I and unsensational. Neither was my father
I am Dr Martin Luther and I am appealing to you, to seek a redress against the claims and charges that are pressed against me. I am here to refute the slanders of those who, either incited by princes or others, fictitiously accusing me of destroying the dignity of the Bishops, or that, inflamed by private lust, that I broke the bonds of Monastic servitude1. I had been accused of the fact that the very reason for my defiance of the Pope came as a result of my irascible father with whom I had created an image of God in2.
Such an accusation is utterly ridiculous! For despite my father’s extreme disapproval, he showed his generosity and wealth by presenting a present of twenty gulden during the celebration of my first Mass as an ordained priest in the chapel of the Augustinian cloister at Erfurt3. My childhood experience had nothing to do with my break with Rome and the denouncement of the Pope, for my childhood had been ‘normal’ and unsensational. Neither was my father a factor as claimed by many.
I would also like to clear the accusation that I had caused the series of Reformations following my attack against indulgences and the rumours of me pinning my thesis on the church door, which had eventually led to the fragmentation of the Latin/Western Christianity. I do admit that I am a reformer but I am not the first reformer nor the “Father” of the Reformation as so many people had mistaken me to be. It is not true that the Reformation arise because of my actions, in this case taken to be the rumoured posting of my 95 theses. However, hounourable sir, I am not the only reformer around.
There were several other parallel efforts by others which were happening at the same time. Other reformers which I could name offhand include Zwingli and John Calvin, both of whom began a series of reforms at around the same time when I began mine. I insist that I do not seek to destroy the ecclesiastical authority of the Church. Instead, the purpose of my 95 theses of 1517 was to bring to the Pope’s attention the abuses being committed in his name thinking that the Pope Leo X did not know of the dealings of his clergy. Nai?? ve indeed I am!
For I have no idea that the Pope himself was guilty of such acts at the time when I pinned up my 95 Theses. I dare to state with much conviction that up until 1517, I still had great respect for the Pope and had no intention of rebelling against the papacy. The selling of indulgences by the Dominican friar, John Tetzel was the main reason that provoked me into writing the 95 theses. I am not a heretic as declared in Exsurge domine of 1520. Until I had renounced Rome, I had never ceased to contend the fact that what I was seeking was the restoration of primitive Christianity and not the invention of a new religion.
4 I am but an innocent party being used as a pawn on the larger chessboard of European political struggles, notably between Leo X and Frederick the Wise. I am here to provide a lucid contemplation of my own private life. It is useful for it was full of lessons which would have been useful in strengthening piety in good minds, as well as a recitation of events which could have made known to my descendants about many things. It would certainly play an important role in clearing my name. Let me first do a brief introduction to you about my background so that you could have better knowledge of me.
I was brought up from young, to be a religious, God-fearing and abiding person. My mother had in her, all the virtues of an honest Matron: modesty and fear of God. My parents had diligently instilled in me the knowledge and fear of God and to the duties of other virtues by domestic instruction5. As my mother came from a well-educated middle-class family-the Lindermans, I was given the opportunity to achieve a series of formal good education in preparation for my future careers since young. As such, I was inculcated since young to be a staunch, faithful believer of God. My image of Christ was derived from a painting in which I saw in a church.
I was filled with both fear of Christ and the corresponding reliance on the saints. St Anne was my idol and St Thomas my apostle. 6 Hence, I would never in my wildest behaviour deny the words of God, let alone defer from the God’s teachings. My parents had wished for me to ideally become a lawyer so that I could then be able to assure them of their future and take care of them when they are old and ill in age. It was with this mentality that my parents sent me to the Latin School in my hometown of Mansfield when I was nine years old. I completed my university education in Erfurt where I received my B.
A degree in 1502 and my Masters of Arts in the study of Philosophy in January 1505. Based on my academic credentials mentioned thus far, your honourable Sir, you should have noticed that I am one of few first-ranked students with talents and zeal that surpass my fellow peers. All my mentors are also of a reputable caliber. After acquiring the degrees, I went on to the study of law, much to the wishes of my parents who would like to see me become a lawyer. 7 However, things did not go according to their wishes as always and by a twist of fate, I ended up becoming a monk in the monastery of St.
Augustine as a way of fulfilling my vow to St Anne. 8 As I had an intense thirst to achieve religious satisfaction, I learned the teachings of the Church through a series of intense study, self-mastery and had thus surpassed many others in all areas, be it readings, disputes, fasts and prayers. My eagerness for virtue led me into the kind of monastic life I lived and by 1512 I had received my doctorate in theology. I was also one of the more popular professors at Elector Frederick the Wise’s University of Wittenburg. As such, you could see that I have been educated in theology for the whole of my life.