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Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was the first and most prominent leader of a reform movement in sixteenth century Christianity, subsequently known as the Protestant Reformation. Essentially, Luther sought to recover core New Testament teachings that he claimed had been obscured by corruption and worldly traditions of medieval Catholicism. In particular, Luther opposed the idea, popularized by certain indulgence-sellers of his day, that one could buy salvation through monetary donations to the Church. Ever against this, Luther held that human beings could be saved by faith alone (sola fides).

He came to this understanding over the course of a long and tortuous personal struggle. Having resolved his inner conflicts by means of an "evangelical breakthrough," Luther began a public ministry that altered the course of Christianity and European history.

Early life

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany, the son of Hans and Margaretha Luther. He was of peasant stock though his father had risen from the peasantry to own a copper mine. Two major influences characterized Luther's upbringing. One was the severity of his parents and early teachers. Their punishments, which included beatings, may have been typical of the historical period in which he was raised. Nevertheless, Luther's anxiety and fear of God as a severe judge was at least in part the result of his experience at home and in school. Luther, himself, later stated that the harshness and severity of the life he led compelled him later to run away to a monastery and become a monk.

Martin Luther's residence from ages 14 to 17 in Eisenach, Germany.

The second important influence upon Luther's upbringing was education. His father was ambitious for Martin and desired that he pursue a career in law. Having studied at schools in Mansfield, Magdenburg, and Eisenach, Luther entered the University of Erfurt in 1501. In 1502, he received the degree of bachelor of philosophy and in January 1505, graduated as a master of arts. The University of Erfurt was self-consciously modern, a leading light of the humanist movement in Germany, enthusiastically committed to the study of the Bible and church fathers in the original Greek and correspondingly critical of medieval scholastic theology. Luther entered the law school at Erfurt in May 1505. Then, in July, he suddenly abandoned his legal studies and entered a monastery of Augustinian friars.

Struggle to find peace with God

According to tradition, a near brush with death during a fierce thunderstorm was the immediate cause of Luther entering the cloister. He is reputed to have cried out, "St. Anne help me! I will become a monk." Others referred to his despondency over the death of a close friend. At a deeper level, Luther took monastic vows in order to cope with a pervasive sense of personal sinfulness and accompanying fear of an all-powerful, all-righteous God. Unfortunately, Luther's monastic sojourn accentuated rather than resolved his anxiety. Brother Martin fully dedicated himself to life in the monastery, the effort to do good works to please God, and to serve others through prayer. Yet peace with God eluded him. He devoted himself to fasts, flagellations, long hours in prayer and pilgrimage, and constant confession. The more he tried to do for God, it seemed, the more aware he became of his sinfulness. His superior, Johann von Staupitz, advised him to study the mystics, following their path of surrender to the love of God. However, on self-examination, Luther found what he felt for God was not love but hatred. Luther's spiritual crisis had thereby driven him to commit blasphemy, which for him was the unpardonable sin.

Evangelical breakthrough

Rather than counseling him out of the Augustinian order, Staupitz took the bold step of ordering Luther to study for his doctor's degree, to begin preaching and to assume the chair of Bible at the recently established University of Wittenberg. By serving others, Staupitz reasoned, Luther might best address his own problems. In 1507, Luther was ordained to the priesthood. In 1508, he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther earned his bachelor's degree in biblical studies on March 9, 1508 and a bachelor's degree in the Sentences by Peter Lombard, the main textbook of theology in the Middle Ages, in 1509. On October 19, 1512, Martin Luther became a doctor of theology, more specifically Doctor in Biblia, and became university professor of Bible. He offered exegetical lectures on Psalms (1513-1515), Romans (1515-1516), Galatians (1516-1517), and Hebrews (1517-1518). In 1512, he was appointed director of studies in his Augustinian cloister, and in 1515, was made district vicar in charge of eleven monasteries. In 1511, he began preaching within the cloister and in 1514, to the Wittenberg parish church.

Luther's "evangelical breakthrough" did not come all at once, but unfolded within the context of his teaching and pastoral responsibilities. However, a turning point came in 1515, when he was lecturing on Romans, in particular the passage on the "righteousness of God" (1:17). Luther previously regarded God's righteousness as an impossible standard by which human beings were punished. Now, based on his immersion in Psalms and Romans, he came to see that the righteousness of God was a gift to be received. Christ, through the cross, had taken on all human iniquity and desolation. To be righteous, one simply needed to accept this. Luther, following Saint Paul, affirmed that one who is righteous through faith "shall live." Once he understood that human beings were "justified" before God by faith and not works, Luther wrote, "I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise."

At around about the time that he was writing his lectures on the Psalms, Luther experienced what he himself describes as the pivotal event of his life. This is known as the "revelation in the tower." The tower appears to refer to the monks' secret room, which may have been a toilet1 In his psychological study of Luther, Erik H. Erikson (1993) identifies this experience as one that transformed Luther from a "highly restrained and retentive individual" into an "explosive person" (206). This transformation may have been spiritual and psychological, but also physical-since until this experience Luther had suffered from constipation and urinal problems. However, he was also struggling with his father's disappointment as well as with his hatred for the justice of God. Erikson says that the revelation in the tower occurred after Luther had a dream of an early death, and that it represented recovery from a deep depression. His subsequent redefinition of the relationship between God and Man "has striking configurations with the inner dynamic" of people who "recover from psychic distress" (206). Erikson says that Luther underwent the type of "sudden inner freedom… a cleansing… a kicking away" (205) comparable with Saint Paul's or Augustine's conversion. He refers four times in his writing at this time to Augustine's' conversion. Of course, faithful Christian believers often find this sort of "psychologizing" as incapable of grasping the simple truth of "rebirth" known clearly to millions of Christian believers, from the most simple to the most highly educated.

Luther came to regard this experience as his evangelical breakthrough, which was nothing less than the recovery of the authentic Christian gospel as one that transformed his attitude toward God. He wrote, "Whereas the 'justice of God' had filled me with hate, it now became to me inexpressibly sweet." It also transformed his life. Internally, gratitude rather than compulsion served as the source of motivation for his work. Externally, Luther's breakthrough set him on a collision course with medieval Catholicism.

The indulgence controversy

In 1510, Luther went on a pilgrimage to Rome. This visit contributed significantly to his growing disillusionment with the power that the Catholic Church exercised over the people. He saw hundreds of people spending the little money they had to buy indulgences (remission from sin) for their deceased relatives. Initially, he did not perceive the challenge that his view of salvation presented to the Church. However, he did see the inconsistency between justification by faith alone and some of the major tenets of medieval scholastic theology. In September 1517, he prepared a Disputation Against Scholastic Theology, in the form of 97 theses, which attacked the idea that believers could be justified before God on the basis of their works. Luther's position was favorably received by colleagues at the university but did not spark any wider debate. Later that year, Luther wrote another set of 95 theses which he expected would have no more impact than the previous set did. His 95 theses, which attacked the practice of selling indulgences, produced a firestorm which ignited the Protestant Reformation.

Controversy over Luther's 95 theses was less due to their theological content than to the fact that they struck a political nerve. Indulgences were a time-honored component of the Catholic penitential system. Technically, an indulgence was a remission of temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven. According to Catholic theology, the sacrament of baptism not only removes all the guilt from sin but also all penalties attached to sin. In the sacrament of penance the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. The Church possesses the extra-sacramental power to remit these punishments through indulgences based on the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints. The ancient and early medieval church emphasized the spiritual conditions necessary for granting indulgences. However, in the later medieval period, the selling of indulgences became an important source of Church revenue. By Luther's time, the situation had become extreme.

Luther's attack on indulgences, occasioned by a Church-wide campaign to raise funds for the completion of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, galvanized opponents of the practice and threatened the financial interests of the Pope and church. The 95 Theses were quickly translated into German, widely copied and printed. Within two weeks they had spread throughout Germany, and within two months throughout Europe. This was one of the first events in history that was profoundly affected by the printing press, which made the distribution of documents easier and more widespread. For his part, Luther naively sent a copy of his theses to the archbishop of Mainz who was using his share from indulgence-selling in Germany to obtain a dispensation from the Pope allowing him to hold two bishoprics. The archbishop, who forwarded the theses to Rome, lodged formal charges against Luther in early 1518.

The breach widens

Pope Leo X initially dismissed Luther as "a drunken German who wrote the Theses," and, "when sober will change his mind." As a consequence, he was willing to have the Augustinians deal with the meddlesome monk at their chapter meeting in April 1518. Luther traveled incognito to Heidelberg, having been warned of the possibility of assassination along the road. However, to his surprise, he was well-received and returned as if from a triumph. This emboldened Luther to question the primacy of the Roman Church and the power of excommunication. He then affirmed that popes and councils might err and that the only final authority was scripture. Soon afterwards, Luther was ordered to appear in Rome to answer charges of heresy. Due to the intervention of Luther's territorial ruler, Fredrick the Wise, the proceedings were transferred to Germany. Luther's interview with Cardinal Cajetan, the papal legate, at Augsburg, was inconclusive. Luther refused to recant, wrote that the cardinal was no more fitted to handle the case than "an ass to play on a harp," and issued an appeal that a general council hear his case.

At this point, the Pope adopted a conciliatory policy due to the political climate following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian, in early 1519. The German electors, though preferring one of their own, were reconciled to accept the head of one of the great powers, either Francis I of France or Charles V of Spain. However, the pope objected to them both on the grounds that either's election would upset the balance of power upon which the church's security rested. Instead the pope favored Fredrick the Wise, Luther's territorial lord. Given this circumstance, the pope needed to tread lightly with respect to Fredrick's prized professor. He assigned Carl von Militz, a relative of Fredrick, as an assistant to Cajetan with the mission of keeping Luther quiet until the election was settled. Unfortunately, for those pursuing conciliation, Luther was drawn into a debate between the Universities of Leipzig and Wittenberg. There, in debate with Johann Eck, a professor of theology at Ingolstadt, Luther maintained "A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope of council without it… For the sake of Scripture we should reject pope and councils." Eck also baited Luther into defending the Bohemian "heretic" John Hus.

With the election of Charles V as the new emperor (Fredrick voted against himself), proceedings against Luther resumed. In June 1520, Leo X issued the papal bull Exsurge Domine (Arise, O Lord) which stated, "A wild boar has invaded thy vineyard." The bull condemned 41 sentences from Luther's writings as "heretical, offensive, scandalous for pious ears, corrupting for simple minds and contradictory to Catholic teaching." Luther's books, which contained "these errors," were "to be examined and burned." Luther was given 60 days to recant, dating from the time of publication of the bull in his district. It took three months for the bull to reach Luther, its publication being prohibited in Wittenberg and its reception resisted in large parts of Germany. Luther's response was to burn the bull publicly on December 10, 1520. At this point, the breech between Luther and Rome was irreparable.

The treatises of 1520

Luther produced three hugely influential tracts during 1520 that further amplified his thinking and set his agenda for ecclesiastical reform. In To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Luther expressed his convictions about the "priesthood of all believers." He announced his intention of attacking the "three walls" by which the Romanists had protected themselves and hindered reform. The first wall, that the temporal has no authority over the spiritual and that "the spiritual power is above the temporal," Luther declared was overthrown in that all believers were priests by virtue of their baptism. The second wall, that no one may interpret scripture except the pope, he likewise claimed was baseless, as all priests had the power of discerning what is right or wrong in matters of faith. The third wall, that no one may call a council but the pope, Luther said, "falls of itself, as soon as the first two have fallen." If the pope acts contrary to scripture and is an offense to Christendom, there needed to be a "truly free council" which Luther maintained could only be summoned by temporal authorities, whom he noted were "fellow Christians" and "fellow priests." Luther proceeded to attack papal misgovernment and annates (taxes), called for a "primate of Germany," declared that clerical marriage should be permitted, "far too numerous holy days" reduced, and held that beggary, including that of monks, ought to be forbidden. In all of these calls, Luther voiced sentiments that were widely held among Germans.

Luther's next tract, on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, addressed the seven sacraments of the medieval church. Luther maintained that only two of them, baptism and the Lord's Supper, were instituted by Christ. He thought penance-contrition, confession, absolution-had value as a relief to distressed consciences. However, he attacked monastic vows, pilgrimages, and works of merit as "man-made substitutes" for the divine word of forgiveness. The other Roman sacraments-confirmation, matrimony, clerical orders, and extreme unction-he maintained, had no sacramental standing in scripture.

Luther's third major tract of 1520, The Freedom of a Christian, laid out his ethical vision. In so doing, Luther employed a central paradox. As he expressed it, "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none; a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all." Essentially, Luther attempted to show that the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fides) was not incompatible with Christian love and service. According to Luther, "Faith is enough for the Christian man. He has no need for works to be made just." In this respect, a Christian was "perfectly free." However, this was not an invitation "to be lazy or loose." The Christian also was also "subject to all" after the manner of Christ who "emptied himself, taking the form of servant." Speaking in the first person, Luther stated, "I will give myself as a sort of Christ to my neighbor… and even take to myself the sins of others as Christ took mine to himself." Accounting himself, "justified and acceptable to God, although there are in me sin, unrighteousness, and horror of death," Luther insisted, "Good works do not produce a good man, but a good man does good work."

Excommunication

Luther prefaced The Freedom of a Christian with a letter in which he addressed Pope Leo X with deference, but blasted the Roman curia as "pestilent, hateful, and corrupt… more impious than the Turk." If these sentiments were designed to promote conciliation, they fell well short. On January 3, 1521, Leo X issued a bull of excommunication, Decet Pontificaem Romanum (It Pleases the Roman Pontiff). It now was the responsibility of civil authorities to exact the ecclesiastical condemnation. However, because Luther had ignited a popular movement, because Fredrick the Wise worked to achieve Luther's call for a fair hearing, and because Charles V was unwilling to alienate the Germans and saw the possibility of using Luther to extract concessions from the pope, it was agreed that Luther would be summoned to appear before the emperor and German Reichstag under the protection of an imperial safe-conduct.

Diet of Worms

Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms on April 16, 1521. Johann Eck, an assistant of Archbishop of Trier (not the Eck of the Leipzig debate), presented Luther with a table filled with copies of his writings. Eck asked Luther if the books were his and if he would recant their content. Luther requested time to think about his answer. It was granted. Luther prayed, consulted with friends and mediators and presented himself before the Diet the next day. When the matter came before the Diet the next day, Counselor Eck asked Luther to plainly answer the question. Luther subsequently launched into a lengthy differentiation among his works, some of which discussed evangelical topics, others of which inveighed "against the desolation of the Christian world by the evil lives and teachings of the papists," and some of which contained "attacks on private individuals." However, when pressed, Luther refused to abjure anything, concluding with the memorable statement, "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe." Traditionally, Luther is remembered to have ended by speaking the words, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."

Over the next few days, private conferences were held to determine Luther's fate. Before a decision was reached, Luther left Worms. During his return to Wittenberg, he disappeared. The Emperor issued the Edict of Worms on May 25, 1521, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw and a heretic and banning his literature.

Exile at the Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.

Luther's disappearance during his return trip was planned. Frederick the Wise arranged for Luther to be seized on his way from the Diet by a company of masked horsemen, who carried him to Wartburg Castle at Eisenach, where he stayed for nearly a year. He grew a wide flaring beard, took on the garb of a knight, and assumed the pseudonym Junker Jörg (Knight George).

Martin Luther's room at Wartburg Castle, c. 1900

During the period of his enforced absence, leadership of the reform cause in Wittenberg passed to Philip Melanchthon, a professor of Greek at the university; Andreas Carlstadt, a professor and archdeacon at the Castle Church; and Gabriel Zwilling, a monk of Luther's Augustinian monastic order. Ironically, rather than slowing down, the pace of reform quickened and moved from theological debate to changes which affected people's daily religious lives. Priests, nuns, and monks married. Communicants received the elements in both kinds, i.e., wine as well as bread. Priests led services without vestments and recited portions of the mass in German rather than Latin. Masses for the dead were challenged; meat was eaten on fast days. Students from the university smashed images. Monks left the cloister.

Luther took advantage of his exile, "my Patmos" as he called it in letters, to undertake his celebrated translation of the New Testament into German. However, he also communicated by letter to friends and allies who requested his views and advice. By and large, Luther supported the changes taking place. His tract, Concerning Monastic Vows, took the position that there was no scriptural foundation for monastic vows and that there was no such "special religious vocation." Another tract, On the Abolition of Private Mass, argued that the mass did not repeat the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and called upon Fredrick the Wise to abolish all endowed private masses for which twenty-five priests had been employed in Wittenberg's Castle Church. However, Luther drew the line at popular violence. The Antichrist, he warned, "is to be broken without the hand of man. Violence will only make him stronger." As he put it, "Preach, pray, but do not do not fight." Luther did not rule out all constraint. He simply maintained that it must be exercised by duly constituted authority. Unfortunately, the duly constituted authorities did not appear capable of stemming the rising tide of turmoil. At this juncture, the Wittenberg town council issued a formal invitation for Luther to return.

Return to Wittenberg and the Invocavit Sermons

Although under an imperial ban, which meant that he was subject to capture and death by anyone anywhere, Luther returned to Wittenberg on March 6, 1522. For eight days beginning on March 9, Invocavit Sunday, and concluding on the following Sunday, Luther preached eight sermons that would become known as the "Invocavit Sermons." In these sermons, Luther counseled careful reform that took into consideration the consciences of those who were not yet persuaded to embrace reform. Noting that it took "three years of constant study, reflection, and discussion" to arrive where he was, Luther questioned whether "the common man, untutored in such matters could be expected to move the same distance in three months." Luther's presence and sermons succeeded in quelling unrest. Zwilling and Carlstadt agreed to take up pastorates elsewhere. Reform in Wittenberg was firmly in Luther's hands.

Luther's return from Wartburg Castle marked a turning point in his career. Essentially, he moved from being a revolutionary to being a builder. In the coming years, Luther further clarified his theology; offered guidelines for ecclesiastical reform; refined his translation of the New Testament and completed his German translation of the Hebrew Bible; produced a Large Catechism for adults and a Small Catechism for children; revised liturgy; composed hymns; delivered sermons (2,300 are extant); and articulated a distinctive pattern of church-state relations. Unfortunately, Luther was less effective as a manager than he was as an instigator of the Reformation. His stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise, traits that served him admirably in his conflict with Rome, were not well suited to the task of welding together a unified movement composed of disparate parts. This was especially unfortunate since the reformers possessed a window of opportunity due to the Emperor's preoccupation with the advance of the Turks and consequent need to mollify reform-minded German princes such as Luther's protector, Fredrick the Wise. Despite this advantage, controversy and division became increasingly common, as Luther clashed with other reformers. This led to controversy and division. As a consequence, the reform movement, of which Luther was the putative head, became increasingly fragmented.

Defection of the Humanists

Renaissance humanists, intellectuals, and moderate reform-minded Catholics afforded Luther an early base of support. They secretly translated the 95 Theses from Latin into German and saw to it that they were spread across Europe by means of the recently invented movable-type printing press. As proponents of "new learning," humanists deeply believed in the freedom of inquiry and supported efforts to read the Bible in its original biblical languages as a way to revive Christianity. They opposed indulgences, pilgrimages, and masses for the dead, in short, the whole "mechanical side" of the Church, which they regarded as little more than Judaic legalism or superstition. At the same time, there were points of tension between humanist and Lutheran reform programs, which led to their eventual separation. Disagreement over the nature of human beings, Luther's virulent polemics, and the mutual roles of theology and ethics doomed any hopes of mounting a common cause.

These disagreements came to a head in the parting of the ways between Luther and Erasmus (1466-1536), the leading Christian humanist of the period. Erasmus provided discreet support for Luther, intervening on his behalf with princes of the state and church, while attempting to be outwardly neutral. For his part, Luther was a great admirer of Erasmus, in particular, Erasmus' 1516 publication of the New Testament in the original Greek. In his first letter to Erasmus, Luther termed him "Our delight and our hope," even going so far from 1517-19 as to adopt the humanist fad of Hellenizing vernacular names, calling himself "Elutherius" or "the free man." Their mutual admiration, however, became a casualty of the increasingly polarized times. Erasmus, given his international repute, was pressed to take a definitive stance on Luther, which led to an irreparable split.

Erasmus, in On the Freedom of the Will (1524), argued in favor of the late medieval church view that the human will and God's grace cooperated in the process of salvation. This ran counter to Luther's emphasis on sola fides and he answered Erasmus with a point-by-point refutation in On the Bondage of the Human Will (1525). Declaring himself to be a predestinarian, Luther upheld humankind's absolute dependence on God's grace. Had their dispute remained theological, it may have been contained. However, Luther proceeded, in characteristic fashion, to hurl all manner of rude epithets at Erasmus to which the learned humanist replied: "How do your scurrilous charges that I am an atheist, an Epicurean and a skeptic, help your argument?" This underscored Erasmus' more basic concern that Luther's acrimony was incongruent with the spirit of the apostles and divided Christian Europe into armed camps. He was especially unnerved by the way Luther enlisted the support of the German princes. Affirming an ethical rather than a dogmatic interpretation of Christian faith, Erasmus and his party came to view themselves as a "third church" alternative to Romanism and Lutheranism.

Struggle with radical spiritualists

Whereas Erasmus and other humanists viewed Luther as a source of tumult, radical spiritualists regarded him as a "halfway" reformer. Luther's old associate, Andreas Carlstadt, having taken a parsonage outside of Wittenberg, attacked the use of all "externals" in religion, such as art or music. Eventually, Carlstadt's position radicalized to the point that he denied the real presence of Christ in the sacrament. Thomas Müntzer (1488-1525), an early follower of Luther, was even more radical. Müntzer advanced a thoroughgoing spiritualism, which held the Bible was secondary to religious experience, including dreams and revelations. In this vein, Müntzer attacked Romanists and Lutherans as "scribes" who suppressed the "inner word" of the spirit. He also rejected traditional baptism, holding that the "inner" baptism of the spirit was the only true baptism. He taunted Luther as "Dr. Easychair and Dr. Pussyfoot," criticizing the "easygoing flesh of Wittenberg." Müntzer's goal was to build a "new apostolic church" of the elect who would bring about a new social order, by bloodshed if necessary.

Luther termed Carlstadt and Müntzer, and others of their persuasion, Schwarmer or "fanatics." He warned the princes of Saxony that they were responsible to keep the peace and acquiesced in the banishment of Carlstadt from Saxony. Müntzer, after preaching to the Saxon princes that they needed a "new Daniel" to inform them of the "leadings of the spirit" and to "wipe out the ungodly," escaped over the walls of his city by night and fled Saxony. Rejecting both the papal monarchy and spiritualist theocracies, Luther sought to steer a "middle way" between papists to the right and sectaries to the left.

The Peasants' War

The Peasants' War (1524-1525) was in many ways a response to the preaching of Luther and others. Revolts by the peasantry had existed on a small scale since the fourteenth century, but many peasants mistakenly believed that Luther's attack on the Church and the hierarchy meant that the reformers would support an attack on the social hierarchy as well, because of the close ties between the secular princes and the princes of the Church that Luther condemned. Revolts that broke out in Swabia, Franconia, and Thuringia in 1524 gained support among peasants and disaffected nobles, many of whom were in debt at that period. Gaining momentum and a new leader in Thomas Müntzer, the revolts turned into an all-out war, the experience of which played an important role in the founding of the Anabaptist movement.

Initially, Luther seemed to many to support the peasants, condemning the oppressive practices of the nobility that had incited many of the peasants. As the war continued, and especially as atrocities at the hands of the peasants increased, Luther turned forcefully against the revolt. Some have suggested that since Luther relied on support and protection from the princes, he was afraid of alienating them. However, Luther's altered stance was consistent with his conservative political philosophy. To Luther, all political revolution was rebellion against God in that it threatened the social order that God had ordained. Whatever his motivation, Luther's tract, Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants (1525), encouraged the nobility to visit swift and bloody punishment upon the peasants, advising the princes to "crush, stab, smite, slay all you can; you will win heaven more easily by bloodshed than prayer." The war in Germany ended in 1525, when the armies of the Swabian League slaughtered rebel forces.

Luther, of course, was considered to have betrayed

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