The 95 Theses by Martin Luther was the work of art based on the Catholic practices referring to baptism and absolutism. The theses raised in The Ninety-Five Theses were against the idea of indulgence as the church had the power to sell salvation to a sinner. Luther was a famous German monk and the professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg who condemned the Church through drawings. He is believed to have led the reformation of the church in 1517 through what is popularly referred to as the 95 Theses written in the Castle Church in the Wittenberg City (Mullett 89). The theses were meant to condemn the main church for selling indulgences, something that contravene the major teachings of the Bible. Without his ideas, protestant churches could not have been formed because he criticized the church leaders for being corrupt instead of leading the people towards salvation.
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At the time, it was a criminal offense for any person to extend criticism to the church because individuals were made to believe that religious leaders represented God on Earth. The church in Germany was involved in various malpractices, with acknowledging donations being one of them. In this regard, an individual was sent a letter to congratulate him for being kind-hearted to the poor and the church. Through the letter, an individual was assured of eternal life, as his or her soul was supposed to enter heaven. The church taught its members at the time that the soul went through several stages before going to either heaven or hell, a stage referred to as purgatory. Each stage was characterized by suffering and agony, but giving donations to the church quite often would reduce the time that the soul should have spent there.
Through indulgences, it meant that even the evil person could have entered the Heaven, as long as he or she donated to the church. Pope Leo X authorized the issuance of indulgences because he wanted to utilize the resources in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Italian capital, Rome. Johann Tetzel was the man bearing the responsibility of selling indulgences in Wittenberg where Luther was a professor in one of the main universities. The idea of linking material wealth with heavenly issues was of great concern to Luther because the Bible was categorical as it was difficult for a rich person to enter the heaven. In fact, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than a rich person to enter the heaven.
Apart from connecting heavenly matters with financial goods, Luther had other issues with the highest ranks in church. In his entire life, Luther was a devoted Christian having experienced a spiritual crisis at some point in his adulthood. He came to the realization that it is nearly impossible for an individual to keep off from evil because sinning can as well be committed in the mind, just thinking about something. He reinterpreted the Bible and concluded that donations alone could not take an individual to heaven. Contrary to his views, the Catholic Church taught that helping the church in one way or the other would grant an individual a ticket to heaven.
For instance, the Catholic Church approved the idea that commissioning the works of art to the church would allow an individual to get into heaven. According to Luther, the church helped individuals escape from the reality through this type of reasoning. Even though people try so hard to prevent evil and follow the teachings of the church, they will still find themselves committing sin. In the first chapter of Romans verse seventeen, Paul advised the Roman people that the just shall live by faith only. Therefore, the view of Luther was that only those who did justice on earth would go to heaven if they accumulated enough faith.
God’s grace is freely given to His people implying that it is not something that can be earned through giving donations. This is contrary to the teachings of Catholic church because good works takes an individual to heaven (Somervill 21). Luther relied on the Bible to interpret God’s message and went a notch higher to express the same through painting. He was inspired by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. In the same century, the Bible was reinterpreted into several vernacular languages, such as French, Italian, English, and German.
This allowed individuals to learn directly from the Bible instead of relying on priests who issued contradictory messages. This played a major role in promoting the ideas of Luther because the Bible was available only in Latin and only the clergy were allowed to use it. Printing facilitated easy distribution of the message because early versions of the Bible were handmade. The translation of the Bible allowed Luther to check the accuracy of the words that the clergy utilized in their sermons. The teachings of the Catholic Church were not based on the Bible, but instead the main aim of the church at the time was to control the population because it was the agent of the state. The Catholic Church could not help an individual gain salvation because its high ranks were corrupt, malicious, and evil.
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Luther’s work received with mixed reaction, and the Catholic Church decided not to intervene. Later on, the church urged him to recall his works and apologize to the Pope because he had sinned against God and he would soon die. Unfortunately, Luther was reluctant to abide by the new rules and regulations set against him, something that forced the Church to excommunicate him meaning that he would no longer attend church services neither would he continue teaching at the university. The Church formed a council to investigate the new threats that Luther’s works presented.
The council was referred to as the Council of Trent, which incorporated officials of the church from various regions. The council conducted its activities for over eighteen years with at least twenty-five sittings. The council came up with five resolutions affirming that Luther was wrong and had to be excommunicated because he opposed representatives of God on earth. First, the idea of justification by faith was highly contested, and instead the principle of merit was supported whereby a human being was able to get into heaven through donating to the church.
Secondly, the existence of Purgatory was supported because an individual had to pass through several stages before entering heaven. Since people are not guaranteed of entering heaven, giving donations to the church, and receiving an indulgence letter was the only way of accessing heaven (Bainton 78). The importance of sacraments was reaffirmed implying that Catholic practices would continue to be held in the church. Even though reading the scripture was important, the church insisted on following the traditions of the church since they were part of the Christian laws. Since the works of art had been misused, they banned all the artists from engaging in some work without informing the church. Moreover, they reaffirmed that the works of art occupied a special place in the church, and it had to be guarded to prevent any misuse.
The works of Luther were considered idolatry and had to be proscribed in the city. The ideas of Luther had a great impact on other artists, such as Michelangelo of Rome, Titan of Venice, and Durer of Nuremberg mainly because their works had to be scrutinized before being allowed to circulate. The Church realized that art could be utilized to communicate the message in the Bible effectively, something that could have interfered with the power of the Pope.
The ideas of Luther on salvation were accurate because the individual had to be allowed to communicate with his or her creator directly instead of using a mediator. Only an individual understands his or her problems hence the communication should not be mediated. Additionally, the Bible specifies that the rich will never enter heaven because they often mistreat the innocent and the poor. In this regard, the use of donations to buy indulgences is wrong, as the Bible is against it. If the Pope wanted to construct the church, he should have urged all well-wishers across the world to send their donations, but the sale of God’s message is also a wrongful act. In the modern society, many people convinced to believe that salvation can be bought, but the reality is that the word of God should be available to all because it was given without any charge. However, the Bible allows the giving of tithes and other donations, but this has to be specified to prevent any confusion and subsequent judgment.
Bainton, Roland. Here I Stand A Life of Martin Luther. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009. Print.
Mullett, Michael. Martin Luther. London: Routledge, 2004. Print.
Somervill, Barbara. Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.