Heroes of the Faith~Martin Luther

  I am starting a new series called Heroes of the Faith. Every few posts I will post about a story of the life of an influential person of the Faith. Hope you enjoy!

Martin Luther

     Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, to Hans and Margarethe Luther, in Eisleben, Saxony; which was then the Holy Roman Empire; Luther was baptized the next day as a Catholic. In 1484 they moved to Mansfield, Germany. His father, a German cooper smelter, became wealthy by renting equipment to the mines, and later used this wealth to help put Luther through school. Luther’s mother was a hard-working woman. He had several brothers and sisters, and was very close to one of his brothers named Jacob. Hans wanted Martin to become a lawyer, and in 1497 Hans sent Martin to three Latin schools, in Mansfield, then known as Madgeburg. The three Latin schools focused on grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Luther later compared is time there to Purgatory and hell. In 1501, at the age of nineteen, he entered the University of Erfurt, which he later described as a beer-house and hoar house. The schedule called for waking at four every morning for what has been described as “a day of rote learning and often wearying spiritual exercises.” He received his master’s degree in 1505. Martin enrolled in law school at the same school that year, as his father wanted; but dropped out almost immediately, because law to him represented uncertainty. Luther sought assurance and a steady balance to life through philosophy and theology. He was deeply influenced by two tutors who taught him to be suspicious of even the greatest thinkers and to test everything he heard, which later helped spur him to start and lead the Reformation.

     On July 2, 1505, Luther was on horseback during a thunderstorm and a lightning bolt struck near him as he was returning to university after a trip home. Later telling his father he was terrified of death and divine judgment, he cried out, “Help! Saint Anna, I will become a monk!” He came to view his cry for help as a vow he could never break. He left law school, sold his books, and entered a closed Augustinian friary in Erfurt on July 17th 1505. One friend blamed the decision on Luther’s sadness over the deaths of two friends. Luther himself seemed saddened by the move. His father was furious over what he saw as a waste of Luther’s education. Luther devoting himself to fasting, long hours in prayer, pilgrimage, and frequent confession. He would later remark, “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would indeed have been among them.” Luther worried about his salvation, so his superior decided that Martin needed to work more to distract him from his worrying, and ordered him to pursue an academic career. Luther was ordained into the priesthood and in 1508 began teaching theology at the University of Wittenburg.

     A Dominican friar named Tetzel began selling indulgences, which was supposed to get one out of Purgatory and in to Heaven. When Luther found out that Tetzel was doing this he became very angry, because indulgences are totally against the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Luther believed that if someone believed on Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins, that they did not need indulgences. Tetzel tried very hard to sell them to whomever was willing to pay. He would yell things like: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory [also attested as ‘into heaven’] springs.”. On 31 October 1517, Luther wrote to his bishop Albert of Mainz, protesting the sale of indulgences. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences,” which came to be known as The Ninety-Five Theses. Many of the thesis attacked the Roman Church on several points including Thesis 86 which asks: “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

     In 1823, Luther married Katherina von Bora, a run-a-way nun she was 26, Luther was 41. They had six children. Luther wrote many hymns including his most famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or in German: “Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott”. Luther was eventually called to recant or deny all that he had taught; his writings were banned and burned. He was put in prison until he was brought before the Diet of Worms, which was like the court of the Roman Church. He refused to recant, stating his famous quote: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well-known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me! Amen.” Orders were given that no German was to aid him and any one who killed him would not face legal consequence. Thankfully, Frederick III of Saxony pitied him and had masked men kidnapped him along the way, taking him to his castle. It was there in Fredrick’s Castle that Luther translated the Bible into German.

      Luther struggled with poor health in later life which made him short-tempered in his speech and writings. His wife was heard saying to him “Dear husband, you are too rude.” To which he responded, “They are teaching me to be rude.” his last sermon was preached in Eisleben, the city of his birth, on Feb. 15, 1546, three days before his death on Feb. 18 of a stroke. He was 62 years old. He was berried in Castle Church in Wittenburg, beneath the pulpit.

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