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Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God

Two of Eric’s friends prodded him to write about Martin Luther (1483-1546) since it was the 500th anniversary year.  “The more I learned about Luther, the more I was bowled over, by the humor and passion of the story, and by the almost inconceivable path the story ended up taking,” says Eric.  “And as a result of that, affecting the world in ways unimaginable to a monk born into the medieval world.  The world we know today is a direct result of what he did 500 years ago.”

In 1517, a young monk named Martin Luther posted a document (the now-famous Ninety-Five Theses) on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church which he hoped would spark an academic debate, but that instead ignited a conflagration that would forever destroy the world he knew.  He was devoted to the church and wrote the theses to urgently alert the church authorities about the scandalous practice of indulgences.  The Catholic Church was preaching indulgences which were a way people could literally pay money to the church for their sins, past, present and future. The Roman Church feared that if they allowed this monk to say that the Church and the pope could err, the results would be disastrous.  Luther was hardly hoping to reform the entirety of the church.  He never dreamed that things could go so wrong that, in the end, he would be painted as an enemy of the church. “But what that innocent and well-meaning act set in motion was like a snowball that rolled down the hill until it somehow became bigger than the hill itself,” says Eric.

His stand at Worms, his famous speech, in 1521 is considered one of the most significant moments in history.  “His 1521 stand at Worms was hardly meant to be heroic or threatening,” says Eric.  “Theologically speaking, he was at an impossible impasse.”  Luther famously stated, “Here I stand. I can do no other,” which were simple statements of fact.  “He had no idea what would become of what he said, but he simply trusted God would lead the way forward.”  “The ripple effects have formed the world in which we live today.  His stand at Worms is unavoidably monumental and epochal,” says Eric.  Luther’s sermons, book, and debates revealed his belief in genuine liberty while obeying God instead of the church or state.  “This belief that God and His Word trumped everything not only challenged the pope but also the ruling powers of his time,” says Eric.

Luther’s key insight was that God was not a remote and cruel judge but rather an intimate and loving Father.  He became a hero to the people.  “The people had never had an advocate,” says Eric.  “Luther was essentially the first person who spoke for them, who made their concerns known to the cultural elites in the governments and in the church.”  In many ways, Luther was the first celebrity of modern culture—the quirky genius of Wittenberg, a hero to the common man, willing to speak truth to the highest seats of power. “Everyone who lives in this modern world needs to know how we got here. He is a central part of the story.”  In January 1521, the pope officially excommunicated Luther and anyone who supported him.  In May 1521, the emperor signed a document stating Luther was a heretic and that he wanted him put to death by burning.  Luther had to go into hiding but that didn’t stop him from sharing his views. Luther wanted the Church to turn back to scripture for guidance and judgment.  His views eventually led to revolts and the Reformation.  “Everything we think of as the modern world came as a result of it,” says Eric.  Luther translated the Bible into German.  For the first time, the common person could read Scripture for themselves.  This, along with Luther’s arguments against the pope’s and other ruling powers’ complete authority, made him the voice of the common man. Different Christian, Protestant denominations were birthed, but all pointed to God as the only source of our salvation. “To God be the glory” is the final line of the Reformation faith.

Eric Metaxas was born in New York City and raised within the church but never heard about salvation. His brilliant mind got him into Yale University where he made a literary splash as editor of the Yale humor magazine. The culture at Yale was composed of sophisticated people who thought questions like “Why we are here?” have no answers and to pursue them is foolish. After he graduated, he expected to conquer the literary world, but soon found himself living with his parents and working a "horrible" job as a proofreader. He worked alongside a born-again Episcopalian, Ed Tuttle, who consistently witnessed to Eric. When Eric's uncle was hospitalized, Ed told him that people at his church were praying for his uncle and he asked Eric if he could pray with him. Eric was deeply touched that people he didn’t know were praying for his uncle and believed their prayers would be heard and answered. Several weeks later, Eric had a dream in which God spoke to him using his own metaphor about life and revealed himself as God. Telling Ed about his dream, Ed asked Eric what he thought the dream meant. Without hesitation, Eric said it meant he had accepted Jesus. Eric knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was God and gradually grew in understanding of truth. He has never looked back and now shares that Jesus is God and defends Christianity through reason and science.

Mentioned in the Video



Guest Info


Author; latest, Martin Luther:  The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking/Penguin, 2017)

NY Times #1 best-seller If You Can Keep It, Bonhoeffer, Amazing Grace, and Miracles

His books have been translated into more than 25 languages

Has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The New Yorker

Has appeared as a cultural commentator on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC

Host of The Eric Metaxas Show, a nationally syndicated daily radio show on the Salem Radio Network

Senior fellow and lecturer at large at the King's College in New York City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. 


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