"All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired." (Martin Luther)
As one of the most influential and recognizable religious figures in history, Martin Luther (1483-1546) continues to impact the world over 550 years after his death. Luther was a German priest and theologian whose writings and teachings sparked the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, creating one of the greatest schisms in the history of the Catholic Church and touching off religious turmoil and bloodshed that would engulf Europe for the next two centuries.
Born shortly after the invention of the printing press, Luther became one of Europe's best-selling authors along with others like Erasmus, and his theology was dispersed across Europe. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment of sin could be purchased with money, a practice known as indulgences, and he confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, one of the most important religious writings of all time. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the emperor.
Luther, of course, did not back down. Although the story about him nailing 95 theses to a church door is almost surely apocryphal, Luther continued to proclaim that salvation is not earned by good deeds but received only as a free gift.