Martin Luther

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Martin Luther

Martin Luther


Martin Luther (1483-1546) is known the world over as the German priest who in the 16th century set the Protestant Reformation in motion. In 1516, Luther composed his now infamous set of 95 theses with the sole intention of proposing a number of Church reforms (Marty, 2004). To his surprise, his 95 theses met with tremendous popular support, and at the same time, caused great controversy. As a result, he was promptly ordered by the Papal Court to recant his statements. Refusing to compromise his beliefs, Luther found himself the leader of a movement that eventually led to a radical break with the Catholic Church, which, at the time, was the prevailing religious, political, and social institution (Brecht, 1993). The result of this split, or what is now referred to as the Reformation, gave rise to Protestantism, one of the major denominations that makes up Christianity today. This study explains that Luther was a great reformer and he was responsible for the break-up of the Catholic Church.

Early Life

Luther was born on November 10, 1483 in Eisleben, Saxony into particularly tumultuous times (Marius, 1999). The Holy Roman Empire of Germany was under constant political turmoil. All of Europe too was adjusting to changes brought about by the Renaissance, the transition from the Middle to the Modern Age, as well as trying to cope with the devastating effects of the black plague. These turbulent times formed a fitting background for Luther's movement, the Reformation.

At the time of his birth, Luther's parents were lowly peasants, but after the family moved to Mansfeld to mine copper, they became one of the most respected families in the area (Marty, 2004). As a child, young Martin distinguished himself as one of the brightest in his school, and his parents planned for him to pursue a future as a lawyer. Even as a child, Luther was known for his recurrent bouts of melancholy, a characteristic that would remain part of his identity throughout his life.

In 1505, Luther received his master's degree from the University of Erfurt, but his plans to continue on to law school were interrupted (Marius, 1999). On a return trip to school after visiting his parents, he was caught in the middle of a thunderstorm. After being thrown to the ground by a sudden flash of lightning, Luther, cried out, “Saint Anne, help me! I will become a monk!” Luther's parents, especially his father Hans, were incensed. Nevertheless, he joined an Augustinian monastery in Erfurt 15 days later.


Luther was a less effective leader in matters of administration. He could not have conceived of working with an organizational chart, being patient with bureaucrats, or establishing coherent orders of church life (Brecht, 1993). He violated the intellectual boundaries of his university discipline, gave inconsistent and often-changing guidelines for congregational and supercongregational polities, was abrupt, too ready to advise others, and too ready to move on. When he died, the new Evangelical church, ruled more by princes than by clerics, inherited and contributed to church polities ...
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