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16th century Europe consisted of many great powers. The Roman Catholic was one of the most influential ones amongst other political forces like Italian city-states, the Holy Roman Empire and others. As the power of the rulers increased over time, the competition between them significantly grew. This created an interest in the Reformation for those, who wanted to weaken the Church. However, not only the foreign rulers were interested, but also the citizens, even if for other reasons. The main reasons were Church’s practise of nepotism, simony and crusades. The people were fed up of the Popes abusing their power and using people for their personal benefit. These ungodly activities left the Popes with no time nor interest in taking care of the faithful. The first person to successfully challenge the Church was Martin Luther who started acting against the Church in the beginning of the 16th century.
Martin Luther was a German monk and professor of theology. He argued that salvation can not be earned by good deeds. Instead, salvation is received through one’s faith in Jesus who redeemed us from sin. This thinking challenged the Pope’s teaching by stating that the Bible is the only source of spiritual knowledge and hence all baptized Christians are part of the holy priesthood.
Luther disagreed with the Church on a number of different matters. For example, he believed that the sale of indulgences was wrong because one’s way of getting into heaven should not be achieved financially. Additionally, he was constantly frustrated with himself having sinful thoughts no matter how hard he tried to stay away from them. He managed to solve this fear when he read St Paul who said that ‘The just shall live by faith’ which Luther understood as for people to have the faith is enough to earn a place in heaven. This goes against Church beliefs that say that the human’s salvation can be achieved by doing good works. Moreover, Luther saw the Bible as the only reliable instruction, whilst the Church did not share that opinion. Indeed, when the printing press was invented in the 15th century it meant that people could read the Bible themselves, hence making the priest job irrelevant. Additionally, before the Bible was only available in Latin and only church officials knew the language. When the Bible was translated into other languages like English, German and others it once again proved the priest’s job to be of no use. This meant that now a direct relationship with God could be possible without the Church’s involvement. Finally, Luther, as well as other reformers, challenged perhaps the main teaching of the Church – that is the Eucharist.
These events took place mainly because people, Luther included, got access to the Bible and realised that not only did they not need the Church to help them be connected with God, but that the Church’s teaching did not entirely match with Christ’s teaching. This created uncertainty and the Church started to loose people’s trust. It is around this time that the Scientific Revolution started to take place. People stopped believing in religious doctrine, but they still needed things to be explained. Hence, scientists started to collect evidence about the natural world by observing it, which then led to the creation of scientific methodology.