By the 1500’s many issues shows signs of disorder within the Church. The idea of selling indulgences (forgiveness for sin) for clergy benefit began to negatively spread throughout the people, along with opposition to pluralism (holding more than one office). This sparked many attempts to reform the church through individual groups, one of which being the Brotherhood of Common Life. One of their accomplishments was starting schools for the poor, in which educated none other than Martin Luther. By the time he became a priest, many people had already failed to reform the church.
When Martin Luther entered Rome, he briefly supported the church before realizing the hidden corruption, and his optimism towards converting the Jews was accounted for before realizing their stubborn views of God. While his loving ideas towards peasants turned into hatred of rebellion, it proved to be a consistency because he had always believed peasants belonged in their place. These ideas changed due to the naive spirit he entered with before being awakened by the truth. Martin Luther noticed definite room for improvement within the Roman Church, however it did not start out in that sense.
He entered Rome already supporting faith from scripture alone, and he even praised Pope Leo X, for conveying God’s works of charity into the priests’ words, showing his once fully supportive tone towards the church (Doc 2). In 1520, he completely contradicted this by saying “This pope, Leo X, is Satan, the Antichrist,” in his writing called “Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist. ” This complete turnaround proves his change of ideas toward the pope after experiencing Rome (Doc 9). But what could cause such a drastic change in opinions?
The answer of this question lies in the fact that his statement in 1520 was nine years after he entered Rome. During this time, his eyes were opened to the corruption that fell within the Church, including the selling of indulgences and the immortality that took the peoples’ focus off true faith. Within these nine years he also posted his 95 Theses that the church responded with the excommunication of Luther and ordering his works to be burned. Of course, this changed Luther’s views towards the Pope, and Catholicism as a whole.
By 1522, he showed these emotions through his writing: “On Secular Authority: To What Extent it Should Be Obeyed,” by suggesting the full destruction of the Catholic Church. This enforced his entirely new opinions of the Pope and his commitment to reform and Protestantism (Doc 8). His amateur conclusion of the church is the reason that led to this one major contradiction of ideas. Martin Luther also had clashing views towards Jews, which was also due to early assumptions he made. In 1523, his writing “Jesus Christ was Born a Jew,” describes the Jews not as “dogs” but as “kinsmen and brothers. However this was his strategy for converting Jews to Lutheranism, in which he had full optimism of succeeding in. These were the kind words he used to attract the Jews into following his path to salvation (Doc 1). Common to his other beliefs, this was soon denied by himself. After attempting to convert the Jews, he found that the majority of them did not comply. He later accepted his failure at converting them, and turned it into rage against them. His most famous piece against the Jews was written in 1543, and called “On the Jews and Their Lies. ” Here, he completely changed his views about Jews.
He said it is due to their excessive lying when in actuality it is anger at his disappointment to convert them (Doc 4). Once again these contradictory claims over time were simply due to his naive assumptions that he could not support for the entirety of his Protestant Reformation. Although the majority of Martin Luther’s ideas contradicted each other left and right, he had a few consistencies. Obviously his views of Sola Scriptura and consubstantiation did not drastically change, but there were some misleading topics that were disguised as inconsistencies. The major topic concerning this was his views towards peasants.
It can be easily assumed that after being raised a peasant and supporting them, he immediately turned against them when they rebelled. However, this is deceiving. In 1519, Luther definitely supported the peasantry in his letter to the Prince. He saw them as one of his own and those who shall be “cherished forever,” but he did not mention anything related to what the peasants wanted that could help them. This implies that although Luther loved his people during his attacks against the Pope for the same reason as the peasants themselves, he still believed they should stay in their place (Doc6).
Therefore, when the Peasant Rebellion broke out, it was completely justified for Luther to be upset with them. For that reason, it is actually a consistent idea of his that his people should not challenge authority because he had always supported peasants as long as they stayed in their place of oppression. Also due to this theory, it was relatively reasonable that he lashed out against the rebels in “Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants” in 1525.
He demanded action against them because they lost his trust and the trust of authority, not because he changed his mind (Doc 3). In addition, Luther had fought for the order of the state over the church, which remained consistent through the rebellion, as expressed in his warning to Christians. This furthermore supports the consistencies throughout Luther’s lifetime (Doc 12). Martin Luther contradicted himself many times throughout his efforts for reform, while keeping a portion of his ideas consistent. His assumptions made about the Pope were changed because he jumped to conclusions.
He changed his views towards Jews because he was naive to think that he could convert them, resulting in outrage since he did not succeed. However, he had always supported the oppression his people, the peasants, which is why he turned against the rebellion. Finally, he never altered his views towards state over church. In conclusion, he kept views strong, whiles being forced to change some due to his early, adolescent assumptions. Nevertheless, Martin Luther made a large impact of religious reform in Europe in the 16th century.