Christine Maguth Nezu, David E. Farley,
and Arthur M. Nezu
As part of the celebration of the millennium in 2000, several lists were published citing the most influential people of the past 1,000 years. Martin Luther, founder of Lutheran theology, was among the top 10 on nearly all such lists. The most frequent rationale for including his name involved the idea that he provided people a different way of relating to God—salvation no longer had to be earned, but was a gift. Prior to the 16th century, the Roman Catholic Church prescribed that strict adherence to its teachings was the only way a person was able to obtain a “correct” relationship with what many people believed to be an angry God. In other words, the church was a necessary intermediary between God and humans. However, Luther taught that Christians no longer had to go through the church to receive absolution. Rather, the path to salvation was faith in Jesus Christ. Moreover, Luther suggested that faith is a gift from God that is created by the Holy Spirit and not shaped by people's actions.
The Lutheran Church is one of several Protestant churches that grew out of the Reformation, which began in Europe during the 15th century. The word “protestant” describes a member of any of several church denominations that deny the universal authority of the pope and affirm the Reformation principles of justification by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of the Bible as the only source of revealed truth.