Martin Luther (1483–1546) stated, “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying”. During the time of the Religious Reformation, there were many conflicts and misunderstandings between the people and their religions. For that reason, someone had to stand up and fight for his own beliefs to reach for what he thought was right, for example, people must have faith to reach salvation, and the only religious foundation is the Bible itself.
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That person was Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism. Since the religious question was one of the most important issues during that time, Lutheranism did not only affect the other religions but also had great impacts on non-religious issues and spheres such as economy, government, and art.
Martin Luther is the prominent figure in the Western history who influenced not only the religious life of thousands of people but also the society in general because the ideas of Lutheranism changed the people’s approach to the social norms and rules associated with the political and economic life which were typical for the 16th century.
In 1517, Luther, a German monk, demonstrated his position in relation to the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church to provide rich people with indulgences. This tendency affected the religious life of the society, and it was oriented to destroying the moral principles of the European population under the mask of religiosity. Luther analysed different aspects of the Roman Catholic Church and proposed the specific 95 Theses supported with many other writings of the educated monk.
In these theses, Luther highlighted a lot of misunderstandings and differences characteristic for the ceremonies, practices, beliefs, and principles followed by the Roman Catholic Church in comparison with the ideas presented in the Bible (Matthews, Platt, and Noble). This analysis performed by Martin Luther resulted in the statement of the main beliefs which are discussed today as the ideals of Lutheranism.
Thus, Luther stated that many ceremonies and practices preformed by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church were not supported by the sacred words from the Bible. Moreover, the position of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to the idea of indulgences was rather immoral.
While trying to draw the public’s attention to the unfairness and inappropriateness of Roman Catholic Church’s actions, Luther formulated the major beliefs of Lutheranism which are the focus on the grace of God as the cause for the people’s salvation, the faith of the individual matters, and it can guarantee the salvation because of God’s grace, the person can also rely on the direct communication with God as the guarantee of the salvation, and the Bible is the authority and the norm to determine the rules, principles, and standards for the people’s life (Fink 293-294; Matthews, Platt, and Noble).
The discussed beliefs were rather provocative in comparison with the traditional religious visions spread by the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, but those ideas attracted the masses, and the Protestant Reformation started as the society’s reaction to the unfair activities of the Roman Catholic Church and the significant religious and ideological movement.
Luther drew the public’s attention to the idea that they were independent in their relation with God because of the focus on the individual worshipping and communication. Moreover, according to Luther, the Roman Catholic Church played an important role in contributing to the economic imbalance typical for the Medieval society.
From this perspective, hundreds and then thousands of the Lutherans rejected the ideals of the Roman Catholic Church and organised the social rebellions to promote the ideas and beliefs stated by Martin Luther (McCleary and Barro). Thus, Lutheranism as the religious movement was based on the significant social fundaments because Luther not only proclaimed the religious ideals but also focused on social and economic problems characteristic for the Medieval society in the European countries.
The effect of the beliefs and ideas that luxury of the Roman Catholic Church as well as many ceremonies and practices were unnecessary to communicate with God according to the words of the Bible was significant. The governments of the countries which are known today as Germany, Sweden, and Norway could not control the spread of Lutheranism and the associated Protestant Reformation. From this perspective, the theological debates were connected with significant political, economic, and social grievances.
The expectations and needs of the lowest social classes could be met with references to the visions proclaimed by Luther that is why many people chose to follow Luther not only because of the easiness of the religious doctrine but also because its significant social role (Fink 293-294). Numerous rebellions which were intended to change the social and economic situation in Europe during that period were also associated with the spread of the concepts of Lutheranism.
The impacts of the major beliefs shared by the Lutherans on the government, economy, and the culture of the European societies were significant because the governmental authorities could not control the processes of organising the churches of the Lutherans, and they could not regulate the spread of the ideals close for the majority of the European population.
Luther’s words about the role of indulgences and his emphases on the words presented in the Bible should be discussed in the theological context because of the concentration on the religious faith and on the individual’s relations with God.
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The socially significant ideas were added to Luther’s words while interpreting his visions in relation to the person’s religious freedom from the impact of the Roman Catholic Church (McCleary and Barro). Thus, the Roman Catholic Church affected the development of the European society significantly, and any words about the freedom from the church’s impact caused the development of the social movements under the ideals of Lutheranism and the Protestant Reformation.
The reaction of the public to Luther’s call to action and his proclamations associated with the necessity to follow new religious ideals were interesting for the people because they were close to them regarding the possibilities to orient to the personal beliefs and the personal vision of faith as the communication with God.
The discussion of the Bible as the only norm and standard provided people with a lot of opportunities to develop their culture and morality. That is why, the topics depicted in art during the period of Lutheranism development and statement of the ideals of the Protestant Reformation were closely connected with the role of a person in the world regarding the personal relations with God. From this point, the culture and art were also influenced by the processes started by Martin Luther in the 16th century.
The reforms and visions proposed by Martin Luther in his theses or articles were accepted by the European Medieval society because the proclaimed beliefs were closely connected with all the people personally.
Thus, Luther proposed the new visions of religion according to which people could orient on their own relations with God without the direct intervention of the Roman Catholic Church in the relations. As a result, the discussed beliefs influenced not only the particular visions of the Lutherans but also their specific ideas in relation to the basics of society, the society’s economy, the specifics of government, and culture.
Fink, David. “A History of Lutheranism”. Trinity Journal 24.2(2003): 292-296. Print.
Matthews, Roy, DeWitt Platt, and Thomas Noble. The Western Humanities. USA: Mayfield, 2001. Print.
McCleary, Rachel, and Robert Barro. “Religion and Economy”. The Journal of Economic Perspectives 20.2 (2006): 49-72. Print.