Martin Luther, a Christian theologian and a monk whose teachings inspired the Protestant Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions, was born on November 10, 1483 His methods of forcing the Church to return to the teachings of the Bible created a whole new Christian denomination called Protestantism. The life of this man is one of the most interesting stories in the history of Christianity, marking a major turning point in western history and in Christianity.
Birth and early life
Eisleben, a small town in the region of Saxony in modern Germany, Marked the birth of Martin Luther, the man who influenced the religious reformation and Protestantism in the western world. The Roman Catholicism, which Luther belonged to, teachings focused on suffering of the people and pain, and always talked about demons and sins and it viewed Jesus as “unapproachable” but people can call upon him and pray to him. As it was known In the Roman Catholicism, always the first born child should be named on the saint on whose feast day he was born. And so did Hans and Margarethe do for their son Martin. His parents wanted him to be a lawyer; at the age of 21 he earned a Master of Arts degree from the University of Erfurt. But in less than a year an incident happened that changed the course of his life. As he was on his way back home from the university, Luther was caught in a severe thunderstorm. He was about to get hit by a lighting, but before that by minutes he called upon saint Anne to protect him and that he will become a monk if he was saved. Luther was safe, and up to his word in less than a month he enrolled himself in a monastery.
From that day, Martin offered his life to the church. He tried so hard to do good deeds and please his creator. He helped the people by praying for their souls to be saved. But still he felt that there a piece missing, he is not feeling a connection with god. His superior was afraid of his way of thinking, so he distracted him from that thinking by sending him to study. In 1507 he was ordained to the priesthood. A year later he began teaching theology at the University of Wittenberg.
The beginning of the reformation
Luther asked for more and more studying and this lead him to study the scriptures deeply. He went so deep in studying the teachings of the scriptures and early church to the limit where he reached religion enlightenment. In 1513, he was preparing for one of his lectures and he read two biblical passages that changed his life. At first, he read the psalms that the Christ had cried out on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" in some way this had offered him some comfort. After two years another incident happened that struck him and led him to change his mind. He saw this line in one of the books "The just will live by faith." He thought about its meaning for many days, and when he came to understand the full meaning of it, it changed his life. He assured to himself that salvation came by faith and he started lecturing about that in the University. Meanwhile in another country, Rome, Pop Leo X was trying to collect fund to build the St. Peter's Basilica. He had no problems with getting money because at that time the church was selling indulgences. In 1517, he announced the availability of new indulgences, and people who buy it will not only help protect the leftovers of St. Peter's and St. Paul from rain and hail, but will also have a religious advantage. This advantage is that the indulgence will assure the buyer a life with no sins and also a “ticket to heaven” in the next life. John Tetzel was the one assigned to the sale of indulgences in Saxony. He was a very talented sales man, he gave the people an impression that not only it can reduce your sins, but also it can give you a complete forgiveness of all your sins. By that he meant that people could buy their way to heaven. On that same year, Luther decided to take a public action against that friar. He was troubled by Tetzel's tactics to deceive people. So in response, he wrote 95 thesis or statements that directly attacked indulgence salesman. He took those theses and nailed them on the door of the castle in Wittenberg and told the people to read it. Someone copied those 95 Theses and printed them. Soon enough, Luther's name was known all over Germany. His act began the actions of the reformation.
Response to the 95 theses
Luther was surprised by how fast his ideas spread. Many people were unhappy with the church teachings, viewed Luther's ideas as a way to challenge the church. At the beginning, church officials saw Martin Luther as a rebellious monk who needed to be punished for his actions. But later as things began to turn on his side, they realized that he was a serious threat. In 1520, Pop Leo X sent Luther a letter with a threat of being excommunicated if he didn't take back all his words. Luther did not take any word back; instead he made a gathering with his students in Wittenberg and threw the letter in a bonfire. A higher man took charge of threatening Luther and that man was, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, he was a devout catholic who opposed Luther's teaching. He summoned Luther to the town of worms, and in 1521 he asked to stand a trial. And in that trial he was asked to take back his statements, Luther refused.
The edict of worms
After Luther was sent to the city of worms and was asked to stand a trial. Luther asked them for a day to think about their request. He prayed and consulted with his friends, and on the next day he stood and talked. His speech was attacking the church and it showed that he rejected recanting. Luther was asked a straight question: Would Luther reject his books and the errors they contain? Luther replied: "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason — I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other — my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Before a decision was reached with what to do with him, Luther had left the city of Worms and during his return to Wittenberg he disappeared. On knowing that, the Emperor issued an edict of Worms declaring that Martin is an outlaw and a heretic. According to this edict, no one in the empire was to give Luther food or shelter, and all his books were to be burned. However, Prince Fredrick the wise of Saxony disobeyed the emperor. He had arranged to kidnap Luther as he was on his way to Wittenberg, he wanted to protect him and keep him safe from the emperor's hands. For almost a year he was sheltered and safe in one of the prince's castles. Although he was away from people, he still worked hard and received letters from allies and his followers asking him questions and seeking answers to things they didn't know. Moreover, Luther translated the New Testament in German while he was there. In 1522 Luther returned to Wittenberg, and what surprised him when he returned is that many of his ideas were already being put to practice. After a long Fight and a lot of troubles he went through in the past to make reforms in the Catholic Church, he and his followers decided to become a separate religious group known as the Lutherans.
The Peasant's war and the German war
Some people started applying Luther's revolutionary ideas to the society. In 1524 German Peasants, Mistakenly thought that Luther's attacks on the church meant that the peasants should also support an attack on the society. What made that attack build up more is the reformers talk of Christian freedom and demand of an end to serfdom. Fueled up by all this talk, bands of peasants went about the countryside destroying houses, burning and wrecking everything. Originally, Luther supported the peasants and agreed that the actions of the nobility were inappropriate against the poor peasants. But when things got really out of control, he was forced to revolt against the peasants. He wrote a pamphlet urging the German princes to show the peasants no mercy. Following that order, the prince's armies showed no mercy to these peasants. Feeling betrayed by Luther many peasants rejected Luther's religious leader ship. In contrast to the bitter peasants, many northern German princes supported Lutheranism. While some of them support him because they believed in his teachings, others followed him for their own selfish reasons. They took it as an advantage to seize church property and also to become independent from Charles V. in 1529, princes who stayed loyal to the pope agreed to join their forces and go to a war against the Protestants. Charles V still persistent to return everyone to Catholicism, he went to war against those princes. Even though he was able to defeat them, however he was not able to return them to Catholic Church. In 1555, Charles was fed up of going into wars so he ordered all the princes in Germany to gather in Augsburg. There he ordered each prince to choose a religion to his people. And this settlement was known as the peace of Augsburg.
Surprising everyone who knew Martin Luther, he got married from Katherine van Bora. She was one of the 12 nuns that escaped the convent. Martin and Katherine had three boys and three girls that made their life happier. They did have some problems involving money, but they often managed to get over it as Katherine used to take care of the finance in the family. Many monks and Friars had married before him, but his marriage gave the green light to allowing the priests to get married and have a life like any other person.
Martins Luther's bold resistance and hold to his teachings led to the Protestant Reformation. His ideas wouldn't be spread to all Germany if it wasn't for the printing press which spread his books all over Germany. Later on, other thinkers and developers started their own sects of Protestantism but what kept them going is what they knew about martin Luther. On the other side, the Roman Catholics fought many bitter wars against the Protestants. Finally they reached to a solution but there is still hatred found. Moreover, the writings of Martin against the Jews also strengthened medieval and modern anti-Semitism Europe. Anyways, Martin Luther's legacy is still felt across the western world. He died in the same town he was born in, Eisleben, on 1546.