Theology & Worldview

The Hammer of the Reformation: Martin Luther

Born in 1483 in Eiselben, Germany to a prosperous businessman, Luther was educated in the Scriptures from the very beginning. At the age of five, young Martin acquired an education in Latin, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostle’s Creed. Nine years later, a monastic order called “The Brethren of Common Life” influenced the newly-enrolled Luther with its exalted view of individual zeal and piety. He then attended the prestigious University of Erfurt where, after being trained in the scholastic teachings of Aristotle and William of Ockham, he graduated with a baccalaureate and master’s degree.

Despite Luther’s contributions and education in theology, his first graduate-level academic pursuit was law. Through unusual circumstance, not even six weeks into his studies, he abandoned any desire to practice law, deciding rather to join the Reformed Congregation of Augustinian Eremites. In spite of his father’s disapproval, Martin Luther resolved to lead a monastic life, a sudden change of mindset that can only be attributed to divine intervention.

The young scholar hoped that his involvement in the monastic order would help him achieve spiritual perfection. However, his consistent failure to abide perfectly by divine law generated an overwhelming sense of despair and guilt in Luther’s heart. Desperately confused and distraught, Martin Luther turned to the Sacred Book that he had been taught from his youth. It was within the Scriptures that he found the peace for which his soul longed. One verse in particular captivated the eyes of his soul and uplifted his weary heart: “For the righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  At long last, Luther understood this glorious doctrine and rested securely in divine grace.

Upon earning his undergraduate and graduate degrees, Luther followed his passions by pursuing a post-graduate theology degree at the University of Wittenberg. Shortly after, the Augustinian Order awarded him professorship of biblical studies at the University; as professor, Luther published some of his first major writings, including his Disputation Against Scholastic Theology. Additionally, he taught Bible courses, one of which appropriately focused on the epistle to the Romans. A distinguishable teacher, Luther was known for sharp pronunciation, soft tone, and steady pace, all of which contributed to his widespread favor among his students. However, this theology professor from Wittenberg would begin having a much more prolific, lasting influence in years to come, one that would venture beyond the classroom. The most pivotal event in Luther’s life, which became a world-changing event in the history of Christendom, began with a man by the name of John Tetzel.

The Wittenburg Door, on which the 95 Thesis was posted

Tetzel, a Dominican friar notorious for his preaching and for selling indulgences, faced sharp, unprecedented opposition from the Wittenberg professor in the form of Luther’s most well-known work: The Ninety-Five Theses. This revolutionary document attacked the doctrine of selling indulgences within the Roman Catholic Church, a penance-based salvation. Motivated the biblical doctrine of salvation, “sola fide,” and bothered by the rampant ecclesiastical hypocrisy, after a prolonged period of wrestling with these internal conflictions, Luther decided to take a stand in spite of opposition from Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz. Contrary to popular opinion, however, Luther’s vision and intention did not include a sudden usurpation of ecclesiastical authority. Nonetheless, this bold move eventually prompted several political and religious leaders to summon him for a defense of his claims. He debated the prominent theologian Johann Eck at the Leipzig Disputation of 1519, and refused to recant his positions in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, even under the threat of excommunication.

Luther found refuge at the Wartburg Castle from 1518 until 1522 where he continued theological study and translation of Scripture. Three years later, he married his lovely wife, Katherine Von Bora, a former nun. In 1546, Martin Luther went home to be with the Lord; nevertheless, his theological legacy has seen centuries of world-wide impact and is thriving today like never before.

Josiah Monfreda, the author, is a senior and is in his sixth year with The Potter’s School. This year, he is taking AP United States History and AP United States Government and Politics with TPS; additionally, he is taking several dual enrollment courses through Liberty University Online. He enjoys studying theology, apologetics, government, politics, and music. Politically, he may be considered a constitutional conservative with a hint of classical liberalism. Theologically, he affiliates most closely with the Reformed Baptists. Much of Josiah’s time is spent working for the world-renowned Colonial Williamsburg Fifes and Drums, in which he currently holds the highest ranking position of sergeant major.

Works Cited

Elton, G.R., editor. The Reformation 1520-1559. 2nd ed., vol. 2, New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Durant, Will. The Reformation. New York, NY, Simon and Schuster, 1957.

Hillerbrand, Hans J. “Martin Luther.” Britannica.com, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 3 Aug. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther.

“Martin Luther German reformer.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, www.ccel.org/ccel/luther.

 

Image citations

“Martin Luther.” Epchurch.net, Providence Christian Church, epchurch.net/rooted-in-history/.

Henderson, Trent. “Martin Luther and Halloween.” Thinking Thoughts, 31 Oct. 2011, trenthenderson.blogspot.com/2011/10/martin-luther-and-halloween.html.

3 Comments

  1. Is it a problem that I probably learned more from this article than from years of history? xD

    Also.. *glances at Josiah* We still on for the 31st? St. Bede’s? ;P