The Protestant Reformation was a significant occurrence in the history of religion that transformed perspectives on religion and witnessed reforms of the Catholic Church. Martin Luther in the German states and King Henry VIII in England were significant individuals who rose during the Reformation and whose actions profoundly made an impact on various aspects. Despite the similar endeavors of Martin Luther and King Henry VIII in diverging from the Catholic Church, their motivations for their actions significantly contrast.
Martin Luther and King Henry VIII both promoted religious reform in the Catholic Church and were similar in a few aspects in their attempts in diverging from the church. Due to the fact that both Luther and Henry VIII disapproved of the amount of power and authority the church had and denied the supremacy of the Pope, they both created something that separated them from the Catholic Church. Luther founded Lutheranism that became confirmed as an official faith of northern Germany by the Peace of Augsburg. Similarly, King Henry VIII began a new religion known as Anglicanism which was made the official religion of England by the Supremacy Act. His formation of the Anglican Church diverged from Catholics.
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Additionally, both Luther’s and Henry VIII’s used political influence and authority to renounce the papacy and promote reform. Political power enabled them to convert the people to their religion and become separated from the church. Henry VIII used political power to establish the Church of England, and Luther used political influence to gain and earn support to bring about his reform. He expresses this in An Appeal to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation which called for the involvement of authorities and the ruling class in Germany in reforming the church. Furthermore, as a result of Luther’s condemnation of indulgences, and the pope and his absolute authority and power, he wrote treatises to evoke sympathy from German publics and princes.
He appealed to the German princes to implement his ideas, and many German princes and their subjects converted to Lutheranism. Similarly, King Henry VIII used administrative power to pass bills through Parliament, including the Act in Restraint of Appeals and the Supremacy Act. The Acts of Supremacy established King Henry VIII of England as the supreme head of the Church of England, which created the Church of England. Due to his association with Parliament, King Henry VIII was able to change England’s religion. Luther and Henry VIII had similar ways of achieving reform in the Catholic Church.
However, although both Martin Luther and King Henry VIII resisted the Catholic Church and had similar in the way of diverging from it, they had differing and opposing motives. Luther encouraged religious reform because he believed that the Catholic Church was corrupted and immoral and was using its power and authority inappropriately. He condemned the corruption of the selling of indulgences and the emphasis of the achievement of salvation through faith alone in his publication of his 95 Theses. On the other hand, King Henry VIII decided to diverge from the supremacy of the Pope and the Catholic Church when Pope Clement VII refused to grant him an annulment of the marriage he had with Catherine of Aragon. Henry VIII wanted an annulment because Catherine couldn’t bear him a male heir and successor, which Henry desperately wanted. Henry VIII focused more on the wealth associated with religion and emphasized gaining power and stability for England, while Martin Luther was interested in correcting the abuse of the Catholic church.
Luther’s motive for reforming the church was not personal, and promoted reform as a result of his frustration with the corrupt practices of the church and his desire to expose the church and papal corruption while Henry had a personal issue with the church and his motive because of the Pope’s refusal to grant him an annulment. However, the English Reformation was primarily motivated by political factors surrounding Henry VIII’s desires to be granted a divorce. He was primarily motivated by his personal life and personal gain. Henry VIII, unlike Luther, was primarily concerned with establishing political authority over the church so that he could acquire an annulment. Contrastingly, Henry VIII’s initiated reform for political motivations while Luther initiated reform for religious motivations.
Both Martin Luther and King Henry VIII had similar actions in diverging from the church and attempting to encourage religious reform in the Catholic Church, yet had differing motives for their actions. Luther and Henry VIII disliked and opposed the Catholic Church, and Luther hoped to initiate reform within the Catholic church whereas Henry broke his ties with the Roman Catholic Church. However, both Martin Luther and King Henry VIII laid the foundation for entirely new denominations and made an influence on not only Europe but the entire world.
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