Martin Luther wrote the Ninety-Five Theses on the Power of Indulgences in 1517, and they are largely considered as the major method of the Protestant Reformation. Dr. Martin Luther used these theses to express his dissatisfaction with the Church's sale of indulgences, which gave rise to Protestantism. He was excommunicated by the Pope for his criticism of the Church and threatened with execution if he did not recant, but he refused.
Luther's criticisms of the selling of indulgences led to a debate about this practice within the Church. As part of this discussion, he proposed ninety-five propositions for consideration by Christian leaders. These propositions were designed to bring clarity to issues surrounding indulgence sales. They represented Luther's attempt to resolve some of the confusion he believed had arisen around these topics.
Luther's Ninety-Five Theses can be divided into three main sections: questions about indulgences (theses 1-20), grievances against the Roman Curia (theses 21-47), and proposals for reform (theses 48-95). His intent was to start a conversation about each of these topics, not to start a theological debate. Although some priests and monks took offense at some of Luther's comments and moved to have him silenced, no one attempted to kill him. This shows that Luther's concerns were not unjustified and that his criticism was being taken seriously by key figures in the Church leadership.
It particularly opposed Church doctrines on the nature of penance, the pope's authority and power, and the effectiveness of indulgences.
Luther's theses were a public challenge to Pope Paul III. They were written in 1517 and published later that year. The timing was important because it was during this period of time that negotiations were taking place between Germany and Rome regarding the future role of the papacy in European affairs. If Luther had not challenged the pope publicly, he would have been punished by imprisonment or worse. As it was, he was allowed to leave Rome under guard (to escape to Switzerland) and publish his theses (which had a great impact on Europe at the time).
Luther's theses focused on issues surrounding the sale of indulgences, but they also pointed out problems within the Church itself. For example, he criticized the use of vernacular Bibles instead of German ones, which caused controversy among Protestants who wanted to be unified. He also objected to the practice of selling ecclesiastical offices, which was one way for bishops to make money. Finally, he argued that priests should not be required to wear religious garments - including habits- if they did not want to.
Based on this premise, he produced "The 95 Theses," a series of questions and propositions for debate. According to popular belief, Luther fiercely attached a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church on October 31, 1517. The list of questions and comments was a response to a call from Archbishop Albert of Mainz for discussions on various religious issues of the time. Although the archbishop had requested discussion about the Theses, Luther published them without modification, thus beginning the Protestant Reformation.
Luther's 95 points can be divided into five topics: (1) Doers of the Law? (2) Good Works or Faith? (3) Christ or the Church? (4) Baptism or Watering? (5) The Mass or Communion?
His answers to these questions were yes, no, yes, yes, and I cannot tell you because they all relate to either baptism or the mass. He believed that if one has faith in Jesus Christ, then one is saved; however, someone who does not know their sins is incapable of believing. Therefore, good works are necessary but not sufficient for salvation.
Luther also disagreed with Erfurt Enchiridion, a widely used collection of teachings compiled by Hartmann von Aue.