Reformation Imagery: Faith and Deeds

One of the key differences between the old Roman Catholic Church and Luther’s new theology was the understanding of two central concepts in Christianity: faith and deeds. Faith was important for both, but they disagreed on the role of good deeds. In the old church, the performance of good deeds was seen as crucial to salvation. Luther, on the other hand, believed that good deeds were a natural consequence of finding faith. Good deeds were no longer a precondition for salvation, but a result of it. 

The image above depicts the difference between the old and the new way of worshipping God. On the right there are satirical and derisive representations depicting the old – and in Lutheran eyes wrong – practise of faith. A well-fed monk stands in the pulpit, inspired by the small devil behind him blowing words into his ear. He is preaching about the good deeds necessary to secure salvation, which are also depicted in the image. Deeds like buying indulgences, processions with holy pictures and relics, pilgrimages, and holding Mass for the dead.

But God intervenes in this misunderstood form of Christianity. To the upper right he bombards those practising it with hailstones. The intercessory prayer of the holy Franciscan to the left is of no help.