1st Period Luther Response


Martin Luther, living from 1483 to 1546, changed the course of history by challenging the ideals of the Roman Catholic Church. Many believe that Luther was obviously a revolutionary, because he permanently altered the history of religion in Europe. Yet, there is overwhelming evidence that Luther was everything but a willing revolutionary. This statement prompts the question: was Martin Luther a willing and knowing revolutionary? The argument of whether Luther was a reluctant revolutionary cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Luther’s point of view on this movement changed over the course of his fight against the Catholic church. One argument might be that originally, he did not anticipate the effects of his ideas, but as his popularity and movement grew, he saw the difference his ideas could make and was left with no other choice but to accept his given position as a revolutionary. His goal was to reform and change the church from the start; however, he did not support the revolts and violence that followed because of the way his ideas were seen as a call for social change. However, some may think that Luther’s goal was to become a revolutionary from the beginning, and his reluctance was an inability to understand the effects that his work could cause. No matter which point of view this revolution is seen from, each argument has their own valid points. Martin Luther began as a Christian reformer, but was forced into a violent revolution with cascading effects caused by the misinterpretation of his original ideas.

The scale of Luther’s reformist/revolutionary views swung wildly based upon how much support he received. In the early days of his ideas, Luther was entirely alone. The formation of his ideals likely was caused by this, as it was his constant internal struggle from bottling up his emotions and not having anyone to talk to about them that planted the seeds in his mind. His questioning of his own God, caused by a corrupt money-grabbing church, also soon took center stage as his anger was directed towards the very corporate entity that had caused him so much torment. It was at this time that Luther started experiencing support from other people. His ideas, that he published in the 95 Theses in an effort to talk to other scholars, were taken without his knowledge and spread across Europe. They awoke within the people the same hatred that Luther felt, that had always been there, and they rallied to his cause. When he was excommunicated by the Pope, Luther’s resolve was only strengthened, as he gained more and more support from more powerful people, such as Prince Frederick the Wise. This newfound powerful backing gave Luther the confidence to become a true revolutionary, and write even more prolifically, throwing out even more radical ideas, such as calling the German princes to a war against the Pope. Even the order of excommunication, giving anybody in the Christian world permission to arrest Luther, was largely ignored thanks to his popularity. He began to be seen as a saint-like figure, with people following his wagon on his journeys to important events, and wanting to touch him in reverence. His popularity does not last forever though, and soon he himself is largely forgotten by the masses, who decide to take his revolution on a different path than he intended. Luther’s conviction to change swung with how much support he had. Without support, he can be seen more as a reformist, willing to work within the church, but with mounting support from more and more powerful people, Luther himself realized that he could become a revolutionary, and seized the opportunity.

One of the greatest inventions of Luther’s time was the printing press. It allowed books to be recreated, making more copies of literature throughout Europe. The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg and its creation allowed Luther’s ideas to spread. Before the printing press, Luther was just a reformer who only wrote in Latin to communicate with his fellow scholars. By using the printing press, he was able to translate and produce his pamphlet to send to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. His ideas now had the ability to travel and were unable to be stopped. In doing so, Luther became a revolutionary whose opinions about the church were taking over Europe. By sending the pamphlet to Germany he was able to gain the cooperation of those in power. Luther had secular focus, he believed that Rome was corrupt, and he called for war. His beliefs spread like wildfire throughout Germany because of the printing press and the need to no longer hand write his ideas for them to be heard.

Martin Luther’s use of propaganda and language reflect the start of his journey as a reformist and revolutionary. Originally, when Luther crafted the passionate and strongly written 95 theses, he wrote them in Latin. Therefore, they could not be understood by peasants and the majority of the German population. This proves that Luther had most likely written the theses for fellow scholars as a topic of discussion and debate, showing that although he was not against his ideas spreading, he didn’t think they would have the impact that they did. Furthermore, as Luther recognized and began to use his newfound power and influence as a church reformer, he wrote the “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” directed towards German princes. Unlike the 95 theses, the address was not written in Latin, making it accessible to more people, confirming that he was attempting to recruit others to aid in carrying out his work. In addition, Luther began to create and spread propaganda in order to attract attention and popularity to his ideas of church reform. In his propaganda, Luther utilized crude, ordinary and humorous language, which intrigued and entertained readers, making it more popular and better communicated to the public. He even went so far as to craft visual prints and drawings for the illiterate to view.

For example, in this piece of propaganda, the papacy is pictured as a seven-headed beast made up of the pope, priests, bishops, and cardinals. On the cross, the sign states “for money a sack full of indulgences.” This image connects the papacy to the devil, showing how it is evil and greedy. Luther’s use of easily understood propaganda demonstrates that he was determined to use his power to conduct church reform. Finally, after his isolation at the Wartburg Castle, Luther started translating the Bible into German vernacular. This display of defiance against the Church would make the “word of God” accessible to common Christians. Therefore, it minimized the significance of the pope and priests’ ability to interpret scripture. In conclusion, Luther’s progression from using Latin to German vernacular and visuals prove that he was attempting to create change within the church. However, Luther’s goal was not for his propaganda and writings to be misinterpreted and used as encouragement and fuel for violent revolutions.

The church wanted Luther to stop interfering with their system so they did everything they could to stop Luther from spreading his wisdom about the church’s methods. Luther by himself did not have enough power to overrule the church so the best thing Luther could think of was to write to the Christian Nobility, German princes, to fight his war for him. From the people who previously tried to accomplish the same thing as Luther and failed, it was obvious to succeed you would need a bigger power source. Luther wrote to say that the church is hypocritical and is not doing their job as a church. The church has a big influence on the average citizen, and they can easily convince people to follow them because everybody wants to go to heaven so in their mind, they must listen to the church to do that. Luther is saying the opposite and to get into heaven you need a special bond with god and you don’t necessarily need to go to church to do that. The church contradicts itself and what’s in the bible, for example the bible says that having a love for money is a sin, although they ask the people for money all the time. They even made Indulgences where you pay the church to remove your sins. When Luther asked the Nobility to fight with him against the church, he had to promise them a reward because they were not going to do it for free. The Christian Nobility cared about money so much that when Luther offered them a trade that involved the Nobility receiving money, they were more than happy to take it. With the power of the Christian Nobility and the average citizen, Luther was able to override the church, splitting it into different branches that had a rippled effect all the way to the present day.

The Diet of Worms proves that Luther was a reformer until he was forced to become a revolutionary. At the Diet of Worms, Luther singlehandedly went against the Pope and the church by refusing to recant his work. He did this despite the death threats from the Pope and the rising danger that he put himself in by enforcing and standing up for his original ideas. Although Luther was originally a reformer, it is believed that he became a revolutionary due to events that influenced the people. However, Martin Luther only became a revolutionary once people began to follow and devote their lives to his idea. He was devoted to the principle of being a simple minded idealist, which proves that he didn’t purposefully inspire and encourage a revolution because his only goal was to go against the Pope and prove that his ideas that claimed you had to be devoted to the Church and the seven sacraments in order to go to heaven were wrong. As Luther saw the way the people processed his ideas and prompted change, he was torn apart by the feeling of being frightened despite the fact that he was liked by more and more people each day. When Luther traveled back home after the Diet of Worms, People began to walk with him regardless of him being the most hated man in all of Europe. This proves his ideas were so important to the turn of Catholic religion that no matter how despised he was, so many people took the time to recognize his works and help him overthrow the Church because this concept was beyond meaningful and well thought out. This concludes that Martin Luther only became a revolutionary once people began to agree with and preach his thoughts, which he had not willed to do so as he began to dedicate his life to popularizing his ideas that he believed to be the truth of Catholic religion.

Following his year-long stay at Wartburg, Martin Luther returned to Wittenberg in the Spring of 1522 where he learned just how powerful and popular his movement had become to the German public. However, the amount of popularity and support Luther gained for his movement did not please him, but instead, made him upset that his movement had grown so out of hand. In January of 1522, Friars at Wittenberg broke into their church. They destroyed countless paintings, altars, and other religious paraphernalia and objects as a way to get back at the church for using their money to pay for these unnecessary things. This protest, and many others, were led by a man named Andreas Karlstadt; a former ally of Luther’s. He agreed with Martin Luther’s ideas, but they disagreed on how to implement them. When Luther returned in March 1522, he was appalled by the amount of destruction and violence that plagued Wittenberg. He told Karlstadt, “The pace of reform must be gradual”, which shows how he never wanted, nor asked for the violence associated with his reformation. He wanted to cause peaceful change as a reformer, not violent change as a revolutionary.  As more destruction and protests occurred, Luther laid all the blame on his former ally Karlstadt, wanting nothing to do with the violence occurring on his behalf. Additionally, a rebellion called the Peasants War, was spreading across Europe. Luther watched as his idea of a church reform became a full-blown revolution, while he had no power whatsoever to stop it. Martin Luther never wanted a revolution like this, and he could only watch in dismay as it grew and grew.

After 1522, Martin Luther stepped away from his revolution as it became more political than religious. In the following year, other reformers like Thomas Münzter tried to replace Luther and pledged to reform both the church and society. By doing this, they proved that Martin Luther could have rallied the support of the people and changed German society along with the church. However, Luther chose not to do this, which shows that though he wanted to reform the church, he did not want the societal changes that his followers pushed for. If he had wanted them, then he would have seized the opportunity of peasant upheaval to make differences in their social and political system, instead of doing the exact opposite in 1525. This was when the Peasants’ War had expanded throughout much of Germany, and Luther wrote two articles in response to Müntzers ‘Twelve Articles of Peasants’. The former expressed sadness and sympathy for the peasants, but the latter called them evil for trying to change more than the church’s ways. This proves that he simply wanted to be a church reformer, because when the revolution turned political and social, he backed away. He even isolated himself from other progressive reformers, as seen when had to be heavily persuaded to meet with a group of them in Marburg in 1529. After marrying a nun and having a family, the only time he became interested in his revolution again was when he traveled outside of Augsburg to hear updates of the Diet Charles V called for to resolve religious issues. This being his only major action in his later life shows how he only cared about fixing the wrongs of the church and not starting an entire social revolution. Even Luther did not consider himself a full revolutionary in his later life, which is seen when he says after the death of his daughter, “I have had enough. I am tired. I have become nothing.” When everyone else thought he succeeded and became the revolutionary that changed the world, Luther thought he failed. This shows how at the end, he wasn’t a willing revolutionary, because even though his name was dragged along as one, Luther felt as though he hadn’t become anything.

It can also be argued that Martin Luther was not a reluctant revolutionary based on actions he took. From the very beginning, Martin immersed himself in his work. When he was sent to teach the Bible, he read it many times, in three different languages. When he was a monk, he was sent to Rome for his dedication and skill. Reluctance is not a character trait Martin possessed. When Martin stood up to the Church, he faced excommunication, arrest, and being subject to a slow and horrible death like Jan Hus. But he did not back down, believing suffering would eventually lead him to salvation. At the Diet of Worms, Martin was to face inevitable suffering if he did not disown his work. He would not, and was quoted as saying “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen” displaying his courage and absolute non reluctance in this matter. The more the Church pressed into him, the more he held strong against them. He even accepted, after the Diet of Worms, that he would be charged with heresy for his works, which could be reversed if he chose to disown them. One work in particular, entitled “Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” Martin seeks to gain the support of the German princes through their wallets, and their desire to break away from having to pay the Church. By harnessing this power, he did not display reluctancy.

After speaking out against the church, Martin Luther was eventually subject to one of the most severe punishments the church could give out, excommunication. If someone were to be excommunicated from the Christian church, it means that they lose their rights to the sacraments but are still forced to follow the laws. If a person dies without being reconciled with the church, then they are doomed to an eternity in hell. Jan Hus was a similar man to Luther; he had spoken out against the church roughly 100 years before Luther and was burned at the stake for speaking his ideas. As he was burning, Hus was excommunicated meaning that he would be doomed to an eternity in hell as a result. When Luther received the Bull of excommunication, issued by the pope himself, he burned it. This proves that Luther had completely renounced the authority of the Pope and felt that anything he had said meant nothing. If Luther had been reluctant, it implies that he is still a Catholic, but felt he was being forced to speak out against it and would have taken the excommunication very seriously. However, Luther did not think anything of the Bull of Excommunication meaning that he truly and fully believed that he was right, and that the Catholic church was wrong in what they were doing.

Originally a Christian reformer, Martin Luther was lured into a destructive revolution with detrimental effects due to the misunderstanding of his writings. Despite this, Luther still created a long-lasting, worldwide revolution that spun the trajectory of religious history askew. His story, though complex, is inspiring and significant. It shows how one person, with passion, a strong mind, and a little bit of luck, can cause universal change.



Throughout history, there have been many examples of those who were willing to go against the majority and stand up for their point of view. The Catholic church was not tolerable of other theories in the past. They would make any effort possible to silence these new ideas that went against their ways. This reluctance to change led to battles between people with new ideas and the church’s traditional teachings. One of the most prominent battles of this variety was between the Catholic church and Galileo Galilei.

While Luther received support from almost everybody, Galileo’s circle of friends was significantly smaller. Much of his support came from other scientists who he shared theories with, such as Johannes Kepler. Galileo often did his best work when he could share intellectual ideas with other intellectuals, which pushed his innovations forward. However, his support dwindled greatly when he came to blows against the church. His first trial, with the possible threat of death looming over him, made others wary of interacting with Galileo. His research did not stop after that though, and despite overwhelming opposition, he published his second book, which eventually led to the eventual sentence of life in house arrest.

On April 12, 1633, an inquisition on Galileo Galilei had been enforced by chief inquisitor Father Vincenzo Maculani da Firenzuola. Galileo was forced to turn himself into the church for believing and spreading the idea that the earth revolved around the sun. He was accused of heresy by the Catholic Church, which is otherwise known as work against the church and its beliefs. He was later imprisoned once the trial had commenced for the fact that he had solitarily gone against the beliefs and teachings of Christianity. This trial against Galileo was similar to Martin Luther’s interrogation at the Diet of Worms where he refused to recant his work when the Catholic Church asked him to. These two events were very similar because they both occurred due to the fact that people began to agree with these ideas. Whether it was the idea that the earth revolves around the sun and that it isn’t the center of the universe, or that the church was wrong about what the people had to do in order to go to heaven, the Catholic Church was unhappy and disagreed with these theories. These accusations of heresy only strengthened their propositions and provided them with followers that decided to oppose the Church alongside them because they believed that these modern ideas were correct and effective solutions towards the necessary development of society. Luther and Galileo were very similar due to these trials because they both decided to stand up for what they preached for the sole purpose that they highly disagreed with the church’s remarks on religion. and In conclusion, Martin Luther and Galileo were both revolutionaries because even if they didn’t need people to follow their works, as soon as they became well known and agreed with, their ideas were all the more believable and accurate in the eyes of the people that finally decided to also go against the church.

A key similarity between Galileo and Martin Luther was that they were both charged with Heresy for their new ideas’ ways of thinking. For the last hundreds of years, the church had a large grasp on laws, customs, and ways of life in Europe. Their power was so immense and large that they controlled almost every aspect of everyone’s life. They also had a very specific belief system combined with a strict set of rules. This meant that if you went against the church’s rules or beliefs, there would be large consequences. One such consequence was being charged with heresy, which is when your actions or beliefs go against the beliefs and teachings of the church. Martin Luther was charged with Heresy in 1521 for his actions and writings that go against the church, claiming that it is a scam, and not the way to salvation. Galileo was charged with heresy in 1633 for his theory that the Earth revolved around the sun, which contrasted with some biblical teachings that the Earth was the center of the universe. In both these cases, Martin Luther and Galileo continued to do things to promote their accused Heresy. Martin Luther refused to take back his writings or teachings, and Galileo continued to write about his theory. In both these cases, Luther and Galileo showed how they were willing to stand for what they believed in.

After Galileo spoke out against the ideals of the Church, he was forced to stand trial for his beliefs. The church had believed for centuries that the Sun revolved around the Earth and that the Earth was at the center of the Universe. Galileo found that it was in fact the earth that revolved around the Sun, but since such a thing had never been heard of. In centuries, no one was willing to listen. Similarly, Martin Luther went on trial for speaking out against the Church on the topic of whether or not the Catholic church had become corrupt or not. However, the outcomes of the two trials differentiated from each other vastly. While Martin Luther’s trial ended inconclusively, with the court being unable to come to a unanimous decision, Galileo’s trial ended with him being accused of heresy and forced to agree with terms that included him not teaching the “heresy” that he had been spreading and being sent to prison. Eventually Galileo would be placed under house arrest where he would spend his final years in house arrest stuck in total isolation.

An invention that helped Galileo to promote his beliefs was the telescope. Galileo’s invention of the telescope allowed him to prove his theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Similarly to Luther’s use of the new creation of the printing press. Both Galileo and Luther used new technology to help spread their beliefs. The telescope was used by Galileo to observe the stars, planets, and moons. He was able to self promote his ideas with evidence found through the telescope. Comparably, Luther used the printing press to spread his beliefs all across Europe and in several different languages. Both revolutionaries used the benefits given by inventions of their times, although Galileo created his own invention he still used it to promote and explain his beliefs that differed from the Church.

Martin Luther was known for his use of propaganda and easily understood language as his way of gaining popularity for his ideas. Galileo, however, was notorious for his self-promotion, which aided in spreading his theories and helping him become well-recognized. In January of 1610, Galileo published a systematic exposition called “The Starry Messenger” after his discovery of four new stars. This prompted an increase in his fame, helping him earn a position as a mathematician and philosopher to the Medicis. In addition, he would soon become the chief mathematician at the University of Pisa and to the grand duke of Tuscany. His high-ranking roles gave him beneficial platforms to spread his ideas and theories, similar to Luther’s use of propaganda and pamphlets as his platform for sharing ideas. Furthermore, Galileo wrote a book titled Il Saggiatore that was formulated as a self-advertisement, and therefore written in Italian so that it would be widespread. This book would become a best seller in 1632 after its distribution through the printing press. In conclusion, although Galileo used methods of self-promotion in order to spread his ideas and increase his fame, he still had certain tactics that worked to his advantage in gaining recognition, similar to Martin Luther’s application of propaganda and vernacular writings as his way of earning popularity and support.

Both Galileo and Martin Luther dropped out of their original studies in order to pursue careers that lined up with their greatest interests. As a child, Luther was instructed to become a lawyer by his harsh, ambitious father: Hans. He worked incredibly hard in school and was eventually enrolled at Erfurt in Saxony with the intentions to follow his father’s wishes. However, after a life-changing spiritual moment Luther experienced during a lightning storm, he decided to quit law school in order to pursue a life as a monk. Similarly, Galileo was raised with guidance to become a doctor by his father, Vincenzo Galilei. After attending University of Pisa in 1581 with the hopes of earning a medical degree, Galileo recognized his love for mathematics and natural philosophy. He chose to drop out of school in 1595 to study and teach mathematics despite his father’s wishes. In conclusion, Martin Luther and Galileo both represent examples of famous revolutionaries who decided to leave behind the paths that their fathers expected of them in order to follow their passions and interests.

Both Galileo and Luther lived their later years in confinement. While Luther was deemed a heretic and an outcast by the church, Galileo lived under house arrest. Though Galileo only spent 9 years alive after his trial, both him and Luther stopped speaking out and working against the church. While Luther wrote and watched his revolution play out from afar, Galileo wrote about his earlier experiments. Their later lives were quite similar, because instead of continuing their fight against the church, they quietly stepped away and lived private lives, continuing what they enjoyed. Galileo continued his scientific works while Luther continued preaching his thoughts. However, even with their relaxed later lives, their discoveries in their early lives still changed the way humans thought and altered the course of history.

Galileo, just like Martin Luther, was not on the church’s side. Galileo was convicted of “vehement suspicion of heresy” and Luther was also fighting against the church. Galileo was famous for his new laws of motion, compasses, and improvements of telescopes. When Galileo said the Earth revolves around the sun that angered the church because that’s not what they believe in. Galileo and Luther had to go to trial because of their beliefs, even though the odds were against them they kept their ground and had a deep passion in what they were doing. Luther went against the church and made another type of revolution. Luther and Galileo have very similar personalities. Galileo was on house arrest for nine years after his trial and Luther just went on peacefully, not looking for anymore trouble.

Both Martin Luther and Galileo developed into forces that would expand past themselves. Martin was quoted as saying “I would never have thought such a storm would rise from Rome over one simple scrap of paper”. Martin’s effect on religion, as well as society as a whole, expanded far beyond comprehension. Galileo was a force, a giant in the world of philosophy, astronomy, and mathematics in his time. In our time, he has become even more of a genius and a hero in the world of his discoveries. Both of these men, giants in their own right, both have made worldly contributions that have changed the course of their fields forever. They both have been extremely revolutionary.

The resemblance between Galileo and Luther are resounding. Both of these revolutionaries stood strong against the church and were considered heretics for their beliefs. They were hunted by the church and experienced first-hand the wrath of the most powerful institution of the time. They both also had to stand trial for their actions. Luther had to state his case at the Diet of Worms and Galileo had to state his after being turned in to the church. These two prime examples of the struggle for truth against tradition.