Philosophy of Martin Luther and the Reformation
Episode #5 of the course “Brief history of Renaissance and Modern philosophy”
The German theologian Martin Luther lived from the end of the 15th through the middle of the 16th century. He is most well-known for his 95 Theses, which he famously nailed to a church door to officially announce his philosophical separation from the church. He called for reform in the practices of the church itself, but even more so, in the ways that people thought about their relationship with God. Luther caused a great divide among believers of Christian Europe, and his words have rippled through history in unforeseen ways. Today, there are over 80 million Lutherans around the world and over a billion Christian Protestants, all because of Martin Luther’s influence.
Highly educated, Martin Luther received his Master’s degree the same year he had a life-threatening experience that gave him a spiritual revelation. He became a monk and dedicated his life to the service and understanding of God. Luther received multiple Bachelor’s and doctoral degrees and instructed at the University of Wittenberg. He preached against the contemporaneous Catholic practice of selling indulgences, which he saw essentially as receipts for a person’s payments toward salvation. He believed that people could come to salvation through faith alone and not by actions (including charitable donations to the church).
Martin Luther was one of the first secular writers whose work was widely distributed because of the newly-invented printing press. After declaring his perspective that each person who had been baptized could serve as a direct communicator with God, Martin Luther also was the first to translate the biblical scriptures into a language other than Latin. His translation of the Bible into German paved the way for translations into other languages and caused outrage in Catholic Europe. Luther died with his Catholic excommunication still in effect.
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