THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY INDIVIDUAL IN THE HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH...

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The Early Years:

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A young and ambitious Martin Luther, with several hopes and dreams ahead of him

Martin Luther was born to father Hans Luther and mother Margarette Luther on November 10th 1483 in a particularly small German town called , which at the time was very much an active part of the Holy Roman Empire's rule. In today's modern geographical make up Luther's birthplace is refereed to as modern southeast Germany. His parents were both from poverty stricken backgrounds and had no profound or royal linage. Luther came from a relatively smaller family with respects to the time period in which Luther was raised, he had only one brother by the name of Jacob Luther. A year after his birth Luther's parents made the decision to move the family to Mansfeld Germany, where his father became a leaseholder of various copper mines and smelters. Luther mother was described and characterized as being a hard working individual of "trading class". As his father worked day and night in the mines he hoped for a better life for his children and pushed heavily on education as a platform that could take Martin and Jacob anywhere in life. Hans was eager for his children to amount to big things such as a lawyer. Martin moved from place to place to attain great levels of education until finally in 1501 he received a Master of Arts degree in grammar, logic, rhetoric and metaphysics from the University of Erfurt. At this moment in his life things looked hopeful for Martin as he seemed to be going down the well written path of becoming a distinguished and renown lawyer. Things would rapidly change for Luther when in July of 1505 he endures a profound spiritual enlightenment during an intense storm.





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Eisleben, Germany with a commemorated statue in the center of the town to honor the various works Luther performed over the years






The Event That Changed It All:

On July of 1505 Martin Luther was caught in a horrific and life threatening thunderstorm in which he felt his survival raters were radically low. While caught in this thunderstorm Luther cried out "save me Saint Anne, and i'll become a monk!", St. Anne was known for being the patron saint of miners. Eventually to Luther's surprise the storm gradually disappeared and Luther was saved from a terrible death. Proceeding this promise that Luther made he embarked on a spiritual journey, but aside from this promise Luther had feared ideas of hell and God's profound wrath and was under the assumption that a spiritual life could help attain salvation. His choice to embark off the well written path of his father would greatly upset his father who had wanted him to become a lawyer since he was young, as well it would change the dynamic of their relationship for the next several years. Once Luther entered the spiritual life his first few years in the monastery where very difficult for him as he struggled to fit in and attain the religious enlightenment he so greatly desired. During this struggle he came across a particular mentor who told him to direct his focus towards Christ as this would steer him in the direction he so greatly wished for. Luther would go on to take take this advice and at the age of 27 he was offered the opportunity to be a delegate to a church conference in Rome, unfortunately this put him several steps backwards in his path to salvation. Whilst serving as a delegate he witnessed various immoral and corrupt acts among the Catholic priests. Luther eventually took his path back to Germany where he enlisted at the University of Wittenburg in hopes of ridding his spiritual dilemmas and attaining salvation. During these years back in University Luther excelled greatly and achieved a doctorate to become a professor in theology at the University of Wittenburg. While studying scripture, Luther finally achieved the religious enlightenment he had been searching for. In 1513, while preparing lectures, Luther read the first line of Psalm 22, "which Christ wailed in his cry for mercy on the cross", this was a cry all to familiar to Luther’s own struggles with God and religion. Two years after, during a lecture on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he read, “The just will live by faith.” He pondered on this statement for several days. After pondering this statement, Luther realized the key or focal point to spiritual salvation was not to fear God but to believe that faith alone would help bring personal salvation. This moment was very influential in Luther's life as it set in motion the next few years which would prove to create the religious reformation of millions.




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The University of Wittenberg, where Luther studied various scriptural and spiritual works


Uncertainty With The Catholic Church:

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An angry Martin Luther, in response posting his 95 theses on the chapels front doors

After witnessing the various corrupt and immoral acts performed by the catholic priests and several other members of the ecclesiastic society, Luther searched for better path for himself. It was also during this time in the early 16th century that several others were in search of answers and responses that the Catholic church could not attend to. Countless scholars and theologians much like Luther were in pursuit of answers pertaining to the teachings and doctrines of the Catholic church. In 1517, Pope Leo X announced a new round of indulgences to help construct St. Peter’s Basilica, which truly upset Luther as there had been great abuse of indulgences since their creation. On October 31, 1517, an angry Martin Luther responded with “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences”, more commonly known as the “95 Theses”. The 95 Theses was a series of controversial questions and statements directed towards the christian church, with a strong focal point surrounding the use and discretion of indulgences. In line 21 of the 95 Theses Luther stated, “ Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.” Although just a simple piece of work, the 95 Theses did not go unnoticed, it allowed the common person to finally identify with Luther in their disagreements towards the church since the article was published in the common vernacular of German. It also encouraged and promoted the first steps away from the church towards a reformative environment, in turn leading to the creation of Protestantism. Luther nailed the 95 theses on the University of Wittenburg's chapel door,in addition he also sent a copy to Archbishop Albert Albrecht of Mainz, calling on him to end the sale of indulgences. Aided by the printing press, copies of the Ninety-Five Theses spread throughout Germany within two weeks and throughout Europe within two months.






A Warning From The Church:

Martin Luther's recent actions surrounding the 95 theses and his profound need to question the holy roman empire truly set fire in the ecclesiastic society. He opened a whole buckets worth of discomfort and anger within the ecclesiastic community so much so that In 1520 the Pope sends Luther a Papal bull “Exsurge Domine”, giving him 60 days to recant his recent works on the 95 Theses or face excommunication from the church. Luther decides to burn the papal bull and in response writes two other pieces of pivotal literary works that play important in his success as a reformist, “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” and “On the Babylonian Captivity of the Christian Church”. In his first treatise, he draws several attacks on the way the faith is being practiced and by whom it is being practiced by, so much so that encourages the ideal that “we ought to become bold and free on the authority of all these texts, and many others. We ought not to allow the spirit of freed to be frightened off by the fabrications of the Pope” In short he asserts that no occupation or individual is more holy than another. In his second treatise, he states that there is only one word and that is the word of God. He also makes countless attacks on scripture and how abouts various christian traditions are being wrongfully practiced by man, in his second account he states “ To begin with, I must deny that there are seven sacraments, and for the present maintain that there are but three: baptism, penance and the bread.” Each of his treatises played important in his success as a reformist as they appealed to the German nation, in exposing and scrutinizing the oppressive christian doctrines imposed by the Pope and christian system.

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A copy of Luther's world famous 95 theses
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Martin Luther in the 1520 taking aggressive action against the church by burning his papal bull

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Martin Luther in seclusion translating the bible from Latin to German, which was the common vernacular at the time


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Excommunication:

On January 1521, Martin Luther was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. He was excommunicated for his persistent heretic like behaviors and for refusal to assimilate himself into the catholic church. In March, he was summoned before the Diet of Worms, which was a general assembly of secular authorities. Like he always did, Luther refused to recant his statements surrounding the catholic church and their unstable and corrupt nature , he demanded he be shown any scripture that would refute his position. There was none to be found . On May 8, 1521, the council released the Edict of Worms which banned Luther’s writings and declared him a “convicted heretic.” This made him a condemned and wanted man. Friends helped him hide out at the Wartburg Castle. While in seclusion, Luther had went into hiding where he embarked on an endeavor to translate the bible which was in Latin to the language of the people that being German. This endeavor would last several years but in 1534 once complete, had left an undeniable impact on the German people. Luther’s translation of the bible allowed German society to take hold and understand for themselves the word of the Lord, as well his translations promoted and circulated the German language throughout the country.



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Martin Luther appearing at the Diet of Worms

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The Separation Of Person,Priest and God:

One significant or important faith breakthrough that Luther initiated was the separation of person, Priest and God. This meant that Luther sought out to bring a personal connection and relationship between God and the person practicing the faith. During the time of Luther faith and faith ideals were practiced and preached through church officials such as Pope’s and Priests, in turn preventing a personal relationship with God. Luther did not agree with this and believed that faith should be a special bond between the person and God, as opposed to something regulated by someone else. After years of disagreement, he stated “The Pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.” Through this he meant that only God had the ability to perform things such as salvation and that Priests and Popes were man made and man appointed figures. This personal connection with God was an important revelation as it appealed to a large demographic, through removing the need for dependence on anyone or anything in matters of faith.

Equal Power And Significance For The Secular:

The final way in which Luther made a pivotal faith breakthrough was his idea of placing equal power and significance on the secular as opposed to just the ecclesiastic. Luther’s era was one filled with oppression and corruption surrounding matters of the ecclesiastic, so much so that there was often disagreements and arguments between the secular and ecclesiastic. Luther described a division in societal life through putting forth two groups of work, the “temporal” or “secular” and the “spiritual”. The works and activities being performed and contributed by the “spiritual” was seen as more important than those of the “temporal”. Luther sought out to get rid of this division, through his powerful stance in society. In a Christmas homily he delivered to the people, Luther utilizes the analogy of a shepherd to convey this division, he stated, “All works are the same to a Christian, no matter what they are. For these shepherds do not run away into the desert, they do not don monk’s garb, they do not shave their heads, neither do they change their clothing, schedule, food, drink, nor any external work. They return to their place in the fields to serve God there!” Luther’s ideals on all aspects and vocations in society being equally as important, attracted large numbers of people through its encouraging and welcoming atmosphere. This was important as it reduced the clash between secular and ecclesiastic, as well it sought out to bring importance to things outside the church.





Several Denominations of The Catholic Faith:

Another significant faith breakthrough that Martin Luther had been the father of was his creation of several denominations of the christian faith, his desire to split from the Catholic church sparked and paved way for countless other faiths.At the time of Luther the Christian church was an extremely powerful institution with strong holds throughout Europe. This left for little movement outside the Christian church. In a conversation with his most loyal followers he stated “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject of all, subject to all.” Luther was a firm believer in free will and free spirit, he strongly encouraged Christians to exercise these ideals. Originally his protest away from the church was centered around Protestantism, but eventually this paved the way for countless other denominations to make their mark much like he had. Spin offs such Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists and Quakers arose from Luther’s new found protestant reformation. The creation of these countless denominations gave people the chance and avenue to spread their wings outside the Christian church. These new faith avenues will forever mark Luther down as a true revolutionary, as he opened the gates from the one known faith.




His Later years And Legacy:

denominations.pngFrom 1533 to his death in 1546, Martin Luther was the dean of theology at the University of Wittenberg where he formally studied to become a theologian. It was during this time he suffered from various illnesses such as arthritis, heart problems and digestive disorders, and the physical pain and emotional strain of being a fugitive and on the run for many years might have been reflected in his pain. He would still go on to write several works,some contained intense and offensive language against several segments of society, particularly Jews and to a lesser degree, Muslims, including Luther’s treatise The Jews and their Lies. Sadly during a trip to his hometown of Eisleben, he died on February 18, 1546, at age 62. Martin Luther is one the most influential and controversial figure in the Reformation movement and history of the Catholic church. His actions fractured and drastically changed the Roman Catholic Church into new sects of Christianity.