CH 511 – The History
of Christianity 2
The Reformation in Germany
Slides based in part on The Story of Christianity by Justo Gonzalez
Germany at the beginning of the
16th century (1501)
• Most “churchly” of European lands
• Virulent anticlericalism was little in evidence
• Papal authority remained greater in Germany that in any other
leading European country, apart from Italy
• Lay piety and devotion ran mostly in traditional channels
• Pilgrimages and Masses for the dead more popular than ever
• Veneration of the Saints (Mary, Anne) was prevelant
• Many new churches, chapels, chantries
• Devotional literature readily available; regular preaching was
• Cannot be said that Germany was in a state of incipient
revolution against the venerable rule and governance of the
Roman Church
But beneath the surface…
• Strong currents of discontent and disaffection over the Roman
Church’s fiscal problems
• Renaissance popes lived beyond their means, often on the
edge of bankruptcy; the papacy required immense sums to
maintain its political standing in Italy
• To meet expenses, the papal curia devised new and more
oppressive taxes, fees and fines which bore heavily on the
higher clergy who, in turn, passed them on to the lower clergy,
and, ultimately, the laity
• “Rome” had become a byword, especially in Germany, for
venality and avarice
• Fiscalism was compounded by the typical vices: simony,
nepotism, pluralism, absenteeism and concubinage
The state of parish clergy
• Minimally educated (knew barely enough Latin “to say an
adequate Mass”)
• Often wretchedly poor
• Frequently living with concubines, for which they were fined
annually by their bishops
• Morale of clergy was very low
• Though these shortcomings were not unprecedented and
were, perhaps, no more excessive than in earlier periods, the
perception of them was more and more intolerable by an
increasingly literate and educated laity
Religious “Awakening” on Eve
of Reformation
• The Council of Constance (1415) had ushered in an Awakening
of sorts; the institutional church suddenly faced with demands
to truly conform itself to the “pure apostolic church” pictured
in the New Testament
• Thoughtful people wanted not less religion but “better,” which
meant more biblical
• Christian Humanists, like Desiderius Erasmus, envisioned a
moral and spiritual renovation through the inculcation of
“sacred and humane letters” – that is the study of Holy
Scripture and the liberal arts; ad fontes (“to the sources”)
program of reform
• Irony: the Roman hierarchy failed to exercise moral and
spiritual leadership; and the clergy on the parish level were
incapable of exercising it
Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
Popular Religion on Eve of
• More “earnest” than “encouraging”
• Deep sense of terror; living in the “Last Days”
• Thoughts of death, purgatorial pains and universal judgment
meant an intense preoccupation with personal salvation
• The Church taught that one’s eternal destiny would be
determined by how effectively one had appropriated the
church’s sacrament graces in order to bring about truly
meritorious works
• Opened tender consciences to the question: “Have I actually
performed God-pleasing works?”
Why did the Reformation take
root in Germany?
• It presented a clear message of religious consolation for the
anxious conscience
• Held out hope for relief from ecclesiastical abuses, especially
for people who for both spiritual and material reasons felt
aggrieved with the Roman Church
• Satisfied, or promised to satisfy, the needs of many people
who earnestly desired the consolations of the Christian
• The people who embraced the Reformation, on the whole,
were not rapacious foes of the medieval church, but sincere
seekers after salvation
Johannes Reuchlin (14551522)
• Celebrated Humanist accused of heresy for defending the
rights of Jews to maintain their own scholarship
• His trial (1520) united the German humanists and drew a line
of cleavage between them and conservatives in the Roman
Martin Luther
Luther’s Resume
• Born November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Germany (second son
and one of eight children)
• His father was a copper miner; both parents were of simple,
conventional piety (not prone to excess, zeal, or rigor)
• His father was an ambitious man, moving his family to
Mansfield, were he won civic respect and considerable
prosperity in the mining industry; determined to give Martin
an education fitting for a career in law
• Martin entered the University of Erfurt in 1501, the most
humanist of German universities; came to share in the
humanist movement’s enthusiasm for the study of ancient
languages, especially Greek, and its criticism of Scholastic
theology on the basis of the Bible and the Church Fathers
• The young Luther had a strong sense of sinfulness and anxiety
in keeping with the age; but perhaps more pronounced in
• Graduated with Master of Arts in 1505, entered law school
• Profoundly moved by the sudden death of a classmate; and
then had a narrow escape from a lightening bolt while
returning to Erfurt from a trip home
• His narrow escape from death caused him to make a vow to
St. Anne to become a monk, much to the chagrin of his father
• Left law school in July 1505 and entered the monastery of
Augustinian hermits in Erfurt, confident that the monastic life
was the surest path to his soul’s salvation
Johannes von Staupitz (14601524)
• Vicar-General of the Augustinian Order in Germany
• "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell.”
(Martin Luther)
Augustinian Order
• Recently reformed by Andreas Proles
• Enjoyed deserved popular respect, representing medieval
monasticism at its best
• The order made much of preaching and Bible study
• Included in its number the great 14th century scholar, Gregory
of Rimini, whom Luther came to value most highly as the one
Scholastic theologian who was free from “any taint of
• Augustine of Hippo’s anti-Pelagian treatises were, of course,
also important for Luther’s theological development
• Luther would always credit his mentor, Staupitz, as having
initiated the Reformation (though Staupitz never actually
embraced it)
Brother Martin
• Ordained to the priesthood in 1507
• Transferred to Wittenberg in 1508, where at the command of
his superiors he lectured on Aristotle’s ethics and prepared
himself for a professorship in the university that had been
established there (1502) by the Saxon elector, Frederick III
“the Wise” (1486-1525)
• Made a memorable pilgrimage to Rome for his order in the
winter of 1510-1511
• In 1512, Luther became a Doctor of Theology and was
appointed successor to Staupitz as university professor of
Frederick III, the
Wise, Elector of
Saxony (1486-1525)
Luther’s exegetical lectures
Psalms (1513-1515)
Romans (1515-1516)
Galatians (1516-1517)
Hebrews (1517-1518)
• In addition he was appointed director of studies for his own
cloister (1515), district vicar in charge of eleven monasteries;
he was a regular preaching in his own cloister and in the
Wittenberg parish church
Luther’s tormented soul
• In spite of all his monastic strenuousness, Luther found no
peace for his soul
• Sense of sinfulness before a holy and righteous God
overwhelmed him
• Was not relieved by the sacrament of penance; only
aggravated his sense of sinfulness; Staupitz helped him by
pointing out that true penitence begins not with the fear of
God, but with love to God; Luther would later say that Staupitz
first opened his eyes to the Gospel
Intellectual Influences
• Early on, Luther devoted himself to the later Scholastics, the
“Nominalists” – particularly Ockham, d’Ailly, and Biel
• To them he owed his dialectical skills, his distrust of speculative
reason that transcends the limits of revelation, and his emphasis
on the will of God as the sole ground of salvation (the Nominalist
taught that salvation ultimately rested on God’s free acceptance)
• The study of Augustine and late medieval Augustinianism led
him to rapidly grow in hostility to the dominance of Aristotle
in theology
Luther’s Study of Romans (1515-1516)
• By the time that Luther lectured on Romans, he had become
convinced that salvation is a new relationship to God, based
not on any human work of merit but on absolute trust in the
divine promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake
• The Gospel was the radical message that God “justifies the
ungodly” through faith apart from works, raising up selfconfessed sinners and reconciles them to God
• The redeemed person does not cease being a sinner, yet is
freely and fully forgiven
• Works flow from the new life in Christ, not out of compulsion
because salvation depends on such works, but out of gratitude
because salvation has already been assured
Luther’s 1517 Disputation against
Scholastic Theology (97 Theses)
• Attack on the entire Scholastic body of thought, including both
Thomism and Scotism, as well as the via moderna (Ockham)
and the Nominalists; he left no stone unturned
• Declared that all talk of merit in salvation – whether Thomistic
or Nominalist – was ultimately blasphemous and heretical
• He thus overthrew the basis of all that he considered worksrighteousness in the church’s traditional teaching
• He did not stand alone; in the University of Wittenberg were
many who supported his opposition to Aristotelianism and
Scholasticism in favor of lectures on the Bible and the church
Luther’s early supporters
• Andreas Bodenstein of Karlstadt (1480-1541)
• Nikolaus von Amsdorf (1483-1565)
Luther’s Protest Against
• In late 1517, Luther finally took up the cause that would win
him immortality – indulgences
• Pope Leo X (1513-1522) had earlier issued a dispensation
allowing Albrecht of Brandenburg to hold at the same time
the archbishoprics of Mainz and Magdeburg and the
administration of a third bishopric in Halberstadt
• Albrecht’s dispensation cost him a great sum, which he
borrowed from the Augsburg banding house of Frugger
• To repay his load, Albrecht allowed the sale of indulgences in
his district, to which he was allowed to keep half of the
• The sale of indulgences had taken place since 1506, for
building the new basilica of St. Peters in Rome
Johann Tetzel (1465-1519)
• Dominican friar
• Infamous for selling indulgences in Brandenburg, just across
the border from Electoral Saxony
Luther’s motives – Pastoral and Theological
• Luther was unaware of the deal between Albrecht and Pope
Leo, but protested on pastoral and theological grounds:
indulgences create a false sense of security and thus are
destructive of true Christianity
• As Tetzel approached Saxony, he was refused permission to
enter, yet many members of the Wittenberg congregation
crossed the borders to buy letters of indulgence
• Luther preached against the abuse of indulgences and
prepared his memorable “Ninety-five Theses”
• On October 31, 1517, he sent copies to Archbishop Albrecht of
Mainz and Bishop Jerome of Brandenburg, in whose
jurisdiction Wittenberg lay; whether he also nailed a copy to
the castle church door in Wittenberg is a matter of
The Ninety-Five Theses (1517)
The Ninety-Five Theses
• Written in Latin and intended for academic debate
• Far less inflammatory in tone and content than Luther’s earlier
97 Theses
• However, Luther was now attacking a lucrative source of
revenue for the church, and touching sensitive questions of
papal authority
• His theses do not however deny the right of the pope to grant
indulgences; rather they question the extension of
indulgences to purgatory, and imply that the pope (upon
hearing the reasoning of the theses) would repudiate the
• Within weeks the Theses were translated into German and
disseminated throughout the empire
• Luther had not anticipated the uproar
Johann Maier of Eck (1486-1543)
Luther in debate
• Luther’s one-time friend, Johann of Eck, charged him with
heresy; answered Luther’s Theses in a tract entitled Obelisci;
Luther replied with his own tract entitled Asterici
• By 1518, formal charges were being drawn up against Luther;
he was then summoned to appear before the general chapter
of the Augustinians in Heidelberg
• Luther’s “Heidelberg Theses” argued against fee will and the
control of Aristotle in theology; he also outlined a “theology of
the cross”
• At Heidelberg, Luther won some new adherents, most
importantly Martin Bucer and Johannes Brenz (who would
later become reformers in Strassburg and Wurttemberg
Martin Bucer & Johannes Brenz
Leo X responds to Luther
• June 1518 – Commissions a censor and examination of
Luther’s books; the Dominican Sylvester Prierias drafts a reply:
• “He who says that the Roman church cannot do what it actually
does regarding indulgences is a heretic”
• “The Roman church is representatively the college of cardinals,
and moreover is virtually the supreme pontiff”
Luther’s Protector – Frederick the Wise
• Luther’s case would have ended in his speedy condemnation
had he not been under the powerful protection of his prince,
the elector Frederick III of Saxony
• How far Frederick actually sympathized with Luther (at this
early stage) is uncertain; but at all events he was pround of his
Wittenberg professor and averse to sending him to Rome
where he would have faced certain condemnation
• Frederick secured for Luther a hearing before the papal legate
at the Reichstag in Augsburg
• The legate, Cardinal Cajetan, was ordered by the pope not to
debate with Luther, but to have him arrested if Luther failed to
Tommaso de Vio
“Cajetan” (14691534)
Luther’s hearing (October 1214, 1518)
• Under pressure from Frederick, Cajetan adopted a more
conciliatory policy; permitting Luther a hearing without
• Cajetan then ordered Luther to retract his criticisms of the
completeness of the papal power of indulgence; Luther
• On October 20, Luther fled from Augsburg, having appealed ot
the pope “to be better informed”
• In November, back in Wittenberg, Luther appealed to a future
general council; that same month Leo X issued a papal bull
which defined indulgences in the same sense in which Luther
had criticized them
Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560)
Imperial Politics
• In late 1518, the Emperor Maximillian lay dying, and the
turmoil of a disputed election was looming; he would later die
in January 1519
• Pope Leo X looked with disfavor on both the candidacy of
Charles of Spain and that of Francis of France, because of their
designs on Italy; he thus sought the good will of Elector
Frederick of Saxony, whom he would gladly have seen chosen
• He was no longer of a mind to go after Frederick’s favorite
professor, Martin Luther
• Leo X sent his nuncio, Karl von Miltitz (from Saxony) to
Wittenberg with a golden rose to present to Frederick
• Miltitz flattered himself that he would be able to heal the
ecclesiastical dispute; but he went too far
Miltitz interviews Luther
• On his own initiative, Miltitz disavowed Tetzel, and then held
an interview with Martin Luther from January 4-6, 1519
• Luther agreed to keep silent on the questions in dispute if his
opponents did likewise, and then to submit the case, if
possible, to learned German bishops, and then write a humble
letter to the pope
• However, Luther’s colleage Karlstadt had agreed to a public
disputation with Johann Eck, and Luther soon found himself
drawn into combat
Leipzig Debate (June-July 1519)
• Karlstadt was no match for Eck
• Luther was finally compelled to break his silence and enter
into debate himself
• However, Eck’s skill at debate drove Luther to make damaging
statements that his positions were in some respect those of
John Huss, and that in condemning Huss the revered Council
of Constance had erred
• To Eck, this was a forensic triumph, declaring that anyone who
could deny the infallibility of a general council was “a heathen
and a publican”
Luther’s Condemnation
• Luther had already rejected the inerrancy and infallibility of
the pope
• Now his rejection of the infallibility of general councils seemed
to place him entirely outside the pale of Catholic thought
• His position seemed to allow final appeal only to the
• Eck felt that the whole controversy could now quickly come to
an end by a papal bull of condemnation, which he set himself
to secure
• Leo X finally issued this bull, Exsurge domine, on June 15, 1520
• Luther responded by publicly burning the bull
Luther in the “thick of battle”
• Luther had many supporters among the humanists, including
some who were rallying behind him to lead a national conflict
with Rome; Luther however renounced physical force
• He saw his task as liberating Germany from a papal system of
control that he was coming to regard as “Antichrist”
• In May 1520, he wrote his first substantial tract outlining the
doctrine of justification by faith alone, entitled On Good Works
• Also written in 1520:
• To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
• Babylonian Captivity of the Church
• The Freedom of the Christin
Luther burns the Papal Bull and the
Canon Law (1520)
Charles V (1500-1558)
• House of Hapsburg; grandson of Emperor Maximilian
• Also grandson of Isabella of Castile, making him the heir
apparent to the Spanish throne (would become Charles I of
Spain), and master of a considerable portion of Italy and the
new territories in the Americas;
• Also heir to the Netherlands and the Austrian territories of the
house of Hapsburg
• Elected in June 1519 to succeed Maximilian as Emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire (i.e. Germany)
• In Germany, however, Charles authority was greatly limited by
the territorial powers of the local princes
• Charles was a relative unknown, and no one was certain how
he would side in the religious struggles of the day
Diet of Worms (January 1521)
• Charles called a Reichstag to meet at Worms, partly to prepare
for the outbreak of war over the rival claims of France and
Spain in Italy, and partly to adjudicate the “Luther-issue”
• The papal nuncio, Aleander, pressed for a prompt
condemnation of Luther, especially after the papal bull Decet
pontificem was issued in January 3, excommunicating Luther
• But Luther had wide popular support in Germany, and
Frederick, a master of diplomacy, argued that Luther never
had an adequate hearing; Frederick and many other nobles
believed he should be heard by the Reichstag prior to any
action by that body
Diet of Worms…
• Charles wavered between the two options, believing that
Luther was a damnable heretic, but politician enough not to
oppose German sentiment too sharply or throw away the
possible advantage of making the heretic’s fate a lever in
bringing the pope to the imperial side in the struggle for
• Luther was thus summoned to Worms under the protection of
an imperial safe-conduct; his journey to Worms was a popular
• In April 1521, Luther appeared before the emperor and the
Diet of Worms…
• Before Luther was laid out a row of books, and he was asked
whether he would recant of them or not
• Luther requested time for reflection; a day was given to him
• On the next afternoon he was once more before the assembly
• He acknowledged that much was said “too strongly” during
the heat of controversy, but that the substance of what he had
written he could not retract, unless convinced of its
wrongfulness “by the testimony of Scripture or by clear
• The emperor could hardly believe his ears, that anyone could
deny the infallibility of a general council, and so cut the
discussion short
“I cannot do otherwise. Here I stand.”
Luther at Worms, 1521
The Fallout of Worms
• Luther alienated the emperor, but won the respect of much of
the German nobility; he further endeared himself to his own
prince, Frederick of Saxony
• Charles honored the safe-conduct, and Luther started on his
journey home
• A month later he was put under the ban of the empire and
ordered to be seized for punishment and his books burned;
Luther lived out the rest of his life under imperial
condemnation as a heretic and rebel
• Frederick had Luther “kidnapped” by admirers as he
journeyed home to Wittenberg, and brought secretly to
Wartburg castle, near Eisenach, where for months his hiding
place was unknown
Luther at Wartburg
• He went under the pseudonym, “Knight George”; he grew out
his tonsure and grew a beard
• From Wartburg, his attacks in writing on Roman practice only
grew more intense
• But the most lasting fruit of his enforced retirement was his
German translation of the New Testament, begun in
December 1521 and published in September of the next year
• Meanwhile, back in Wittenberg, the young Philip
Melanchthon began a small volume of work called Loci
communes or Cardinal Points of Theology; with its publication
began the systematic presentation of Lutheran theology; it
would be enlarged and modified in many later editions
Luther’s Theology
The Word of God
• Scripture as the starting point and final authority for theology
• Luther’s Doctrine of Scripture was based on the Gospel of John’s
testimony that “the Word was with God, and was God”
• Supremely, the Word of God was none other than God
• Christ is the Word of God incarnate
• Scripture testifies to Christ, the Word
• What makes the Bible the Word of God is not that it is infallible, not
that it can serve as a source of authority for theological religious
debate, but rather the Bible is the Word of God because in it Jesus,
the Word incarnate, comes to us
• It was not the church that made the Bible, but the gospel, Jesus
Christ, that had made both Bible and church
• Final authority rests not in the church nor in the Bible, but in the
gospel, in the message of Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Word of
The Knowledge of God
• Luther agreed with traditional theology that it was possible to
know something about God by purely rational or natural
• However, knowledge about God is not true knowledge of God
• One does not get to know God by speculation – what Luther
referred to derisively as “a theology of glory” which seeks God
in things that humans consider most valuable and
praiseworthy (creating a God after our own image)
• In contrast, Luther suggested that the God of revelation is very
different in that God’s highest self-disclosure takes place in the
Cross of Christ – “a theology of the Cross”
• In the Cross, God destroys our preconceived notions of divine
glory; a radically different way – weakness, suffering, a
stumbling block
Law & Gospel
• God is made manifest in two ways: Law and Gospel
• Word of Judgment & Word of Grace – the two always come
together: one cannot hear of grace without hearing also of
• Justification by faith, the message of God’s forgiveness, does
not mean that God is indifferent to sin; on the contrary, sin is
repugnant to divine holiness, and speaks a word of divine
• But God also speaks a word of forgiveness , which does not
contradict the judgment of the law; rather in showing the
gravity of sin, the gospel is then surprisingly good news
• This constant dialectic between Law & Gospel means that the
Christian is at one and the same time both sinful and justified
The Church & Sacraments
• Luther was not an individualist; he was convinced that the
church was an essential element of the Christian message
• The Christian life was not that of an individual’s direct
communion with God, but rather that of a Christian life to be
lived within the community of believers (“mother church”)
• The “universal priesthood of believers” meant not that each
person was one’s own priest , but rather that each Christian
was a “priest” for the entire community; it was intended to
strengthen the community of believers, not weaken it
• Within the life of the church, the Word of God comes to us in
• For a rite to be a true sacrament, it must have been instituted
by Christ, and it must be a physical sign of the promise of the
• Baptism and Holy Communion (for a time he thought perhaps
Penance too); other rites were beneficial, but ought not be
considered sacraments of the gospel
• Baptism, a sign of death and resurrection, is the sacrament in
which we are made members of the body of Christ; faith is
essential to baptism, for without faith the sacrament is not
• However, this does not mean that one must have faith before
baptism, as in the case of infants who are incapable of faith
• The initiative in baptism is always God’s, therefore it is
appropriate to baptize the infants of believers, who are then
raised in the context of faith, are taught the faith, and
exhorted to have faith
• Luther rejected a great deal of commonly accepted doctrine
regarding the Mass (i.e. Communion); he was particularly
against private masses, to the idea of communion as a
repetition of the sacrifice of Calvary, to the notion of merit, to
the doctrine of transubstantiation, and to the reservation of
the sacrament
• Nonetheless, he continued to believe in its supreme
importance and to the presence of Christ in Communion
• While insisting on the need for the “preached Word” he was
convinced in the necessity of the “visible Word” in
Communion as the center of Christian worship
• The question of the manner of Christ’s presence cause
controversy not only with Catholics but also with other
Christ’s Presence in Communion
• Luther categorically rejected transubstantiation as a pagan
theory, which inspired other unscriptural ideas such as the
Mass as a meritorious sacrifice
• The Medieval idea of the Mass as sacrifice was contrary to
justification by faith
• On the other hand, he was not ready to reduce Communion to
a mere sign or symbol; he took the words of Jesus at the
institution as very clear and undeniable proof of his physical
presence in the sacrament: “this is my body…this is my blood”
• Affirmed that in Communion believers truly and literally
partake of the body (and blood) of Christ
• The bread is still bread, and the wine is wine, but now the
Body and Blood of the Lord are also in them
The Two Kingdoms
• God established “two kingdoms” – one under law and the
other under the gospel (state and church)
• The state must operate under the law, its main purpose to set
limits to human sin and its consequences
• Christians ought not to expect the state to be ruled by the
gospel, nor the state to always support orthodoxy, nor require
that the state always be ruled by fellow believers in order to
obey them
• In the kingdom of the gospel, civil authorities have no power;
Christians are not subject to the state with regard to religious
• However, as Christians are citizens of both kingdoms, they are
obliged to obey both
An Uncertain Decade
“Luther is now to be seen as a convicted heretic. He has twentyone days from the fifteenth of April. After that time, no one
should give him shelter. His followers also are to be condemned,
and his books will be erased from human memory.” EDICT OF
WORMS (1521)
Luther at in Exile at Wartburg
• By burning the papal bull, Luther had challenged papal
authority; At Worms, by refusing to recant, he had challenged
the authority of the emperor and the Reichstag
• Hidden at Warburg after Worms, Luther spent his time in
writing; meanwhile his collaborators in Wittenberg continued
the work of reformation
• Foremost among his collaborators was Andreas Karlstadt and
Philip Melanchthon
Karlstadt &
Luther’s early reluctance
• Luther’s fear of God and of unwarranted innovation meant that he
had been hesitant to take concrete steps towards visible reform in
the church
• In his absence (while he was still in exile), his followers were not so
• A number of monks and nuns left their monastic communities and
were married; worship was simplified and in German; masses for the
dead were abolished, as were days of fasting and abstinence;
Melanchthon began to administer communion in “both kinds”
• At first Luther supported these changes, but soon began to question
the excesses that were reported to him from Wittenberg
• When Karlstadt and his followers began tearing down images of
saints in the churches, Luther recommended moderation
The Zwickau Prophets
• Then three layman from neighboring Zwickau appeared at
Wittenberg, declaring themselves to be prophets; they
claimed that God spoke to them directly, so they were not in
need of the Scripture
• Melanchthon was at a loss as to how to answer their claims,
and asked Luther’s advice
• Luther felt so strongly that nothing less than the gospel was at
stake that he decided he must leave the safety of Wartburg
and return to Wittenberg; he informed Frederick the Wise of
his intentions, telling him that he was counting, not on
Frederick’s protection, but on God’s
• Politics was in Luther’s favor, and he was able to return
without being arrested and executed by Charles V
The Attitude of the Emperor
• Charles V was determined to stamp out the Lutheran “heresy”
• But he was threatened by more powerful enemies, and could
not allow himself the luxury of alienating those among his
German subjects who supported Luther
• Charles V’s most dangerous enemy was Francis I of France,
who was threatened by Charles’s rise in power, for he was
now both Charles I of Spain and Charles V of the Holy Roman
Empire and holder of vast territories that practically
surrounded France
• Shortly before the Diet of Worms, Charles had clashed with
Francis in Navarre; from 1521-1525, Charles was repeatedly at
war with Francis
The “Italian War” of 1521-1526
• Combatants: Francis I, Charles V, Papal States, Republic of
Venice, and Henry VIII
• Exacerbated by papacy’s need to ally itself with Charles in
order to suppress Lutheranism
Adrian VI (1522-1523)
• Last non-Italian pope until the late 20th century
• Born in Utrecht (from the Low Countries)
• Charles V’s tutor; ushered in a program of reformation that he
hoped would respond to the critics of the church and steal
Luther’s thunder
• Died a year and half after his election
Clement VII (1523-1534)
• Signaled a return to the policies and temperament of Leo X
• More interested in the arts and Italian politics than
ecclesiastical matters
• Soon there would be serious friction between Clement and
the Emperor, Charles V
Battle of Pavia (1525)
• The King of France was captured by Imperial troops, and the
conflict between the two most powerful monarchs seemed to
come to an end; Charles and Francis then signed a peace
• Back in France, Francis saw the terms of the treaty as overly
harsh, and he conspired with Clement VII for his support
against Charles
• Charles was hoping for both Clement and Francis’s support to
hold back the Turkish menace on his eastern border and to
help stamp out Lutheranism; but instead both Francis and
Clement declared war on Charles
• In 1527, imperial troops, mostly Spanish and German, invaded
Italy and marched on Rome; the pope was forced to flee
• Since many of the troops were Lutheran, the sack of Rome
took on religious overtones
• In 1528, a French army, with English support, came to the
pope’s aid and forced the imperial troops to withdraw; Charles
then sued for peace, first with the pope, and then with Francis
Turkish Threat in Austria
• Once again Charles was preparing to take strong measures
against “heretics” in his own territories, when the Turks, led
by Suleiman, marched on Vienna, the capital of Austria
• The fall of Vienna would open up the whole of Germany to
Turkish invasion
• This forced Charles and his German subjects to set aside any
religious differences and join in a campaign against the Turks
• The defense of Vienna was successful, and Suleiman was
forced to withdraw
• It was only after the siege of Vienna that Charles was finally
able to turn his attentions on Germany and the Lutheran issue
Meanwhile, during Charles’s long
absence from Germany…
• The Knights Revolt (1522-23)
• Many Germans of the knightly class, who had become
impoverished over the years, blamed their conditions on
Rome and saw Luther as their champion; Luther in no way
encouraged them
• Soundly defeated by the German princes as Trier; Luther and
his followers saw this as an unnecessary tragedy
The Peasants’ Revolt (1524-25)
• For decades, the conditions of the lower rungs of German
peasantry had been worsening
• There had been peasant rebellions in 1476, 1491, 1498, 1503,
1514 – but none of these was widespread
• The rebellions in 1524 and 1525 were different because of
their religious overtones, because many of the peasants
believed that the teachings of the reformers supported their
economic demands
• Luther himself refused to extend the application of his
teachings to the political realm in terms of revolution; yet
there were many who disagreed with him on this point
• Foremost was Thomas Muntzer, a native of Zwickau, whose
teachings were similar to the “prophets” from his village who
had created such a stir in Wittenberg
Teachings of Thomas Muntzer (1489-1525)
• He claimed that what was most important was not the written
word of Scripture but the present revelation of the Spirit
• His spiritualist doctrine had political consequences, for he
taught that those born of the Spirit must form a theocratic
community in order to bring about the Kingdom of God
• Luther had Muntzer removed from Wittenberg, but Muntzer
returned and join the peasants in their rebellion
The Twelve Articles (Summary)
Every municipality shall have the right to elect and remove a
preacher if he behaves improperly.
The preachers shall be paid from the great tithe. A potential
surplus shall be used to pay for the poor and the war tax. All other
tithes to be abolished.
It has been practice so far, that we have been held as villain, which
is pitiful, given that Christ redeemed all of us with his precious
bloodshed, the shepherd as well as the highest, no one excluded.
Therefore, it is devised by the scripture, that we are and that we
want to be free.
It is unfraternal and not in accordance with the word of God that
the simple man does not have the right to catch game, fowls, and
fish. For, when God our master created man, he gave him power
over all animals, the bird in the air and the fish in the water.
The high gentlemen have taken sole possession of the woods. If
the poor man needs something, he has to buy it for double
money. Therefore, all the woods that were not bought…shall be
given back to the municipality so that anybody can satisfy his
needs for timber and firewood thereof.
One shall have understanding (pretty much reduce) with regard to
the covee which keeps increasing from day to day to how our
parents served in accordance with exclusively the word of God.
The nobility shall not raise the peasant's corvee in excess of what
was established at bestowal.
Many properties can not support the levies (lease fees). Honest
men shall inspect these properties and shall determine the levy
upon their discretion so that the peasant shall not do his work in
vain, for every person is worth his pay.
New rules are ever made for the great outcry “große Frevel” (a fine
that had to be paid to the court). One does not punish with regards to
the subject but at discretion. It is our opinion that we shall be
punished by old, written penalty with regards to what was done and
not to favor.
10. Several have appropriated meadows and acres (community land that
was at the disposition of all members), that belong to the
municipality. Those we want back to our common hands.
11. The “Todfall” (a sort of inheritance tax) shall be abolished altogether
and never again shall widows and orphans be robbed contrary to God
and honor.
12. It is our decision and final opinion that if one or several of the articles
mentioned herein were not in accordance with the word of God,
those we shall refrain from if it is explained to us on the basis of the
scripture. If several articles were already granted to us and it emerged
afterwards that they were ill, they shall be dead and null. Likewise, we
want to have reserved that if even more articles are found in the writ
that were against God and a grievance to though neighbor.
Luther’s attitude towards the Peasants’ Revolt
• Luther was at a loss as to what his position to be; this may be
complicated by his “two kingdoms” doctrine
• When he first read the Twelve Articles he addressed the
princes, telling them that what was demanded was just,
because the peasants were sorely oppressed
• But when the peasants took up arms, Luther tried to persuade
them to follow a more peaceful course
• Finally, an exasperated Luther called on the princes to
suppress the movement by force
• When the rebellion was drowned in blood, Luther urged the
princes to be merciful; his words were unheeded
• More than 100,000 peasants were killed
Outcome of the Rebellion
• Catholic princes blamed Lutheranism for the rebellion
• Most moderate princes began to take measures to curb the
“heresy” in their territories
• Vast numbers of peasants, convinced that Luther had betrayed
them, either returned to the old faith or became Anabaptists
• While Germany was undergoing such turmoil, Catholic
moderates throughout Europe were forced to choose sides
between Lutherans and his opponents; the most famous of
these was Erasmus
Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
The Literary Battle between Erasmus
and Luther
• Erasmus wanted to stay out of the controversy, but since he
had frequently criticized the corruption and ignorance of the
clergy, he didn’t have the luxury to remain silent
• Erasmus had looked with favor upon the early Lutheran
movement; but did not find the resultant discord much to his
• Erasmus had never advocated a “radical reformation” in
theology, and therefore, when forced to speak out, was bound
to take the side of Luther’s adversaries
• Yet instead of attacking Luther on such issues as justification
by faith, the mass, or the authority of the pope, he raised the
issue of FREE WILL
• Luther, a follower of Augustine, affirmed the doctrine of
predestination, seeing it as the corollary of justification by faith and
the free gift of God
• Erasmus attacked him on this point, publishing a treatise entitled,
On the Freedom of the Will
• Luther responded with his classic book, The Bondage of the Will, in
which he applauded Erasmus for focusing his attention on a
“fundamental issue” and not a peripheral matter like the sale of
indulgences, the relics, saints, etc.
• He nonetheless defended his position with characteristic
vehemence, essentially making Erasmus and the rest of the
humanists out to be Pelagians
• Many humanists at the point abandoned Luther; Melanchthon
(Luther’s “right hand”) nevertheless maintained cordial relations
with Erasmus and his friends
Imperial Diets
• Diet of Nuremberg (1523) – In Charles V’s absence, the
Reichstag adopted a policy of tolerance towards Lutheranism,
in spite of protests of the legates of both the pope and the
• Diet of Spire (1526) – Charles again was indisposed due to war
with Francis I and Pope Clement; the Reichstag formally
withdrew the Edict of Worms and granted each German state
the freedom to choose its own religious allegiance; Austria
and southern Germany opted for Catholicism, while the north
began to implement Lutheran Reformation
• Second Diet of Spire (1529) – The renewed threat of imperial
intervention provoked the moderate princes to join the ranks
of the staunch Catholics; the result was the Edict of Worms
was reaffirmed; this prompted the Lutheran princes to present
a formal “protest” – thus receiving the name “Protestants”
Diet of Augsburg (1530)
• Charles finally returned to Germany and was able to attend
• Whereas Charles had refused to listen to Luther at Worms,
this time he requested an orderly exposition of the points at
issue in the Lutheran Reformation
• The document that was presented, written by Philip
Melanchthon, is now known as the “Augsburg Confession”
• It was intended only to represent the Protestants of Saxony,
but other princes and leaders also signed it, and thus it
became the instrument whereby most Protestants presented
a united front against the emperor
• When the signatories refused to recant, an infuriated Charles
ordered that they must recant before April of the following
year, or suffer the consequences
A Dire Situation…
• The survival of Protestantism was threatened
• If Charles joined his Spanish resources with those of his
German princes, he would easily crush any Protestant prince
who refused to recant
• The Protestant princes decided their only hope was to offer a
common front; after long hesitation, Luther finally agreed that
it was licit to take up arms in self-defense against the emperor
The League of Schmalkald
• Philip of Hesse & John Frederick I of Saxony
The Empire threatened yet
• Both sides were making ready for a long and cruel war, when
international events once more forced Charles to postpone
• Francis I was once again preparing for war against Charles, and
the Turks were planning to avenge their earlier failure to take
• To counteract such powerful enemies, Charles needed a
united Germany; the circumstances demanded negotiation
rather than war
Peace of Nuremberg (1532)
• Stipulated that Protestants would be allowed to remain in
their faith, but could not seek to extend it to other territories
• The imperial edict of Augsburg was suspended; in return the
Protestants offered their support against the Turks
• They also promised not to go beyond what they had declared
to be their faith in the Augsburg Confession
• Despite the agreement, Protestantism continued to advance
into new territories

CH 511 – The History of Christianity 2