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This essay examines the monumental impact Martin Luther King Jr. had on the world. It will explore his role in the Civil Rights Movement, his advocacy for nonviolent protest, and his enduring legacy in fighting for racial equality and justice. The piece will analyze key moments like his “I Have a Dream” speech and the Montgomery bus boycott, highlighting how his vision and leadership have continued to inspire movements for social change globally. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Communication.
Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet, written by Lyndal Roper, is a unique account of the reformer’s character. She shows us Luther as a person who saw himself as God’s chosen prophet. Through the disposition of touching narratives, she is attentive to the revealing details that provide distinction. Her Luther is complex, extraordinary, and can be revolting.
Luther’s character and achievements rebel against an easy definition. As the book demonstrates, Luther was an iconoclast, an original thinker, and a bold actor who brought about a revolution that changed the face of Christianity. Simultaneously, Luther strictly held to the established hierarchies of gender and power, demanded obedience to the ruling class, and renounced those who sought social change in the name of the Gospel. Luther was an advocate for the ‘priesthood of all believers,’ yet mocked and damned the peasants when they rose in 1525.
How it works
Roper is successful in bringing the reader inside Luther’s mind in a hasty way with a sharp eye. It is the person of Martin Luther who is the object of her investigation (xxvi-xxvii). And what emerges is a “difficult hero” (410). Her examination of Luther confronts his astonishing achievements and jaw-dropping flaws.
Luther wrote: “I who ought to have become a martyr have reached the point where I am now making martyrs of others,” after meeting his colleague and friend Andreas von Karlstadt, whose broken relationship with Luther is movingly told (306). No words show us more powerfully the person and the course of the Reformation he initiated. The movement that had started with faith alone, scripture alone and the freedom of a Christian soon found itself burning books, drowning Anabaptists, and accusations
Roper finds the contrary impulses and convulsions of the Reformation in its most significant figure. Luther loved playing with words and paradoxes. He held on to contrasting views, and his instincts were frequently contradictory. Roper builds her account of Luther around his character, body, and spirit to show the reformer’s many ambiguities and enigmatic responses and to frame the Reformation as a whole. She follows Luther’s emotional transformation through the religious upheavals of the time (many of which he caused). As noted, she allows Luther’s voice to be heard, yet she gleans from the insights and perceptions of his friends and foes, including his Catholic opponents.
The truth was difficult to grasp in Luther’s day. He reviled anyone, including friends and supporters, whom he thought disagreed with him. To Luther, he alone had revealed the popes as antichrists and defied the emperor at the Diet of Worms in 1521. No one was his equal, and no questioning of his authority, real or apparent, failed to incur his wrath. Even his Philip Melanchthon, who always had to apply ointment to those castigated by Luther, at one point thought he would be driven from Wittenberg.
In body and soul, Luther saw himself as a martyr for the Gospel and believed that no one could stop his path to destiny. Martyrdom, however, was not to be his fate. Luther died peacefully in his bed after enjoying the protection of the Saxon electors for most of his reforming career.
Between 1518 and 1525, Luther was the publishing star of Europe. His works flooded German lands, which made him the most well-known person in the Empire. His message was arresting and compelling: he preached about a God who freely and graciously saved through faith in Jesus Christ and liberated from any necessity to win their salvation. His translation of the Bible shaped not only a confession but culture. Luther offered the balm of spiritual assurance to those made anxious and fearful by their inability to appease an angry God, as he famously had once been. His spiritual autobiography of the devout yet tortured monk who came to find peace in God through scripture was a model that could be followed by peasants and noblewomen.
Roper directs us to Luther’s early years. The role of his father, Hans Luder, was formative. The “young Luther” (as he later refashioned his name) inherited many of his father’s characteristics and rebelled against them. He was to defy his father with his decision to abandon the path to a career as a lawyer and instead enter an Augustinian monastery.
Roper vividly describes a working culture that left a deep impression on the young Luther, turning him against the dishonesty of profit-seeking entrepreneurs and embedding in him a sense of the fragility of human existence. Roper invites us to consider how the world of his hometown of Mansfeld and Luther’s father led the young man to a vision of the utter dependence of humanity on the benevolence of God, who would, in turn, emerge as the paternal figure he sought. Luther never entirely left behind his parental influences: he mourned his father when he died, and later in life, he said that his father-like mentor Johann von Staupitz was the one who gave him all.
There was a restlessness in Luther, who sought the comfort and discipline of paternal authority, a consolation he was only to find in a God who took salvation out of human hands, a God who was both judge and father. In the end, Luther assumed the role of the father that he had so evidently sought in others. As a reformer, head of a large household, and pastor, he embraced the dispensing of advice and guidance, shaping the lives of others as he saw fit.
From an early age, Luther was compassionate and self-critical, whose emotional stability was both molded and unbalanced in the monastery. He staggered in guilt, although there was little in his conduct to reproach. He exhausted his mentor Staupitz by confessing for up to six hours at a time, believing that God judged and hated him. As Roper points out, the Gotha sermon of 1515 was delivered by a person in deep despair (60–62). Staupitz encouraged the tortured monk to undertake doctoral work and then
to take a position at Wittenberg.
Staupitz made Luther, but soon he moved beyond his spiritual father to become his own person, an independence that he defended all his life. Staupitz recast Luther and gave him a new identity. One of Luther’s remarkable qualities was an ability to reinvent himself, often by identifying with biblical characters such as Joshua, David, or, crucially, Christ. Having emerged from Staupitz’s mentoring, Luther ensured that he never again owed any debts, that all forms of relationship are marked by domination,
As “Luther the reformer” emerged, Roper tells us that there was a gradual development during the years 1518–1519 that shaped his theology- one grounded in Luther’s deep and powerful meditation on scripture. He moved away from Staupitz’s teaching toward a spirituality more rooted in God’s justification of humans by grace alone, which arose from Luther’s dramatic encounter with Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Just as Luther was discovering the freedom wrought by God in liberating humans from works of righteousness, the darker elements of his personality appeared. Following the Ninety-Five Theses of 1517 and Rome’s moves against him, Luther came to see himself as a martyr, a conviction that drove him forward and, in his mind, separated him from his friends and colleagues. God had chosen him, and only he could fulfill the mission for which he felt called.
The most innovative quality of Roper’s biography is in teaching us about Luther’s embodiment of thought and belief. Against Zwingli and others, Luther argued for the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The significance of the debate between Luther and the Sacramentarians often is not seen, but Roper, remarking that it “engaged Luther’s deepest psychological drives,” persuasively argues that the conflict is essential to understanding the Wittenberg professor (275).
Luther rejected all attempts to separate body and spirit to celebrate the sacrament of the table as a memorial for what Christ had done on the cross. For Luther, God is present with us. How? That was less important and, in the end, a mystery. The divine did not shun the fleshly. Luther was no ascetic, and he basked in the incarnate nature of salvation.
Luther embraced the redemption of humanity in all its contingencies. He loved humor, enjoyed sex with his wife Katharina von Bora, idealized family life, and ate and drank with passion. However, Roper reminds us that anger darkened his final years. Luther destroyed relations, driving from the fold those best placed to form the next generation of leadership.
Notoriously, Luther turned on Jews with his execrable On the Jews and Their Lies (1543). Roper rejects traditional arguments that seek to explain the raw hatred in print either as a product of its times or as reflective of Luther’s disappointment about the course of the Reformation. His damning words went beyond traditional Christian hostility to Jews, for antisemitism was integral to the reformer’s thought from an early stage. His call for the eradication of Jews made many a colleague and friends cringe. Roper does not hesitate to suggest the link between Luther’s rage and its appropriation of Protestant identity (395).
Reading Lyndal Roper’s biography offers a unique look into Luther. We see the freedom of the Christian in Luther’s intensely personal struggle for spiritual fulfillment. We encounter a person of alarming obscurities – one who had wrestled with the devil and frequently lost. In her exploration of Luther’s spirit and body- and the sixteenth-century world they inhabited – Roper has shown us that Luther was human after all.
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