I posted recently about Luther’s concern for how law can masquerade as grace. Many of us remember things when they are put in simple visuals, so I decided to create a simple infographic about the medieval understanding of salvation.

A few points to understand the sweep of this:

-the view of salvation in the medieval period is not officially codified until the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which met after the Reformation

-this view is what historians call the ‘majority opinion’ of the church in Luther’s day

-essentially the process begins with baptism, which brings one into the state of grace. You are then responsible to cooperate with grace throughout one’s life through good works.

-this system was believed by Catholics to be grace-bound, in that it starts with grace. The role of the Christian, again, is to maintain the grace bestowed at baptism through a cycle of confession and penance.

-Penance is anything assigned by the priest, including ritual prayers, attending Mass, going on pilgrimage, and other good works

-Purgatory is not another form of hell. It is temporary and is the final stage of penance, which is performed after death

-When Luther (and others) complained about the never-ending cycle of ‘works’, this is what he means. Because confession and penance were required—and the confession was to be sincere, not merely fearful of judgment—Luther concluded the cycle amounts to works-righteousness.