During the Renaissance period, the Catholic Church was very different than it is today. The pope lived like a king, and the church was the largest land owner. At this time the church believed that everyone was a sinner, and that sins could only be forgiven by a priest. The parishioners were told that if thy died and were not forgiven for their sins that they would remain in purgatory, which was half-way to heaven. Priests told their followers that they could buy their way straight into heaven by purchasing a piece of paper called an indulgence. In essence, the indulgence removed the sins.
Then in 1517, Pope Leo needed money to rebuild St. Peter's Church in Rome. He authorized a monk named Johann Tetzel to travel throughout Germany selling indulgences. This angered Martin Luther, who responded by writing his “95 Theses” (statements). His Theses outlined everything that was corrupt about the Catholic Church. Luther nailed the document of the front door of the to the Wittenburg Church. At the time he was a professor of theology at Wittenburg University. The Catholic Church believed that only priest could interpret the Bible. Luther believed that the only way to understand the God's intent was by studying the Bible themselves. Further complicating things, the bibles were all printed in Latin or Greek, which the common people could not understand. His idea was called “sola scriptura,” and it put the church and Martin Luther on a collision course. Before long, Luther's movement gained traction when the printing press was invented. Over the next 30 years he produced books, pamphlets, and sermons that reached an enormous audience.
Then in January 1521, Charles V had had enough of Luther and he ordered him to defend his ideas at the Diet of Worms. Martin Luther was to appear before an assortment of German politicians and a representative of the pope. Luther had already been sentenced to death as a heretic and would be in immediate danger if he left Saxony. As a result, King Charles provided him with an escort to Worms. All along the way he was cheered by huge crowds and soon everyone realized how popular he had become. When Luther arrived in Worms he was unrepentant. Consequently, the Diet of Worms declared him a heretic. His life was now in danger, so Luther went into hiding for the next eight months. Luther was now an outcast of the Catholic Church, so he started one of his own that was called Lutheranism. He maintained the traditional structure of bishops and clergy. Not long afterward Lutheranism was embraced by rulers throughout Germany and he developed a tremendous following. In 1529, the second Diet of Speyer outlawed Lutheranism. Immediately following the decision six Lutheran princes and 14 cities signed a letter of protest. This is where the word Protestant originated.
In 1531, John Calvin emerged as the leader of the Swiss Reformation. He believed in predestination. Calvin believed that God had predestined some to be saved while others were predestined to be damned. He also believed that this could not be changed. Then in 1542, Calvin was invited to set up a protestant church in Geneva. He made gambling, swearing, dancing, and just about anything fun illegal. He also did away with bishops, popes, and the other clergy members. Ministers were chosen by their congregation. Just a short time later, John Knox who was directly influenced by Calvin, led the Reformation in Scotland, and established the Presbyterian religion.