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Rediscover the Man Who Rediscovered God

New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas discusses his new biography about Martin Luther to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the "Ninety-Five Theses." Read Transcript

NARRATOR: Have you ever wondered why most of Western culture

believes in equality, religious freedom, and democracy?

Martin Luther was a medieval monk

who played a powerful role in shaping these ideologies.

In 1517, he posted his 96 Theses,"

clashing with views of the Roman church

and unintentionally igniting the Reformation.

Number one "New York Times" bestselling author Eric Metaxas

brings this saga to life in his latest

book, "Martin Luther," while debunking myths

surrounding Luther's life.

It gives insights into how he helped

change the way people view themselves, their society,

and their relationship with God.

Well joining us now our dear friend Eric Metaxas.

And it's great having you with us again.

My privilege.

Thanks for having me, Gordon.

Well, on your book, what do you

think is the top thing that people today don't understand

about Martin Luther?

Oh boy, that's kind of a big one.

I would say, for me--

this sounds like hyperbole and some of what you just

played sounds like hyperbole, but here is the reality,

it's not hyperbole.

And that the headline is I would say--

and you might quibble with me and I

would love to talk to you about it--

but I would say, apart from Jesus,

I think this is the most influential figure

in the last 2,000 years in history.

What he did 500 years ago was not intentional,

ended up opening the door to the future,

to the world in which we live.

Everything that we take for granted in the modern Western

world comes directly out of what this guy

did exactly 500 years ago.

We're celebrating 500 years, it's a good moment

to refresh ourselves on it.

But I didn't know this and I said to you

before that I was embarrassed I didn't know it.

But it's so important, we need to know our history.

We need to know that everything that we think is good

and some bad stuff came from this man

and what he did 500 years ago.

Why is it?

I find it curious that in Western culture

today we seem to be against Western culture.


And why is that?

And we don't understand that we actually

had a different way of thinking and these things were

new in the history of mankind and we don't triumph over them.

This stuff--

We don't--

Look, you know this and I know this and Luther certainly

knew it.

He didn't invent some ideas.

All of these ideas come right out of the scripture

but they had been kind of hidden over 15 centuries tradition

and, you know, I would call it--

it's a combination of entropy and--

Well, people stopped reading the Bible.

Well, in a nutshell, the most fundamental ideas

at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ

had been obscured for many reasons.

And this man lived a life that--

he was so zealous for God that it drove him to the wall.

I mean, what is the whole point of the law

is to show us that we can't follow the law, right?

The whole point of all of the laws is for God to say,

by the way, you can't do it, you're a sinner.

And once you know that, now the truth can set you free

and you can say, Lord, I can't do it,

I need a savior, save me.

We come from a point of humility.

All of those ideas had been obscured.

And so Luther was obsessed.

He kind of comes up against this wall and says,

what are we missing?

We're missing something.

Either God is a glowering judge who

hates me and his righteousness is something

that I should hate and fear or what else could it be.

And he discovers the grace of God.

It is so monumental in its time.

And it-- which, again, is the gospel of Jesus--

leads to everything that we say is good.

Every atheist and agnostic says freedom is good,

tolerance is good, pluralism is good.

All of these things that we say are good

stem directly from this moment in history, which,

of course, stems directly from 15 centuries before,

the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We need to know our history and we

need to know that all the things that we praise

come from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let's not pretend it could come from any other place.

Well, what was the trigger point for him?

I mean, is sort of a popular thing it's indulges

and he was against the corruption of the church.

But mentally, what was the trigger point

to gt him to that?

The trigger point in history was indulgences.

But the trigger point for Luther was his inability

to find peace with God.

He prayed harder, I mean, he was a monk's monk, right?

He prayed harder, fasted more, confessed

more than anybody else and he became more miserable.

And for the first time in many centuries,

there was access to the Bible.

This man said, I think maybe in these scriptures,

which he studied in a way that no contemporaries did

study, maybe in here is the golden key.

Maybe if I dig hard enough, I can find something

that we've missed.

And so he goes to Romans and a few other places,

he discovers this concept of Grace.

But it took his own personal misery

at failing to find peace with God to drive him.

And I think that, because of his own pain,

when he was opposed by the powers that be, he says, well,

I cannot back down.

This is too important.

This matters to God.

And I fear God more than I fear whether you're going to burn me

at the stake or something.

So it really is just an extraordinarily human story.

And again, it leads to everything that so many of us

take for granted.

Yeah, and I think, in many ways,

his life follows the life of the apostle Paul

where he was a Pharisee of Pharisees.


He did it all.

I was thinking that when I said that about the monk.

And Paul, famously, the law prophesied of a Savior.


That the mere fact you can't observe it

means that God himself, as written in the scriptures,

will be our Savior.


And he rediscovered that.

Well, I mean, he rediscovers it

in a way that is so dramatic.

I say this over and over, he's an incredibly colorful figure

because he was very intense.

I mean, he was intense as a monk, you know,

praying so hard.

The but then, once the Reformation is kicked off,

his intensity and his passion are manifested

in different ways and he becomes very outspoken

and brash and combative.

He wasn't that early on.

But it ends up being a very entertaining story

because he's such a human, human being.

He was not an intellectual in the way that--

I take that back.

He was an intellectual but he didn't

behave the way we expect intellectuals to behave.

He was a larger than life figure, very funny.

I mean, I put a lot of stuff in here, it's hilarious.

The guy was very funny.

He said things that he never should have said.

You know, it's a story from history that we ought to know.

And as we've talked about, it leads to everything.

I mean, to the founders and to the American freedoms

that we all experience and many of us

take for granted could not have happened if not for this monk.

Tell us about his personal life.

Here he is a monk and then he ends up getting married.


And one of the--

You're not supposed to do that.

I think one of the prime complaints, if you will,

that the Catholic church had against him at the time

is he convinced a nun to break her vow.

Right, well, that's an interesting story.

I try to tell both sides of the story.

This is not an anti-Catholic book, by any means.

I'm a very pro Catholic non-Catholic.

But I think that what we need to understand

is, historically speaking, what had happened to the church.

The church had allied itself with power

so significantly that it was really not being the church.

And monks and nuns, for example, or let's focus on nuns.

Many nuns were sent to the nunnery at age five or eight.

They had no free will.

They were sent and then they were unable to get out.

So imagine being a woman of 25 years old and realizing,

I didn't choose this, I don't like this,

but I cannot leave for the rest of my life.

Luther understood that the gospel is free

and if somebody wants to be a nun, great.

But if you don't want to be a nun,

you ought not to be forced to be a nun by the law.

And so he really felt that his conscience

compelled him to try to let some of these nuns escape.

He was himself personally involved in getting 12 nuns out

of the Nimbschen Monastery.

He really took part in the whole thing.

and they escaped.

And then, of course, in those days

they had to figure out what to do with themselves.

Either get married to somebody or find a job.

There were not many jobs or whatever.

And this one nun who Luther kind of thought

was a little uppity or something like that.

He never thought he would marry ever

and he didn't think he'd marry her.

But in a funny way she proposed to him

by saying to a friend of his that, well, I

don't want to marry the man that you

have planned for me to marry.

I don't want to marry him.

But I would marry you or Dr. Luther.

She kind of put it out there.

And Luther said, well, all right then, I think we'll marry.

I mean, there's a lot of funny stuff in there.

Some things I can't even say on the air, some really

earthy things.

It's a beautiful human story and I

think that one thing I don't want to forget to say

is that I found a bunch of things

that are not really true.

In other words, these things that you hear over and over

and over about Martin Luther, the story of Luther,

and I said, that's not true, that

needs debunking, that needs clarification.

One of the things, everywhere you

go everyone says that Katie Luther escaped from the convent

in a Herring barrel.

That all the nuns were hiding in barrels

that had been used to transport smelly fish.

That is in every book.

It is not true.

It never happened.

It's not that we don't know whether it happened,

we know that it didn't happen.

But there are a number of things that have kind of grown up

legends around Luther and I wanted to kind of clarify

some of those things.

But that's one of those things that I did clarify.

All right.

We're out of time.

We can talk a long time.

But I tell you, this book is great.

As Eric said, it is an earthy read

but it's also an interesting read

and you'll find out things about Martin Luther you didn't know.

It's called "Martin Luther, the Man Who Rediscovered

God and Changed the World."

It's available wherever books are sold.

We also have an exclusive social interview

with Eric on our Facebook page.

To watch that just go to

And Eric, always a pleasure.

My pleasure, thank you.

All right.


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