Rebel seeks Reformation stabilization

9 WEEKS BEFORE REFORMATION SUNDAY

Upon return to unfolding social and political disorder in Wittenberg during early 1522, Martin Luther the rebel monk now needed to become a force for stability.

Influenced by leaders like Andreas Karlstadt and Thomas Muntzer, Luther’s followers had turned to more radical measures. Throughout 1523-24, with powerful sermons and forceful writings, Luther took steps to oppose both men.

He chastised Karlstadt for ordering the destruction of religious icons and relics, part of a larger iconoclastic movement that had swept across northern Europe. Luther called for moderation in reforming the existing churches.

In the case of Muntzer, who had assumed leadership of an uprising of the German peasants against their rulers, Luther tried to intercede and urged economic reforms to meet peasant grievances. That failed. By the end of 1525, with Luther’s explicit backing, the peasant uprisings were brutally repressed.

In the end, Karlstadt turned away from the Reformation, and Muntzer was executed. In light of these tragic events and the threats they had posed, Luther came to believe more fervently than ever that orderly and peaceful change was essential for the Reformation to go forth.

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