The Idea That Changed the World

On this day 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses on the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany making known his opposition to a corrupt system of indulgences

Martin Luther’s insistence on faith over works and his call to end indulgences led to the Reformation. What he intended as a call for change within his Catholic Church led to the birth of Protestantism.

Luther was known for instigating a non violent protest to bring change to an unjust systems and institutions. Luther stood up to princes, kings, and popes.
Luther held that salvation came through faith alone (and not works).
His ideas coincided with the printing press so these ideas spread like wildfire throughout Europe

Recently, I watched Martin Luther: The Idea That Changed the World, a PBS documentary.

The documentary told the story of his journey towards becoming a lawyer, his struggle with guilt, his conversion to faith, his time as a monk, his efforts as a professor and writer along with interesting facts like how he met his wife – a nun he rescued from a convent.

The scholars on the film did a good job explaining the context for some of Luther’s worst moments – his position in squelching the peasants rebellion and some of his pamphlets that were anti-Jewish.

I was reminded all heroes make mistakes.

Martin Luther Quotes:

When a man believes himself to be utterly lost, light breaks. Peace comes in the word of Christ through faith.
Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all.
I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.
God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.
Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
Pray and let God worry.
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.
Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

 95 Theses

1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better deed than he who buys indulgences.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.

All 95 Theses

Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings

“Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, ‘As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!’ Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, “In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live.'” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live.” Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also fount in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.”

More on Martin Luther:

How the Reformation Addressed Social Injustice and Exploitation

Why Martin Luther King Changed His Name to Honor the Original Martin Luther

New 95 Theses from Mosaix

Concerning Unity and Diversity in the Local Church

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