At 34 years of age, the Martin Luther of 1517 was a little known Augustinian monk plagued by thoughts of his own sins and failings.
Luther, in his own words, suffered from an “extremely disturbed conscience.” When his private meditations on the scriptures revealed to him that righteousness was a gift from God, born out of grace through faith in Jesus, he was relieved from his own damnation, but convinced more than ever that he had to work to eradicate false doctrine.
The Ninety-Five Theses is credited for sparking the Protestant Reformation. However when Luther nailed the Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, his intention was merely to hold a public scholarly debate on the commercialization of the Church by its selling of indulgences.
In the rapid succession of events that followed, Luther was propelled from challenging Church practices to condemning the Church itself. Aided by the rise of the printing press, the prolific writings of Luther spread like a firestorm throughout Europe to a growingly literate public starved for teaching. In 1521 Luther was summoned to trial by Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms. Asked if he was willing to recant and retract his opinions on the Catholic Church, Luther famously replied, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”
With this rebuttal, Protestantism – the Christian doctrine to which I have always subscribed – was born.