The Protestant Reformation

The writings and actions of Martin Luther form a critical piece of history relative to the Astronomy Revolution, even though he was a Catholic monk desiring reforms within the Church. While he did not directly affect the science of Astronomy, his courage to speak out against the institution of the Roman Catholic Church. His courage to take such a stand was part of the reason why a Polish Canon named Nicholas Copernicus was able to take his stand. The material contained in this section is as unbiased an attempt as possible to present the truth in the history of the intervening years between Ptolemy's Almagast and de Revolutionibus ... a period of almost 1400 years. Whenever I teach this material in the classroom, I try to take every precaution to offend no one's religious beliefs or to cast my opinion in any fashion. I only hope to present the truth as accurately as possible. It is my greatest hope that you will be encouraged by the reading of the accounts of Martin Luther and Copernicus to believe that you too can make a difference in the world.

The Reformation is the result of the Martin Luther's 95 Theses in 1517 against the sale of indulgences.
It began at Diet of Wurms, Germany in 1521 because Luther would not recant his negative writings against the sale of indulgences as well as the papacy. He fled to Castle Wartburg for refuge, translated the Latin Bible into German, and the people read Scripture for themselves, and came to conclusions based upon what they read instead of what they were told. It was this act of courage against such a formidible institution as the Church that brought ab out a new attitude among the people and a willingness to look at the work around them in a different manner.

 

To see a more detailed account of the life of Dr. Martin Luther with nice pictures and anecdotal references, click on the image at right to go to the Wittenberg, Germany website and follow the links on that page or go forward to the story of Martin Luther.


Conclusion

Why is this account so central to the teaching of Astronomy. It is my strong opinion as a teacher that Martin Luther's boldness encouraged other people to take similar bold steps too. Martin Luther essentially translated the Bible from Latin into German and encouraged people to read the account for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Instead of taking the words of a priest or bishop as sole and final authority, one now could open a Bible in their own language, read and study, and make self-determination of the import of Scriptures. Soon afterward, Nicholas Copernicus was to make a bold statement contrary to the teachings of the Church. His rethinking of the order of the solar system opened the door for all mankind to study the world around them in a scientific manner. One needed only to look at the evidence in the natural world and make their own conclusion about how things above were ordered.

Two men, Martin Luther in 1521 and Nicholas Copernicus in 1543 encouraged people to look at the evidence for themselves and draw their own conclusions. The Protestant Reformation and the Copernican Revolution were perhaps one of the greatest turning points in the history of man. No longer would church leaders be called upon to interpret the creation from merely a Biblical foundation. Science leaped from the Dark Ages. Copernicus would rethink the geocentric model of Ptolemy, Kepler would correctly interpret the sky maps of Tycho Brahe and validate Copernicus, Galileo would visually confirm the Copernican model, and Isaac Newton would lay down the physical laws which govern the motions of the planets and their moons.

Now that you have finished this reading about the Protestant Reformation, you should return to the continuation of the history of Astronomy and learn what contribution Copernicus made, emboldened by the writings of Martin Luther. Click on Copernicus to continue this study, or return to the History Introduction, the Syllabus or even the Home page.


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