Martin Luther, a Catholic priest and theology professor, was a reformer and the cornerstone of Lutheran religious and political thought. The 16th century saw a degree of rebellion against the Catholic Church. More specifically, Martin Luther challenged the concepts of indulgences, or "buying" forgiveness, and boldly stated that the Catholic Church was corrupt in its ways, leading to his excommunication from the Catholic Church.
He taught that salvation was granted as a gift from God, given solely to those who believe that Christ is the Messiah, and cannot be achieved by works. He stated that faith came from God and salvation from God's grace alone, and that opening to these premises was mankind's only hope. Believing that all comes from God, man cannot have an impact on his own salvation. Martin Luther was a member of the German middle class and a religious scholar, teaching religious precepts at the university level by way of strict biblical interpretation.
His detailed anti-Catholic thought began to spread quickly throughout Europe and finally to the remainder of the world, thanks in large part to the Gutenberg Press. People began to embrace his interpretation of the Bible. Looking for practical answers and the ultimate salvation, people saw Lutheranism as a way to demystify the Bible and as a means to attain answers, as well as precious salvation. Letting go and acquiring greater faith through God's grace appealed to more and more people over time. As faith grew, belief also grew.
While the Catholic Church focused on the ways of money and wealth, the Lutheran movement embraced the common man in the simplicity of God's Will. From the 16th century until modern times there has been a degree of evolution within the Lutheran Church. Primary, fundamental thought based upon salvation through faith has remained constant.
There was a major philosophical and ideological split between the two religions that has since become a matter of economic and political difference as well. Martin Luther embraced a God-directed life, while the Catholic Church embroiled themselves in thoughts of money and individual power. These concepts have defined the two religions to a degree and have widened the chasm between the different ideologies.
Fundamentally, Martin Luther took many risks in his effort to project a clearer interpretation of the Bible. He believed that good deeds are a necessary part of exhibiting one's faith and a commitment to the practical world in which people live, yet are an outgrowth of faith rather than a road to salvation. He believed that deeds are what shift the internal experience and create the awe and wonder of life through experience. Yet, all positives come from God.
There are some who believe that Luther and his movement were actually funded and supported by what is today known as the Anglo-American power elite (but was then in part a Venetian banking elite) in order to split the Catholic Church that was in some sense attacking Venetian banking interests. But whatever the source of the Reformation, the result evidently and obviously moved well beyond serving the interests of any one individual or groups.