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Luther & Zwingli


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Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a German coal miner's son, educated at Erfurt University. While there, in the midst of a violent


thunderstorm, he decided to become a monk, against his father's wishes.

In his studies of Scripture, he came across the words of the Apostle Paul, where he had written to the church at Rome that, "The righteous shall live by faith." By faith? By a simple trust in Christ. How could this be?

In October of 1517, Luther spoke out against the practice of selling indulgences which, it was said, would keep a customer's soul out of purgatory.

He posted his famous "95 Theses" for debate upon the


university notice-board, not actually on the church door, focusing on the abusive practice of selling indulgences.

While the words of the Apostle Paul seemed so clear to Luther, his rediscovery of the message of repentance called into question the entire system of the medieval church; indulgences, penances, and the rest. He was called to defend his views.

Luther was fortunate in that he had gained allies in priests, scholars, and among the German people. He began to speak of the pope as Anti-Christ, charging that the pope was interfering with the free course of the Gospel. The monasteries, the mass, and penance; Luther said they all perverted God's grace. From his reading of the New Testament, Luther concluded that if salvation depended on man, it was worthless. Faith was the only hope for salvation.

At the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther refused to recant, choosing to stand by the authority of the Bible. He escaped the fate of heretics only because he was hidden at the Wartburg Castle, where he translated the Bible into German.

Ulrich Zwingli

In Switzerland, a milder but even more radical reformer by the name of Ulrich Zwingli was at work. Like Luther, he preached that salvation was by the grace of God, and not by


the works of man.

Zwingli had risen through the ranks of the Catholic Church until he was appointed "People's Priest" in 1519, the most powerful ecclesiastical position in Zurich. By then, he had been thoroughly won over by the reforms of Martin Luther, and began to shift the city over to the practices of the new Protest church. In 1523, the city officially adopted Zwingli's ecclesiastical reforms, becoming the first Protestant state outside of Germany, a strong base for Protestantism in Switzerland.

Zwingli's theology was simplistic, as compared to that of


Martin Luther and John Calvin. Sticking to a single theme throughout his writing, Zwingli argued that if the Bible did not say something explicitly and literally, then no Christian should believe or practice it. This was the basis of his reforms.

Despite their common goals, Luther and Zwingli thought poorly one of the other. Luther, for his part, thought that Zwingli was a religious fanatic, one who had lost touch with common sense and spirituality. Zwingli believed that Luther was hopelessly enmeshed in unsupportable Catholic doctrine.

Due at least in part to personal dislike, the new Protestant Church, which Luther had hoped would become a pure, more unified church, fragmented into a thousand separate, quarreling pieces within a few decades.

Overview of Bible Study