What Were The Main Reasons For The Reformers Rebelling?


Besides indulgences? What did Luther NOT agree with about Catholicism? I know he believed “Sola Scriptura”, but what did he also think so wrong with the Church at the time? Someone asked me this question recently, all I could think of was indulgences, and then the propagation of Sola Scriptura, but there must have been other things too.!
Please help!


Sola fide as well.


Well, Luther claimed that sola scriptura was simply what he had been taught by his theology professors. That wasn’t, from his point of view, something he was “rebelling” over. He seems to have seen it as fairly self-evident that all doctrines should be judged by Scripture–what was “Hussite” about his position was his willingness to challenge Church teaching using Scripture.

The big issue was soteriology. There’s a huge debate among Luther scholars as to whether he had already arrived at the basics of his mature teaching of sola fide when the indulgence controversy began (1517-18), or whether this happened once the controversy was already underway (1519?). I think it’s a fight over nothing, because Luther’s ideas developed gradually and the whole notion of a “breakthrough” is based on a naive acceptance (and then overinterpretation) of remarks he made years later.

However, certainly by 1517 Luther believed that scholastic theology (especially the nominalism he had been taught) was wrong in thinking that people could be saved if they did what was in them, and that the Christian life consisted of cooperating with divine grace in such a matter as to acquire virtuous habits.

Rather, Luther believed, in order to do good works you had to be a good person already, and the only way to become such a person was to accept God’s judgment on you (that you were a sinner through and through) and throw yourself on God’s mercy.

In his early years, this led him to some wacky conclusions (which I find rather appealing, actually, and I’m sorry he moved away from them). For instance, he suggested that the soul in Purgatory might think itself damned, and that one might get out of Purgatory at the point at which one accepted this apparent judgment of God on oneself. This is obviously rather different than his later understanding of faith as trust in the promise of God, but they aren’t as opposed as they seem. In order to have faith in the promise, you must first accept the judgment of God’s Law on all your works as sinful through and through.

You can see how this kind of teaching would run directly against the theology behind indulgences. But he wasn’t simply protesting the abuse of indulgences. He was protesting the whole understanding of salvation which (as he saw it) lay behind indulgences. Particularly, he rejected the idea of a treasury of merits which was at the disposal of the Church (specifically the Pope). This was really what got him in trouble, because this teaching had been defined in papal documents. This challenge to church authority is what led him eventually to invoke sola scriptura as the only authority to which he would submit. But it all developed out of his understanding of grace and salvation.

There were many other issues that were making people dissatisfied with the Church, of course, and Luther cared about those as well. But this is how it all started, at least in terms of Luther himself.



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