Martin Luther

Martin Luther lived from 1483-1546. Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben in the province of Saxony. His protestant view of Christianity started what was called the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Luther's intentions were to reform the medieval Roman Catholic Church. But firm resistance from the church towards Luther's challenge made way to a permanent division in the structure of Western Christianity.

Luther lived in Mansfield and was the son of a miner. He later went on to study at Eisenbach and Magdeburg. After studying at these institutions he moved on to study at the University of Erfurt. Luther started out studying law, but then went on to enter the religious life. He went into the religious life due to the fact that he felt that he would never earn his eternal salvation. He didn't feel that all of the prayer, studying and sacraments were enough. Therefore, Luther felt that he would never be able to satisfy such a judging God. Not being able to satisfy this God meant eternal damnation. After entering the religious life he later became an Augustinian monk and entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt in July of 1505. While in this monastery Luther became a well known theologian and Biblical scholar. In 1512 Luther earned his doctorate in theology and became a professor of Biblical literature at Wittenberg University.

Luther took his religious vocation very serious. This led him into a severe crisis in dealing with his religion. He wondered, "is it possible to reconcile the demands of God's law with human inability to live up to the law." Luther then turned to the New Testament book of Romans for answers. He had found, "God had, in the obedience of Jesus Christ, reconciled humanity to himself." "What was required of mankind, therefore, was not strict adherence to law or the fulfillment of religious obligations, but a response of faith that accepted what God had done." In other words he realized that religion is based on love and not fear. Basically, he realized that everyone is burdened by sin because it happens as a result of our weaknesses. He concluded that man could never earn his salvation by leading a blameless life or by performing holy acts. Instead, man's salvation was a divine gift from God resulting from faith in Jesus, especially the saving power of his death and resurrection. This was known as the protestant doctrine of "justification by faith alone." The fact that Luther believed this, lead him into his first confrontation with the Catholic Church in 1517. All of this influenced Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.

The leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Leo X, was trying to raise money in order to build St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. To raise money the Pope offered the sale of indulgences. Basically, these were donations of money that would give partial forgiveness for people's sins. So, on October 31, 1517, Luther posted these Ninety-Five Theses or propositions on the door of the Wittenberg Catholic Church. These Ninety-Five Theses denied the right of the Pope to sell indulgences for the forgiveness of sins, among other challenges. His authorship of the Ninety-Five Theses would make Luther the leader of the religious movement or reformation towards Protestantism.

Pope Leo X forced Luther to appear before Cardinal Cajetan in Augsburg. Here the Cardinal demanded Luther to take back everything that he said in his Ninety-Five Theses. Luther said that he would if his Theses could be proved wrong by use of the Bible. Later in 1521, Pope Leo X issued a "Bull of Excommunication" towards Luther. Emperor Charles V was expected to enforce the Excommunication. Charles V formed a "diet" in the town of Worms and asked Luther to attend this meeting so that he could be examined. Once again Luther was asked to take back everything that he had said in his Ninety-Five Theses. Luther refused again and was outlawed. Anyone could kill Luther and they would not have been held accountable to the law for punishment. Luther decided that it would be best to relocate under these circumstances. He had a friend that was an elector of Saxony that helped him escape. So, Luther disguised himself and went off to hide in the castle of Wartburg. While he was in Wartburg he began translating the New Testament into German. At that time the emperor was occupied with a war waging in France. This distraction helped Luther return to his work with aid of his followers in Wittenberg. Some of his followers went too far carrying out the reform. Luther tried to correct his follower's mistakes and was unsuccessful. In 1524, this caused the German peasants to use his teachings as a reason to revolt.

Luther married Katharina Von Bora, a former nun, in 1525. This displayed his rejection towards living in a monastery as a monk and for clerical celibacy. After this marriage he spent the rest of his life writing, teaching and preaching.

How did Luther view the power of God and what can a person do without God's grace? He believed that God's power was completely beyond man's comprehension and could only be accepted on faith alone. He didn't believe that humans could understand how God with all his greatness become man through Jesus and be susceptible to weakness, sin and death. His thoughts were that man could accomplish nothing without God's grace. Man could not gain his own salvation and therefore God had to send his own son to earth. While on earth his son would live as a human and eventually die on the cross for our sins. How did Luther view idolatry and why he chose this word? He felt that all participation in church activities like, following religious rules, ceremonies and doing good works were idolatrous. These practices would not help us to gain eternal salvation, but only faith alone in God could do that. He felt that all these religious practices were external from God and were, therefore, idolatrous in nature. What were Luther's views on the Bible? Luther felt that the Bible, the word of God, was of primary importance in a Christian's life. He felt that over time man had through speculative reasoning distorted the accuracy and true meaning of the Word. He felt that the Roman Catholic Church preferred the Papal authority of the Church above God's Word. How did Luther define faith? Luther defines faith as the absence of all good works. What were Luther's objections to the Pope and other church officials? He felt that the Pope and other officials of the Catholic Church had no knowledge or comprehension of the Bible or had ever even read it. They were wicked people who were preoccupied with wealth and power, but who never considered accomplishing God's will. What political and social implications came as a result of Luther's teachings? His teachings caused a revolt among the German peasants. They also caused separation within the Catholic Church. How did Protestantism encourage people to view religion on an individual basis? Protestantism encouraged people individually to decide what they needed to do to be saved. This caused people to stray away from traditional beliefs.


  • (Martin Luther). Compton's. 1998 Vol. 4
  • (Martin Luther). The World Book of Knowledge. 1996 Vol. 9
  • Andrea, Alfred J., & Overfeild, James H. (1998). The Human Record (3rd ed.). New York: Houghton Miffin Co.