Theological Debates in the Reformation
Russel Tarr outlines what was at issue in the clash between Catholics and Protestants.
The impact of Martin Luther's attack on the Catholic Church was cataclysmic. In the short term, Christendom was shaken to its foundations and so too were the social and political structures which had been built upon it. Even in the long term, the recent history of Northern Ireland illustrates how religious disagreements between Protestants and Catholics can still reach murderous proportions. The severity of these short- and long-term effects highlights the depth of the theological divisions between the two camps who, despite the desperate efforts of Emperor Charles V, could not reach an acceptable compromise on what they considered to be key tenets of the Christian faith. An understanding of these tenets is therefore crucial to an understanding of the topic as a whole.
Lutherans and Catholics agreed that to enter heaven a soul must 'justify' itself before God. Once justified, the soul inhabits a State of Grace and enters the gates of paradise. Both groups also agreed that the process of justification was no easy matter, because all of us are tainted with the Original Sin stemming from The Fall from Grace of Adam and Eve. They also agreed that Christ's death on the cross created a 'store' of Grace which God used to save people from the flames of hell. The key disagreement was over how God chose to use that store of Grace.
The Catholic View: Free Will / Justification by Works