Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Martin Luther had been an Augustin monk since 1505 when he became a theology professor in Wittenberg in Saxony. As early as 1517 he protested against some practises of the Catholic Church in his 95 theses on Indulgences.
He was excommunicated by the Pope, who considered him a heretic, and was the father of the protestant Reformation.
The Lutheran Reformation
Martin Luther was interested in one of the key concepts in Christian theology: Do faith or deeds save man and make him just before God? His answers were justification through faith and salvation through grace.
On this basis Martin Luther created theological works with the Bible as a reference.
Thanks to the political support of the prince Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, he carried out a reformation and organised a new Church in Germany.
During the life of Martin Luther
Five individuals particularly accompanied and helped him in implementing the Reformation or were opposed to him:
Philipp Melanchthon disciple and successor of Martin Luther wrote the Augsburg Confession.
Erasmus supported Luther for a long time. But after a long controversy, he persisted that salvation was related to deeds.
The emperor Charles V, who remained a Catholic, was opposed to the Reformation but had to come to terms with the German princes who had become Protestant.
The prince Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, protected Martin Luther and enabled him to implement the Reformation.
Lucas Cranach, a painter and friend of Luther, illustrated and published the translation of the Bible realised by the reformer.
Christianity in the West in 16th century
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Church of Rome had been in a state of moral and political crisis for two centuries, but had not managed to overcome it.
Martin Luther and public life
Luther’s teaching, writings and sermons were widely distributed. After his 95 theses had been posted, and he was condemned by the Pope as a theologian, many of his fellow citizens decided to follow him: knights, peasants or bourgeois. These first Lutherans saw him as a prophesying individual, and looked for his support in their various conflicts.
Martin Luther and Erasmus
The relationship between Luther and Erasmus was rich but stormy. The theologian and the humanist had very close understandings in their translations of the Bible. But they had different points of view on what could save individuals from sin and lead them on the path to salvation. For Erasmus it was provided by good deeds. For Luther, salvation only came from God’s grace. The debate reached its peak in the famous controversy about free will between 1524 and 1526.
Martin Luther, his theology
Luther founded his theology on the Bible and more specifically on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, as far as salvation through God’s grace and not through one’s deeds was concerned. His theology was the basis of the protestant Reformation. Lutheran Churches, but other protestant Churches also embraced it and its principles.
Martin Luther, his written works
Martin Luther was the author of substantial body of written works at the service of the Reformation. All his life Luther published theological writings. His commitment also induced him to write political and polemical texts. His works in Latin and in German widely spread thanks to printing.
Martin Luther and music
Martin Luther (1483-1548) was not only a theologian and a reformer, he was also a musician and a composer.
In the reform of the liturgy, he gave community singing a renewed role. He composed about thirty chorales, and, with other musicians, a hymn book. He asked that singing be taught in schools.
The role Luther wanted music to have contributed to the incredible development of this art in German speaking countries.
Erasmus was one of the main figures of 16th century Humanism ; he was cultured, tolerant and ahead of his time because he was European in outlook. He prepared the first critical edition of the New Testament in Greek, which appeared in 1516.
Charles the Fifth (1500-1558)
Charles the Fifth inherited a vast empire; although he saw himself as a defender of Catholicism, he was unable to prevent the spread of the Reformation Movement in the Holy Roman Empire. He had to contend with rebellions in Spain, social unrest in Germany, war in Italy and the threat of Turkish invasion in Vienna and the Mediterranean. He spent the end of his life in a Spanish monastery.