Why was luther able to challenge the church so successfully?

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Vikesh Sheth
Why Was Luther Able to Challenge the Catholic Church so successfully in the years
15171521?
Between the years 15171521 Luther was able to increase his challenge towards the Catholic Church.
Luther's 95 theses of 1517 produced a small protest but due to a number of factors Luther's challenge had
become a fullscale reformation by 1525, the reformation had become more successful. The most
substantial reason to Luther's challenge becoming a success was his role in the challenge. Luther was an
instrumental part of the challenge becoming successful predominantly due the support he gained for the
reformation. Another factor contributing to the success of the reformation was the weak response of the
Church towards Luther allowing Luther to add to the success of the reformation. Moreover, the role of
secular authority added to the success of the challenge as a result of their authority. However, the
challenge was not as successful as it could have been due to setbacks holding the challenge back. This
included the knight's war and the peasant's war, which limited the challenges success.
The main reason for the challenge towards the Catholic Church being successful was the role of Martin
Luther. Luther's initial ideas in the 95 theses of 1517 created some support for the reformation but what
allowed the challenge to become a success was Luther's appeal to the laity. Luther was able to gain
support from the laity by showing them the exploitation and corruption that occurred within the Catholic
Church. Luther highlighted and condemned the corruption, which included pluralism, absenteeism and
simony as well as the selling of indulgences. This gained Luther support from the laity as they shared his
resentment with the Catholic Church. The support of the laity attributed to the success of the reformation
as it gave the challenge a large backing which in turn gave the reformation more power than the Catholic
Church, becoming a prominent threat. Luther also appealed to the nobility gaining support from members of
secular authority. Luther gained the support of the nobility through his pamphlet "Address to the Christian
Nobility". In this pamphlet Luther rejected the Popes power and encouraged princes to take more control
of their region. Luther worked tirelessly to ensure the reformation received support from the nobles. This
was a key factor aiding to the challenge allowing the challenge to become more successful. Instead of just
a social revolution Luther had introduced political powers with a lot more authority than the laity, further
increasing the reformations threat to the Catholic Church making the challenge a success. Moreover
Luther's other written works along with the use of the printing press made the challenge more successful.
In September 1522 Luther published the Old Testament in German. With the use of the printing press this
version could spread and eventually sold 200,000 copies in just twelve years, spreading the reformation
further. Luther's other works such as the 1520 pamphlets and catechisms spread to the very quickly due
to the printing press. This then increased the support for Luther who was now seen as a nationalist hero
due to his writings being vernacular and he was a person the people could identify with. Also the spread of
his works allowed more people to become involved in the reformation increasing its influence in Europe,
which therefore made the challenge more successful. Overall Luther played an integral part in making the
challenge more successful as his works were spread and ideas appealed to the laity and the nobility
increasing its support and the reformation was changed from a small protest to a large scale social and
political reformation.
Furthermore, the weak response of the church attributed to the challenge becoming more successful. The
Catholic Church had not done enough to stop the challenge as their response was not enough to silence
Luther. In 1518 in Augsburg Luther was threatened by Cardinal Cajetan with severe punishments but
refused to back down and recant his views. This allowed the challenge to be successful as Luther had
stood firm to his ideas. Instead of calming unrest in Germany this increased Luther's status and made him
seem more of a national hero, as he did not withdraw his views. Luther as a national figurehead fighting the
foreign force appealed to many meaning the challenge had a large backing, which meant it could be,
successful. Also the Catholic Churches second attempt to silence Luther facilitated his challenge, as he
was able to develop his theological ideas. Luther's debate in Leipzig with Johann Eck meant Luther could
develop his revolutionary idea of Sola Scriptura and become more confident in his views. This was key to
the success of the challenge as Luther had now been able to develop his ideas quickly and determine what
the reformation would entail. This then led to Luther gaining so much confidence he burned the exsurge

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Vikesh Sheth
domine, highlighting the fact that the reformation was now a serious threat. Instead of silencing Luther the
debate had accelerated the challenge contributing to its success. Moreover the absence of Charles V
meant that the challenge could grow without little opposition. Due to the vast nature of Charles V's
inheritance and empire meant he could not give full attention to the spread of Lutheranism. This in turn
allowed Lutheranism to grow with little resistance.…read more

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Vikesh Sheth
Overall between 15171525 the challenge was clearly very successful due to the fact that in 1517 it started
as a small protest but grew to a fullscale reformation in 1525. This was down to many factors contributing
to the success of the reformation, the most significant of which was Luther's role as he the key figure of
the challenge who was able to create support for it.…read more

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