Martin Luther: He’s Got Ninety-Five Problems and Fear Isn’t One

Martin Luther’s profound impact on what many saw as the most concrete portion of society, the Catholic Church, secured his spot amongst the most significant figures in European history. Although he did not initially intend on creating a schism in the Catholic Church with his posting of the Ninety-Five Theses, in which he laid out his critique of the corruption surrounding indulgences; Luther’s refusal to recant his defiant words marked the end of his acceptance in the Catholic Church and lead to his eventual excommunication in 1521.

Martin Luther Portrait
One of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s many portraits of Martin Luther, the above Renaissance work displays Martin Luther’s profound impact on Christian nobles that acted as patrons to talented artists. Such art acted as a symbol of the new faith while Cranach the Elder’s woodcut illustrations for Luther’s Bible helped put an end to the Catholic Church’s strong influence on the depiction of religious scenes through art.

In addition to the printing press’ assistance in spreading Martin Luther’s words, the influence of Luther’s actions came from his attention to political power combined with growing resentment surrounding the Catholic Church’s obvious corruptions. The existing system favored the wealthy heavily, similar to the economic landscape of the modern world, and the people stood ready to support a voice greater than their own in order to incite change. Martin Luther drew much of his influence from the credibility he earned working as a professor of the Scriptures at the University of Wittenberg from 1512 until his death in 1546, where he often taught and assisted the poor.

Luther’s movement paved the way for future Protestant Reformation movements, including Calvinism, and set the stage for the eventual Catholic Counter-Reformation. John Calvin, one of the most prominent figures to follow in the footsteps of Luther, adopted many of the doctrines that Luther laid out. Calvin broke from the Catholic Church in a more extreme way than Martin Luther with his adoption of Predestination, the Bible as the sole religious authority, the symbolism of Communion, and the sovereignty of God. The success of John Calvin shows the importance of Luther’s work before, as the European world became more receptive to new religious movements following Luther’s initial campaign.


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