Martin Luther (1483-1546) and His Influence

Luther started the Protestant Reformation


Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic monk, priest, and university professor who, against his own initial wishes, started the Protestant Reformation and helped establish the Lutheran church and Protestantism more generally.

Luther still shapes Lutheran and Protestant thinking

Most of the beliefs and practices that distinguish Lutheranism from other members of the Christian family can be traced back to Martin Luther.

  • Four of the eight treatises that make up the most influential compilation of Lutheran confessional writings—the Book of Concord—come from Luther's pen
  • The most authoritative single statement in Lutheranism—the [Unaltered] Augsburg Confession of 1530 was written by Philip Melanchthon and received Luther's explicit approval
  • Luther's Small Catechism (link) has been memorized by generations of Lutheran children
  • Luther's German translation of the Bible has played a role in German-speaking Protestant lands much like the King James version of the Bible does in English speaking lands

Martin Luther's writings played and continue to play an enormous role in the belief and practice of Lutheran churches, other Protestant churches, and, more recently, even in the thinking of some Catholic theologians.

Luther wanted people to call themselves"Christian", not "Lutheran"

Despite his profound influence even during his lifetime, Luther objected to Christians calling themselves "Lutheran."

...I ask that men make no reference to my name; let them call themselves Christians, not Lutherans. What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine [John 7:16]. Neither was I crucified for anyone [I Cor. 1:13]. St. Paul, in I Corinthians 3, would not allow the Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How then should I—poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am—come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name? Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teaching we hold.

— A Sincere Admonition By Martin Luther To All Christians To Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion, 1522