What were Martin Luthers Criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church?.
Discuss the Impact these Criticisms had on Europe in the 16th Century.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German theologian who dared to challenge the Roman Catholic Church and consequently had a massive impact on Europe in the 16th Century. He publically criticised the behaviour of the popes, the churches use of fake relics such as Indulgences, and the entire sacramental system and theology of the Roman Catholic Church. These criticisms not only impacted on religion, but also on politics, economics, education and language, making him not only a leader and midwife of a new religious movement known as protestantism, but also since the 1980's, recognised as a revolutionary socialist hero.
Martin Luther went into the religious life due to the fact that he felt he would never earn his eternal salvation. Because Luther took his religious vocation very seriously, he was led into a crises in dealing with his religion. He wondered "is it possible to reconcile the demands of Gods law without human ability to live up to the law?" In other words, he had realised that man is imperfect and unable to live up to the standards of God dictated by the church. He turned to the New Testament book of Romans for answers and found that man could never earn salvation by leading a blameless life of by performing holy acts, instead, mans salvation was a divine gift from God, resulting from faith in Jesus. This was known as the protestant doctrine of "justification by faith alone". The fact that Luther believed this led him to his first confrontation with the Catholic Church in 1517 and influenced him to write his ninety-five thesis concerning Indulgences.
Indulgences were letters of partial forgiveness of peoples sins, given for a donation of money. It was the concept of Indulgences which defied his own, that angered Luther. Luther believed a sinful person should spend the rest of their life filled with remorse and in humility of Gods majesty, where as the Roman Catholic Church promised a comfortable and superficial life along a false path, which was also offensive to God.