband in the family as the control element. This may have contributed to women taking on the Lutheran belief system.
According to the Catholic Church, indulgences existed due to the surplus grace that had accumulated as a result of the lives of Christ, the saints and martyrs. The purchase of an indulgence shared some of this grace with the buyer and freed them of the earthly penance of the particular sin but not the sin itself. At this time, the church was selling indulgences under the pretext that the buyer was freed of sin as well as the earthly penance. It was also said that one could purchase indulgences for their loved ones in purgatory, and that the purchase, once made, freed the soul from purgatory and sent it to heaven. Luther disagreed with this point of view and stated that the forgiveness of sins was done by God Himself (Theses 28).
For the merchants, becoming a Lutheran might have been a means to ensure that they kept their wealth and still had a hope for salvation. This was a form of protest against the church to avoid paying homage to Rome. People had a new view of religion that was seemingly better than that supported by the church then. This, if not anything else, made more and more people stick to Luther’s point of view. The Lutheran system advocated for personal prayer and devotion, and as such was better suited to address the needs of the people than was the Catholic Church. He also gave the merchants and other middle class people hope that salvation was possible for people whose sole interest was financial gain.
The merchants viewed the Lutheran teaching as beneficial since they were able to keep their wealth and still obtain salvation. This along with the fact that it was possible for a person whose main interest was to acquire wealth, made it even easier for merchants to choose to Luther’s teachings. This increased the size of Luther’s following to a greater number.
On the other hand, humanists had the view of centering focus on the person and not on the group. This would have been why people chose to ally themselves with Lutheran beliefs. Luther proposed that it was possible for one to understand the teachings of the Bible all ton their own without any help from the priests as the belief in the Catholic Church. He also put forward the idea that man had only to have faith in God’s grace that would satisfy the requirements for salvation. The Catholic Church held that faith alone could not guarantee a person’s place in heaven, but faith, combined with good deeds and service to the church would be sufficient. If all that was not enough, then the person might also have purchased an indulgence to ensure their place in heaven.
Across Europe, an increasing number of humanists were attracted by Luther's message. Humanism advocated for the personal worth of the individual and the central importance of human values as opposed to religious belief. Luther called for a personal religion based on faith and focused on scripture and the abolition of Catholic ceremony. These were the reforms that northern Christian humanists had been willing to address. For instance, Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) took Luther's message into the city of Zurich and John Calvin took Lutheranism into Geneva. These two people later brought about more mind sets to the protestant movement.
Since the 15th century, there had been a rising dislike for clerical privilege. The clergy paid no taxes and were exempt from civic responsibilities that fell on the shoulders of the people. There was also the increased visibility of the clergy: a common person could see the luxury and splendor of a church whose purpose was to minister the spiritual needs of its flock but which seemed indifferent, lax and corrupt. Luther offered an alternative that was appealing as an alternative. With such ideas, it was only a matter of time before Luther’s beliefs garnered more people to his system. This was the beginning of the Lutheran system.
To the people, Luther offered an alternative that best suited their differing lifestyles and as such, many people freely chose his system over that of the Catholic Church. Luther also gave rise to other people of like mind who went on to form their own belief systems thus increasing the number of protestant groups. Today, Lutherans are found in North Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. This shows the wide spread of the Lutheran belief system and how acceptable it was to the people.
In conclusion, the various groups chose to believe in Luther’s teachings to escape the immorality that plagued the Catholic Church, to escape bondage through service, to hold on to the hope for salvation and many other reasons. Luther appealed to the people of his time because he gave them an avenue through which to practice their beliefs without being deemed as heretics. He gave the people what they wanted. Luther saw a need that the people faced and devised a way to satisfy that need. He was a revolutionary in the religious front and his teachings opened up the way to other Protestants who later abdicated from the Catholic Church.