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Protestantism

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 Catholic Church.

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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