The Reformation

Martin Luther
The Reformation of the Christian Church in Western Europe began with Martin Luther. A monk, Luther had many of the same doubts about the church and his own salvation that we have talked about in reference to medieval Catholics. Luther wanted to be assured that he was going to heaven, and he distrusted the Church’s assertion that confession and the other sacraments were all he needed. Luther came up with the doctrine of justification by faith; this is the understanding that belief-faith-is the only thing that can get you into heaven. As Luther began to preach these ideas and more and more people began to listen to him, the Catholic Church began to take him seriously. In 1519 the Pope sent a monk and theologian, Johann Eck, to debate Luther over his theories. Luther claimed to be pushing for reform of Church practices, rather than trying to split the Catholic Church. In the course of their debate, Eck forced Luther to the conclusion that he was really disputing the authority of the Pope over individual Catholics. When Luther officially broke with the Catholic Church, it turned many who had also supported the idea of reform against him, including the great humanist Erasmus.

Read Chapter 11. Then read Documents 11.2 and 11.5. Write a one-page response to the following questions and be able to answer them for an in-class discussion.

What problems did Erasmus see in the Catholic Church? How is he making fun of Pope Julius in the dialogue Julius Excluded from Heaven? What specific examples do you see that are similar to Luther’s problems with the Church? What are Erasmus’ specific arguments against Luther? Why is Erasmus so set against Luther?

How does Luther tell his readers he came to his new interpretation of the Gospel? How is his crisis of faith similar to that of earlier, medieval Christians? What are Luther’s arguments against the Catholic Church? How are his arguments similar to those of Erasmus, and what are his specific arguments against Eras