Book Review – “Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther” by R.H. BaintonPosted: March 20, 2012
So let’s face it, reading Christian biography isn’t always the most thrilling experience. To really get anything out of it, you have to throw yourself headlong into the world of the subject (sometimes experiencing culture shock) and really labor to grasp the significance of how they interacted with their environment. Depending on your author, this can sometimes require background knowledge, and worst of all…time. In short, benefitting spiritually from Christian biography is work. Well, I have loving news for you, Americans: sometimes it takes a little effort on your part to learn and grow spiritually.
That being said, Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther is surprisingly easy to read (for a decades-old Reformer bio written by a British guy). Anyway, I’m moderately fond of this book. Here’s the good and bad.
The good: Bainton isn’t overly concerned with the obscure details of Luther’s birth and upbringing; rather, he picks up the story as the 21-year old Luther is knocked to the ground by a peal of thunder and gives his life to God on the spot. (If you’re looking for a more comprehensive look at Luther’s life, you might consider Martin Brecht’s three-part behemoth. God be with you.)
Bainton paints a good picture of all the necessary Luther events. Particularly well-done is his depiction of the Diet of Worms; you’ll have a front row seat for the most famous moment of all, as Luther defies the Holy Roman Emperor and the entire might of the Roman Catholic church to stand for the truth: that people come into a right standing with God based on faith alone, not on good works. All of this is found in the first 200 pages (which alone are worth buying the book, although the last 200 do slow down a bit).
The bad: It’s still just isn’t the most reader-friendly biography in the world, although it’s a vast improvement.
Despite this, here’s my final stance on the book. Luther is one of the most crucial figures in church history, agreed? And we would do well to know a little about him, agreed? On those grounds, I recommend the book as the most readable Luther biography in English. Don’t take my word for it, just ask the back flap:
My hair isn’t on fire after reading “Here I Stand”, but I was definitely was blessed by it. Consider checking out the first half of it, for sure.
Thanks for reading.