Martin Luther: the Reformation and the Nation
For my final response paper, I will focus on the German theologian, professor, pastor, and church reformer Martin Luther. Martin Luther’s most notable lifetime achievement was being the founder of the Protestant Reformation. The principles for this movement were captured in the publication of his “Ninety-Five Theses” on October, 1517. These writings were the result of Luther rejecting several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. This radical stance brought a wide range of attention to Martin Luther, most in the form of retaliation. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X and the Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.
Martin Luther, however, continued to stand strong on his convictions by continuing to teach that salvation and eternal life could not be earned by good deeds, but are received only as the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer from sin. He also challenged the authority and office of the Pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge from God. I believe that his lifetime goal was to challenge the status quo of Catholicism during his era in order to provoke Christians to follow the principles of the written Bible versus a doctrine based on the interpretation of man only. I believe that his purpose was to show what it truly means to following the Christian lifestyle, which should be based on the Bible directly. Martin Luther’s initial accountability was to the Catholic Church and its hierarchy. However, it shifted to an even higher level of accountability, which was to God, when he began to publicly state his differences with its existing doctrine and leadership requirements of the individual Christian.
How it works
In calling for a change, the underlying theme of his principles was the concept that a person can not live wildly throughout life, and then buy their way into repentance, and ultimately heaven. A true Christian was to rely on only the Bible to build their faith and stay in God’s good grace. This was his ideal of the principal duty of a Christian, and his audience included Christians and new converts. His perspective is one of the reasons why I found myself interested in learning more about him because above all else, Martin Luther was committed to pleasing God, and his lifelong goal was to show people the true way of being a Christian. He only wanted the people to trust in their faith in God and continue to do good deeds with their neighbor as proven by one of his quotes, “It makes clear that a believing Christian is free from sin through faith in God, yet bound by love to his neighbor.”
I believe that this quote stands true even in today’s society. It is true that money has value, but it shouldn’t cause people to become so materialistic that they think it is ok to assign a monetary value to God and being a Christian. Martin Luther wanted to show that getting gifts was not the answer to repentance or salvation. Yes, Christians needed to learn how to give and lend a helping hand to others because we are Christians, not because we will be paid for it. It is by our faith in God that they will be able to obtain salvation. This also answers his conception of power, which was that God is the true power.
During his lifetime, many people believed that the pope had God-like authority and power. I definitely agree with him on this one because I viewed the Pope as a representative of not only the Christian life, but in place of God Himself. Someone who is as acceptable as the current pope, Pope Francis, who seems to be one that does not claim that only he can bring salvation and peace. I believe that only God has that authority to reach and touch all of mankind, and He is the only one who gives judgement. I can see why Martin Luther had to speak out the way he did then. Today, I believe that there have been many changes in that direction, and even the Catholic Church is now a more diverse group of believers.
I believe that Martin Luther’s four principle truth claims are the bible is the true source of God, Christians only need to trust and believe in God to remain in His good graces, the pope holds no authority nor power above God, and that Christians have the ability to speak to God directly without any involvement of a priest or pope. Like Martin Luther, I believe that Christians should only trust and believe in God first and above all other teachings of man because that is one of the basic agreements of being a Christian. We should be mindful that neither the church or the pope have authority greater than God; and that they are only to be representatives and support systems for helping us access all that is good from and about God. The fact that he choose to actively pursue putting in place a separate reformation from the Catholic Church speaks volumes to his sentiment on how he believed the “church” should be. To him, the church had been transformed into “a den of thieves.” I think that he cared enough about God’s Church to give it a fresh start. Which is also where his Ninety-five Theses came into play because it outlines the things that were perceived to be wrong with the church. He directs us to a doctrine that emphasizes that the Bible is the one true source of guidance for Christianity. I believe that, without his writings, Christianity would’ve been just as bad as it were when Martin Luther was alive.
The Bible also justifies his claims to consider it as the main source that Christians should use to keep close to God. His view on Jesus Christ was based on the premise that he was not a man of greed, which would go in direct conflict with the then current teachings and practices of the Catholic Church and its leadership. In the midst of it all, Martin Luther was able to hold the Christian ideology and beliefs of that time like many do today, but reject the Roman Catholic ways.
Like many Christians today, he used the bible as his moral guidepost and kept his conviction based on that through thick and thin. The one sentence that would describe Martin Luther’s commitment to the guideposts I used would be his following quote, “If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stringing and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul.” What he meant is that no one should be judged based on what they feel alone. If a person would allow others to pass judgement on them, then the person receiving judgement, would be considered a pushover. I’m the type of person that chooses logic and reasoning over something that is based on emotional instinct. Knowing that Martin Luther held his conviction shows that he possessed the determination needed to change the church for the better and make a reformation that strived to follow the Bible versus the doctrine of man first. His writings and life challenged my beliefs first from the perspective that I used to believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the most holy institution and its teachings are the only ones to be considered.
However, as I read about Martin Luther, he helped to broaden my perspective of the church and Christianity. This includes taking a look at the practices of ideology, money and placing a man as the go between for God and myself. Initially, I thought that he was just a little crazy for so boldly condemning the Roman Catholic Church for thievery. As I read deeper into the Catholic priests’ teachings I found that Martin Luther was mentioned. Now, it doesn’t seem so crazy. The second area that he challenged me in is that I believed that as a tradition we were to literally tell all of one’s business to a priest because we had to, not because we choose to. Even though some choose to do it as the best way to be absolved from their sins, I know there is a better, more direct way to the Source. Because of his writings, there were two areas that came to mind that have also been fortified for me. First, I now believe that the only thing or person that can absolve my sins is God, and I can go directly to Him for myself. Only He has that power.
Furthermore, he fortified my belief of the fact that God is everywhere. So, if I want to contact God directly, I can do it myself. His writings and stance further reassures me that I do not need permission from a priest or anyone from the church to reach out to God on my own behalf. Another thing that fortifies my beliefs is that I find the Bible to be the primary source for learning more about the guidelines for self-discovery and a way to gain growth and maturity as a Christian. The things that contradict my belief is that Martin Luther claims that we only need faith in God alone as an initial confession to stand as Christians, and we do not need to do good works to call ourselves Christians. First, what would be the point in having faith, if one does not have to work on that faith? That makes no sense to me. By this, I mean, just saying you are Christian is not enough to actually be a follower of Christ. I think the person must make it a life time goal to know the Lord on a more personal level, as a friend, which in turn will build up their faith. I also believe that we all have work that we are to do to support ourselves and others in the Christian lifestyle to make the world a better place.
We have to walk the walk of the Christian faith and demonstrate the love we have for one another through our actions. Martin Luther is quite an inspiration because he was one of the first primary figures to point out the flaws of the Catholic Church. Yet, he did not just talk about it, he demonstrated what it takes to follow the path of a true Christian. He taught me that being a Christian first starts with the confession of faith and then requires that you live it out loud.