Five hundred years ago this October (2017), a young professor in an obscure German University through the marvellous new invention of printing changed the world and rocked the Church and the Vatican to its core. This priest professor, Martin Luther, had a problem with the way money was tied in with religion, and his document, consisting of Ninety Five Theses, opened the floodgates of anger at a Church enriching itself on the superstitious beliefs of the poor. Luther had begun a movement that changed a world in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God to a world full of questions about the meaning of life and truth. His solution was that only the Bible had the answers, but this became a source of controversy and eventually led to a divided Europe and wars of religion. Since then a new, modern, scientific world caused many to question all of religion, until in today’s secular society doubt about God is almost inescapable. In the gospel, Luther found a God he never ceased to proclaim and this book tells his story. It goes on to analyse the challenge he put to the world of his time and endeavours to show that he challenges today’s world and churches too.
A study of the phenomenon of Luther, and his effects on church and society, leads in the end to recognising that issues which existed then are endemic to Christianity in every century. Luther said he would use his power as a baptised Christian to excommunicate the pope and cardinals if the Bull of condemnation against him proved genuine (which he knew it was), could there be any common ground between him and the papal church then or now?
Fintan Lyons OSB, a monk of Glenstal Abbey, has a Ph.D in Reformed Theology and taught Reformation History in the Angelicum University and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome. He was a member of the International Pentecostal-Roman Catholic Dialogue and has published widely on ecumenical and liturgical topics.