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How Martin Luther inspires me

Mikuláš Török, 03.05.2012

Martin LutherReformation among other events changed the course of Europe and world’s history. Many famous personalities arose from within this process and if we look at all the spheres of influence and events that preceded and followed the Reformation, the circle of key personalities expands even further. Far beyond any important personality of Reformation Martin Luther is considered the most influential one. Martin Luther also belongs among the most significant people in the church history in general. Hence not merely Reformation but Martin Luther as well is a considerable source of inspiration and encouragement for our faith journey.

One of the most noteworthy things about Luther is his attitude towards the Holy Scripture. Luther was certainly a man of the Scripture. He knew the Scripture, used it as a reference, it was the final authority in all matters for him. He had to withstand powerful pressure against him for having such a view of the Scripture. To simply describe the situation of the day is to say that the final authority was not the Scripture but Pope’s word. Christians today (non-Catholics) thanks to Reformation consider the Scripture to be the final authority and let’s hope it stays this way.

However today brings its own struggles and arguments against the authority of the Scripture. It is not surprising to realize that the pressures don’t necessarily come from the secular society only. The number of Christians who don’t consider the Scripture to be the final authority is increasing. It is a sad and constantly deepening reality. Specific examples of men who didn’t cave in to the pressure and didn’t compromise the Scripture are important today more than ever. Not solely for the reasons Luther was referring to, but also because they represent faith by and large.

I personally am not a “Lutheran” and Luther is not a man I’d quote in every controversial issue with the words: “But Luther says…” I know people who quote long gone or still living individuals. But let me be clear: There is nothing wrong in quoting a person’s statement but our final authority should always be the Scripture. I think that Luther himself would appreciate such an attitude.

The anchor of his reformation was that the foundation of our faith is God’s grace and the Holy Scripture. If we are inspired by Luther than strangely enough Luther’s personal importance ceases. The Scripture starts playing a major role, as does understanding, comprehension and following the Scripture. I consider this a decisive factor in general and more so in all matters of teaching the faith. If someone takes place in front of the Scripture and his theology starts to outshine it, then he ceases to be beneficial and sooner or later brings stagnation into the lives of his followers. 

No one holds definite and exhaustive theology. No one is able to fully comprehend God’s Word let alone surpass it with his own teaching or interpretation. If we accept someone’s theology and it causes us to think that the Scripture cannot be understood any deeper than this, that nothing greater can be discovered, and nothing else is to be reformed in this teaching, then we bring ourselves to a dead end.

This obviously happened throughout the history and we should take heed not to accept Luther or any other important theologian in such a manner. It is pointless to ask questions about what would Luther say about certain issues today, etc. Luther lived half a millennium ago, in times that sharply differed from today. He lived in times that had their own struggles and he reacted to its issues with knowledge of God and His Word. Asking these types of questions is as absurd as asking what we would do in Luther’s place or his peers’.

It is important that as reformed churches (not merely by name) we not only follow Luther or other reformers’ creed; but being truly reformed we are willing - even resolved - to direct and adjust everything according to the light the Scripture is increasingly shedding on all things. Or do we believe that such is not the case any longer? Was everything reform - able already reformed? Can we really accept that all this was already finished by our predecessors few centuries ago? No we can not. We don’t live in such a paradise and our understanding, teaching and following of the Scripture certainly aren’t heavenly. There are still plenty of things to be conformed to the Scriptures. And it is better to be inspired by Luther or his likes, than those who succumbed to the feelings of futility and those who gave up or conformed to this world.

I am not inspired and enriched by Luther’s teaching and theology because we agree on every issue. On contrary - have to admit that there are certain topics in which I disagree with him - for example the Augustinian – Lutheran understanding of predestination. However it doesn’t cause me to loose respect for this remarkable personality. It is not a matter of either I agree with him on every issue or he has nothing to say at all. Furthermore, as I said earlier, I have to see his opinions and teachings in the context of his limitations and limitations of his time. If we don’t try to understand the circumstances, the context of his claims and acts, we will get a distorted picture indeed. As an example can serve us his anti-Semitic attitudes later in his life: I neither agree with them, nor I want to make excuses for him, but I think it’s important to see his frustration that stems from his preaching Christ to the Jews coming back empty. In a sense this also serves as a teaching moment for us. The conflicts, fights, tensions, enormous responsibility took its toll on Luther; later in his life some negative aspects of his character became more pronounced and it was hard to get along with him. I believe that knowing Martin Luther also means to not idealize him and see the real him amid the myths of his flawlessness. The more we truly know him the more beneficial it becomes for our personal life.

It is certainly good to mention one more encouraging aspect of Luther’s life. Aside from all the work and responsibility Luther was a regular man. Despite the fact that he was a monk, all the things he had to go through, how many issues he had to deal with, the immense responsibility he had to bear, he retained a sense of humor and was able to lead a normal life. I think that it was a source of irritation for his adversaries. They erroneously thought him too plain of a man.


I can’t disregard Luther’s personal attitudes. His steadfastness, his hard work. In the light of the fantastic results of Reformation it all seems to us somewhat easier. We can see that the hard work, self-sacrifice, danger, conflicts and adversities were worth it. This is the question of our faith as well – whether we too are willing to undertake some of this now, though the results are still far away from our sight and the circumstances look bleak. To reach this kind of motivation it is important to study not only biblical examples but also lives of men such as Martin Luther.

Mikuláš Török


I would like to mention my personal experience when it comes to Luther’s writing. Portion of Luther’s writings – as oppose to i.e. writings of Czech reformer Jan Hus – thanks to active endeavors of Lutheran Society is available in Czech language. Jan Hus is considered to be one of the most important personalities of Czech history, children learn about him in schools, streets and squares are named after him, yet to find his writings is not easy. Interest in his work is fading away and his writings slowly cease to be published or sold. It’s a dismal feeling to realize that Hus’ work isn’t read by laypeople, or even by people who teach about him. It would truly be a shame if Luther and his writing faded away in a similar fashion. Especially since such a substantial portion of his work is so easily accessible.


Written for Evangelicus Magazine of  Evangelical  Church of Augsburg Confession.



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