Monday, February 09, 2009

Martin Luther

I also got a question about Martin Luther. The question is of the type which says: "What about Martin Luther?"

This is reasonably vague enough that I can pretty much post what I want to about the man. Below is a brief summary I wrote about him in my Biographical Church History, which can be read in The Faithful, a blog I created to talk about 20 followers of Jesus who changed the world:

But about Martin Luther: He was a great man, a hothead, a stubborn mule, a Bible student, a prolific writer, a professor of theology, but not a really great thinker. He really did change the world by insisting that church tradition be based on Scripture instead of money or power. He stood firm when the church wanted him to change his views on the book of Romans and the basis of salvation. And in trying to escape the inquisition, he inadvertantly created a new church and a new political map of Europe, especially Germany. He also wrote the first modern translation of the Bible into German, which is still used as an important translation today. But by the end of his life, he got kinda strange. Because Zwingli didn't agree with him on an interpretation of the Lord's supper, he agreed to a war between his principality and Zwingli's. Because the Anabaptists were opposed to his views on baptism and the state, he agreed to have his government persecute and kill them off. Because the Jewish people didn't listen to him any more than the Catholics, he preached the worst anti-Semitic sermons you could think of.

So, while he truly changed the world, I wish he had been a better follower of Jesus.

My chapter on Luther:
Martin Luther—1500s
No Salvation Through Money

Background Check:
In the late Middle Ages (1300-1500) much of the Roman church, which ruled over Western Europe, was corrupt. The Romans church was controlled by rich people, who taxed the poor so that they could live luxurious lives. The priests and the monks were the only ones who could preach, but they often did not know the Bible at all, only the theology they were taught by other priests and monks. And then came a practice known as “indulgences”—The church requesting money from people so that their loved ones would not suffer harm from God. In the early 1500’s this became a popular form of devotion, and a way for rich people to feel that they were “saving” their dead loved ones from harm.

His Story:
Martin Luther was a young man riding his horse when a lightning storm struck suddenly. He was scared out of his mind, and so pleaded to God for deliverance. After not being harmed by the storm, Luther decided to live with a community of monks in Wittenberg, Germany (The “W” is pronounced like a “V”). Although he lived by himself, his task was to teach the Bible and theology to the young monks.
In 1517, it became known that a caravan of the Roman church was coming to Wittenberg to encourage people to give indulgences. Luther became angry and wrote out 95 points (or “theses”) against indulgences and then nailed them to the Wittenberg church door (which was the community bulletin board). These points were well presented, written in German and they became printed on a new machine called a printing press. Soon the 95 Theses were all over Germany, and the church leaders were not happy about it.

The church leaders called Luther to a trial in another part of Germany, called Worms (Remember, the “W” is pronounced like a “v”). There, they accused Luther of teaching heresy, but Luther simply stood by the word of God and challenged them to correct him by the Bible. They could not, so they let him go. On his way back home, Luther heard that some of the church leaders were going to try to kill him, so he ran away and hid with some friends.

Soon, an important political leader called Fredrick the Wise decided to assist Luther and he kept him in his home and Luther was free to give Fredrick advice and to write his books—all of which were printed in German and were very popular in Germany. Luther also translated the Bible in German so that all the people could read the Bible. All of these acts together caused what was called “the Reformation,” or the worldwide challenge to the Roman church. Luther wanted to cause a change in the Roman church, but when the leader of the Roman church, the Pope, rejected Luther, then Luther began a new church, called the Lutheran Church.
Later in his life, Luther did not continue to follow the ways of Jesus, but advised Fredrick and other Lutheran leaders to kill Roman Catholics, Anabaptists (also called Mennonites) and Jews. This immediately caused horrible wars and persecutions to erupt between Christians in Europe for more than a hundred years.

Jesus also spoke out against the hypocrisy of people. He constantly said that the leaders of God’s people could not be trusting in money, but in God. And he was rejected and persecuted for this opinion, just like Martin Luther. However, Jesus never affirmed the killing of others. He recognized that people would be judged for their sins, but he held that God would do such punishment himself, and not support the killing of others. Thus, while Jesus might have supported Luther’s ideals, he would not have supported Luther’s ways of achieving God’s righteousness

Final Word (of men)
Martin Luther began a church named the Lutherans, and he actually changed the world upside-down. Because of his writings and teachings the Bible was focused on more by all Western churches and a new kind of Christianity was supported, generally named the Protestants (so called because they broke away from the Catholic church). Most Western Christians honor Martin Luther and his stand against hypocrisy.

A Word From Our Sponsor:
He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, which will entrust you to true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No slave can be enslaved by two masters; either he will hate the one and love the other or he will love the hone and hate the other. No one can be enslaved by both God and Mammon.
Luke 16:10-13

Beware of scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
Mark 12:38-40

Helpful Hint: Getting To The Heart of the Matter
In every age, the church had a weakness in following Jesus—and often more than one! The Faithful saw that weakness and spoke boldly to correct it. They were never interested in dividing the church, but only to make the church more faithful to Jesus and His teaching. Anthony saw the worldliness in the church and sought to correct it. Luther saw the demand to live by unfruitful deeds. As we will see, Martin Luther King saw the favoritism and spoke against it. The church was never happy to hear this message—instead, the Christians of these days fought against the message of Jesus! But the Faithful never failed to bring the message their church needed to hear.

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