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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (April 10, 2015) -- The founding dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., talked about the life and impact of theologian Martin Luther during a visit to California Baptist University on April 9.

Dr. Timothy George, who is also a professor of divinity history and doctrine, spoke to faculty and students from the CBU School of Christian Ministries and area pastors.

In two years, it will be the 500th anniversary of when Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church on Oct. 31, 1517, marking the Protestant Reformation. George talked about the events in Luther's life that led up to that action and what happened afterward.

Luther became a monk and then a professor of theology. He fasted and lashed himself, trying to make himself acceptable to God. He was always asking if he was good enough, George said. When he became a professor, he intensely studied the Bible to understand it and teach it. As a result, he became a great reformer, George said.

"He didn't start out that way, to sort of shake the foundations of the church," George said. "He started out by studying the word of God and pouring his life into becoming a teacher of theology."

Luther wrote the 95 theses in response to the indulgences that people could buy from the Catholic Church to get forgiveness from sins. He did not intend the theses to be an earth-shaking event; they were for discussion, George said.

Thesis No. 1 said: "When our Lord and master Jesus Christ said repent, he meant for the whole life to be one of repentance."

Luther realized that repentance "is not a commodity, it's a change of heart," George said. "It means to be transformed, to turn around. Luther is getting beyond the externalities of the religion to the thing that really counts -- the heart and one's standing before God."

Luther came to believe that one is made right with God by faith, George said. One of the principles of the Reformation is "justification by faith alone." Luther faced excommunicated and possible death unless he recanted. He did not and was excommunicated from the church.

"Do you believe in anything deep enough, strong enough, hard enough, long enough that if necessary you would be willing to give your life for it?" George asked. "Luther said there are some things more important than holding on to your mortal life. Before he died, he wrote six words on a piece of paper. ‘We are beggars. This is true.'

"We're beggars because when we stand before God, we bring nothing to offer to him that can redeem ourselves," George said, explaining what Luther wrote. "We know this is true because of who God is and what he has said and done in the person of his son, Jesus Christ."

George also spoke at the Evangelical Theological Society, Far West Region Meeting being held at CBU April 10.