Who was Martin Luther, and what is his importance to today?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After posting his "Ninety-Five Theses" on the castle church door--a type of blackboard for discussion at the university--Jon Tetzel, a Dominican monk who was a successful indulgence preacher saw Luther as attacking the entire penitential system of the Church, striking at the root of papal authority.  Luther was disciplined and promised to be silent.

However, when Roman law was imposed on Germany, it reduced the lower nobility to serfdom.  Along with the humanist movement, a change was desired and Luther and his writings became the voice of nationalistic aspirations.  At the Diet of Worms Assembly in 1521, Luther presented his points, points that became the foundation of Protestanism:

  • The Bible is the only infallible source of religious authority
  • Man is deprived of free will
  • Hierarchy and priesthood are not Divinely instituted; priesthood is universal
  • Only the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist are necessary; faith supplies the others
  • There is no visible Church or specially established one by God whereby men may work out their salvation.
playsthething eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the person behind the Protestant Reformation. He was a German theologian who felt that the Catholic Church had lost its way - that they were more interested in amassing wealth than saving souls.  The story goes that he wrote "The Ninety-Five Theses" and nailed them to the door of the church.  This document included his many complaints against the church, much of which had to do with the selling of indulgences to gain repentance.  This caused a furor and ended with Luther being excommunicated.  

The Reformation led to the founding of many different Protestant Churches, many of which bear Luther's stamp in one way or another.  The Lutheran Church is named for him, and many Protestant hymnals include hymn texts of his writing.   He changed the way people thought about religion - moving from the blind acceptance of medieval times to a more modern questioning stance.  The Reformation is often seen as the dividing line between the Medieval time period and the Renaissance.

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