Who was Martin Luther?
According to Wikipedia, he was “a German professor of theology, composer, priest, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.” But that’s only the gist of the part Martin Luther played in history. Let’s take a closer look.
When was he born and when did he die? When did the Reformation begin?
Martin Luther lived from November 10, 1483 to February 18, 1546. The Reformation began when he pinned his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Castle church (more on that later) on October 31, 1517, and continued for a long time after Luther died.
Where did this all take place?
In the Holy Roman Empire, more specifically Germany. And to get even more specific, the main events happened in Wittenburg, Worms, and Eisenach.
Ok, so what actually happened?
Glad you asked! There are enough details to fill books and documentaries and movies, but here are the highlights:
The 95 Theses
The part of Martin Luther’s story where the tension ramps up and really starts to get exciting is when he nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenburg Castle church. These theses addressed the problems with the church, indulgences, and such.
Soon these theses were translated and distributed throughout Germany, even making their way to Rome. They were revolutionary ideas—the start of something that would change the route of history. They were the start of the Reformation.
The Diet of Worms
But not everyone liked Luther’s theses. If people accepted these ideas, the high standing people who benefitted from the corrupt church would lose their power. For instance, the pope. A little over a year after the 95 Theses first went public, he condemned Martin Luther’s writing as conflicting with the Church’s teaching.
Then in 1521, Luther was excommunicated from the church. This meant that he was cut off from the church, a serious thing in those times. But it showed that he stood by what he taught. He never recanted.
A couple of months later, he went to the Diet of Worms. No, no, no, nobody ate worms! A “diet” was basically a council, and Worms was the city it happened in.
When the court of sorts came to session, Luther was once again asked to recant his writing. He asked for a day to think about it, and they granted it to him. When he came back, this is what he said:
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.
Then he left, since he had already been granted “safe passage.”
On the way back to Whittenburg, Martin Luther disappeared. He had been kidnapped.
Oh, don’t worry, it was all planned. Some of his friends, on horses and dressed up as highway robbers, “kidnapped” him while he was on his way and put him in the Wartburg castle in Eisenach.
There in Eisenach he spent the next ten years translating the New Testament into German and producing many writings of his own. His work left a profound influence on Germany, and it is no exaggeration to say that he even changed the world.
Why was Martin Luther important?
Martin Luther had a huge impact on history. Churches today would be very different if nobody had stood up to the Holy Roman Empire, if nobody had had the courage to speak the Truth despite the immense pressure that came with it.
Why did Luther need to nail the 95 Theses to the door? The church was corrupt. People didn’t follow God, they followed the popes. And the popes followed their lust for power. And the high people in the system built their ostentatious churches with the money they got from selling indulgences. And don’t try looking up indulgences in your Bible; they are something the Church made up. Indulgences were basically tickets out of purgatory, a place between Heaven and Hell, which they also made up. The Church said you couldn’t get to Heaven by faith alone.
And why did nobody notice that this stuff was made up? Well, most people were illiterate and those who weren’t couldn’t read Latin. And the Bible was only in Latin you see.
That’s why we needed people like Luther to speak the truth. We needed people to translate the Bible, to print it, to distribute it. We needed the Reformation. And thank you, Martin Luther, for starting it.
What do you think?
Did you learn anything new about Martin Luther from this? Do you know any fun facts about the Reformation? Who do you consider important in church history?