According to Wikipedia: “Martin Luther 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546), O.S.A., was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. Luther came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He strongly disputed the Catholic view on indulgences as he understood it to be, that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with money. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor”.
I got thinking about Luther on a number of counts. I came across this statement recently by way of introduction to a plug concerning a new book about Luther: “The Church is confused about doctrine and morality, Islam threatens to overwhelm Europe, and new technology and scientific discoveries are reshaping economies. Sound familiar? That was the world of 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses and ignited a revolution. The same descriptions could be said of the world today”. I am reminded that on 31st October, this will be the 500th anniversary of Luther posting his theses on the Internet if his day, which begins: “Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter”. I was reminded that the very first school prize I received (as 9 year old) was titled: “The Monk that shook the World”, whose teachings later helped shape my own.
A modern translation of the Theses can be easily got from Internet and can be read and digested in under an hour. It seems to me, there are two main elements. The first is regarding the explicit declaration of the central tenet of Evangelical religion which might these days be encapsulated in a statement along the lines that a person can and must be saved by turning from his/her sin and putting his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (the third person of the Trinity) who sacrificed himself for our sin and offers the gift of salvation by virtue of grace (unmerited favour). The second can best be summarized as an expose of the teachings of the Roman Catholic church of the time, for example and particularly concerning the necessity of buying Indulgences as a means of carrying favour with God.
With the dumbing down of modern culture, in particular its ignoring and rejecting its Christian roots, thereby leaving a vacuum to be filled by every human whim and falsehood, it would be easy for us to forget the impact Luther made. Besides which, Luther was far from perfect. For example, there is a considerable body of evidence that he was an anti-Semite. Yet I would argue that his influence on western culture is profound. While there were other important figures in the Protestant Reformation, e.g. John Calvin, Luther remains, at least in the minds of many, the most significant.
Arguably, I would not be where I am today if it were not for what Luther did and neither would many others or society as we know it. Yet sadly, society as we know it, beset by multitudinous problems, is a pale shadow of how great it could be. We need another Luther to help shake the world and lift up our eyes to heaven and so we become desirous for God, and to rid us from the brainwashing by the elites that now seek and do control us, liberated from the power of sin and death and the tyranny of whatever power that keeps us under subjection, and be the people that God would have us be.