Martin Luther, an educated
catholic monk and a man with an active conscience, was still in his youth in
the year 1510 A.D., when he became aware of the widespread dissolution of the
popeís court and Roman clergy. This greatly affected his theological views and
shook his former faith in the clergy of the Roman Church.
In 1516 he saw how financial support for building St. Peterís Cathedral in
Rome was acquired through the widespread practice of papal indulgences, which
provide for the forgiveness of sins through the payment of money, and moreover,
not only the forgiveness of sins committed in the past, but of future sins.
Luther spoke out against this blasphemous profiteering. To his spiritual
charges he explained that to be free from punishment for sins, one must have an
inner change of heart, forgive others, and ask for the forgiveness of God and
those one has sinned against. Disputes arose between Luther and the Dominican
monk Tetzel. The latter threatened, by the power of his office, to have Luther
and his followers burned to death. In response, Luther, in the year 1517,
nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Church his 95 theses, in which he
disclosed his views on confession, justification through faith, and against the
sale of indulgences. The dispute lasted several years following Lutherís
rejection of the popeís authority, for which he was excommunicated from the
Catholic Church. Only the defense of friends in powerful secular circles saved
Luther from death. He was supported in Germany by many priests, professors,
students, knights and princes. A schism thus began between Rome and the first
"Protestants" as Luther and his followers separated from the Roman
The movement towards purging the church from papal decrees and abuses did
not have its boundaries in Germany. Zwingli and Calvin, continuing with
reforms, went even beyond Luther in their teachings on morals and sacraments.
Calvinís main teaching was on predestination, whereby God predestined some
people from the beginning to salvation and others to eternal damnation. This
teaching in reality rejects the Christian necessity for spiritual striving,
faithfulness, and good works.
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