Monday, October 31, 2016

Here I Post- A Celebration of Reformation Day

In honor of the 499th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, I am posting a paper I wrote in Seminary on a biography of Martin Luther. Enjoy.

Part One

Here I Stand by Roland H. Bainton. A review.
July of 1505, Martin Luther vowed to St. Anne to become a monk if he survived the lightening storm. In promise of his vow, he made the preparations to become a monk. His parent’s were unhappy with the decision, desiring him to go into law. Luther understood what he was going into, knowing it was a hard life. It became a struggle with his father Luther would deal with the rest of his life. (Chapter one)
Luther went through his first year, spending his days in prayer, meditation and song. When he performed his first mass, he was filled with dread and shook with fear. After the mass, his father rebuked him again for his decision to go against their wishes and enter the monastery. Luther spent many hours in attempts to make himself pure and holy, praying all night and working until he could no longer work. He would confess for hours, and as soon as he exited the confessional, he would become terrified because of sins he had neglected to confess. (Chapter two)
            During his trip to Rome, Luther saw things that disturbed him greatly. His trouble continued back in Wittenberg, where he transferred, he continued his rigid lifestyle, spending hours in the confessional, working himself in attempts to mortify his own flesh. Luther found himself hating God because of the view he had developed of God as cruel judge. Luther’s mentor, Staupitz decided to have Luther study the scripture and preach. He hoped this would help Luther find peace with God. Luther began to study and preach on Psalms, and later the book of Romans and Galatians. It was in this study that Luther’s theology and view was forever changed. Luther began to relate with the desperation of Christ on the cross, understanding that in that moment, Christ took the iniquity of all mankind. (Chapter two)
          Luther saw the wrath of God, but he also began to see the mercy of God on the cross of Christ. The verse “the just shall live by faith” began to take meaning for Luther. He emerged a change man, but did not seek to reform the church in the beginning. He did speak against the offenses made by many in the clergy, but his trust in the church remained. (Chapter three)
          It was the selling of indulgenced that started the fire that led to reform. Leo X needed funds to complete a rebuilding and restoration of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. To raise funds, he sold position, which the buyers borrowed money with the approval of selling indulgences to recoup the dept that was owed. The selling of indulgences was not in Saxony, because Fredrick the Wise did not what it to take away from his collection of relics, which was on display during All Saint’s Day. Many from Luther’s parish did make the journey and return with indulgences. Luther was outraged by this, along with the preaching of Tetzel, who claimed, “as soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” (p. 60) (Chapter four)
            Luther’s reaction is the 95 Thesis, which he wrote in response against this practice. Luther wrote against not only the selling of indulgences, but the papal power to grant indulgence and forgive sin, only God has this power. The church can only revoke punishment issued by the church, and not by God. (Chapter four)
             Luther was summoned and ordered to recant. Luther refused to recant and a papal bull was issued, and a diet was formed. It was moved several times until it finally took place in Worms. Before Worms, Luther continued his attack on the papacy, stating that a council and popes could error. Luther engaged in debate with the likes of John Eck and in the Leipzig debate. This debate with Eck only increased the rift with Luther and Rome. (Chapter five)
            As the bull reached Luther, he burned it in protect. His writings by this point were very extensive, including The Babylonian Captivity, which made the breach wider. Luther’s books were burned in the Piazza Naona. At the empiral diet, the Archbishop of Trier examined Luther. He was confronted with a pile of his books, and asked if he was the author. He was then asked if he would recant what is written in the books. Luther asked for one day to think the matter over, and it was granted to him. (Chapters 5-8)
            The next day, Luther was brought before the diet. He gave clarification that not all of his books were the same, and he could not recant them for various reasons. He was asked again if he would repudiate his books. His reply was “I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscious in neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.” (p 144). (Chapters 9 and 10)
            The Edict of Worms condemned Luther as a heretic. Upon leaving Worms, Luther was taken and hidden by Fredrick the Wise in Wartburg. It was here that Luther began his translation of the Bible into German. While Luther was in hiding, reform was happening in Wittenberg. Zwilling, an Augustinian monk led the charge. Many monks and nuns married and Luther approved. The Mass was reformed, having both elements given to laity. Such divisions occurred, mass was stopped all together until there was revolt. The violence continued and Carlstadt led the masses to rid the churches of all images and idols. The revolt was calmed, and Luther was returned from hiding. (Chapter 10 and 11)
             The impact of Luther’s work continued to make waves in Germany. Fredrick the Wise ordered his collection of relics to be given to the poor after having them booed. Much of the population, especially the peasants were experiencing civil unrest, led by men like Carlstadt, Muntzer and Zwigli. Peasant uneasiness led the revolt. Peasants plundered and demolished churches, cloisters and monasteries. Muntzer led the way, causing the violence to continue. Luther openly condemned the rebellion, saying it was out of God’s law and is full of murder and bloodshed, which makes widows, orphans and turns everything upside down. Luther called for the faithful to put down the rebellion, and the princes were ready to comply. Muntzer’s rebellion was put down, and he was tortured and beheaded. Luther tried to counteract the slaughter of peasants with another tract, but it was not noticed as the one, which read, “smite, slay and stab.” Catholic princes blamed Luther for the whole episode. (chapters 14-16)
          On the 13th of June in 1525, Martin Luther was publicly betrothed to Katherine Von Bora, the last of twelve nuns whom he had helped escape the convent and marry. Luther stated he had three reasons to get married, first because his father wished him to have a son to carry the family name. The second was to spite the Pope and the devil, and the last was to seal his witness before his martyrdom. Luther did not have the financial resources to support a wife and the children that were to come, but God provided for their finances through support and household prophet, such as selling meat and produce. Luther even had a lathe he installed for doing woodwork. (Chapter 17)
Martin and Katharine had six children, Hans, Elizabeth, Madgalena, Martin, Paul and Margaretha. Luther and his wife also took in borders and other children to live with them, as many as 20 boarders. Luther’s views of marriage never became that of the loving and adoring husband, but an institution that God created for procreation and family relationships, but he did learn to love and cherish Katie. Prior to his marriage, he viewed marriage as a remedy for lust, marriage as a purer state than sin. After his marriage, his emphasis shifted to a place to learn character. (Chapter 17)
            In the war of words, the most powerful weapon in Luther’s arsenal was the tract. Most of these tracts contained cartoons and illustrations, and were used in great quantity by both sides of the argument. Many tracts are shown with Luther as a hero or villain. Luther was shown either in war with the devil or in league with him, fighting for a cause or fighting against. Popes, kings and the Church of Rome were displayed in many tracts, as well as illustrations in the bible, such as the Harlot of Revelations wearing a papal tiara. These tracks helped to spread the message of the reformers far and wide. (Chapter 18)
            As these tracks were spread, the message of the reform was spread. This naturally led to problems, splits and differences of opinion. One of these differences was on the nature of communion. It was such a large issue, it was the reason a common confession failed between the differing denominations. During the hearing in Speyer, all protestant denominations presented a confession. Luther was tolerant of other denominations in so much he did not wish them to be condemned to death, he felt banishment was suitable. Luther held the position that eternal judgment would wait for those of an incorrect faith, and that was punishment enough. (Chapter 18, 19 and 21)
Luther’s work and labors are still celebrated, his bible for example is considered one of the greatest works of its time. Luther worked diligently to find suitable words for his translations, going to professionals to ask about items, such as a butcher to ask about sacrificial animal part names. Luther’s other works have also earned him notoriety as a great scholar, such as his catechisms, the small for children and the larger for adults. (Chapter 19)
          Luther’s impact on the church service as we know it has also had lasting impacts. We still sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in churches today, a hymn written by Luther. In 1524 Luther put together a hymnbook of 23 songs, putting songs in the hands of the people and singing in their churches. Luther elevated preaching as the center of the service, and his work in this area is quite extensive, preaching almost daily. (Chapter 20)
          With all the accomplishments and great things Martin Luther did, he was still a man. He fought with depression, turning often to manual labor to relieve his bitter moods. He loved his wife, and mourned the loss of a child. He felt fear and pain, he suffered diseases like chronic constipation. He was a great man, but like all great men, he met the end of his life. The world said goodbye to the man, but his work endures through the ages. (Chapter 21 and 22)
Part Two
Here I Stand. A reaction
            I think there is a little bit of Martin Luther in everyone. The same forces that drove Martin Luther to his knees do the same for us. His search for truth is the same search many of us find ourselves questing for. When I was younger, I found myself very confused by faith verses works. I felt like I was told in Sunday School that I needed to do good things, to listen to my parents and follow all the rules. I was confused, John 3:16 said if you believe, you will be saved. It was through a sermon that I found the truth and gave my heart and life to Jesus. My search was not as involved as Luther’s. I was not forced to enter a monastery, study for hours, struggle as intently, risk my life, hide in a castle and translate the scriptures. Most of us have an easier time with the search than Luther did, but on some level, we must all comes to the place we are open to the truth, and willing to dig into the word and truth to find what it has for us.
            Luther’s life convicts me of my own sin and depravity. Luther lived his life in mortification of his own sin. He struggled during his time in the monistary, trying to rid himself of all impurity. As a believer, I should be as dead to my sin. I don’t find myself hating my own sin as Luther did. It has made me realize that I have trivialized my salvation, and sin even though it should repulse me and lead me to heartfelt repentance on my face before the Throne of God.
            Luther’s work and diligence is inspiring. He found time to do so much in his life, imagine what he could have accomplished if he lived to be 70 or 100. In his short life on this earth, he did some amazing works. Although I don’t completely agree with all of his theology, he did amazing things and took great and powerful leaps in thought and doctrine. He, as a single man, revolutionized the way we approach Christ and the way we worship. It has inspired me to see that one person can do great things for the kingdom by working toward what he believes is right. Luther never set out to change the world, but to follow what he knew in his heart was right. I am sure he never would have thought that in the year 2005, seminary students would be reading biographies about his life, and writing papers about how he has inspired and challenged them. It’s a goal we can set for ourselves, to be the kind of men that people will read about and be inspired by.
            The biography itself by Bainton is not the best biography I have read. It is complete, but was hard to follow in parts. I was disappointed that it did not cover the end of his life. The read itself was slow and dry, but the illustrations added to the book, and helped to see and understand the thoughts of the day in the pictures.
            Luther had a character that was stone like. He was very true to his word, from his vow to enter the monastery to his unwillingness to back down and recant to the strength of his convections with faced with differing views, like those on communion. Luther was a stubborn and hardheaded man, not backing down in hearings, diets, with friends or foes, with the rich or the poor or even his wife and children.
            The flip side of that coin is that Luther was committed to what he believed, and was willing to fight or die for it. His reasoning for not wanting a wife was “if he was to be burned at the stake within a year, he was hardly the person to start a family.” (p 224). He was ready to die at any time for his convictions, so much that Fredrick the Wise was forced to hide him after Worms. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus commanded his disciples to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Luther got part of it right at least.
            Luther’s theology can be described as reactionary. When we became a monk, he lived in reaction of his own sin, constantly in confession. When he found the truth in scripture, he lived in reaction to the fact that the righteous shall live by faith. When faced with indulgences, which was a contradiction to his new belief, he wrote the 95 Thesis. The papal reaction to this work was to recant. Luther’s reaction was to fight the papacy. Every action caused a reaction. Luther never set out to reform the church, but as he reacted, the church was reformed. He never set up a new belief, he simply modified the existing beliefs to come in harmony with scripture. Luther, for example, did not keep the belief of transubstantiation, but incorporated parts of it in the Lutheran Church by still believing Christ is physically present during communion.
            Many will argue that Luther did not take the reformation far enough. The Anabaptists would agree, moving much farther away from the Catholic church than did Luther. Luther never desired to leave the church, and always had a desire for unity, but never at the expense of his beliefs. He believed he had found the truth, and that truth took priority over everything else.
         The work of Luther is a combination of his brilliant mind and his tireless efforts. Luther spend his entire life as a man in the service of his belief. As a Catholic Monk, he was the best monk he could be. He worked hard, disciplined and punished his body, prayed and fasted with zeal and did all he could to rid himself of sin. His life during the reformation was no less zealous. He wrote a large number of tracks, many great works on top of his preaching and translation of the bible. It is no wonder he died at 50, his life works would take any other man 80 years to complete.
          Much of Luther’s work, however, was reactionary. He wrote and said things that would later come back to haunt him. During the peasants revolt, Luther wrote and issued a track with said: If the peasant is in open rebellion, then he is outside the law of God, for rebellion is not simply murder, but it is like a great fire which attacks and lays waste to a whole land. Thus, rebellion brings with it a land full of murders and bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and turns everything upside down like a great disaster. Therefore, let everyone who can, smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish that a rebel. (p.216-7).
            The reaction to this tract was the slaying of countless peasants. Muntzer, who led the rebellion was captured, tortured and beheaded and the countryside was cleansed. Luther tried to counteract his first tract with a second, but it was too late by this point, and he was blamed by many for the slaughter that took place.
            The contribution of Martin Luther cannot be measured. We read biographies, study him in schools, watch movies about him and read his works. There is still a major denomination that bears his name, and it’s influence is still prevalent in many communities. There is no way to lose the influence of Martin Luther on the church today.
         The first and most major impact Luther left is the place of preaching. The pulpit in Luther’s day was elevated above the alter, and given a place of prominence in the service. Luther preached almost daily, making preaching the focal point. Music was a large focal point for Martin Luther, writing hymns and putting together hymn books. I am convinced that if Martin Luther lived today, he would be working with Power Point and praise choruses. He set things in motion, and the music in the church has been in a constant state of flux. In this day and age, we find people fighting to keep the organ. In his day and age, people fought to keep it out. Music is always a sensitive issue in the church, but for Luther, it was an important one. Luther said that music is “a fair and lovely gift of God which has often wakened and moved me to the joy of preaching . . . I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God.” (p266).

           We can learn a lot of Martin Luther by looking at the example and the legacy he left us. Luther gave of some strong example of how to behave. He was strong in his faith, courageous in the Lord. He used his mind as well as his heart, and he did what he knew was right. He gave the scripture the place of authority it deserved and worked to make the church all it should be. There is also much we can learn from Luther of how not to live. He rebelled, caused arguments and divisions, reacted instead of thinking much of the time, neglected his health and drove himself in the ground. Martin Luther took his place in history, and did what the Lord desired for him. Like David, he served the Lord in his generation, and made a lasting impact.

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