This essay is concerned with Martin Luther (1483-1546),and his concept of Christianity. Luther began hisecclesiastical career as an Augustinian Monk in the RomanCatholic Church. Consequently, Luther was initially loyal tothe papacy, and even after many theological conflicts, heattempted to bring about his reconciliation with the Church.
But this was a paradox not to endure because in his lateryears, Luther waged a continual battle with the papacy. Lutherwas to become a professor of biblical exegesis at Wittenbergwhere, in 1957, he posted his critique of the Roman CatholicChurch’s teachings and practices. This is otherwise known asThe Ninety-Five Theses, which is usually considered to be theoriginal document of the Reformation. Basically, this documentwas an indictment of the venality of the Roman CatholicChurch, particularly the widespread practice of sellingindulgences in association with the sacrament of penance.Order now
Luther’s beliefs on the matter was that after confession,absolution relied upon the sinner’s faith and God’s DivineGrace rather than the intervention of a priest. At this point,Luther did not advocate an actual separation from the RomanCatholic Church. Instead, Luther felt his suggested reformsYork-3could be implemented within Catholicism. If this had takenplace, the Protestant Reformation would probably not of everseen the light of day–nor would it have been necessary.
Butthe theological practices being what they were in the RomanChurch, there was little chance at that time for any greatvariations to occur within its folds. The Church of Rome wasthoroughly monolithic and set in its ways and was not about tomutate into something else. If a metamorphosis had occurredwithin the Roman Catholic Church, Luther would have had adifferent destiny. But Luther’s fate was sealed, and his jobwas cut out for him.
Concerning Luther and the Reformation, Paul Tillichstates: “The turning point of the Reformation and of churchhistory in general is the experience of an Augustinian monk inhis monastic cell–Martin Luther. Martin Luther did not merelyteach different doctrines; others had done that also, such asWyclif. But none of the others who protested against the Romansystem were able to break through it. The only man who reallymade a breakthrough, and whose breakthrough has transformedthe surface of the earth, was Martin Luther.
. . . He is oneof the few great prophets of the Christian Church, and hisgreatness is overwhelming, even if it was limited by some ofhis personal traits and his later development.
He isresponsible for the fact that a purified Christianity, aChristianity of the Reformation, was able to establish itselfequal terms with the Roman tradition” (Tillich 227). Tillich’s York-4main emphasis, then, is not on Luther as the founder ofLutheranism, but as the person who broke through the system ofthe Church of Rome. Luther shattered the theologicalrestraints and distortions of the Roman Catholic religion.This accomplishment amounts to the establishment of anotherreligion known as Protestantism, a faith that was generatedfrom the Reformation, with its advocates such as MartinLuther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Knox.
However,Luther stood out as one of the Reformation titans in a mostunique manner.Roland H. Bainton suggests the following concerningLuther’s reforms with regard to the Catholic sacraments; “ButLuther’s rejection of the five sacraments might even have beentolerated had it not been for the radical transformation whichhe effected in the two which he retained. From his view ofbaptism, he was not a second baptism, and no vow should everbe taken beyond the baptismal vow.
Most serious of all wasLuther’s reduction of the mass to the Lord’s Supper. The massis central for the entire Roman Catholic system because themass is believed to be a repetition of the Incarnation and theCrucifixion. When the bread and wine are transubstantiated,God again becomes flesh and Christ again dies upon the altar.This wonder can be performed only by priests empowered throughordination.
. . His first insistence was that the sacrament ofthe mass must be not magical but mystical. .
. He, too, had nomind to subject