Difference between revisions of "Martin Luther"

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'''Martin Luther''' (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was one of the most important leaders in the history of Christianity and the history of German culture. He was the reformer and theologian who launched the [[Protestantism|Protestant Reformation]] and founded the Lutheran Church as a branch of Christianity dominant in Germany<ref> There were many different independent German-speaking countries with different rulers; collectively they were called "Germany."</ref>  and Scandinavia.  
 
'''Martin Luther''' (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was one of the most important leaders in the history of Christianity and the history of German culture. He was the reformer and theologian who launched the [[Protestantism|Protestant Reformation]] and founded the Lutheran Church as a branch of Christianity dominant in Germany<ref> There were many different independent German-speaking countries with different rulers; collectively they were called "Germany."</ref>  and Scandinavia.  
  
Previous reform movements in the [[Roman Catholic Church]] were small-scale and did not disrupt the medieval Church. Luther was the first to definitively break the unity of Roman Catholic Christendom. His Lutheran Church broke with the pope, but became subservient to the state. He reshaped German religious culture through rejection of Catholic liturgy and celibacy; he created a new Lutheran liturgy using his very popular hymns and his translation of the Bible into German helped to shape the German language. The newly invented printing press permitted the rapid diffusion of his religious tracts and hymns
+
Previous reform movements in the [[Roman Catholic Church]] were small-scale and did not disrupt the medieval Church. Luther was the first to definitively break the unity of Roman Catholic Christendom. His "95 Theses" in 1517 was a direct challenge to the Church, which excommunicated him. But Luther was protected by German princes who resented the Italian domination of the Church.  A tireless writer and hymn writer, Luther used the printing press to spread his tracts, which were highly influential in northen Europe. Other reformers arose--some like [[John Calvin]] with a different version of Protestantism. The Lutheran Church broke with the pope, but became subservient to the state.  
  
To [[Mainline]] Protestants, Luther was a great reformer --a witness to and agent of Jesus Christ who God mysteriously chose to bestow a gift of deep insight into scripture and the true nature of the Catholic church, not unlike the kind of conversion experience given to [[St. Paul]]<ref>[[James Atkinson]], ''Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic'', (1983) , ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, pp.43-58</ref>. "Luther, and with him all the Reformers of the sixteenth century, German, Swiss, and British alike, believed that God spoke to them in the Scriptures in exactly the same way He had spoken to his prophets and apostles.<ref>''Martin Luther:Prohpet to the Church Catholic'', [[James Atkinson]], Eerdmans, 1983, ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, p.143</ref>" From the [[Roman Catholic]] perspective, Luther remains a monk who overeacted to the problems of the day and caused a great deal of needless trouble.   
+
Luther reshaped German religious culture through rejection of Catholic liturgy and celibacy; he created a new Lutheran liturgy using his very popular hymns and his translation of the Bible into German helped to shape the German language.
 +
 
 +
To [[Mainline]] Protestants, Luther has always been a great reformer --a witness to and agent of Jesus Christ who God mysteriously chose to bestow a gift of deep insight into scripture and the true nature of the Catholic church, not unlike the kind of conversion experience given to [[St. Paul]]<ref>[[James Atkinson]], ''Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic'', (1983) , ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, pp.43-58</ref>. "Luther, and with him all the Reformers of the sixteenth century, German, Swiss, and British alike, believed that God spoke to them in the Scriptures in exactly the same way He had spoken to his prophets and apostles.<ref>''Martin Luther:Prohpet to the Church Catholic'', [[James Atkinson]], Eerdmans, 1983, ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, p.143</ref>" From the [[Roman Catholic]] perspective, Luther remains a monk who overeacted to the problems of the day and caused a great deal of needless trouble.   
  
 
Luther's image changed over the centuries. Calvinists challenged his theology while Catholics systematically reviled his personality well into the 20th century. Lutherans saw him as an authoritative interpreter of the Word whose texts must be studied word for word, then as a prophet of God whose overall message was more important than particular writings, and finally as a hero of the German people who transcended religion.<ref> Robert Kolb, ''Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620'' (1999)</ref>   
 
Luther's image changed over the centuries. Calvinists challenged his theology while Catholics systematically reviled his personality well into the 20th century. Lutherans saw him as an authoritative interpreter of the Word whose texts must be studied word for word, then as a prophet of God whose overall message was more important than particular writings, and finally as a hero of the German people who transcended religion.<ref> Robert Kolb, ''Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620'' (1999)</ref>   

Revision as of 06:57, 18 October 2009

Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was one of the most important leaders in the history of Christianity and the history of German culture. He was the reformer and theologian who launched the Protestant Reformation and founded the Lutheran Church as a branch of Christianity dominant in Germany[1] and Scandinavia.

Previous reform movements in the Roman Catholic Church were small-scale and did not disrupt the medieval Church. Luther was the first to definitively break the unity of Roman Catholic Christendom. His "95 Theses" in 1517 was a direct challenge to the Church, which excommunicated him. But Luther was protected by German princes who resented the Italian domination of the Church. A tireless writer and hymn writer, Luther used the printing press to spread his tracts, which were highly influential in northen Europe. Other reformers arose--some like John Calvin with a different version of Protestantism. The Lutheran Church broke with the pope, but became subservient to the state.

Luther reshaped German religious culture through rejection of Catholic liturgy and celibacy; he created a new Lutheran liturgy using his very popular hymns and his translation of the Bible into German helped to shape the German language.

To Mainline Protestants, Luther has always been a great reformer --a witness to and agent of Jesus Christ who God mysteriously chose to bestow a gift of deep insight into scripture and the true nature of the Catholic church, not unlike the kind of conversion experience given to St. Paul[2]. "Luther, and with him all the Reformers of the sixteenth century, German, Swiss, and British alike, believed that God spoke to them in the Scriptures in exactly the same way He had spoken to his prophets and apostles.[3]" From the Roman Catholic perspective, Luther remains a monk who overeacted to the problems of the day and caused a great deal of needless trouble.

Luther's image changed over the centuries. Calvinists challenged his theology while Catholics systematically reviled his personality well into the 20th century. Lutherans saw him as an authoritative interpreter of the Word whose texts must be studied word for word, then as a prophet of God whose overall message was more important than particular writings, and finally as a hero of the German people who transcended religion.[4]

Luther-Cranach.jpg

Life

Luther was born on Nov. 10, 1483, in the central German town of Eisleben in Thuringia. His father, Hans Luther, originally a peasant, learned mining skills, and became a businessman who owned several small foundries; his mother, Margaretta, came from an educated urban professional family. Martin was strictly brought up in a traditional family. He entered the University of Erfurt in 1501, took a master of arts degree in 1505 and studied law in preparation for the legal career his father planned for him. Erfurt was the center of humanism, and Luther was well educated in Aristotle and the Latin classics by leading scholars.

Young Luther was tormented by the current picture of man's destiny. His Germany was obsessed by a cult of death, which had arisen after the Black Death more than a century before; however, not even death was as appalling as the God's judgment thereafter and the prospect of everlasting damnation. In July 1505, a thunderstorm overtook him. Struck to the ground by a bolt of lightning, he cried in terror to his father's patron saint, "St. Anne, help me! I will become a monk." Two weeks later he entered the strict Augustinian order.[5]

Years in the Catholic Monastery

Luther took his final vows and in May 1507 he was ordained a priest. He was assigned to the town of Wittenberg, Saxony, the next year as an instructor in logic and physics at the new University of Wittenberg, with its 180 students. Luther spent nearly his entire life in Wittenberg. He was favored and protected by the government, thanks to the influence of his friend, the court chaplain Georg Spalatin (1484-1545). He learned Greek and Hebrew and especially studied the Bible itself, as well as standard theological treatises by Scholastic thinkers Peter Lombard (c.1100-60), John Duns Scotus (c.1265-1308), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), Pierre d' Ailly (1350-1420) and William of Occam (1288-1347). Above all he was influenced by Augustine 354-430), the reputed founder of his order. He was also influenced by Nominalist theologian Gabriel Biel (c.1420-95) (his teacher's teacher), who taught that sinners could attain genuine contrition for their sins. Biel clarified the issue and Luther in 1517 came down strongly in opposition to it. The university awarded him the degree of doctor of theology in 1512 and Luther rapidly advanced in his teaching career and became a successful administrator; he preached regularly in the parish church. In 1510-11 he went to Rome on official business for five months, his only trip outside Germany. He later said he saw Rome's corruption, but most historians believe his later animadversions were shaped by his later alienation from the papacy and by his later alignment with German nationalist anti-Italian xenophobia. He did not yet in 1511 share the anti-papal and anti-Roman mood in Renaissance Germany that he later became leader of.[6]


Years as scholar in Wittenberg

In October 1512, Luther received a doctorate of theology from the University of Wittenberg and soon after assumed a Wittenberg professorship in Bible studies endowed by his Augustinian order. Lecture notes exist for courses he taught, including Psalms (1513-1515 and 1519), Romans (1515-1516), Galatians (1516-1517), and Hebrews (1517-1518). During this time Luther rose to the level of district vicar of his Roman-Catholic Augustian Order in 1515, later even overseeing the administration of Augustianian monasteries in Saxony.

Luther's fears continued to harass him. Repeated bouts of depression may have arisen partly from physical causes having to do with Luther's savagely ascetic regime that was self-imposed and against the advice of his confessor. "I vexed myself with fasts and prayers beyond what was common...if I could have got to heaven by fasting, I should have merited that twenty years ago.... I afflicted myself almost to death."[7] That is, he sought to earn heaven by self-torture. In reaction, he decided that nothing in the power of man is good enough to constitute a claim upon God. He fully explored the penitential system of the Church so that the sins which he could not expunge or eradicate might yet be forgiven, only to discover that he could not confess all of his sins. Some sins were forgotten and others not recognized, for man does not see that he is a sinner until confronted by the accusing finger of God. The mystic way of ceasing to struggle and of surrendering oneself to the wonder and the goodness of God offered no solution--for Luther, God was a consuming flame.

The solution to Luther's problems came through the study of the Bible; he was appointed to the chair of biblical study at Wittenberg. Luther later tells of having had religious experiences led to two important theological discoveries: (1)the evangelical purpose of the Gospels (1514) and (2) his replacement of scholastic theology with what he called the "theology of the cross" (1518, possibly earlier).

In writing lectures on Psalms, Romans, and Galatians from 1513 to 1516 Luther came to the conclusion, fundamental to Protestant theology, that man depends for his salvation on the sheer grace of God, made available through the sacrificial death of Christ. Christ is not primarily the terrible judge who condemns sinners, but the redeemer upon the cross. Man has only to believe and to accept in trust what God has done to be forgiven, even though sin is never entirely taken away. This was to become the central doctrine of Luther's creed: the doctrine of justification by faith.

The critical point at which Luther's position diverged from that of the Catholic Church was in his absolute denial of man's ability to do anything whatsoever toward his own salvation. The Church taught that through grace man is given by God the ability to fulfill His commandments. Since man is free to reject this grace, if he accepts it instead and performs good works, his deeds are meritorious. But Luther affirmed that when good deeds are performed with an eye to reward they are damnable sins.

Turning point: indulgences

Luther's actual breach with the Church was occasioned by the pope's use of indulgences. An "indulgence" was a remission by the Church of punishment time in Purgatory, which was a penalty for sin. (Indulgences did not help souls sent to hell.)[8] Invented in the 11th century, indulgences at first only remitted penalties imposed by the pope on earth, but by the 1480s the pope claimed an extension to penalties imposed by God in Purgatory. Some popes undertook not only to remit penalties but also to forgive sins. In return for such benefits the recipients made cash contributions in accord with a graded tariff based on ability to pay. The underlying theory of the entire transaction was that Christ and the saints by their good works had earned more credits than were needful for their own salvation and had stored up a treasury of merits from which the pope could make transfers to others.

The privilege of dispensing the particular indulgences which drew Luther's ire was granted by Pope Leo X to Albrecht, archbishop of Mainz. The public thought money was going to Rome to build St. Peter's Church; in reality, half the money went to Albrecht so that he could repay the loan that had enabled him to purchase from Rome a second archbishopric. The proclamation of the indulgence was entrusted to Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk with considerable experience in the field. The indulgence was declared, in an accompanying document, to confer the forgiveness of sin, and there was the further statement that those who secured indulgences for relatives in Purgatory need not themselves be contrite. Tetzel assured his hearers that:[9]

As soon as the coin in the coffer rings
The Soul from purgatory springs

Break with Rome

95 Theses: 1517

Luther's most dramatic move in trying to purify the Catholic Church on October 31, 1517, when he nailed the 95 Theses or issues to the door of his Wittenberg Church. The source of Luther's complaint involved thos indulgences. Luther objected and produced a list of 95 complaints to spark public debate.[10] This procedure was customary among theologians. The Latin document had 95 theses.

Here are two of Luther's most important Theses:

  • Thesis 82: Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.[11]
  • Thesis 86: Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?[12]

Uproar follows the 95 Theses

The 95 Theses of 1517 hurled Luther into a world of swirling controversy and extreme danger, leading to his excommunication by the pope in 1520 and his criminalization in the Holy Roman Empire by the Diet of Worms in 1521. Luther's role changed from that of a would-be reformer of the Catholic Church to a declared foe of that institution, as it refused to heed his call to bring its beliefs and practice into line with the doctrines he had been uncovering in his study of the Bible.

Luther sharply attacked any linkage between the raising of money and the remission either of sins or penalties. He denied the jurisdiction of the pope over Purgatory, noting that if the pope could release souls, he should let them all out without collecting a penny. Many colleagues agreed with Luther thus far. But he went on to deny the fundamental theory of the treasury of the accumulated merits of the saints; he attacked not just the abuse of the indulgences but the core idea.

Luther sent a copy of his 95 theses to Archbishop Albrecht, asking him to stop the indulgences. Printed copies in Latin and German began to circulate widely, and many clerics agreed with Luther. Reform was in the air. The alarmed archbishop forwarded the document to Pope Leo X (1475–1521, pope 1513–21). Leo was a Medici, the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent; he was an aristocrat of dilettantish learning and a worldly patron of expensive arts and architecture (especially St. Peter's church) that had to be paid for. He had no interest in correcting the abuses of indulgence vending. Indeed, Leo routinely endorsed the claims of the indulgence-vendors and affirmed that souls were immediately released. Luther retorted that the pope was wrong. This was close to heresy. The pope summoned Luther to Rome. At this point Luther's prince, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, the senior member of the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, stepped in and insisted that his subject must have a fair hearing on German soil. The centuries-old German distrust of an Italian papacy was thus the first factor which gave Luther protection. German nobles did not like the flow of money to Rome, and they backed Luther in order to cut off the donations by Germans to support Rome.

A compromise was arranged that Luther would not go to Rome but would appear at a hearing before Cardinal Cajetan, a Dominican, at Augsburg in 1518.[13] The Cardinal confronted Luther with the papal pronouncement, or bull, of Clement VI in 1343, which contained the doctrine of the accumulated treasury of the merits of the saints. Luther rejected this bull, thereby impugning not only the authority of a particular pope but also of the canon law generally. He refused to recant his argument that the efficacy of a sacrament depended on the faith of the recipient. Luther thus called into question central traditions of the Church, saying the office of the pope and his authority was in opposition to God's word, and that sacraments were not automatically effective. Cajetan branded Luther a heretic. The pope wanted to seize Friar Martin and send him to Rome; but that was now politically impossible and did not happen.[14]

Papal response

Pope Leo X spent his time on the beauty flourishing during the Renaissance, and was a patron of the great artist Raphael. Pope Leo X probably never recognized the significance of Luther and his followers. Some historians feel that if the pope had responded more seriously, then the subsequent schism in Germany would not have occurred; others argue that a Reformation was inevitable and that many leaders were emerging.

In 1520, Pope Leo X announced the papal bull Exsurge Domine, which required Luther to withdraw 41 of his 95 Theses or be excommunicated. Luther refused and was then excommunicated by the Catholic Church.

Luther counterattacks

Instead Luther was free to publicize his position widely, so that everyone now recognized Luther as the defiant German rebel against the Church. He wrote a powerful series of pamphlets that rallied political and intellectual support.

The Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation called upon the rulers, including the emperor, to reform the Church. Luther demanded that the papacy be restored to the poverty and simplicity of the days of St Peter, with the pope turned virtually into a sort of St. Francis. Luther said the finances and vast real estate holdings of the Church should be handled by national churches, not the pope. Germans cheered. More radical was the demand for the abolition of clerical celibacy, which the Germans had opposed back when it was imposed in the 11th century by Gregory VII.

On The Babylonian Captivity, written in Latin and directed at priests, was even more challenging. Luther attacked the sacramental character of the Church and thereby undercut its theocratic claims. The Church counted seven sacraments; Luther counted only two that were authorized by Christ, baptism and the Lord's Supper (and maybe penance, but he later dropped that one). Luther argued that the Catholic Mass was not the true Lord's Supper, for the Mass is not a repetition of the sacrifice of Christ. The wine as well as the bread should be given to the laity. Church doctrine held that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ; only the outward appearances, or "accidents," of bread and wine remain. This doctrine was called transubstantiation, and was based on the philosophy of Aristotle, whom Luther could not tolerate. Luther offered his own doctrine of consubstantiation--that after consecration the substances of bread and wine remain along with the body and blood of Christ. The priest causes no miracle, because Christ is everywhere present and at all times. All that the minister does is to open the eyes of believers to Christ where he is, because God's presence and Christ's presence, though universal, are not universally obvious. When this tract appeared, Erasmus, the eminent humanist in Amsterdam, declared the breach between Luther and the Church was now irreparable.[15]

Luther went further, promulgating the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. In the Freedom of the Christian Man Luther declared the Christian to be free from all priestcraft; the minister is merely one who, out of the body of the universal priests, has been set aside to perform a particular office.

Diet of Worms: 1521

The papal bull reached Luther on October 10, 1520. giving him 60 days to recant. Luther's reply was the tract Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist. On the day 60 he burned the bull in public. Formal excommunication was delayed. International politics came into play; Luther's protector, Elector Frederick of Saxony, was a critical person no power dared to alienate.


It was then up to German authorities to take any legal action against Luther. The 21-year-old Holy Roman Emperor Charles V ordered him to stand trial before an assembly (a "Diet") of estates of the Holy Roman Empire that met in Worms, a small town in what is now Germany. This famous assembly is therefore known as the "Diet of Worms."

The Diet of Worms was an imperial meeting; it unexpectedly became a council of the Church. It would not take action without hearing Luther. Elector Frederick insisted that his subject be given a fair hearing, so Emperor Charles V, though a most orthodox Catholic, issued the summons to Luther, who arrived after a triumphal tour across Germany. Luther admitted he wrote the pamphlets and explained on April 18:

Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, for they have often erred and contradicted themselves)-- unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience is neither. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.[16]

The verdict on May 25, 1521 (the "Edict of Worms") was "guilty". Luther was declared an outlaw who should be arrested. The lines of the Reformation were now hardened.

Luther had already left the trial before the verdict was rendered. He hid at Wartburg Castle at Eisenach, where Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, protected him. Luther took the pseudonym Junker Jorg (Nobleman George), grew a wide beard and dressed like a knight.

The Reformation

Wartburg: 1521-22

While in hiding in Wartburg, the Reformation speeded up, stimulated by Luther's tracts and organized by his friends in Wittenberg, especially Philipp Melanchthon, who always remained close, as well as the more radical Andreas Carlstadt. The liturgy was deliberately changed with Luther's approval. For example in a celebration of the Lord's Supper they gave wine to the laity. Monks and nuns left the cloister and got married. Luther concluded that the monks were right. Luther returned to Wittenberg. The emperor wanted to arrest him but had to worry first about serious wars with the Turks, with France, and even with the pope himself.

Confronting radicals

Luther was always troubled by violence and challenges to state authority. He was opposed when reformers broke up Catholic Masses and smashed images and statues of saints. Peasants, long smarting under social inequalities, revolted in 1524-26 in Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, and Thuringia using his name and that of Thomas Münzer (1490-1525). At first he tried to mediate. In his Admonition to Peace, Luther blamed the unrest on the rulers, who persecuted the gospel and mistreated their subjects. Many of the peasants' demands were just, he said, and for the sake of peace, the rulers should accommodate them. On the other hand, Luther warned the peasants they were blaspheming Christ by quoting the gospel to justify their secular demands. He told them bluntly that the gospel taught obedience to secular authorities and the humble suffering of injustice. As rebellion spread Luther was appalled and denounced the rebellion. In May 1525, he wrote against the "Robbing and Murdering Horde of Peasants," urging the princes to "smite, strangle, and stab [the peasants], secretly or openly, for nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you and a whole land with you." Luther argued that man's chief duty on earth was work, in particular agricultural labor and the duty of the ruling classes was the maintenance of peace. He castigated all layers of society for not fulfilling their duties. The Peasant War broke the peace, an evil he thought greater than the evils the peasants were rebelling against. He later criticized the merciless ruling classes, who killed some 100,000+ peasants (as well as Münzer) to crush the insurrection.

As the institutional Lutheran church developed, politicians gained increasing influence. In 1531, the League of Schmalkalden, an alliance of Protestant princes, was formed to defend the Protestant states against possible Catholic attack. In 1536, the Lutherans and southern Germans reached a concord on the Lord's Supper. (The southern Germans acceded to the Lutheran insistence that Christ's body and blood were received in the Lord's Supper even by the "unworthy," and Lutherans let drop the question whether this also applied to the "godless.") The agreement also regularized the military alliance between the northern and southern parties.

Luther's later works were increasingly angry. His reading of the Bible revealed from the beginning there had been a perpetual struggle between the true and false church. What happened to the prophets and apostles could and would happen to the church of his day. Luther concluded the papacy was the Antichrist. Protestant opponents were "false brethren," like those who had plagued the true prophets and apostles. The Turks, who threatened Europe from the east, were a clear sign of the end times: they were Gog and the little horn in the Book of Daniel.[17]

Spreading the word

For his last 25 years Luther was primarily the professor, the preacher, and writer.[18] He taught at the University of Wittenberg, where some 16,000 students were enrolled, 1520-60, most of whom became enthusiastic proponents of Luther's "New Theology." Since Luther remained under the imperial ban, it was Melanchthon, not Luther, who attended the many conferences where theologians disputed the new ideas. Luther remained the symbol of the Reformation; his enemies derided him as the pope of Wittenberg. While in hiding Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into High German, marking a literary and cultural as well as religious revolution. It appeared in 1522; his translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew appeared in 1534.

The Reformation was a triumph of literacy and the new printing press. From 1517 onward religious pamphlets flooded Germany and much of Europe. By 1530 over 10,000 publications are known, with a total of ten million copies. The Reformation was thus a media revolution. Luther strengthened his attacks on Rome by depicting a "good" against "bad" church. From there, it became clear that print could be used for propaganda in the Reformation for particular agendas. Reformist writers used pre-Reformation styles, clichés, and stereotypes and changed items as needed for their own purposes.[19]

Illustrations in the newly translated Bible and in many tracts popularized Luther's ideas. Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), the great painter patronized by the electors of Wittenberg, was a close friend of Luther, and illustrated Luther's theology for a popular audience. He dramatized Luther's views on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments, while remaining mindful of Luther's careful distinctions about proper and improper uses of visual imagery.[20]

Catechisms

Especially effective were Luther's Small Catechism, for use of parents teaching their children, and Larger Catechism, for pastors.[21] Using the German vernacular they expressed the Apostles' Creed in simpler, more personal, Trinitarian language. He rewrote each article of the Creed to express the character of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. Luther's goal was to enable the catechumens to see themselves as a personal object of the work of the three persons of the Trinity, each of which works in the catechumen's life. That is, Luther depicts the Trinity not as a doctrine to be learned, but as persons to be known. The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies, a divine unity with separate personalities. Salvation originates with the Father and draws the believer to the Father. Luther's treatment of the Apostles Creed must be understood in the context of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) and the Lord's Prayer, which are also part of the Lutheran catechical teaching.[22]

Hymns

Luther was a prolific hymn writer, such as "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."[23] Luther opened the way for a bringing together of high art and folk music, of all classes, clergy and laity, men, women and children. His device for this linking was the singing of German hymns in connection with worship, the school, the home, and the public arena.[24]

Luther's 1524 creedal hymn "We All Believe in One True God" is a three-stanza confession of faith prefiguring Luther's 1529 three-part explanation of the Apostles' Creed in the Small Catechism. Luther's hymn, adapted and expanded from an earlier German creedal hymn, gained widespread use in vernacular Lutheran liturgies as early as 1525. Sixteenth-century Lutheran hymnals also included Wir Glauben All among the catechetical hymns, although 18th-century hymnals tended to label the hymn as trinitarian rather than catechetical, and 20th-century Lutherans rarely use the hymn because of the perceived difficulty of its tune.

Luther's 1538 hymnic version of the Lord's Prayer, "Vater Unser in Himmelreich," corresponds exactly to Luther's explanation of the prayer in the Small Catechism, with one stanza for each of the seven prayer petitions, plus opening and closing stanzas; the hymn functioned both as a liturgical setting of the Lord's Prayer and as a means of examining candidates on specific catechism questions. The extant manuscript shows multiple revisions, demonstrating Luther's concern to clarify and strengthen the text and to provide an appropriately prayerful tune. Other 16th- and 20th-century versifications of the Lord's Prayer have adopted Luther's tune, although modern texts are considerably shorter.[25]

Luther wrote "Aus Tiefer Not Schrei ich zu Dir" [From depths of woe I cry to you] in 1523 as a hymnic version of Psalm 130 and sent it as a sample to encourage evangelical colleagues to write psalm-hymns for use in German worship. In 1524 Luther developed his original four-stanza psalm paraphrase into a five-stanza Reformation hymn that developed the theme of "grace alone" more fully. Because it expressed essential Reformation doctrine, this expanded version of "Aus Tiefer Not" was designated as a regular component of several regional Lutheran liturgies and was widely used at funerals, including Luther's own. Along with Erhart Hegenwalt's hymnic version of Psalm 51, Luther's expanded hymn was also adopted for use with the fifth part of Luther's catechism, concerning confession.[26]

Luther's 1540 hymn "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan Kam" [To Jordan came the Christ our Lord] reflects the structure and substance of his questions and answers concerning baptism in the Small Catechism. Luther adopted a preexisting Johann Walter tune associated with a hymnic setting of Psalm 67's prayer for grace; Wolf Heintz's four-part setting of the hymn was used to introduce the Lutheran Reformation in Halle in 1541. Preachers and composers of the 18th century, including J. S. Bach, used this rich hymn as a subject for their own work, although its objective baptismal theology was displaced by more subjective hymns under the influence of late-19th-century Lutheran pietism.

New theology

Eucharist

Luther's hierarchy of eucharistic meaning reflects his broader theology in structure and content. The divine Word, not ubiquity and the presence of Christ in the Sacrament, is the center of Luther's eucharistic theology. The hierarchy runs along this course: from the Word at the center of the Sacrament, to the benefit of the Sacrament in the Word of forgiveness, to the comfort given and received when the Sacrament is rightly used, to the fruit of communion in the Word of love. The hierarchy is the Word on which power, benefit, comfort, and communion are dependent. The presence is less important than the Word. Since the Word is incarnational in Jesus Christ, the issue was the very nature of the Word itself.[27]

Freedom of a Christian Man

Freedom of a Christian Man. This pamphlet--published in both German and Latin in 1520--succintly set forth his views on ecclesiastical (church) reform. The title became a popular slogan that was widely echoed throughout the Reformation. Luther also published two other tracts in 1520 that filled out his thought and complemented Freedom of a Christian Man. These were Babylonian Captivity of the Church (which questioned sacramental teachings) and Open Letter to the Christian Nobility. Freedom of a Christian Man was a document of principles of piety, telling how a Christian should live[28]

Translations

While in hiding he translated the New Testament from Greek into German in 1522. By 1534, Luther had translated all of the Old Testament from Hebrew to German also.

Luther translated Romans 3:28 by adding an extra German word for "alone" (alleine or alleyn) after the phrase: "justified by faith".[29] Luther believed that man is justified by faith alone, and that salvation comes only from faith. The Catholic Church taught that man is justified by faith, good works and confession to the Church authorities.

A remarkable invention awaited Luther's German translation of the Bible: in 1447 the German Johannes Gutenberg had already invented the movable-type printing press. This enabled Luther's translation to be printed for the public in September 1522. The Christian world would never be the same again.[30]

Marriage

In 1525 Luther married Katharina von Bora (1499-1552). She had been placed in a Cisterian cloister at an early age, where she received an unusually strong education. Her intelligence and strong will challenged traditional gender roles and allowed Luther to exemplify his beliefs. Their marriage reinforced his position against monastic celibacy. Katharina was not a conventional housewife; in addition to raising four children, she managed Luther's cloister and expanded his estate. However, despite being the sole heir in Luther's will, Katharina received nothing after his death.[31]

In "The estate of marriage" (1522) Luther removed marriage as a Christian sacrament but elevated its position in German society by advocating it as preferable to celibacy. This change was consistent with his teachings that lay people were in no way inferior to the clergy. Luther spoke of marriage as a temporal institution instituted by God in which both sexes should be treated with respect and the duties of child-rearing should be joyfully accepted. He loosened the restrictions on marriage, including allowing marriage between Christians and non-Christians, and allowed divorce in situations involving adultery, although he called on Christians to forgive.[32]

In Luther's later years, his health, precarious even as a monk, gradually declined. He suffered from constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, dizziness, ringing in his ears, an ulcer on his leg, kidney stones, and heart problems. He suffered from bouts of depression (battles with the Devil, he called them). Nevertheless he kept on writing to the end, with 360 published works from 1516 to 1530, and another 184 before his death in 1546.


Wars

Charles V tried to stop the spread of Lutheranism. In 1544, Charles V sent armies against the German princes, but the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 gave each German ruler the right to choose the religion for his state. The princes in southern Germany selected Roman Catholicism, but the princes in northern Germany chose Lutheranism. After World War II, when Germany split into West and East Germany, the West German part contained the predominantly Roman Catholic regions and the East German part consisted of the mostly Lutheran regions.

Luther continued to write, and taught at a German university for his financial support.

Jews

Luther grew very hostile toward Jews who refused to convert to Christianity, saying they were a rejected people suffering God's wrath for rejecting the true Messiah and should be expelled from Germany.[33]

Luther's writings in defense of his religious views were often harsh and passionate. After first reaching out to the Jews, when they did not embrace his Christianity, in 1543 he published a tract entitled On the Jews and Their Lies which called for the burning of synagogues and Jewish schools, the destruction of their prayer books, their homes razed and their money and property confiscated.[34][35]

Historians debate the impact Luther's writings may have had on German thought leading into the Nazi Holocaust of World War II. Luther harshly criticized many peoples in addition to Jews; a pamphlet of his in 1545, the year before he died, was entitled "Against the Roman Papacy an Institution of the Devil,". It is also recorded that at a round table discussion he said he believed in burning witches. Some of Luther’s writings seem quite vulgar by today's standards, but much of it was also in response to vulgar accusations against his religious views.


Legacy

After his death a furious theological battle raged over control of Luther's legacy. On the one hand were the "Synergists" or "Philippists" (named after Philipp Melanchthon) based at the universities of Wittenberg and Leipzig, who sought a compromise with the Calvinists over disputed issues such as free will and the Eucharist.[36] The other camp were "Gnesio-Lutherans" ("true Lutherans"), centered at Magdenburg, who denounced the first camp for suggesting good works were necessary for salvation. The upshot was the emergence of "confessionalism", an inward-directed search for the "true" Luther that ended up with a highly orthodox theology that seemed frozen in place until the Pietists emerged in the 18th century. While this battle continued, Calvinists made major gains and dominated Protestant thought outside Germany. [37]

Lutheranism has 70 million adherents today, and its influence in secularized Europe has faded. But many Christians, even some Catholics, have sung a famous hymn written by Luther: "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Moreover, hundreds of millions of Protstants worldwide agree with Luther that justification is by faith alone and belong to Protestant congregations that first sprung into being because of Luther's stand.

Quotes

Quotes attributed to Luther[38][39] include,

  • You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you.
  • Justice is a temporary thing that must at last come to an end; but the conscience is eternal and will never die.
  • My conscience is captive to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
  • We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.
  • If he have faith, the believer cannot be restrained. He betrays himself. He breaks out. He confesses and teaches this gospel to the people at the risk of life itself.
  • I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess.
  • To gather with God's people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.
  • Peace if possible, truth at all costs.
  • You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.
  • I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.
  • Where God built a church, there the Devil would also build a chapel.
  • I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.
  • If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn't do anything to you, but since you aren't wise, you need us who are old.

See also

Further reading

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Christianity

Foundations
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Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit
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Important Figures
Saint Paul
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Thomas Aquinas
Martin Luther
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Pope

Primary sources

  • Luther, Martin. Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, edited by John Dillenberger (1958) excerpt and text search
  • Luther, Martin. Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings (with CD-ROM), edited by Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Timothy F. Lull, and William R. Russell (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Luther, Martin. The Letters of Martin Luther (1908) full text online free
  • Luther, Martin. Conversations with Luther...Table Talk (1915) full text online free
  • Luther, Martin. Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther ed. by Captain Henry Bell, and Henry Morley (2009) excerpt and text search

External links

  • Project Wittenberg, extensive online collection of primary sources by Luther and his colleagues

References

  1. There were many different independent German-speaking countries with different rulers; collectively they were called "Germany."
  2. James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic, (1983) , ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, pp.43-58
  3. Martin Luther:Prohpet to the Church Catholic, James Atkinson, Eerdmans, 1983, ISBN 0-8028-1260-0, p.143
  4. Robert Kolb, Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620 (1999)
  5. Albrecht Beutel, "Luther's Life," in McKim, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther (2003) p. 3-19; Mullett, Martin Luther (2004), ch. 1, quote p. 27
  6. Mullett, Luther p 46
  7. Mullett, Luther p 44
  8. For the Catholic position see W.H. Kent, "Indulgences" in Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
  9. A. D. Dickens, Reformation and Society in Sixteenth-Century Europe (1966) p 61-2.
  10. For the e-text see English translation; and Lyman Baker, "Study Guide for the ...Ninety-five Theses"
  11. Luther wrote the theses in latin. This one read, Scilicet. Cur Papa non evacuat purgatorium propter sanctissimam charitatem et summam animarum necessitatem ut causam omnium iustissimam, Si infinitas animas redimit propter pecuniam funestissimam ad structuram Basilice ut causam levissimam?
  12. The Latin read, Item. Cur Papa, cuius opes hodie sunt opulentissimis Crassis crassiores, non de suis pecuniis magis quam pauperum fidelium struit unam tantummodo Basilicam sancti Petri?
  13. The Dominican order was a great rival of the Augustinians, and theologians took sides with Cajetan or Luther accordingly. MacCulloch (2005), p. 125-6
  14. Mullett, (2004) p. 82-3; Smith, Life and Letters (1911), 48-54; for the Catholic viewpoint see John R. Volz, "Tommaso de Vio Gaetani Cajetan," The Catholic Encyclopedia vol 3 (1908)
  15. Kyle A. Pasewark, "The Body in Ecstasy: Love, Difference, and the Social Organism in Luther's Theory of the Lord's Supper," The Journal of Religion Vol. 77, No. 4 (Oct., 1997), pp. 511-540 in JSTOR
  16. Luther may have added the famous line "Here I stand" later; Smith, Life and Letters pp. 118, 453
  17. Edwards, Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-46 (1983)
  18. Edwards, Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-46 (1983)
  19. Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther (1994)
  20. Christoph Weimer, "Luther and Cranach on Justification in Word and Image." Lutheran Quarterly 2004 18(4): 387-405. Issn: 0024-7499
  21. See texts at English translation
  22. Charles P. Arand, "Luther on the Creed." Lutheran Quarterly 2006 20(1): 1-25. Issn: 0024-7499; James Arne Nestingen, "Luther's Catechisms" The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand. (1996)
  23. For a short collection see online hymns
  24. Christopher Boyd Brown, Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation. (2005)
  25. Robin A. Leaver, "Luther's Catechism Hymns." Lutheran Quarterly 1998 12(1): 79-88, 89-98.
  26. Robin A. Leaver, "Luther's Catechism Hymns: 5. Baptism." Lutheran Quarterly 1998 12(2): 160-169, 170-180.
  27. Thomas J. Davis, "'The Truth of the Divine Words': Luther's Sermons on the Eucharist, 1521-28, and the Structure of Eucharistic Meaning." Sixteenth Century Journal 1999 30(2): 323-342. in Jstor; Thomas Osborne, "Faith, Philosophy, and the Nominalist Background to Luther's Defense of the Real Presence," Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 63, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 63-82 [ http://www.jstor.org/stable/3654258 in JSTOR]
  28. online text
  29. He wrote in German, "So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, alleyn durch den Glauben."
  30. The Gutenberg Bible, which put the Latin Vulgate in book format, had been printed long before--in 1455--but only in a very small edition.
  31. Martin Treu, "Katharina von Bora, the Woman at Luther's Side." Lutheran Quarterly 1999 13(2): 157-178.
  32. Scott Hendrix, "Luther on Marriage." Lutheran Quarterly 2000 14(3): 335-350.
  33. Most Lutherans ignored these violent polemics against Jews and stressed instead his earlier favorable views. Johannes Wallmann, "The Reception of Luther's Writings on the Jews from the Reformation to the End of the 19th Century." Lutheran Quarterly 1987 1(1): 72-97.
  34. Text of Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies
  35. The Jewish Virtual Library
  36. Randall C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin (1993)
  37. Robert Kolb, Luther's Heirs Define His Legacy: Studies on Lutheran Confessionalization (1996)
  38. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/29874.Martin_Luther
  39. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/martin_luther_1.html