Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Martin Luther

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Martin Luther

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, which at the time was one of the territorial states that formed the Holy Roman Empire. Luther’s father, Hans, owned his own mine shafts and copper smelters. When Luther graduated from the University of Erfurt Hans was proud and expected his son to become a lawyer. Luther however decided to pursue a much different lifestyle. He felt that life as a monk would be much more rewarding and would assure himself and others salvation so he thereafter dedicated himself to a holy life.

After completing only one year in the monastery Luther was ordained as a priest and a short time after he was selected for further education and a teaching career. However, Luther felt his life as a monk was not allowing him to achieve full salvation and it left him feeling incomplete. A lot of these feelings stemmed from his many problems with Catholic practices especially, Justification by grace through faith and the church’s practice of indulgences.

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Luther did not understand how sinful humans could ever be put right with God. The righteousness of God tortured him because he never felt that he could do enough to be correct with God. Then after studying Paul’s letters to the Romans Luther came to a new understanding, which was Justification by grace through faith. Grace is a free gift from God and justification is by grace alone. Therefore humans can do absolutely nothing to earn it and only their faith in Christ can bring grace. Luther said that faith does not come because people try as hard as they can to believe, instead faith is a response to the Word of God and that response is a gift given by God.

Luther was able to solve his religious predicament, but his problems with the way the church carried itself still remained. His first and main attack came on the church’s practice of indulgences. At this time, the pope granted that special indulgences could be given in which sinners would pay money to have their sins forgiven. The proceeds of these indulgences were put toward the building of St. Peters Basilica in Rome. Luther strongly opposed the practice of indulgences and responded with his 5 Theses. These 5 Theses, or “points” attacked the practice of selling indulgences on both theological and moral grounds. His theses became the basis of discussion and debate by people throughout the Holy Roman Empire because he proclaimed the issues that many followers had regarding indulgences. From here Luther was able to go deeper with more debate on many church issues until he was labeled a heresy by the church and was excommunicated.

In my opinion, Luther was not a heretic but a reformer. He shaped the Christian Church to the form that we see today. He divided Christianity by raising issues that he firmly believed in and then followed through with those beliefs with the formation of the Lutheran Church. By protesting against the Roman Church he forever changed Christianity and forever reserved his place in history.

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