Title: Here I stand:
A Life of Martin Luther
Author: Roland H. Bainton
Genre: Biography / Theology
Pages: 356
Rating: 4.5 of 5

Five hundred years ago (on October 31) a monk named Martin Luther changed the course of history. His public posting of objections to some of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is usually seen as the spark that truly ignited the Protestant Reformation. While I am not a Lutheran (in fact, my beliefs probably put me in a category of people Luther said should be executed), I greatly admire this man’s stand for his faith and the influence that it has had down through the centuries. Luther pointed people back to the Bible as the final and only perfect authority on Christian faith and practice. His speech before the Imperial Diet at Worms (a speech that got him outlawed and contributed to his excommunication) sums up the Protestant position of Sola Scriptura:

“Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” (some sources add, “Here I stand. I can do no other.”)

This book provides a solid overview of Luther’s life, theology, and influence. The author interacts with other Luther biographies and occasionally disagrees with them on minor issues, but does not radically reinterpret any of the widely accepted facts of Luther’s life. He is fairly evenhanded in his treatment of Luther’s Roman Catholic opponents in the theological and political controversies that arise from Luther working out the implications of his realization that “The just shall live by faith.” Though the author’s sympathies clearly lie with Luther, he does not stoop to straw man argumentation or presenting the opponents as mustache-twirling villains.  Along the way he does not omit Luther’s personal struggles with depression and a vicious temper, but occasionally seems a bit too eager to explain away some of his more caustic, violent, and/or antisemitic rantings as “not really that bad.”

Overall, this is well worth a read if you are interested in Luther and/or the development of Lutheran theology. I plan to read the brand new Luther biography by Eric Metaxas and am looking forward to comparing them since it is being presented as “everything you know about Luther is wrong”…we’ll see.

6 thoughts on “Sola Scriptura!

  1. Everything you knew about Luther was wrong? I was talking with Matt Ries about a graphic novel version of Luther’s life and in it I posited that Luther was a cigar smoking, chaingun toting badass who smote the catholics by the droves. He kindly disagreed with me.

    So maybe I was right! You need to read and review that new book right away so I can bask in my rightness 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same thing here in the US with Luther getting very little notice outside study of church history…especially since our national history doesn’t go back that far (I’ve had to pick up most of what I know of history between the fall of the Roman Empire and the first European settlers in North America from independent reading)

      Liked by 1 person

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