After learning what Tetzel was doing to milk the people out of their money and giving only a worthless piece of paper in return; he was angry and needed to speak out. He wrote out 95 questions he wanted answered concerning the church's biblical support for indulgences. At this point he was only wanting to correct what he saw as error and mistakenly believed that the church could be persuaded to change this policy.
Tetzel responded in writing refuting Luther's theses. His basic argument was that what he was doing was at under the authority of the Pope and he was only answerable to Him, and to question the Pope was to question God.
Luther responded that this wasn't an adequate argument. He insisted that the church show him from the bible that he was wrong. A number of other defenders of the pope rose up to denounce Luther. The first of these was Sylvester Mazzolini of Prierio. They exchanged numerous letters with Pierio asserting the power of the Pope to be the only who interprets the bible. Luther maintained the power to interpret the bible belonged to the individual. Pierio went so far as to maintain relying on ecclesiastical law: "Although the Pope should make the whole world go with him to hell, he could be neither condemned nor deposed."
When Luther continued to quote the bible, especially on justification by faith, James Hochstraten, the inquisitor of Cologne, called for Luther's death. Luther responded by calling Hochstraten a raving murderer, blood thirsty man, and enemy of the truth.
His strongest adversary was a Johann Maier Von Eck. Doctor Eck and Luther debated at Augsburg. This was the first time Luther was required to travel and answer for his writings. There was much haggling over a safe conduct. Frederick of Saxony guaranteed his safety. Politically Leo X needed Frederick to be on his side at first to keep Charles of Spain becoming the emperor and once he was emperor to keep Charles in check. Leo wouldn't do anything to damage the trust between them for a mere monk.
Eck was a master debater winning on points instead knowledge. This confrontation the church saw as a victory thinking that Eck defeated Luther by snide remarks, disdain and the point that hurt, comparing Luther to Huss. Many in the Empire had bad memories of the war caused by Huss. A number of the electors took sides against Luther. The general population saw things differently and became strong supporters of Luther. The scholars who were present became followers of Luther, many leaving their homes and traveling to Wittenberg to become students and attend Luther's lectures.
Luther's fame spread, his writings were changing thoughts across Europe, but the Saxon monk tried desperately to end the dispute. He wrote a letter to Leo X, declaring his loyalty to the church. The pope ignored it.
Next post will deal with the ultimate showdown between Luther and the Emperor Charles V.