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Unit 2

2.2 Martin Luther

3 min readmay 11, 2020


AP European History 🇪🇺

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The Catholic Church held great status in European society at the time. They had gained great influence during medieval times, and that influence stayed with them as time passed. As the strongest influence in Europe and a moral power, the Catholic Church should have been full of moral people doing moral things, right?

Catholic Church’s Sins

Corruption in the Catholic Church was rampant. Here are some of the main issues:
  • simony
  • nepotism
  • constant hypocrisy
  • lack of knowledge by their priests
  • lack of spirituality by placing good deeds over faith
  • failing relationship with the common people
Previous attempts at reform had failed. In fact, any reformers were dubbed as heretics. Some of the most well known examples are Jan Hus and John Wycliffe. Both were burned at the stake for speaking out against the Church, and Jan Hus’ supporters, known as Hussites, were persecuted.
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The Church’s greatest sin was indulgences. In order to pay for various things like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Church claimed that donating money could save the soul from purgatory. 💸 As Johann Tetzel said, “As soon as the coin in coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” This catchy jingle got many people to pay up.

We’re Leaving

To one German monk, indulgences were the most sinful thing imaginable. For years, the Church had been full of corruption, but indulgences were the last straw. Known as Martin Luther, the monk wrote the 95 Theses and posted it on the door of the Wittenberg Church. His 95 Theses would permanently change the religious landscape of Europe forever.
🎥 Watch: AP European History - Martin Luther and Reformation
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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Luther had different ideas for how the Christian doctrine should be interpreted. He had three main beliefs: sola fide and sola scriptura. Translated, they mean only faith and only scripture. ☝️ He believed in a priesthood of all believers, the scripture being above any words said by priests, and salvation through faith alone, not good works. His ideas would spur many others to break away from the Church, like Zwingli and Anabaptists.

Catholic

Luther

Calvin

Zwingli

Salvation

1. Faith
2. Good Works
1. Faith alone
2. Scripture alone
Predestination
Salvation is rejected to those who have heard the Gospel and rejected it

Authority

1. Bible
2. Church teachings
1. Christ alone in the Scripture
1. Christ alone in the Scripture
1. Christ alone in the Scripture

Eucharist

Transubstantiation:
The priest literally transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ
Consubstantiation:
Christ’s body and blood are present in the bread and wine because of God’s mystery, not the priest
Partake in the bread and wine on Earth; be nourished by the blood and body of Christ in heaven
Bread and wine are symbolic of Christ’s body

Church

Hierarchical
Priesthood of all Believers
Priesthood of all Believers
Priesthood of all Believers

Spiritual Life

Monastic Orders
Serve God through your individual calling
Serve God through your individual calling
Serve God through your individual calling

Money!

One person who followed in Luther’s footsteps was John Calvin. He founded Calvinism, a strict religion that viewed money and wealth as signs of God’s favor. 🤑 Known as predestination, Calvinists believed that God already knew who was going to heaven and hell, and there was nothing anyone could do to change their status. This caused them to constantly seek out signs of fortune and instilled in them a good work ethic.
🎥 Watch: AP European History - Reformation 2.0

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