Martin Luther was a German monk and priest. He was a devout Christian. In 1507, he was ordained as a priest and in 1508 he began to teach theology.
During his lifetime, the Western Church was raising money to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. That in itself was a pretty well thought out plan. However, the methods by which they collected money were intolerable to Martin Luther.
The Roman Church taught that in order to be justified before God, you have to do charitable deeds. That too is a pretty well thought out piece of theology and many Christians believe this today (and many who don’t, do charitable deeds anyways because charitable deeds are just good overall). The problem with this is that the church said that if you donated money to the church, you could buy forgiveness from God in the form of what is called “indulgences”.
Many people today can see the problem here. The pope was one of the richest people in the world at the time and he even controlled a huge section of land in Italy and France, yet instead of paying for the Basilica himself, he got the poor people to give him money for forgiveness.
Martin Luther argued that the pope has no authority to give forgiveness and that the indulgences are a highly corrupt practice. Additionally he argued that forgiveness and justification for sins can only be given by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Of course the indulgences were only 1 of numerous corrupt practices in the Catholic church that Martin Luther noticed.
Martin Luther being an educated priest not only knew how to write but he also knew how to read Latin and Hebrew, the languages that the Bible was originally written in. Most people at the time couldn’t read for themselves, so instead they just took the priests word for it and assumed that everything the priest said was in the Bible. Martin Luther compared the facts in the Bible to what the church officials at the time were saying and found numerous differences.
Martin Luther then took all of the ideas and wrote them down in a letter we now know as the Ninety-Five Theses. While we cannot be sure, legend has it that Martin Luther went to a major church and nailed a printed copy of his theses on the door.
In addition to his theses, Martin ended up translating the Bible from Latin and Hebrew into German so that everyone could read it for themselves. He then went to numerous towns and handed out copies of his theses and the Bible so that there were many copies.
Many people agreed with him about the problems in the Catholic church and protested against the church. This is why one of the religious denominations of Christianity is called Protestantism. Throughout Europe, the ideas of Martin Luther and other similar priests spread.
The pope was livid and on January 3, 1521 he excommunicated Martin Luther from the church. But it was too late! Martin Luther’s ideas had spread, printing presses around Christendom were copying his theses.
It is fair to say that Martin Luther never intended to split the Roman Catholic Church. He called for reform, the end to corruption and the teaching of factual statements that are in the Bible. However Martin Luther lost control and the church was forever split.
Today numerous Christians around the world believe different things. Many fight with each other about it in wars and persecution. But the fighting should not be blamed on Martin Luther, that is not his doing.
Martin Luther should be known as the guy who brought transparency to the church.