Religious Authority In Martin Luther's 95 Theses

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When making decisions regarding who to choose as our next elected officials, one of the first qualities we scrutinize is their judgment, using our own judgment to do so. However, in a nonsecular society in which judgment of a religious authority is essentially the judgment of a divine power, there is significantly less room for scrutiny. The authority of any figure with political power stems from the judgment of the community over which it rules. For instance, if the community believes in the absolute authority of God, then the judgment of God is what gives the judgment of the church or any religious leader authority. A large aspect of the authority that made the Catholic Church such a prominent religious and political force during the early 16th century was called into question by Martin Luther. In his 95 Theses, Luther asserts that “those who preach indulgences are in error” (Luther, Thesis 21) and that the pope does not have “the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed at his own discretion or by …show more content…

By questioning the sale of indulgences and arguing that the pope does not have complete authority over forgiveness of sins and, to a larger extent, salvation, Luther established a precedent for the word of the Church to be called into question rather than it having absolute authority. Given that Luther opens his 95 Theses with “out of love and concern for the truth,” it is clear that his intentions are not necessarily to completely undermine the authority of the Catholic Church, but rather to open a dialogue between the Catholic Church and its faithful on what is actually true in regards to God. The collective judgment of the Catholic community, particularly those who did not have positions of power in the Church, would then have a much greater effect on the direction in which the Catholic Church took than it would have before Luther’s 95 Theses.

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