Luther’s Defiance of Authority: The Revolution of Print and Conviction

Martin Luther served as a social and religious revolutionary in many facets. Through his determination and unwillingness to recant his novel ideas, he successfully started a continent-wide critique of the Catholic Church. He foremost gained the support of the common people, and then pushed his influence into the nobles and hierarchy of Germany itself, cementing his safety on a multi-level scale. With the help of technological advances, such as the Gutenberg printing press, for the first time a revolutionary’s works could be mass distributed and read by many. Thus the Gutenberg movable type proved to be one of Luther’s most valuable tools, making him one of Europe’s most popular authors at the time.

On a religious scale alone, Luther took up issue with the over dominating Catholic Church and their practices. In his translations of the Bible, he found that many of the Catholic practices and rituals did not adhere with the literal Biblical text; therefore, he viewed the Church and Rome as being inherently corrupt in their motives. Luther’s innovative approach to change did not initially target the sacred priests and religious figures, but instead was catered to the secular political realm of Germany. Luther’s controversial claims harshly critiqued the Catholic Church and their self-indulgence. The revolutionary found that the Catholic Church had been over stepping their jurisdictive bounds and taking advantage of faithful church goers in the process. In his address to the German hierarchy, Luther argues that Germany’s funds were merely fueling the corruption and unnecessary whims of the Pope and Rome, and subsequently Germany should stand up to said corrupt powers. He further presented the idea that not just the clergy, but every German had a stake in the church.

As a result, Luther was heavily criticized by the Catholic Church and was immediately excommunicated for his outlandish claims, yet Luther’s growing support among his people as well as his ruler Frederick enabled him to momentarily avoid the wrath of Rome. Frederick further defended Luther against the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, which granted Luther marginal leniency. Upon receiving his bull of excommunication, Luther burned it to outwardly show his blatant disregard for Papal authority and the power of Rome. Luther was a figurative “thorn” in the Church’s side and asked Christians to re-evaluate the way they viewed faith as well as the Church as an authoritative body. Through his incessant determination, Luther fueled a religious revolution within Germany, creating a large base of religious rebels. As tension increased around Catholic ideologies, Luther was called to Worms to discuss his writings with Church officials and recant his principles. Luther refused; allowing him to be one of the first ordinary individual’s to stand up against authority. As a result of Worms, Luther became the figurehead of a revolution, which only increased while he was in his castle isolation. As with any rebellion or revolution, the original intent Luther had desired escalated in a manner unfitting and unproductive to the revolutionary. Luther, while the figurehead, also served as the monitor of the religious revolution, re-directing his followers in a more productive route.

The writings of Luther exemplify how with conviction and appropriate technological advances, the ideologies of one man can spread throughout a nation, informing and challenging the societal norm.

Shauntal J Van Dreel

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ger/102/2012/winter/shauntal_van_dreel-_martin_luther.txt · Last modified: 2012/03/08 12:34 by sjvandreel
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