Martin Luther’s Influence in History
No conversation can begin with the word or phrase religious reformation, protestant, peasant rebellion, crusades, or even holocaust without owing a debt to one man, that man’s name is Martin Luther. The ideas of this one man began to change the religious, political and social norms of the 16th century and continue to unto this vary day. He may be the singular most important figure in Western religious culture to this day. Unlike many historical figures that came from prosperous families or nobility which then rose to power themselves, Martin Luther was proud of having been born to a low income family. He was once quoted as proudly calling himself “the son of a peasant.” He was also fond of writing in his earthly German even though his Latin was also very powerful. (1) This would become a focal point of Luther’s career. No matter to what elevation he would raise to, he never considered himself a reformer but a man of the people. Hence most of his writing was written in German to gain a wider audience. Also unlike many peasants of his time Luther would go on to be college educated. In 1505 he would graduate from Erfurt College with a degree in liberal arts. On his way back to Erfurt he was caught in a thunderstorm and vowed to St. Anne (Patron saint of miners) that if she saved him he would become a monk. Despite his father’s opposition, Luther joined the Augustine friars, an elite order both socially and intellectually. (2) During his time with the monks Luther became obsessed with the delusion that he was jaded in the eyes of God. No form of penance was too extreme and he rigorously sought after every form of spiritual discipline and purity, all to no avail. No matter how persistent he was in his endeavors, he never felt justified in Gods eyes. Always the sinner and never the saint Luther began to search the Bible and the Church rigorously for answers. In 1510 Luther embarked on a journey to Rome with another of the friars regarding business of the order. Much like pilgrims to this day, he ascended the Scala Sancta to free his grandfather from purgatory. Luther’s later reflections of Rome were not that of an enraptured saint but of a devout but disgusted religious man. Not only was the city riddled with prostitutes, debauchery, and abundant vanity but it was also a very spiritual devoid place for him. Even the Italian priests would change the words of the mass to mock the transubstantiation in Latin. (3) Luther would eventually take his Doctorate on October 19th, 1512. He received the fifty gulden from Elector Frederick the Wise with the condition that he would remain as professor of biblical studies for the rest of his life. (4) During his subsequent years as an instructor he wrote several lectures on books of the bible including The Psalms, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews. During this time he also began to solidify what would later become his core beliefs of religious matters such as “Sola Scriptura” as it would later come to be known. Luther’s first real difficulties began with his defiance to the sale of indulgences. The Catholic Church would sell special parchments that allowed for the remission of past, present or even future sins. Luther and his followers would later come to label this the “sale” of indulgences while the Catholic priests would label it as the “granting” of indulgences. Here in lied a fundamental difference between Luther and the powerful institution of the Catholic Church. The Church had come to rely on tradition and Luther believed that the Church should be subject to the scriptures. Hence, his theory that scripture should interpret scripture and the Church should not interpret scripture was born. This would become the battle cry of the soon to come Protestant Church. On October 31st, 1517, Luther first came onto the scene that would inevitably thrust him into a world of controversy. In his first attack on the Catholic...
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