The Silencing of Mortal Men

Martin Luther was the founding father of the Protestant Reformation and the primary person responsible for the theological schism from the Roman Catholic Church. He served as a Catholic priest in 1507 in what is now Germany but at the time was just another Northern European outpost of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Roman Catholic Church was a powerful force in society. Luther knew the importance of his position as priest, but objected to the often other worldly status that was awarded to his fellow clergymen. His belief was that the supreme power rested ultimately in the Word of God rather than the mortal men who preached it.

His attempt to even question this was met with outright hostility, yet in spite of the numerous threats issued by Pope Leo X he refused to renounce his new theology. He proclaimed, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right against conscience”. Nonetheless the threats against him were real. In 1521 an edict was issued for his arrest under the charge of heresy.

However Luther managed to escape under a disguise. Rumours surrounded his sudden disappearance, including a tall story about an abduction by a gang of highwaymen. The truth was that his friend and ally Friedrich of Saxony hired horsemen to capture him and take him to safety. He found sanctuary at Wartburg Castle.

At Wartburg he transcribed the definitive German translation of The Bible. The Word of God had been denied to the people aside from the few educated elites who understood Latin. It took him eleven weeks. When he began his translation he suffered extreme abdominal pain but by the end it miraculously disappeared.

Luther`s extended exile at the Castle was met with a great deal of sympathetic attention, particularly from the inhabitants of the German town of Wittenburg. It was here where Luther planned to return and preach his new creed after being unceremoniously excommunicated by Rome.

At Wittenburg Luther declared the simple truths of Biblical teaching, the importance of patience, charity and love. However, he knew that humans were fallen beings and liable to submitting to sinful emotions like anger. His radical ideas provoked many traditionalists in this way, but the Protestant movement was always about faith in God rather than the fragile and flawed men who were entrusted with the power to promote it. In his time as a Catholic priest he witnessed how much power and influence corrupted once good and holy men. His determination to put the power back into the faithful should always be remembered.

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