The below article was written by Dr. Eugene Murphey and was published in The Tower newsletter of September 2006.
In two earlier church history lessons (FPC History 101.12 and 101.14) we briefly mentioned the stained glass window on the west wall of the sanctuary and gave some biographical data about Francis Makamie. Also included in the window are three other famous men in the history of the Protestant Church: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox.
The Encyclopedia Britannia tells us that Martin Luther was born in Eislben Germany in 1483 and died in the same area sixty years later. Early on he studied philosophy and law and later entered an Augustinian monastery, where he was ordained in 1507. Then he became a professor of biblical studies at the University of Wittenburg. During a trip to Rome in 1510, he is reported to have been shocked by the corruption of the clergy and was greatly disturbed by the then-popular religious teaching in divine retributive justice. He decried the selling of indulgences and other abuses in the church. He was able to develop his own belief of justification by faith, that our salvation is granted as a gift though Gog’s grace. He developed a panel of Ninety-Five. These questioning Roman Catholic teaching and practice and demanding reform. Legend has it that in 1517 he nailed these to the Wittenburg Cathedral door ‘with hammer stokes that echoed throughout all Europe’ as pictured in our window, although some modern historians think he may only have given copies to the Archbishop of Wittenburg and friends. Nevertheless, as a result of his actions, he was excommunicated by Pope Lei IX, and the Diet of Worms declared him an outlaw. His break with the Roman Catholic Church later led him to found the Lutheran Church.
In exile after his altercation with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, Luther lived incognito in Wattsburg under the assumed name of Junker Jorg (Knight George). There, in 1525 he married a former nun and raised six children. He is also credited with translating the Bible into German, a task ‘long regarded as the greatest landmark in the history of the German language.’ This translation from Greek to German of the New Testament is reported to have been accomplished in eleven weeks. He also sanctioned the production of the Lutheran or Augsburg Confession by Philipp Melanchthon in 1530. The remaining window figures, John Calvin and John Knox, will be discussed in later history articles. Your suggestions for other church history items will be welcomed.
-Eugene M. Murphey, M.D.