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How far was Luther's message used by different groups across Germany to advance their own cause between 1517 and 1531?

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Introduction

How far was Luther's message used by different groups across Germany to advance their own cause between 1517 and 1531? Luther's message was considered hugely radical during its time, eventually leading to a schism within the church, though this was clearly not Luther's original aim (the 95 Theses indicate desire for reformation of the old Church, not development of a new one). Yet with the development of the printing press the message managed to reach and appeal to many different kinds of people throughout Germany. It was so appealing due to its focus on individual worship as opposed to dependence on the Church. The ideas of Sola Fide (salvation by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (the importance of the word of God, given through the bible) and priesthood of all believers (the idea that every person was in charge of their own beliefs and did not need a priest to act on their behalf) were inviting because they returned to the root of Christianity. The message appealed to the growing anti papal and anti clerical feelings in society that were emerging due to the corruption of the Church, for example the selling of indulgences. ...read more.

Middle

Adopting Luther's message prevented this, and for some also brought about material gains through looting in the Knights War (1522), so in this way the knights used Luther's message to quite a large extent to advance their economic cause. The princes also made financial gains through Luther's message, which in turn led to an increase in power and independence. By accepting Lutheranism the princes could use the money that would have been spent on taxes to Rome on their own cause, for example military protection. However the princes were not just using Luther's message to economically advance their own cause, 60% of the value of the monastic lands was given back to charity, for example funding for the poor. Philip of Hesse built schools, a hospital and a university, which strongly complies with the Lutheran doctrine, and hence lessens the extent to which the princes were using Luther's message for their own cause, and increases the extent to which they were simply putting it into practice. However it could be argued that doing so was a way to advance their own cause as it increased reputation and status, but this is more subtle and hence harder to prove. ...read more.

Conclusion

The peasants had strong religious interest in Luther's message, which is evident in the Twelve Articles. They wanted to follow the religion that suited them due to its doctrines of Sola Fide, the purity of a return to scripture and the ability to elect their own minister. They believed in Luther's spiritual message and as a result attempted to advance not only their religious cause, but their social, political and economic causes also to a great extent, believing that all were connected. In conclusion Luther's message was used to various extents by different groups to advance their own cause. The knights and the peasants actively used Luther's message (the former through propaganda and the Knights War, the latter with the Twelve Articles and the Peasants Rebellion) in an attempt to improve their economic, political and social positions in society. The emphasis was on the cause as opposed to care for the message. Yet these attempts were not ultimately successful. In contrast the higher status cities and princes did not have to adapt Luther's message in such a way to advance their own cause. For these groups just adopting Lutheranism was enough to somewhat improve their standing. The degree to which Luther's message was used depended on the group's perception of the necessity of improvement for its cause. Lula Teunissen 07/05/07 ...read more.

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