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Professor Laurence Kirkpatrick tells the story of Martin Luther

31 May 2017


As the 500th anniversary of the European Reformation approaches in 2017, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland are intending to hold a special celebration in Dublin, Derry and Assembly Buildings, Belfast from 17th-19th October; this follows directly on from the 'Luther 500' conference in February which was organised by Union Theological College in conjunction with the Institute of Technology at Queens University to tell the story of Martin Luther and also explore various aspects of his teaching.

The upcoming event which will be attended by keynote speaker Dr. Conrad Mbewe from Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Kenya will highlight the life of a man who was at one point “terrified by his concept of an angry and righteous God" but later went on to realise that "personal salvation is a gift which God gives us."

Professor Kirkpatrick, UTC's Professor of Church History, described Luther as one of the most famous individuals in human history: "Martin Luther is undoubtedly one of the most famous individuals in human history.

"His teachings investigate a period of unprecedented change and upheaval, altering the course of European history forever and setting in motion a chain of events, which still affect us today."

The article talks about Luther's "spiritual attack" which contributed to him ceasing to pursue a career in law to become a monk.

"A few weeks before his course [a law course] started Luther was assailed by what he called anfectung, literally 'an attack'; an anguished spiritual and emotional experience in which he felt crushed by a sense of personal guilt and sinfulness.

"His law course started on 20th May 1505 but he returned home briefly after only four weeks, probably for a serious consultation with his father. On his return journey to Erfurt he was caught in a thunderstorm and almost struck by lightning. In that precise moment of private terror he promised God that he would become a monk if his life was spared."

The article goes on to talk about Luther's ordination as a priest in April 1507 and his increasing tendency to reject the contemporary fashion of splicing philosophy and theology, increasingly preferring to jettison philosophy and focus on foundational Christian documents of the New Testament.

Professor Kirkpatrick also talks about the 95 theses, Luther's break with Rome, the divisions which the Sola scriptura caused within the reformers, his later life and death from heart failure in February 1546.

If you wish to attain a copy of Professor Kirkpatrick’s article, which was published in the January 2017 edition of the Presbyterian Herald or to get more details about the conference in October, you can do so by contacting Assembly Buildings on 028 9032 2284.

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