the centre of the Reformation was the question “How can I be right with God?” It wasn’t that faith and grace were completely absent from the teaching of the church, it was rather that they’d been squeezed out by works, rituals and sacraments.
Grace had become a substance bestowed on you at baptism because of Jesus’s death. However, through life you could lose grace as well as gain it. Sacraments like the Mass, saying confession, doing penance etc were ways to in effect top your account back up. You could gain additional grace by taking up holy orders in a monastery. You could also pay (through a scheme known as indulgences) for your dead relatives to have their grace accounts topped up and that way buy them out of purgatory (an intermediate place between earth and heaven where most people expected to go to pay off their debt to sin in order to purify their souls for heaven). Continue reading