Martin Luther (November 10, 1483 - February 18, 1546) was a Christian theologian, Augustinian monk, professor, pastor, and church reformer whose teachings inspired the Lutheran Reformation and deeply influenced the doctrines of Protestant and other Christian traditions. Luther began the Protestant Reformation with the publication of his Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517. In this publication, he attacked the Church's sale of indulgences. He advocated a theology that rested on God's gracious activity in Jesus Christ, rather than in human works. Nearly all Protestants trace their history back to Luther in one way or another. Luther's relationship to philosophy is complex and should not be judged only by his famous statement that "reason is the devil's whore."
In 1513, he began his first lectures on the Psalms. In these lectures, Luther's critique of the theological world around him begins to take shape. Later, in lectures on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, this critique becomes more noticeable, and it was during these lectures that Luther finally found the assurance that had evaded him for years. The discovery that changed Luther's life ultimately changed the course of church history and the history of Europe. In Romans, Paul writes of the "righteousness of God." Luther had always understood that term to mean that God was a righteous judge that demanded human righteousness. Now, Luther understood righteousness as a gift of God's grace. He had discovered, or recovered, the doctrine of justification by grace alone, and it was this discovery that set him afire.
In 1517, he posted a sheet of theses for discussion on the University's chapel door. These Ninety-Five Theses set out a devastating critique of the church's sale of indulgences and explained the fundamentals of justification by grace alone. Luther also sent a copy of the theses to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz calling on him to end the sale of indulgences, but Albrecht was not amused. In Rome, cardinals saw Luther's theses as an attack on papal authority. In 1518, at a meeting of the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg, Luther set out his positions with even more precision. In the Heidelberg Disputation, we see the signs of a maturing in Luther's thought and new clarity surrounding his theological perspectivethe Theology of the Cross.
After the Heidelberg meeting in October 1518, Luther was told to recant his positions by the Papal Legate, Thomas Cardinal Cajetan. Luther stated that he could not recant. Unless his mistakes were pointed out to him by appeals to "scripture and right reason", he would not, in fact, he could not recant. Luther's refusal to recant set in motion his ultimate excommunication.
Throughout 1519, Luther continued to lecture and write in Wittenberg, and in June and July of that year, he participated in another debate on Indulgences and the papacy in Leipzig. Finally, in 1520, the pope had enough, and as a result, on June 15th the pope...