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Martin Luther

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The year 1483 certainly was not the best of times and arguably not the worst of times but it was a notable time in that the birth of one Martin Luther did occur and the re-birth of Christendom was not far away. Eisleben, Germany is noted as the birthplace of young Martin Luther just ten days into November. Germany at that time was a place of emperors, princes, princelings, nobles, lords and knights. A place once called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. A place that had no qualms with poverty or those who lived poverty's reality, the peasants. One of the many odd things about young Martin's Germany was the fact that the princes at that time were made up of archbishops and bishops who had been appointed by the pope (so much for separation of church and state). In 1483, Emperor Frederick III presided over what can be described as a violent and brutal Germany, a land that hosted torture and established a new class of people...the executioner. Debate over the death penalty was non-existent for even young Martin would grow up to support state executions as being divine punishment. Today's electric chair seems humane compared to "the wheel", "the stake", or being boiled to death in oil or water, styles of execution that were a common place in young Martin's time. Young Martin's Germany was a lively and interesting place but everything except static. The fire of change was tiny but being kindled with embers from corrupt clerics, the destruction of the flat earth theory and the invention of the printing press were but a few. Change was emphatically in the wind.

Hans and Margarethe Luther had four boys with Martin being the second, and one of two to survive the dreaded plague. Hans went from laboring in copper and silver mines to later owning several small foundries. Despite the promotion, the Luther's were still not far from basic peasantry, but young Martin did enjoy some of the better things life had to offer such as an education. Though he couldn't escape the infrequent brutal beatings at the hands of his parents, he did at times play like the other kids. Martin enrolled in the University of Erfurt in the spring of 1501 with a solid primary and secondary education behind him, and he intended on studying law. Like most institutions of higher learning at that time, Erfurt concentrated on philosophy and that meant "thinking and reasoning"; one would say young Luther's future was being sculpted. Martin Luther received his baccalaureate in 1502 and his masters in January 1505. Now it was time to get down to the business of studying the law and, in that quest, he was caught in a storm near Stotternheim a village near Erfurt. Luther had a great fear of storms, he believed storms came from the devil and good winds were sent by angels. So in his fright he cried out "Help, St Anne I will become a monk". In those days a vow such as that was a huge commitment and to break it was a mortal sin. Upon celebrating at his valedictory dinner at Erfurt he falsely prophesied, "Today you see me but nevermore." 1 He ignored the pleas of his classmates to continue studying the law; he had a vow to keep.

Martin entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt, did his one-year trial period and made his final vow to renounce the world forever. This involved a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. When a monk took that vow, the belief was that he reverted back to the grace Adam had before the Fall, and even though he'd fall again he'd have the monastic lifestyle to help keep him straight and pure for heaven. In April 1507, at twenty-three years of age, Martin was ordained to the priesthood and was now authorized to administer the sacraments. The period that followed is known as Luther's "years of silence." Martin did as asked and studied theology in an effort to become a professor at one of the many new universities being staffed by monks. He attained his bachelor degree in theology in 1509, a year after moving to the University of Wittenberg where he was involved in the teaching and lecturing arena. Some would argue that Wittenberg was the source of Martin's distaste for Aristotle, since he was required to teach the ethics of the philosopher in order to receive his doctorate. The distaste for Aristotle would lead to a later distaste toward Thomas Aquinas who, as a noted theologian, adopted some of Aristotle's philosophy.

Martin the preacher teacher began commenting on Psalms, Romans, Galatians and

Hebrews with the St. Jerome Bible as his source since, this was the Catholic Bible and

Latin was the language. During this time, Luther sees scripture in a new light. "I am not good and righteous, but Christ is" "now this alone is the right Christian was, that I turn away from my sin and want nothing more to do with it, and turn alone to Christ's righteousness, so that I know for certain that Christ's goodness, merit, innocence, and holiness are mine, as surely as I know that this body is mine. In his name I live, die, and pass away, for He died for us and was resurrected for us. I am not good and just, but Christ is. He in whose name I am baptized, receive the Holy Sacrament, study the Catechism-He will embrace us if only we trust in Him." 2

Martin used to believe righteousness was synonymous with the wrath of God, in that God would smite the sinner in His righteousness, a smiting Martin feared. Righteousness in the legacy and tradition of the Catholic Church at that time was something you attained through works, sort of like the old Smith Barney commercials; righteousness was only had the old fashion earn it.

The bible states that whatever is done in the dark will eventually come out in the light,

Jesus also said that you will know a tree by the fruit it bears,3 The Catholic Church in

that day (some would argue still) was growing bad fruit. Martin transformed his mind

with regards to righteousness "As much as I had hated the expression "righteousness of God" before, I now loved and treasured it. Thus this passage from Paul became truly the gate to Paradise. Later I read Augustine's treatise "Spirit and Letter," where I unexpectedly found the same interpretation of God's righteousness as the righteousness with which God clothes us by making us righteous. And although it is still imperfectly formulated and does not clearly explain everything connected with God's imputation, I nonetheless was pleased to find him teaching



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