On the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, remembering Martin Luther’s contribution to literacy

Religion News Service | 8/11/2010 | Richard Richard Gunderman
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(The Conversation) This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous 95 theses, which helped spark the founding of the Reformation and the division of Christianity into Protestantism and Catholicism.

The 95 theses critiqued the church’s sale of indulgences, which Luther regarded as a form of corruption. By Luther’s time, indulgences had evolved into payments that were said to reduce punishment for sins. Luther believed that such practices only interfered with genuine repentance and discouraged people from giving to the poor. One of Luther’s most important theological contributions was the “priesthood of all believers,” which implied that clerics possessed no more dignity than ordinary people.

Less - Role - Luther - Case - People

Less known is the crucial role Luther played in making the case for ordinary people to read often and well. Unlike the papacy and its defenders, who were producing their writings in Latin, Luther reached out to Germans in their mother tongue, substantially enhancing the accessibility of his written ideas.

In my teaching of philanthropy, Luther’s promotion of literacy is one of the historic events I often discuss with my students.

Luther - Theses

Luther’s 95 Theses.

Born in Germany in 1483, Luther followed the wishes of his father to study law. Once, while caught in a terrible thunderstorm, he vowed that if he were saved, he would become a monk.

Luther - Order - Priest - Doctor - Theology

Indeed, Luther later joined the austere Augustinian order, and became both a priest and a doctor of theology. Later he developed objections to many church practices. He protested the promotion of indulgences, the buying and selling of clerical privileges, and the accumulation of substantial wealth by the church while peasants barely survived. Legend has it that on Oct. 31, 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, the town where he was based.

He was branded an outlaw for refusing to recant his teachings. In 1521, Pope...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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