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Discussion Question
Luther wrote that the Pope overestimated his own power, and in doing so, missed the opportunity to suppress the Reformation:
“For when I began to preach and write, the pope scorned and condemned me; he thought: 'Tis but one poor friar; what can he do against me?' I have maintained and defended this doctrine in popedom, against many emperors, kings, and princes, what then shall this one man do? If he had condescended to regard me, he might easily have suppressed me in the beginning.'” (Martin Luther, Against Catholicism, 1535) full text available here
Is it true that the Church did not take Luther seriously? If we assume that Luther’s interpretation of events is correct, what historical factors made it difficult for the Pope to “condescend” to Luther and intercede directly and rapidly? Even if the Pope had done this, were there other historical factors at work that made the Reformation impossible to stop? What were these factors and which were most important?
Luther debating at Worms, 1521, woodcut
Primary Sources (feel free to use these to support your argument)
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  • starky ultimate style avatar for user James Miles
    It is a good idea not to lose sight of place and time. Luther would have had a quick response had he posted the theses in Rome, but it takes a while for a continent wide discussion to take place. Also the belief in historic inevitability is dangerous and unfair, that 2 previous monks with similar views had been suppressed should prove the church had the means to halt these kinds of developments. My bigger questions are the reasons why lords and monarchs felt this was the right time to oppose the church. Had Rome's power been tested in the preceding period? Were they in debt?
    (15 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user senior2017Ben
    I think that a major factor in this is that as humans we've always wanted to try and figure things out for ourselves. As humans we naturally wan't to know if we are being lied to, and if there is something being held from us. The pope, as powerful as he was can't change human nature. Also I'm sure there were other things that may have been more of a concern at the time for the pope than one man trying to start a reformation. By the time the pope realized how big and powerful this reformation was it was to late to snuff out.
    (11 votes)
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  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Brittney
    From what I've been reading, it seems that the people were already thinking that, they were just waiting for someone to speak up because they themselves were afraid of the ramifications. The Reformation would have happened anyways, weather it be at that time or later down the road. The fact that the printing press was invented shortly before this was just another way to spread the word that someone felt the same as they did and were not afraid to speak out. It's why Luther had so many people who followed him almost from the get-go.
    (6 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Don Wally
    I would allege the factors concerning the unchallenged power of the Roman Catholic Church. This can be referred back to as far as the 800 when Charlemagne was crowned King and a sacred alliance between the Crown and the Church began. The excess in power and lack of criticism left only a sense of fear for authority in the common man in Europe.

    However, things undeniably changed when Columbus sailed across the ocean to America in 1492 and the printing press was introduced in Europe during the 1450's. The ability to spread information faster than previously and the fact that a new world existed outside the Catholic realm, probably had some peoples' clocks ticking.

    Alongside these events the renaissance movement had also begun its entrance into Europe during the end of the 15th century through Italian city states. Which provided the zealous Europeans with the forgotten science and ideals from ancient Greece, which provided Europe with an alternative world perspective - differing from the Catholic world view.

    All these factors combined along with the corrupted Catholic clergy gave several sparks for the spiritual uprising that was realized through Martin Luther's 95 theses in 1517.
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user shun17
    I don't really think a sheet of paper can get one into heaven because it literally makes no sense.
    (5 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      In a religious economy where things are based on transactions, this makes perfect sense. In one where things are based on grace, it is an unnecessary complication. YOu have to consider which religious economy was in operation in the context that you are addressing, and how it might be different from the one in which you live, move and have your being.
      (1 vote)
  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user I LOVE READING!!!!!
    I think that Luther got the common people to not ignore him because his beliefs make sense.
    1) how can money get you into heaven faster or right aways?
    2) If it was only your deeds that could get you into heaven or not, then it wouldn't matter if you're a Christian, Jew, or Muslim. Right?
    Please comment what you think.
    -Khadija
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Almost all human institutions that acquire resources and power eventually come to places where they use their money and power to serve their own continued existence as much as they serve whatever purpose that got them started. Nations are like that, non-governmental organizations can become that way, and the history of humanity, almost every religious organization has fallen into such a trap. At the time of Luther, the tremendous wealth and justice gap between the poor and the aristocracy was very clear, and with the ecclesiastical authority identifying with nobles and powers, the situation was scandalous.

      Luther's use of the basic religious document upheld by the church to challenge the church's actions of identification with the upper classes (to the detriment of the poor), was dramatic.

      But Luther himself, in later siding with royal power to sanction polygamy, to approve of actions to put down economic revolts, and especially to sanction the persecution of Jews, demonstrated that he, himself, was not exempt from the "power corrupts" principle of human life.
      (2 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user Ehfaz Faisal
    1.Yes its true that the Church didn't take luther seriously because they he was another reformer like Jan Hus who could be suppressed without any trouble.And also Popes of the late 1400s and the early 1500s of that time didn't got over confident and neglected him because of their previous victories over the reformations thats why they took it lightly and the rest is history...

    2. the factors that made the it difficult for the pope to condescend and intervene luther because the wars that he had started thinking it was a small group of protestants that was going to be a small number of weak followers of the protestant religion was totally a doom because as the history tells us in the later period of the war of religion in Europe such as the French Empire royal bloods faced each other which meant that if a religions followers are strong then its difficult to remove it from the pages of history and the reason that luther couldn't been intervein in translating the bible was because of the help he got from many families and once the bible was in the process of printing then it was a wild fire anybody could have it how many bibles could the pope have burned just think and you will understand it...
    3. There were other factors that made the reformattion easy because of the 14 and 15 century ottoman war https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_wars_in_Europe and this made the pope even weaker because now he had allocate resources and man power to fight the ottomans so that Europe dosent fall to the foreign powers.And also he had other problems to deal with like Henry eight because he had declared himself as the head of the Englands church...

    4.The most important factor that played the prime role was printing press because it making bible available for all and making it almost impossible for the catcholic church to stop luther in his quest to reform the church...
    (4 votes)
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  • piceratops tree style avatar for user Dan Vedda
    I agree that without the printing press, Luther's message would have been easier to suppress. In its early years, the powerful implications of Gutenberg's invention--much like the 20th century spread of the home computer and cell phone--weren't understood, particularly by those rooted in older technology and traditions. If the Church didn't even consider "a vernacular Bible in every home" to be a possibility, they were also missing the growth of popular literacy, the power of news disseminated widely and rapidly, and the fertile ground for what they considered heresy in a newly-informed population. Print revolutionized life in the 1500s the way social media and the internet disrupted our own times, albeit at a slower pace. Certainly, literate individuals were still a minority, but they were the "thought leaders" of their communities: clergy at odds with Rome, prominent businessmen and academics suppressed or restricted, and local rulers chafing under the territorial confines of Papal rule.
    Once Luther's Theses hit print, there was no stopping the spread. While other thinkers may have felt as Luther did, HE was the one to express these views cogently--and in a format easily printed. A long book would have been limited due both to expense and to the difficulty of understanding the message. But reduced to "talking points" and in the hands of many, it was possibly the first "viral" post.
    After decades of Church corruption, arrogance, and mismanagement, Luther's message was a firebrand thrown onto tinder, and the ability to widely disseminate the ideas through the printed page meant many flash points in a very short time.
    (3 votes)
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  • leaf green style avatar for user Sarah
    How did Luther come up with his 95 Theses?
    (2 votes)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Kevin Riady
    Was the Holy Spirit present and working at that time to ensure the accuracy of the Bible? Because there are two arguments in which might suggest that the Bible is not an accurate depiction of the events during the time of Jesus. Firstly, because the Bible was in Latin and held tightly by the Catholic Church, does it not allow for the opportunity for the Pope at that time to edit the Bible in order to fit the Catholic Church's doctrine? Secondly, the Bible was also mainly translated from Latin to German only by Martin Luther himself. Furthermore, the inaccuracy is possibly further worsened after the Bible is finally translated to English. Therefore, how can we conclude evidently that the Bible and Jesus's teachings have been accurately preserved until today?
    (1 vote)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Conrad Long
      It is generally believed among Christians today that God would not allow His Word to be universally changed without a faithful version remaining. Also, some ancient surviving texts, (i.e. the Dead Sea Scrolls), reaffirm that for the most part what we have is what the original said. Martin Luther being the only person to translate it into German doesn't have any negative effects on the English version, because the scholars who translated it looked at Luther's version and the Vulgate along with the original Greek and Hebrew.
      (4 votes)