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Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Hendrickson Classic Biographies) Hardcover – April 1, 2009
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Shakespeare wrote "some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them" ... and then there is Martin Luther.
This book definitely had a more religious reader in mind, and it does delve decently into Luther's theology. While Bainton does an excellent job highlighting major themes and even quoting Luther throughout the book, he does not provide adequate citation (at least for scholarly purposes, as several times I wanted to look up quotes or excerpts in their broader context).
But for the purposes of introducing one to an overview of Luther's life, helping situate his works within the context of that life, and assisting in grasping the overarching man that Luther was, it does a solid job. The reading was not always easy, though there were sections which I found myself reading more quickly through than others...there were times I struggled not to doze off as I read. A solid biography and does a good job with its subject, albeit a bit of a slog at times.
This is a good read. Though the first Lutheran biography I've read, I'm a little surprised at how highly this work is praised. Many other biographies that I've read are styled and narrated better. Perhaps this is because to understand Luther you must understand the development of Luther's thought worldview before you consider any of his life's consequences. Luther is ever quotable and thankfully Bainton doesn't shy away from a modest number of quotes including excerpts from sermons and Table Talk. The biography is generally balanced considering its only a 400 page book. Luther was a complex man, mostly balanced but not without contradiction. This biography takes on the same sense of proportion. Like most biographers, Bainton seems eager to praise and quick to move past shortcomings.
"Here I Stand" highlights the man's theology and his passion for truth yet Bainton doesn't to show the reader the trailheads of all that the Reformation brought about. At the end of the book the reader is treated to brief sections on Luther's preaching, his hymns, his prayers and his depression.
At times, I found Bainton's writing style a bit bland. Lutheran quotations provided frequent relief. In the hardback Hendrickson edition, more than 50 illustrations are included and serve to compliment rather than distract from the author's ideas.
The Reformation is nothing less than a rediscovery of the Bible and the Gospel. Luther is nothing less than the Father of the Reformation. This is a good book of a great man.