Martin Luther and the Three Walls

Posted on November 18, 2011 by

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My class’s second project is to choose a primary source about the Protestant Reformation and describe it. So for my project I’m very interested in Martin Luther, the German reformer. He is most popular from his writing The 95 Theses. The 95 theses are theses that are correcting parts of the Catholic Church. I am interested in Martin Luther because he is standing up to the Pope and the Emperor and expressing his thoughts to the world.
After spending a few classes researching about what he did for the Reformation, I was completely interested. Martin Luther believed that salvation comes by faith alone, which means that by faith alone one can get into heaven. This belief is different from the Catholic Church because the church believed that one needed the church’s help to get into heaven. The Church would have sale of indulgence, which is when one would come to the church to ask for forgiveness of their sins, and then the church would charge money to the follower of Christ for forgiveness of their sins. Luther expressed anger towards the Church and the Pope because the Pope was manipulating the people.
For my primary source I chose the “The Three Walls Of The Romanists” that is a section of the “Address To The Nobility of the German Nation” written by Martin Luther in 1520. In the Introduction of this document, Luther tries to persuade the German nobility that the Pope is evil and that they should trust in God. Martin speaks with anger while he is proving his point about the pope and the church. Luther says, “Their malice and wickedness I will now, by the help of God, expose, so that, being known, they may henceforth cease to be so obstructive and injurious.” Luther is trying to prove that the Church and the Pope are both evil people, and by being faithful in God, he will be able to expose the Pope and Church of their sins. Another point that Luther is trying to prove is that people should always trust in God, rather than oneself. The Pope was trusting in himself so he was going to fall. Luther says, “perchance they trusted in their own strength that in God; therefore they could not but fall.” Luther was showing that the people of the Church trusted in themselves rather in god, so from trusting in themselves they were going to fall. What Luther’s points of his introduction was to show how the Popes and Romanists are wrong, and to expose them of their wrong the people need to have faith in God.
A huge concern of Martin Luther’s was the fact that the Romanists (Catholics) had build three walls around themselves in case of an emergency. The first of the three walls was that the Church has more power over the government. So if the government tried to take force, they could say, “ the spiritual power is above the temporal.” The second wall is that if someone tries to use the bible against the church, that they can say “no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope.” Finally, the last wall is that if someone tries to call a council the Romanists may reject that because they say “no one may call a council but the Pope.” The Romanists built these imaginary walls as a guard, so no one may get to the Church or punish them from their sins. Luther seeing how they are wrong proves how to get past these walls.
Martin Luther said the first wall was that whenever the government tried to over power the Church, they would say that the Church is greater than any temporal power. Luther attacked this wall and tried to prove that this wall is wrong. Luther attacked the wall by using quotes for the bible, along with insulting the Pope. Luther says:

A priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary; as long as he holds his office, he has precedence of others; if he is deprived of it, he is a peasant or a citizen like the. Therefore a priest is verily no longer a priest after deposition.

Martin Luther is said that “A priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary,” what he is trying to say is that the priest shouldn’t be apart of the government, all the priest needs is to do his job as a preacher. Another point that Luther brings up is that all Christians are equal even the priests, bishops, and popes are all equal since they are all Christians.

We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, bishops, or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other or higher degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word of God and the sacraments-that being their work and office-in the same way the temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in their hands to punish the wicked and to protect the good.

Luther’s point is that all Christians are equal because they all they all follow Christianity in the same way as the Popes, priests, and bishops. But that doesn’t mean that any Christian is able to be a priest or Pope. What Luther’s means is that they are to be concerned with what their job is and for the Popes that is focus on the scriptures and God.
Luther attacks the second wall, which is that no one may interpret the scriptures but the Pope. Luther’s main point is that the Pope isn’t the only person able to read the scriptures. He writes, “Has not the Pope often erred?” Here Luther implies that the Pope isn’t God, and that he makes mistakes. The Pope, therefore, can misinterpret the Bible. Luther shows that the Pope is like everyone else, so therefore others can interpret the scriptures as well. Luther then uses the Bible as a way to prove the second wall wrong. Luther quotes Christ’s words, “And they shall be all taught of God”(St. John vi. 45). Everyone should be able to interpret the scriptures and be taught of God, without the Pope’s help.
For the third wall, “that no one may call a council but the Pope,” Luther uses the same tactics to build his argument. Those tactics are quoting the Bible and degrading the Pope. Luther brings up that St. Peter wasn’t the only person to call a council: “Thus we read (Acts xv) that the council of the Apostles was not called by St. Peter, but by all the Apostles and the elders.” Also, nowhere in the scriptures does it say that the Pope is allowed to call a council by himself: “Moreover, they can show nothing in the Scriptures giving the Pope sole power to call and confirm councils…” Another point that Luther preaches about is that “There is no authority in the Church but for reformation.” Luther’s point is that the Church has no authority and that they should not listen to the Pope when he denies a free council.

During these three walls’ arguments, Luther has a passionate tone about the Pope, and how he is evil. Luther say, “we must despise this as the doings of a madman.” Luther constantly brings up how the Pope is a force of evil, and that they should not listen to him. Another example of when he brings up the point of the Pope being evil is when he calls him a “devil…” Luther uses this tactic throughout his argument to help persuade the people.
After Luther’s argument, many people of the church wanted to catch Martin Luther and put him to death. Luckily, Luther had a friend who sheltered him in his fortress for a few years to make sure that nothing would happen to him. Years later, this was a pivotal point for the reformation, and Luther was a major factor on making sure that the reformation happened. Martin Luther died in 1546, but he was known throughout almost all of Europe for what he did for the reformation.

Here is a link to the full primary source of Martin Luther: http://www.fordham.edu/Halsall/mod/luther-nobility.asp

Works Cited:
Luther, Martin. “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation.” Trans. C. A. Buchheim. 1520. Internet Modern History Sourcebook. Ed. Paul Halsall. Fordham University, 1998. Web. 3 Nov. 2011.

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