Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Although many religious reforms in Europe preceded those of
Martin Luther, a who was a German, he is considered to be the
initiator of the Protestant Reformation. In the year 1517, outraged
by the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church (see Reformation),
Luther posted on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg,
Germany, his now-famous 95 theses. In the theses, Luther railed
against the Catholic Church and what he saw as its excesses and
hypocrisies, clearly exemplified in its selling of indulgences
to the common masses.
Prior to his Reformation activities, Luther was a student of philosophy
at the University of Erfurt, where he received his Bachelor's
degree (1503), and then two years later, his Master's degree.
Though his father wished him to study law, Luther's unsettled
soul and the sudden death of a close friend caused him to enter
an Augustinian cloister in 1505. As a monk, Luther began a more
thorough study of the Bible and theology, particularly Augustine
and the Christian mystics. In 1507, he was ordained a priest.
In 1508, Luther was appointed professor of philosophy at the newly-established
University of Wittenburg. After becoming disillusioned with the
philosophy of the time, Luther made preparations to attain higher
degrees in theology. In 1509, he received his Bachelor's degree,
and in 1512 the Doctor of Theology degree. Following this, Luther
began to lecture on the Bible and preach against what he saw as
the corruptions of the papacy. When Luther encountered Johann
Tetzel, a Dominican commissioned in 1502 by the pope to preach
and sell indulgences in Germany and the Scandinavian kingdoms,
he resolved to counter not only the sale of indulgences, but also
the entire theological and economic systems of the Catholic Church.
Like all other Protestant refomers, Luther placed heavy emphasis
on the Scripture, particularly the New Testament. In opposition
to the priestly hierarchy of the Catholic Church and its supposed
infallibility, Luther came to see each individual as having access
to the Truth preached by the Christ. As such, Luther coined the
phrase "justification by grace, through faith," making
evident his belief in each individual human's spiritual authority
and access to soul healing, or salvation.
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