Rebel or Reformer!

“I am the son of a peasant. Father, grandfather and ancestors were genuine peasants”, Luther characterizes his stock. His rustic quality was a prominent feature of his all his life – for better or worse. He shows this quality in his understanding of laypeople, and above all, in his mastery of everyday language.  

His father, Hans Luther, was a hard-working and strong-minded person, a man of old-fashioned piety for whom the law played a very important role. Luther’s upbringing was strict, characterized by frugality and the admonition of the Lord.  

In 1502, he began studying at the university in Erfurt. His father wanted him to study law. But then an unexpected interruption occurred, the cause of which was ascribed to a violent storm, which he ran into travelling back from home. Gripped by fear, he sank to his knees and promised the Holy Anna to become a monk if he was saved.  

He kept his promise in spite of his father’s anger, and in 1505 he entered the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt. Now his only concern would be to live piously pleasing the merciful God. His superiors determined that he was to have an ecclesiastical career and he began studying theology.  

In 1507, he was ordained priest. At the same time he acquired the theological degrees, ending with a doctorate in 1512. Luther, however, had not entered the monastery in order to become a priest or professor, but to be perfect. To him the question of the inner life was far more important than external promotions.

He was in no way a rebellious nature. On the contrary, he was as an obedient son of the Church. But his despair was growing as he felt the conviction of being under God’s judgment, which drove him to the study of the Bible.  

6 to 7 years later, he achieved his “breakthrough” studying the Scripture, but it would take another 5 to 6 years before he attacked the Church with his 95 theses against indulgences.  

The break with the Vatican, however, was a not a fact until 1521. The Pope wanted him condemned as a heretic and issued a bull of excommunication. But Luther burned it in public along with the Canon Law.  

Simultaneously, he displayed an almost unique literary productivity in this period. In the years 1519-1521, he published no less than 70 works.  

The final confrontation took place at the Diet of Worms in April 1521 where Luther was summoned to appear and had been allowed safe passage. But so had Jan Huss – and he had been burned.  

At the Diet, he was first asked whether he would admit to having written his different works, secondly, whether he would withdraw them. He admitted to the first question. With regard to the second question, he asked for time to think it over until the next day.  

The next afternoon, he took the stand again and gave a full and clear statement ending with the famous words: “... Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Whether he added “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me” is doubtful.  

The result was, as we know, that Luther was condemned by the Holy Roman Empire. He was thus threatened with death, even if the emperor complied with the safe-conduct to travel home.  

On the way home, Elector Frederick arranged a mock assault by robbers. Luther was led to the secure Wartburg Fortress, where he spent a year under the name of Junker Jörg and a new chapter of the history of Luther as well as the Reformation begins.  

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain
30 Thanet Street London WC1H 9QH
Registered Charity No. 232042

Rebel or Reformer!

“I am the son of a peasant. Father, grandfather and ancestors were genuine peasants”, Luther characterizes his stock. His rustic quality was a prominent feature of his all his life – for better or worse. He shows this quality in his understanding of laypeople, and above all, in his mastery of everyday language.  

His father, Hans Luther, was a hard-working and strong-minded person, a man of old-fashioned piety for whom the law played a very important role. Luther’s upbringing was strict, characterized by frugality and the admonition of the Lord.  

In 1502, he began studying at the university in Erfurt. His father wanted him to study law. But then an unexpected interruption occurred, the cause of which was ascribed to a violent storm, which he ran into travelling back from home. Gripped by fear, he sank to his knees and promised the Holy Anna to become a monk if he was saved.  

He kept his promise in spite of his father’s anger, and in 1505 he entered the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt. Now his only concern would be to live piously pleasing the merciful God. His superiors determined that he was to have an ecclesiastical career and he began studying theology.  

In 1507, he was ordained priest. At the same time he acquired the theological degrees, ending with a doctorate in 1512. Luther, however, had not entered the monastery in order to become a priest or professor, but to be perfect. To him the question of the inner life was far more important than external promotions.

He was in no way a rebellious nature. On the contrary, he was as an obedient son of the Church. But his despair was growing as he felt the conviction of being under God’s judgment, which drove him to the study of the Bible.  

6 to 7 years later, he achieved his “breakthrough” studying the Scripture, but it would take another 5 to 6 years before he attacked the Church with his 95 theses against indulgences.  

The break with the Vatican, however, was a not a fact until 1521. The Pope wanted him condemned as a heretic and issued a bull of excommunication. But Luther burned it in public along with the Canon Law.  

Simultaneously, he displayed an almost unique literary productivity in this period. In the years 1519-1521, he published no less than 70 works.  

The final confrontation took place at the Diet of Worms in April 1521 where Luther was summoned to appear and had been allowed safe passage. But so had Jan Huss – and he had been burned.  

At the Diet, he was first asked whether he would admit to having written his different works, secondly, whether he would withdraw them. He admitted to the first question. With regard to the second question, he asked for time to think it over until the next day.  

The next afternoon, he took the stand again and gave a full and clear statement ending with the famous words: “... Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.” Whether he added “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me” is doubtful.  

The result was, as we know, that Luther was condemned by the Holy Roman Empire. He was thus threatened with death, even if the emperor complied with the safe-conduct to travel home.  

On the way home, Elector Frederick arranged a mock assault by robbers. Luther was led to the secure Wartburg Fortress, where he spent a year under the name of Junker Jörg and a new chapter of the history of Luther as well as the Reformation begins.  

The Lutheran Council of Great Britain
30 Thanet Street London WC1H 9QH
Registered Charity No. 232042