As revolutions go, the Reformation was a darn good one. It upset a lot of apple carts. From Simon Black at sovereignman.com:
500 years ago to the day, on October 31, 1517, a German monk of the Augustinian order named Martin Luther sent a letter to his Archbishop expressing concern about certain practices of Church officials.
In Luther’s era it had become typical for clergymen to sell ‘indulgences’ to anyone who wanted to be pardoned for sins.
Martin Luther felt this practice was a terrible affront to Christian doctrine, so he sent a letter up the chain of command outlining 95 logical points in his argument.
Luther’s letter was hardly a revolutionary work. He was polite. Formal. Almost apologetic.
He actually asks forgiveness of the Archbisop for having “dared to think of a letter to the height of your Sublimity.”
And yet this letter is responsible for kicking off one of the most important social transformations in all of human history, what we now call the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation was ultimately about rejection of central authority… specifically, the Church.
When the fall of Rome in the 5th century AD left a power vacuum across Western Europe, it was the Catholic Church that stepped in to fill this void.
By the 1500s the Church had firmly cemented its influence over nearly every aspect of life– commerce, politics, economics, family affairs, war, social trends, etc.
At the core of the Church’s power was its theological monopoly.
Remember that the Bible was written in Latin back then… a language that few commoners could speak, let alone read. So Church officials had uncontested control over their flock.
Imagine that benevolent space aliens came to Earth tomorrow morning brandishing a book filled with hidden secrets of the universe.
Sounds exciting. Except that the book is only written in their alien language. So anyone who wanted to understand the secrets would have no choice but to listen to the aliens.
The Church had this same authority 500 years ago… though there was already a growing constituency that had become tired of blind obedience.
Martin Luther became the champion of Catholics who were weary of Church authority.
To continue reading: 500 Years Later… The Revolution Is Just Beginning