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Friday, April 18, 2008

Portrait of a Man: Martin Luther

On April 17, 1521, Martin Luther stood before an assembly of men, known as the Diet of Worms. He had been summoned before this council in order to answer charges of heresy that had been brought against him. A stack of books were placed on a table in front of him. Luther was asked two questions: did he write the books and would he recant the "heresies" contained therein. His answer to the first question was yes, but he requested time to consider his answer to the second question.

The "heresy" that he was being asked to recant, was the idea that God, through His election, granted some sinners eternal life. There is nothing that we can do to gain that gift. The corrupt Roman Catholic church had always taught that one could gain eternal life primarily through good works. We can only imagine the thoughts that must have gone through Luther's mind, the earnest prayer and supplication. The gravity of this situation was extreme. If Luther recanted, he would probably save his own life. But if he did not recant his position, he would probably be outlawed; subject to death by anyone who found him. But death was not the worst thing that could happen. His name had been widely known, along with other protestants, as a person who challenged the old ideas and superstitions of the Catholic church. If he recanted, would they lose heart and also submit?

April 18 arrived. He was summoned before the Diet, and once again asked if he would renounce his heretical doctrine. He replied:
"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason- I do not accept the power 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. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

With eighty-one words, Martin Luther had changed the course of history, established a firm foundation for protestants, and provided posterity with another example of true Christian loyalty.

Martin Luther, courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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