Rob Sorensen on Martin Luther’s Life
Date: July 9th, 2017

As this year marks the quincentennial of the Protestant Reformation, we take a closer look at the life of Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk who got the ball rolling.  Rob Sorensen, a high school instructor at The Bear Creek School and PhD candidate at Faulkner University, joins us to talk about Luther, the man, based off his own book Martin Luther and the German Reformation, a superb summary of the “accidental reformer’s” life from Anthem Press.  Our conversation begins, as usual, with a little background of the guest himself discovering how he became interested in Martin Luther and ended up writing a book on this historical figure.  We then plunge into Luther’s life going back to his parents’ background.  While Luther himself claimed he grew up within a peasant family, his father was a manager of mines and his mother came from a family that had a number of professionals within it, making Martin more middle class (for the time) than the typical image of a feudal agrarian serf.  We chat about why Luther wanted to emphasize this point in his background, and Rob notes that this most likely due to Martin’s desire to show that he was not granted anything by birth, but earned his place.  The discussion turns to Luther’s strict father and educational upbringing, and how he was put on a professional track to become a lawyer but was diverted to the life of a religious monk in his early 20s.  Rob tells the story of how Martin promised God that he would go into a religious profession if He saved him from a lightning storm, the event that turn him to the Augustinians.  We examine Luther’s intellectual and spiritual life, covering his training in nominalism as well as his obsession with trying to prove himself worthy within God’s eyes.  Again, Rob regales us with a vivid story of a Luther who would be consistently confessing his sins, no matter how minor, to the point where one of his mentors — Johan von Staupitz — finally told him to go out and commit a real sin before taking confession again.  We follow Martin’s intellectual journey through the Augustinians, to Wittenberg University, his “table talk” with students, and then into the throes of the indulgence controversy which he provokes.  Rob explains the nature of the controversy and why the Castle Church of Wittenberg was chosen as compared to the local parish church.  We briefly chat about Luther’s last two decades including a rather interesting story of how he came to be married, a story that reveals Luther was a rescuer of reluctant nuns and a matchmaker.  The interview finishes with Rob’s thoughts on what he learned through the process of studying Luther and foreshadows what is to come with his dissertation on Christopher Dawson’s reflections on the Protestant Reformation.  Recorded: June 30, 2017.

 

RELATED LINKS

Rob Sorensen’s bio (and haircut story) at The Bear Creek School.

Martin Luther and the German Reformation, by Rob Sorensen.

The Table Talk of Martin Luther, edited by Thomas Kepler (mentioned in podcast).

Faulkner University (where Mr. Sorensen is completing his PhD dissertation).

RELATED PODCASTS

Steven Pfaff on the World of 1517 (Protestant Reformation Series)

Marion Goldman on Martin Luther & Spiritual Virtuosity (Protestant Reformation Series)

Steven Pfaff on the Protestant Reformation

Oliver Crisp on Calvin and Reformed Theology

Rod Stark on the Triumph of Christianity, Part II

Jason Jewell on Why Christians Should Read the “Great Books”

Jason Jewell on John Locke and Religious Toleration


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