Luther’s translation of the Bible helped to develop a standard version of the German language and added several principles to the art of translation. Luther’s hymns sparked anew the development of congregational singing in Christianity.
Luther’s first public challenge of papal power came in 1517, over the selling of indulgences. The question at hand was whether the Pope (or any man besides Christ) had the power or authority to apply the merits of Jesus Christ and the saints to those in purgatory, thereby freeing them from the pains of purgatory.
Luther hated the practice, since he believed that indulgences did nothing to save souls and only lined the pockets of the clergy. Because he believed that they also exonerated deeds not yet committed, they also encouraged sin. He had taken a trip to Rome in 1510, and was disgusted at the Papacy’s greed and corruption.
On October 31 Luther preached a sermon against indulgences and, according to traditional accounts, posted the 95 Theses to the door of the castle’s Church of All Saints (the University’s customary notice board) as an open invitation to debate them. The Theses condemned the Church’s greed and worldliness (especially the selling of indulgences) as an abuse and asked for a theological disputation. Soon they were widely copied and printed; within two weeks they spread throughout Germany, and within two months throughout Europe.
On June 15, 1520, the Pope warned Martin Luther that he risked excommunication unless he recanted 41 points of doctrine culled from his writings within 60 days. In Oct., 1520, at the instance of Miltitz, Luther sent his On the Freedom of a Christian to the pope, adding the significant phrase: “I submit to no laws of interpreting the word of God.” Subsequently, the Pope excommunicated Luther on January 3, 1521.
Emperor Charles V opened the imperial Diet of Worms on 22 January 1521. Luther was summoned to renounce or reaffirm his views and was given an imperial guarantee of safe-conduct to ensure his safe passage. When he appeared before the assembly on 16 April, Johann Eck, an assistant of Archbishop of Trier, acted as spokesman for the Emperor. He presented Luther with a table filled with copies of his writings. Eck asked Luther if the books were his and if he still believed what these works taught.
Luther said: “They are all mine, but as for the second question, they are not all of one sort.” Luther went on to say that some of the works were well received by even his enemies. These he would not reject. A second class of the books attacked the abuses, lies and desolation of the Christian world. These, Luther believed, could not safely be rejected without encouraging abuses to continue. The third group contained attacks on individuals. He apologized for the harsh tone of these writings, but did not reject the substance of what he taught in them. If he could be shown from the Scriptures that he was in error, Luther continued, he would reject them. Otherwise, he could not do so safely without encouraging abuse.
Counsellor Eck, after countering that Luther had no right to teach contrary to the Church through the ages, asked Luther to plainly answer the question: Would Luther reject his books and the errors they contain?
Luther replied: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
According to tradition, Luther is then said to have spoken these words: “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” [Bainton, pp. 142-144].
Private conferences were held to determine Luther’s fate. Before a decision was reached, Luther left Worms. During his return to Wittenberg, he disappeared. The Emperor issued the Edict of Worms on May 25, 1521, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw and a heretic and banning his literature.
Martin Luther, more than the other religious dissenters that preceded him, shaped the Protestant Reformation. Thanks to the printing press, his pamphlets were well-read throughout Germany, and soon other thinkers developed other Protestant sects. Since Protestant countries were no longer bound to the powerful Roman Catholic Church, an expanded freedom of thought developed which probablycontributed to Protestant Europe’s rapid intellectual advancement in the 17th and 18th centuries.
(Source of text and photo: Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.)
For a list of the 95 These posted to the castle in Wittenburg, click here.
Martin Luther’s seal expresses his theology and his faith. He designed it himself. In the center is a black cross indicative of Christ’s dreadful sacrifice on the cross for every sinner who ever lived. The cross is in the center of a red heart, to show that faith causes love, joy and peace to grow in the human heart. The red heart is on a white rose because white is the color of angels and blessed spirits.The white rose is against a blue-sky background to symbolize the Christian’s hope for the coming joys of heaven. The seal is enclosed in a gold ring, showing that the bliss of heaven is unending. It is also widely referred to as the ‘Luther Rose’.