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Without a doubt Martin Luther was a reformer. Today’s Protestant Christian churches own up their existence to Martin Luther. Luther led a group of Christians out of the Catholic Church in order to form the New Lutheran reformed Churches. Luther had different views and beliefs of Christianity as compared to the Catholic’s. In order to understand the formation of Protestant churches it is necessary to discuss the history of Martin Luther, his views and beliefs and his contributions to religion.
Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany on November 10, 1483, to Hans Luther and Margareth (Whit ford 21). Luther’s father was a miner and who owned numerous foundries of copper mines as a result of his hard work. In 1484, Hans Luther moved his family to Mansfield, in order to provide adequately for them. Luther was raised under strict disciplinary by both his parents and his teachers. Luther’s parents anticipated an enhanced life for him, and they desired him to be a lawyer in order to evade the life of poverty.
Martin Luther early education began the Latin School at Mansfield, where he received religious education in the late-medieval Catholic teachings that were characteristic of that era. He was taught to believe in Mary and the saints, superstitions and beliefs in witches, as well as the general visits to the religious shrines. Luther enrolled in Latin classics, religion, and music classes which were part of the curriculum of the late medieval schools (Lindberg 55). When Luther was fourteen years of age, he joined the school of Magdeburg where members of Brethren of the Common Life taught him.
Luther enrolled at the University of Erfurt, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1502 and a Master’s degree in 1505 (Mc Grath 299). In order to fulfill his father’s desires, he enrolled for a degree in Law then in 1505 but pulled out shortly thereafter. This is because Luther believed that law signified ambiguity. Luther felt drawn towards theology and philosophy and scholars such as Jodocus Trutfetter and Bartholomaeus Arnoldi profoundly influenced him.
On 2nd of July 1505, Luther was travelling from his home to the University, and along the way he encountered an awful thunderstorm and lightening that threw him on the ground. He pleaded with St. Anne to spare his life, and vowed to become a monk if he survived the tragedy. This was the beginning of Luther’s transformation. Two weeks later, Luther joined the monastery at Augustinian Monasteries. He later on took up his monastic vows and begun his monastic duties and responsibilities.
While in the Monastery, Luther yielded to a life of strict discipline. While in the monastery Luther involved himself in theological studies and was ordained a priest on April 4, 1507. Luther celebrated his first mass a month later, where his father Hans attended, and mocked him because he never approved of his son being a priest. This made Luther fall into a state of despair and unworthiness.
In 1508, Luther began teaching theology at the University of Erfut. While in the university Luther got disappointed by the secularism, and indifference he found in the Roman Church, and that is when his desire for reform begun. Luther got a transfer to Wittenberg university, where received his second Bachelor of Arts degree in 1509. Eventually, he acquired his Doctorate in Theology in 1512 and became a member of faculty theology at the University of Wittenberg.
While teaching at Wittenberg, Luther encountered the gospel. On October 31, 1517, Luther pinned his Ninety-Five Theses on the castle church door at Wittenberg (Machiavelli, 11).The Protestants still celebrate this event to date as the commencement of the Protestant Reformation. He did this as a response to a monk who was selling Papal indulgences. Ostensibly, Luther said he had no intention of spreading his teachings among the people. His teachings were written in Latin that was a language mainly used by the scholars. During the subsequent years, there were numerous debates among the Roman Catholic theologians. Luther was seen by lots of people as heretic in 1520 due to his teachings. Luther resisted from retracting and in turn advanced his teachings through pamphlets, and letters.
Views of Martin Luther
The role of Martín Luther in the Christian reformation cannot be underestimated. Luther is attributed to the reformations that swept Germany and the whole of Europe where many Protestant churches broke away from the Catholic Church to form their own movement (Spielvogel 380). The main motivation that led Luther to break away from the Roman Catholic was his views on Christian doctrine. They shaped his belief that Roman Catholic Church was not truly committed to God. There are several views that represent the main beliefs that Luther came up with concerning different facets of Christianity. Luther views can be summarized as follows:
Luther’s views of God
During his time, Martin Luther believed that God was gracious and that He could meet people through grace (Spielvogel 378). This is one of Luther’s beliefs that reinforced his relationship with God. This view is known to have had a significant impact on the life of Martin Luther. Whereas Luther was a catholic; this view inspired him to look for a God whom he could face for justification from all works of sin. This is a significant view that made Luther break away from the Catholic Church, when he found that the ecclesiastical system did provide an answer to his desire. Because of this, Luther was inspired to break away the Catholic Church in an attempt to seek the truth about God whom he could stand justified before him.
Luther’s view was a reaction to the view of other theologians in his time who emphasized that God used various ways to reveal Himself to men and women. However, Luther believed that their argument was wrong and that God did not use such ways. Instead, Luther advanced his view that the true God was one who knows the people through the cross. The theology of the Cross thus became Luther’s fundamental view about God, whom he wanted to serve.
Luther also advanced the notion that God though hidden, was in view because He came from heaven and dwelt in a man called Jesus. According to Luther, God was more caring and full of grace because Jesus chose to die for man and pay for his sin, when all they deserved was death. Using the scripture of John, Luther developed his view that God’s sacrifice of sin was a true indication of the condition that man was and without grace, man could not be saved.
Luther’s view on Justification
Many scholars believe that justification was the kernel of Luther’s view and the main thrust of the reformation process (Whit ford 5). In his works, Luther believed that God provided men and women with grace that they might live in Him. This is the process through which God gave righteousness to men and women. Compared to other theologians, Luther believed that people were justified by faith and no other avenue could provide justification. Luther made this view in response of what the Catholic Church that was justifying people through sacrament and their works in the church. To reinforce this believe, Luther made this statement arguing that Christ was made sin in order for men and women to get forgiveness through the righteousness’ that made Jesus go to the cross.
View of faith
Luther’s view of faiths provided Christian in the medieval times with an approach that shaped how Christian thought about their faith in Christ. Rather than seeing faith as the confession made of lips, Luther argued that faith was signified by the realization that God was real and worked in His people (Spielvogel 410). In addition, Luther claimed that faith in God was as a result of accepting God’s word rather than through a mental acceptance of God’s word. Luther thus viewed faith as a gift from God to man.
Luther’s view of the role of Christian works
At a time when many Christians believed that their works were a display of their relationship with God, Luther believed that human’s works did not give an indication of the relationship between Christian and God. Contrary to what other Christians believed; Luther viewed that faith was more valuable than the work that many people relied as an indication of their relationship with God (Spielvogel 381). In his own interpretations, Luther argued that charitable works from men and women were rather secondary following the faith that people have in God’s word. Indeed this view by Luther was summarized in the statement that Christians have no works if they have no faith.
Luther’s view of the scripture
Luther is known for bringing the various beliefs that influenced the manner in which people thought about the scripture. Luther argued that the scriptures were the only means of Christian authority (Bayer 83). This view was in conflict with the belief that the Catholic Church served that it served as the custodian of the truth. Without a doubt, Luther argued that the word of God was the source of authority and not the Catholic Church. The idea of the Catholics that the Pope could not make a mistake was thus baseless. According to him the scripture served as the only truth, and the church was fallible and capable of making errors.
Luther’s View of the Interpretation of Scripture
Luther argued that the scripture had a different value in their interpretation, and not all books in the bible carried the same weight. In his own words, Luther viewed the kernel of the bible to be in the gospel books which he regarded as the marrow of the bible. The gospels books compared to other books provided the true value of the gospel more than any other books. In other works, Luther went to reconcile the scripture of James and Paul on faith.
Contributions to Religion
Martin Luther made a lot of contributions to religion. Utmost contribution of Martin Luther was in the translation of the bible into German version. Luther began his translation with the New Testament a part of the bible as it was mainly used by the priests when teaching the word of God. Bald & Wachsberger clarified the fact that the reason behind Luther’s translation of the New Testament, was because he had an interest in creating an easier way for readers to access the bible (pg. 234). Luther was keen to emphasize on the believer's ability to read and understand the bibles on their own without seeking church interventions.
Luther’s German versions of the New Testament bible were on sale in the late 1522 under a classic title known as ‘Das Newe Testament Deutzch, Vuittermberg.’ The German version received massive volumes of sales as Sir. Friedrich encouraged individuals to buy Luther’s version by banning the other upcoming translation copies (Banner, pg. 58). Martin Luther also made an immense contribution to the translation of the Swedish version. The German version of the bible became useful to the translators to interpret it into the Swedish language. Other translators used Luther’s work due to his excellent stylistic writing abilities. Notably, Luther’s translation was more colloquial and understandable to individuals thus, it becomes accessible to all.
Martin Luther made contributions to the meaning of personal salvation. Banner explains how according to Luther, the existing Christianity was in a religion that was seeking the good of self even in God (pg. 60). Luther developed a negative attitude when in the monastery as he underwent a period of guilty conscience and despair. Luther observed as the leaders of the church were failing to meet their responsibilities to Christians. In addition, Luther observed as ordinary people remained clamoring for meaningful religious expressions and certainty of salvation. As a result, salvation process became almost mechanical. Luther differed with the Catholic doctrine emphasis on both faith and good works in order for individuals to achieve personal salvation. Luther tended to differ with the Catholic doctrine, he saw human beings as, weak and powerless beings to control their good works so as to get merit in salvation. Luther found a new way to view the individual’s salvation. Luther asserted that humans were to receive salvation through faith in God’s promises rather than good works.
Luther contributed a lot to the establishment of the reformed church. Luther was the pioneer of the new groups of Christians, who call themselves Protestants. Luther led Christians out of the Catholic Church as he gave Christians a satisfactory explanation on the meaning of personal salvation. Luther influenced princes and state authorities all over to organize and guide the reformed churches. The new churches had its name after Martin Luther as Lutheran reformed churches. The Lutheran reformed churches became a territorial church with the state playing a crucial role in supervision and disciplinary actions against the members.
Martin Luther contributed a lot in the way of worship during the service that was different from the Catholic liturgy. Subsequently, the new church services featured new styles of the worship service that consisted of a German liturgy, bible reading, preaching the word of God and songs. Luther’s main aim in introducing this worship was to bring the Christians closer to God. Luther's main interest was in the spiritual nourishment and growth of Christian faith by understanding the word of God. Therefore, the services in the Lutheran reformed churches focused on helping Christians draw themselves near to God.
Martin Luther contributed to an end of celibacy for reformed churches. Luther was initially a Catholic monk therefore, he had to uphold celibacy. However, he did not see a substantial reason behind being a celibate. He based his arguments on the Christianity teachings of the bible where the priests and servants that did not restrain them from marrying. Luther as the leader of the newly formed Lutheran reformed church denounced his clerical celibacy. Luther, therefore, went on to marry a former nun Katherina Von Bora in 1525. Luther took the step of denouncing his celibacy in order to provide a model of married and family life for the new Protestant minister.
Indeed, Martin Luther is the father of all the Protestant churches that exist today. Luther has brought changes in the conduct of churches and description of personal salvation. Protestants see Luther as an eye-opener to the true meaning of salvation. Most of them believe that they had been moving to the wrong direction of Christian life. Therefore, Luther’s teaching on the need for faith has revived them again in salvation. Without a doubt, many Protestants today share in the same beliefs as those of Martin Luther.