What role did Martin Luther play in the Reformation?
Martin Luther played a pivotal role in sparking the Protestant Reformation. Luther, a monk, differed with the Roman Catholic Church on the nature of salvation. The Church emphasized the corporate nature of salvation, that is, that one finds salvation within the Catholic Church. Luther, on the contrary, emphasized the personal salvation of the individual through God’s grace.
This conflict reached a tipping point due to the Church’s sale of “indulgences,” which were essentially documents one could purchase to reduce the time he—or someone else—would have to spend in Purgatory. Luther believed the practice of indulgences was contrary to Scripture, so he posted his Ninety-Five Theses against indulgences on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1519.
Luther’s indulgences were quickly copied and distributed throughout Germany, and the Catholic Church sought to force Luther to recant. However, he refused, leading to a permanent break with the Catholic Church. All Protestant denominations—though many are quite different in beliefs and practices—descended from Luther in some way.