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Christian Living

The Latter Years of Martin Luther

Martin Luther wanted to work within the Church to bring about change but they kicked him out

Martin Luther intended to work out his ninety-five theses within the Church leadership. However, once the masses read and heard them in their own language—through no fault of Martin’s—an internal Church discussion became impossible.

A revolution brewed. The people, poised for change, saw to that. But the leaders of the Church had a different reaction. They saw Luther as a threat. His views opposed them, their power, and their profit motives.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

Yes, Martin wanted a reformation. But he wanted it to occur in an orderly fashion, to work within the Church and discuss his concerns with its leaders. He loved the Church and desired to remain part of her.

He never planned to create a new church and certainly never wanted a Lutheran denomination named in his honor. To him there was one church, the church of Jesus, which Martin sought to fine-tune.

Later Luther would seek to reclaim key doctrines that had fallen away: biblical authority, justification by grace through faith alone, preaching the good news of Jesus, the true meaning of communion, the priesthood of believers, faith in Jesus, and the universal church, as well as others.

He also began to question the addition of new practices that lacked biblical support. These included papal infallibility, the practice of Mass, penance, and indulgences.

In addition, he objected to the absolute authority accorded to the pope, along with the secularization and corruption of the Church’s upper leadership. To communicate his concerns, Martin spoke often and wrote volumes about these issues.

Martin Luther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. Click To Tweet

Luther didn’t desire to leave the Church, but to correct her errors. For several years he and his followers toiled to do just that. They believed their efforts would restore a pure Christian community.

He persisted despite the Church’s personal attacks on his character. Their opposition escalated to physical threats on his freedom and risks to his very life. Even after his church labeled him as a heretic and expelled him, he still hoped-for reconciliation.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Excommunicated Martin Luther Gets Married

Luther Saw Marriage, Not Celibacy Vows, as the Preferred Option for Most Clergy

As Martin Luther’s ordeal wore on, he eventually left the castle where he was hiding. He returned to Wittenberg, some five years after he posted his ninety-five theses. Though still a wanted man, some powerful people offered him a degree of protection, so he no longer lived under constant threats.

Even so, he needed to watch for traps and guard where he went. Because of this, he often opted to remain in seclusion. With care, he resumed his teaching and preaching.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

Aside from the abuse of indulgences, Luther went on to find no biblical support for the celibacy vows of priests and nuns. He saw marriage as the biblical preference.

Excommunicated and therefore no longer bound by his pledge to the Church, he married Katherine von Bora, a former nun, on June 13, 1525. It was a small, private ceremony. She was 26 and Martin, 41. He called her Katie.

A suitable complement to Martin, Katie was both strong and intelligent. Her outspoken nature matched her husband’s. Though they often lacked money, their union stood as a happy and successful example of ministerial marriage.

Over the years they had six children—three boys and three girls—and raised several orphans.

Now ousted from the Roman Catholic Church, in 1526 Martin set about to organize a new church based on biblical principles. This isn’t what he wanted, but the Church left him with no other options to pursue his faith in community. In doing this he sought to avoid excessive change, lest he confuse or upset people.

Once excommunicated, Martin Luther was no longer bound by his celibacy vows. Click To Tweet

In addition to establishing a reformed church structure, Luther wrote catechisms, a German liturgy, and a German Mass—though he intended it to supplement, and not replace, the Latin Mass.

He established his famous doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and authored the Augsburg Confession to clarify essential beliefs and practices. The Augsburg Confession continues as a formal expression of Lutheran teachings today.

Having a lifetime of writing to his credit, his voluminous output could fill a hundred books.

With his lifelong love of singing, Martin emerged as a prolific songwriter, too, authoring many hymns. Having completed his New Testament translation of the Bible into German earlier in 1522, he (with the help of others under his direction) finished his Old Testament translation in 1534.

However, he continued to refine it throughout his life. The principles he used to guide his translation work would later influence other Bible translators.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

The Roman Catholic Church is Not the Enemy

Martin Luther Supported the Roman Catholic Church and Did Not Want to Leave Her

The name of Martin Luther remains unknown to most in the Roman Catholic Church, and many of those who know of him blame him for dividing Christianity and causing disunity. Yet remember Martin was a Catholic.

He tried to bring about change within the Catholic Church. He didn’t want to start a revolution against her. Only after Church leaders expelled him did Luther resort to pursue a new church practice apart from the Roman Catholic institution.

However, Protestants lessen their Christian heritage if they view Catholics with disdain for pushing Luther away. In the same way, Catholics miss a greater faith perspective if they regard Protestants as rebels. We’re on the same side. We pursue a comparable faith in the same God, we just go about it in different ways.

The Bible is common to our faith. Christian unity in Jesus should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. We must strive to get along. Our unity will point people to Jesus. Our lack of harmony will repel them.

Protestants can celebrate that the Roman Catholic Church later went through its own mini-reformation. This Counter-Reformation corrected many of the errors Luther had pointed out.

Though the Roman Catholic Church leaders’ reactions to him (and others like him) sparked the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy of Protestantism. We are not at war.

Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century

Christian Unity

Though not his intention, Luther, however, did divide the Church. He diluted the Christian stream of Catholicism.

Furthermore, note that Protestantism never enjoyed unity within itself. It started as multiple opposing factions. These groups further divided over the centuries that followed to become 43,000 splintered denominations today.

For all the good the Protestant Reformation accomplished, the painful outcome produced massive division, something the Roman Catholics have smartly avoided.

The Roman Catholic Church’s initial response to Luther and his criticism of their practices was opposition. This stands as a typical posture of an institution when attacked.

Yet, their attitude went beyond resistance to Martin’s words. They grew hostile, both vicious and vile, toward his person. Though not excusable, we can understand this reaction.

The Catholic hostility toward Luther continued for over four centuries. A turning point came in 1937 when Joseph Lortz, a Catholic professor, published a two-volume book on Luther.

His work provided a balanced, scholarly review of Luther. This advanced a better understanding for Catholics of this much-maligned man. Lortz’s work provided a path to thaw Catholicism’s icy attitude toward Luther.

Aided by the later ecumenical efforts of Pope John XXII and the second Vatican Council (1962-63), the culmination of Lortz’s work may have occurred in 2011 when Pope Benedict XVI spoke in Germany, to Lutherans, about Luther in a positive way.

Though this didn’t resolve the issue, it served to reorient attitudes.

Christian unity should be the mutual intent of Protestants and Catholics. Click To Tweet

Move Toward Unity

To move forward, we can embrace both Catholicism and Protestantism as equal facets of Christianity. We both follow the teaching of Jesus, albeit from different historical traditions. With much more to unite than to divide, both groups must acknowledge that neither approach to faith is error-free or superior, just different.

More importantly, Jesus desires we pursue Christian unity. In his prayer before his death, he pleaded that we, his future followers, would be one, just as he and the Father are one. This harmony will let the world know that the Father sent Jesus to us, John 17:21, 23.

May Catholics and Protestants work together to point the world to God the Father, through Jesus.

May we pursue unity.

Read more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation in Peter DeHaan’s book Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: Celebrating the Protestant Reformation in the 21st Century. Buy it today to discover more about Martin Luther and his history-changing 95 theses.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Visiting Churches

High Church (Visiting Church #17)

The church has a contemporary service followed by a traditional one; we attend both. A Lutheran congregation, I expect a high-church experience (more formal and liturgical). However, their idea of contemporary is far different from mine. Their music is modern, yet shrouded in formality.

Reading from the lectionary, we stand for the third passage, this one from John. After an informational message is “prayers.” The minister concludes each petition with “Lord, in your mercy,” and we add, “Hear our prayer.” Then there’s the offering, and we recite the Lord’s Prayer.

52 Churches: A Yearlong Journey Encountering God, His Church, and Our Common Faith

For communion there’s no invitation for outsiders to participate, but the usher motions us forward, affirming that communion is open to all. From the bulletin we know the minister will say “May the peace of the Lord be with you always.” Our response is “and also with you.”

The “bread” is a thin wafer; dry and flavorless, I struggle to swallow it. Next is the juice, only it’s wine; I’m quite unprepared for it. It wasn’t the soothing sip of grape juice I expected to wash down the crumbs. We return to our seats, sing the final song, and are dismissed.

* * *

An hour later, we re-enter the sanctuary for the traditional service, receiving a different bulletin. This one is void of lyrics and full of liturgy. We sing hymns from the Lutheran Service Book to organ accompaniment, followed by the same lectionary readings and message.

Afterward we stand to recite the Nicene Creed. Next are the offering, “prayers for the day,” and the Lord’s prayer.

For communion, ushers dismiss the congregation by rows and people go forward in groups, kneeling to receive the elements. Some partake individually, some with their row. It’s more solemn than the first service and several people do not participate.

[Read about Church #16 and Church #18, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #17.]

Get your copy of 52 Churches and The 52 Churches Workbook today, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Christian Living

Jesus Offers a Prayer for Unity

The last thing that Jesus did as a free man was to pray. The last thing in prayed for was that his future followers would get along. This strongly suggests that unity was important to Jesus.

While unity among his followers was largely realized in the first century that has not been the case in the two millennia that followed. The record shows that Jesus’ followers have been increasingly polarized, divided, and strife-filled.

Although we will never all get along without God’s help, we can be aided by taking to heart the sage advice:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; it all things, charity”

Furthermore, the list of essentials should be short. Very short. As short as possible. My list has but one item: to pursue the God who is revealed in the Bible.

That is it, nothing more. Everything else is a non-essential and for that I advocate tolerance along with a generous portion of brotherly love.

It’s a great first step towards getting along.

[The quote is often attributed to Augustine, but there is no support for that assertion. It most likely originated several centuries later, from Peter Meiderlin, a 17th century Lutheran priest.]

Read more in How Big is Your Tent? A Call for Christian Unity, Tolerance, and Love and discover what the Bible says about following Jesus. Available in e-book and paperback.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.