Many people would like to get themselves a spot in heaven the same way the get a nice house in a good neighborhood. By paying for it. This mentality is by no means confined to the ‘I’ll pay for someone else to go tell those foreigners, or even my friends, about Jesus’ mindset of many church goers today, but reaches back centuries to the middle ages, specifically the late 1400’s. This time period saw the end of the High Middle Ages in Europe, brought about by the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The hundred year’s war ended as well, and attempts to reunite the Eastern and Western churches finally ceased entirely. North and South America were also discovered and rudimentarily mapped out during this time period. Finally, the invention of the incredibly important printing press occurred in 1450. It ushered in not just a spike in literacy and knowledge, but brought literature to the general population and sparked the Renaissance that followed in the next century (Curtis 90).
This was the rapidly changing culture and world Martin Luther of Eisleben, Germany, was born into on November 10, 1483. Luther had a dramatic conversion experience in 1505 while traveling during a violent thunderstorm, from that point forward he turned from his study of law and dedicated himself to the study of God (English Bible History 1). Luther later described the first ten years of priesthood as a time of spiritual pain and distance from God, due to his view of God being more jailor and executioner rather than a savior and caretaker (Curtis 97). He studied diligently and became a doctor of theology and joined the faculty of the University of Wittenberg in 1512, ideally placed to influence the church, and the world at large, for God (English Bible History 1).
Luther is most well-known for challenging the Catholic Church over many of its practices that he deemed sinful and selfish, and sparking the protestant Reformation. He was the author of The Ninety-Five Theses, a document which is most famous for its condemnation of selling indulgences, shortened time in purgatory in exchange for money, but there is much more to the document than that. It also tells of how the grace of God is much greater than any letter of pardon from the pope and how salvation is not attainable by works or givings, but only by the love of Christ (Adolph Spaeth 29-38). In addition to this it also invites conflict into the church by calling indulgence sellers men who seek wealth rather than those who seek God, questioning why the pope demands the money of the poor despite the fact he one of the richest men in the world already, and demanding immediate discussion and resolution of the issues Luther brings up (Adolph Spaeth 29-38). Obviously writing the Ninety-Five Theses is not the only thing Luther did for God, he greatly assisted the first translation of the bible into German, in turn influencing the King James Bible, and created a way for protestant priests and pastors to marry through his marriage to Katharina Von Bora (Curtis 97).
In my opinion Martin Luther did a great deal for Missio Dei, from trying to return the church to Christ to fighting for the ability of anyone to read and interpret the bible, not just priests. However, no one is perfect and there are some things that darken Luther’s successes. One of Luther’s most notable follies is the fierce anti-Semitism he displayed in his later years, calling for the deaths of some and the harsh punishment for others simply for not believing in the same God as him. He also grew to despise Muslims and though he did oppose holy war, Luther had no issues with war against them for political reasons (English Bible History 1). Despite the shortcomings though, Luther’s work does still deserve to celebrated and, in my opinion, Luther was a positive influence on the world, consistently working for Missio Dei.
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