At around 1500 many northern humanists had thought that the Roman Catholic church lost the spiritual mission Jesus had proclaimed in his lifetime. They said that the popes acted as political warriors instead of being moral leaders. The church as a whole thought that money was more important than saving souls. This created a new generation of reformers who persuaded people who were unhappy to form a new church. One of these reformers was Martin Luther.
Martin Luther, born in 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony, was originally planning on becoming a lawyer. As a young man he thought of himself as a terrible sinner and he was troubled about the salvation of his soul. One day, a bolt of lightning struck the ground near him and he cried out, “Help, dear Saint Anne, i will become a monk”. He kept his word, gave up law, and entered the monastery.
Luther soon found out that the things that the church does to overcome sin wasn’t helping. While studying the Bible, he realized none of the ceremonies and good deeds would overcome sin. He believed the only thing that counted was an inner faith of God. If people believed God would save them and not their own actions, than they could receive salvation through God’s saving grace. He called this the opening of the “doors into paradise”.
He created beliefs which came to be known as Lutheranism. He thought that Tetzel committed a crime by having the poor pay money for forgiveness. He posted on the church door at Wittenberg the 95 theses about indulgences. This spread across Europe, causing sales of indulgences to decline. Luther didn’t originally want to break off from the church, but they denounced him.
Luther said the authority is the Bible and he disagreed with many church doctrines. He said his church is a “priesthood of all believers”. Pope Leo X excommunicated him for writing three publications that outlined his doctrines and attacking the pope. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V banished him and canceled the printing of his work. The Elector of Saxony, frederick the Wise, Kept Luther safe and hid him during the uproar. By 1534, Luther had translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew to German. Because of all the protests of Luther’s followers, they became known as the “Protestants”.
Luther created the Lutheran Church and had ministers that had way less importance than Catholic priests. The only sacraments he allowed were baptism and communion. Many German states allowed the Lutheran church within their domains. Luther’s ideas took off because of the people of Europe’s desire for a deeper, more simpler faith.
Charles V couldn’t defeat the Lutheran church or Protestantism, so they signed the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. Nearly all german states accepted the Lutheran church, and the people either had to deal with it or move away. Hundreds of new religious groups sprouted in Germany and Switzerland in the 20’s and 30’s called the sects.