Martin Luther, Doctor of the Church and Reformer



Martin Luther was born in the town of Eisleben, in the duchy of Saxony of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation on November 10, 1483 to Hans and Margarethe Luther. Hans and Margarethe were of peasant stock, but Hans had amassed some income by investing in mining pursuits in the town of Mansfeld, where the Luther family moved shortly after Martin’s birth Humble origins. No one would have been able to foresee how Martin Luther’s insights would spur such courageous changes in the Christian Church, or how Martin Luther himself would be famous as the original Reformer of the new Protestant Reformation.

Martin Luther’s Childhood

Critics then and critics now.

Hans and Margarethe were severe disciplinarians, but loving parents. Hans had fairly ambitious plans for his son, Martin. Instead of working in the mining trade, Hans was eager for his boy to become a lawyer and sent him away for the appropriate schooling for that purpose in 1488. He entered the Latin School at Mansfeld, where he received an impressive education in Latin, as well as a thorough religious education
At that time, of course, the Catholic Church, centered in Rome, enjoyed religious hegemony over most of Europe and Martin Luther received a thoroughly Catholic education. In 1497, Luther moved to a school run by a lay monastic order, the Brethren of the Common Life and enrolled in the University of Erfurt, a very prestigious university of the Empire at that time. He graduated first with a liberal arts degree and later, in 1505, with a master’s

There have been many movies.  But who is he?

The Thunderstorm

Martin Luther seemed contented enough to follow his father’s plans for him to study law and become a lawyer ( there was big money in that even back in the early 1500’s) until it started to rain. The rain in July of 1505 became a violent thunderstorm during which he cried out in terror for help from St. Anna, promising to become a monk should he be allowed to live through this ordeal.
He entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt a few days later, keeping his vow and infuriating his father.

Martin Luther.  Beyond Catholicism

The Religious Life

He seems to have had some inward calling beyond that momentary fear, as he developed a heavy consciousness of his own sin and did everything he could think of to do to placate God, Who he seems to have regarded as a harsh taskmaster The Lord, the Taskmaster.
Martin Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He earned a few more degrees ( one in 1508, a bachelor’s of Biblical Studies and another one in 1509 in relation to Peter Lombard’s ” Sentences”) and took a trip to Rome in 1510.

When In Rome, Do as the Germans Do..

The leader of Luther’s Order, Johann von Staupitz, sent Luther as part of a delegation to the city of Rome for a papal ruling on a disagreement between the more strict Augustinians ( whose cause Staupitz championed) and those who were more lax. Staupitz wanted to united the monasteries in observance and he sent Luther on foot with a friend to get a papal ruling. Luther departed for Rome with great anticipation, eager to get to ” the city of martyrs,” say Mass in the Holy City and make a full confession to a brother priest. Luther was dreadfully disappointed. The worldliness and spiritual rot he found in the city disillusioned him and the man he was to meet and try to resolve the Augustinian case was completely uninterested in the case. The opulence and luxury that these ” Princes of the Church” enjoyed while regular believers existed in squalor was duly noted by Luther. In Rome, Luther lost confidence in Roman institutions Reformation Timeline..

Teacher of the New University of Wittenberg

When Luther returned to Erfurt after his failure in Rome, it was decided by his superiors to transfer him to the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg, where he would be directly under the authority of Johann von Staupitz, who became Luther’s Father- Confessor and confidante. Staupitz persuaded the Saxon Elector, Frederick the Wise, to sponsor Luther so he could earn his Doctorate of Theology and take his place among the faculty of the new Wittenberg University, sanctioned by both the Holy Roman Emperor and Pope Julius II. Martin Luther’s role was to be that of a professor of Biblical Studies ( which would, incidentally involve his making vows of fidelity to truth of the Scriptures and rejection of false doctrine. We’ll see how that plays out) …moved by Rome..


Luther found himself in a position of authority, not only as Vicar-General of the Augustinian Monastery, but also as a lecturer of Biblical Studies. Luther started with the book of Psalms, went on to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and then he tackled Paul’s Letter to the Galatians and the Book of Hebrews. His theology developed with his studies. As the Controversy over Indulgences developed, Luther found himself in the dead center of the theological melee Controversy.

” Indulge Me, Church!”

Indulgences essentially developed as an offshoot of the concept of ” saintly merit.” This means that Jesus, Mary and the saints did so much good, that they left a certain ” treasury” of good works in the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, to be doled out by Church officials as needed. As this thought grew, so also did the concept of Purgatory, a place where the dead would be thoroughly purified for their final salvation in Heaven.

Time in Purgatory would also be diminished for those who were already dead via the usage of Indulgences. These Indulgences were actually put up for sale, to be bought in return for forgiveness.. either forgiveness for the purchaser, or forgiveness for a departed loved one languishing in Purgatory Got reputation?. html,

Johann Tetzel

Johann Tetzel was a pretty good Indulgence salesman. He put all kinds of high drama in his shtick regarding how much dead relatives needed the help and finances of the living to get out of Purgatory and how efficacious Indulgences were for sinners on earth. So, salvation became a financial matter for those who were fairly uninformed and Martin Luther observed these proceedings with no small amount of disgust and after awhile, he had some questions about the sales of Indulgences and indeed, much of the practice of the medieval Catholic Church which he put to paper and then nailed to a door on All Saints October 31,1517Halloweeny .

95 Theses and the Printing Press

Martin Luther was alive at just the right time for his ideas to be carefully copied and redistributed in Latin and German throughout the Holy Roman Empire. That’s what happened with his list of debate topics, thanks to Gutenberg’s Printing Press, Luther’s ideas gained quite a lot of publicity and traction, as several Germans and others noted that much of Europe’s wealth was being funneled South of the Alps Washington Post Opine.

This money was being funneled South because the current Pope, Leo X of the House of Medici, was involved in a building project involving the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in RomeTheo-Pedia thesis? and Tetzel was appointed by the Archbishop of Mainz to sell Indulgences to finance that project. Martin Luther  not only questioned the concept of Indulgences in his Theses, but also the right of the pope to claim excessive spiritual powers that Scripture attributed to Christ alone. This led to a disputation between the Dominican friar, Johann Eck, on the side of Rome and Andreas Karlstadt and Martin Luther, on the side of the Reformers, in 1519.

Leipzig Debate

This debate began ( as so many debates at the time did) with letters being sent back and forth, as Johann Eck challenged Luther’s points and Luther’s ally, Karlstadt, defended them. After a couple of months of this, Duke George of Saxony consented to host a debate between Eck, Karlstadt and Luther in the city of Leipzig. At this point, some central tenets of the Catholic Church were being seriously examined in the light of Renaissance scholarship and Martin Luther was coming up with some rather surprising conclusions.

Karlstadt and Eck debated basic concepts of God’s grace and humanity’s free will, while later on, Eck and Luther debated Church authority. The upshot of this debate was a solidly Protestant conviction that the Scriptures were inerrant, but councils, popes and decrees were not. Scriptures were to be regarded as having supreme authorityReformation timeline continued….

Eck compared Luther’s doctrine to that of a Czech proto- Reformer, Jan Hus, who offered much the same arguments about a century before Luther and his Reformation. Luther did not argue this and in fact declared that ” we are all Hussites” Lutherian Life.

Luther’s Excommunication and his Response

Pope Leo X wrote out the Bull Exsurge Domine in 1520, demanding that Martin Luther recant his teachings and threatening him with excommunication if he would not recant his teachings within sixty days of the Bull’s publication in Saxony. He sent Johann Eck to publish the bull in Saxony and the Low Countries. His document was not well received and in fact, Eck had to flee to a cloister War of Words. Luther actually burned a copy of Leo’s Bull and wrote a response entitled ” Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist” Ex-communication, condemning Eck and those associated with him In 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church and declared a heretic. A few months later, he would be summoned to the Diet of Worms This, my friends, speaks for itself, but not the many great outdoorsmen..

The Diet of Worms

The Diet of Worms was where the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, held court and where Martin Luther would be given a final chance to recant his teachings before being declared a wanted outlaw by the secular authorities. Luther had become enormously popular in Germany at this time and he had powerful protectors. By this time, he had an ally in the noted scholar Philip Melanchthon who was quite a speaker and advocate for reform in his own right.

Luther had published several books by this time and had established his reputation as quite a Reformer of the  Church. Ironically, he was asked by a representative of the Catholic Church to recant those works. Luther wanted a day to consider the request and the Emperor granted him that day. When Luther came back the following day, he refused ( in flowery language) to recant anything and he was granted safe conduct back to Wittenberg. On the way home, he was ” abducted” by his allies and hidden away in Wartburg castle Diet of Worms.

Junker Georg and the New Testament

Luther called himself ” Junker Georg” and grew his hair and beard out. He also translated the New Testament from Greek into German during the period of 1521 and 1522. He would, with Philip Melanchthon’s help, wind up translating the entire Bible into German by 1534 In 1522, after learning that Andreas Karlstadt had been influenced by more radical elements of the Reformation, Luther returned to Wittenberg to reestablish his control and steady the movement that had evolved back to his moderate vision. He had also instituted minor adjustments to the Divine Service by 1524

The Peasants’ War ( 1524- 1525)

Martin Luther’s ideas were eagerly seized upon by many people in Germany and many peasants saw these teachings as their chance to get out from under the thumb of the nobility ( on whose goodwill Luther’s life depended). Hans Mueller and his ” Evangelical Brotherhood” swore to emancipate the peasants of Germany, by fair means or foul. in fact, this movement became quite violent and Martin Luther, at first sympathetic to their cause, became implacably opposed to it as he saw the violence rise.
The Character Image

At last, Luther urged the rulers to ruthlessly put down the rebellion with fire and sword, which they proceeded to do, making the peasants’ lot more wretched than ever it was before Church History. This Reformer wanted to reform the Church, but as could be seen from his writings, his interest was in preserving the existing political climate as divinely ordained.

The Augsburg Confession

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Emperor Charles V had been otherwise occupied with wars and political intrigue while Lutheranism was making its way across the Northern European plain, but in 1530, he was able to turn his attentions to the religious controversies that were effecting his Empire. He called an Imperial Diet in the city of Augsburg to resolve these issues and to learn more about the beliefs of these ” Lutherans” and the Reformer who so inspired them.

Martin Luther himself was in hiding, of course, but Philip Melanchthon and Lutheran supporters were able, with Luther’s help, to prepare and draft twenty- eight articles detailing their beliefs and practices. These they presented to the Emperor on June 23, 1530. In August of that same year, the Roman Catholics prepared a Confutation that rejected many core tenets of Lutheranism and encouraged the Lutherans to prepare an Apology ( a Defense) of the Augsburg Confession, written by Philip Melanchthon, with the approval of Luther, in 1531 Augsburg Confession.

Martin Luther’s Controversies

The Reformation that Martin Luther inspired was not without precedent, as the Hussites and Waldensians had enacted their own Reforming movements long before 1517HussitesAncestory/History. During his lifetime, Luther had to write extensively against the ideas promulgated by Ulrich Zwingli ( 1484- 1531) and Thomas Muntzer’s Anabaptists, as well as his own objections to Medieval Romanist practice of his time.

Luther married Katharine von Bora in 1525 and by all accounts, he had a loving marriage. They had six children and Katharine was an eminently sensible partner for Martin Luther, keeping his cellar stocked with beer and entertaining his students when they would gather around and listen to Luther’s ” table talk ” ,

Martin Luther’s Death

No caption is necessary.

Luther taught and preached until the end of his life. As he got older, his physical ailments worsened and just before he died, he was summoned to settle a dispute in Eisleben, which he did successfully. He was too weak to return to Wittenberg and he died in Eisleben, on February 18, 1546. His body was publicly displayed for two days in Eisleben, then transported back to Wittenberg, where he was laid to rest in the Castle Church, his funeral oration delivered by Johannes Bugenhagen.