Michelle's Reviews > Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther

Here I Stand by Roland H. Bainton
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 16, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: currently-reading
Read in January, 2007

This is my third reading of this book. Roland Bainton was a Lutheran historian, and this is probably the definitive biography of Luther in English. For obvious reasons this book will hold more appeal for Protestants than Catholics; nevertheless, Bainton does not whitewash Luther's faults, particularly towards the end of his life. It is a very good history of the Reformation; each time I read it, I learn or remember something new about that tumultuous period of time. Bainton also explains extremely well the interplay of other historical and social forces at the time; Luther was the right man for the hour.
2 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Here I Stand.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

05/22/2016 marked as: currently-reading

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Zelda (new)

Zelda I have this book and read a few chapters. I would love to finish it some day. Fascinating and well-written.

Michelle Yes, it is. The movie "Luther" is also quite good, but again is produced by the Lutherans, so it may be biased. Nevertheless, the movie portrays the very best of Luther. The book tries to give a much fuller explanation. There are many personalities mentioned in the book which can be difficult to keep track of; reading the book and then watching the movie (or vice-versa) helps to keep them all straight.

message 3: by Zelda (new)

Zelda I've seen "Luther" 3 times now and coming from a Catholic background I can assure you that Catholics would not be happy with this version of the story. ;-) But, that's part of what makes it interesting. It isn't sanitized to appeal to everyone.

Michelle Yes, I understand that. I know that it presents the best of Luther, which is early Luther. There were still many polemics in which he engaged IRL that were less than edifying. The book goes into that. I think the book gives a fuller picture than the movie, of course.

message 5: by Zelda (new)

Zelda My knowledge of Luther is very limited, especially his later life. I'm interested now.

Michelle What got me interested in reading this book again was dh's recent visit to a local non-denominational church--not ours. (BTW, I was raised and confirmed Lutheran, but both dh and I have been non-denominational Christians for years now, so any thoughts you would have about Luther would not offend me. :D ) Anyway, this pastor was criticizing political activism from the pulpit. Gary (my husband) is involved with our local Republican group, but also very involved with the Tea Party movement. He was not impressed with this pastor's sermon. I listened to the sermon online, and I also was not at all impressed. First of all, it's problematic to comment on politics from the pulpit, for a variety of reasons. Secondly, his Scriptural "refutation" of Christian involvement in politics (i.e., can Christians become involved in the Tea Party movement?) was very, very incomplete. At the close of his sermon, he mentioned Bonhoeffer and how much he respected the man. That did not make sense at all, esp. in light of his previous comments. Bonhoeffer *was* a Lutheran pastor *and* very active politically. He was involved in the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt against Hitler, and was later executed (hung on piano wire). The pastor seemed to be saying, essentially, that we should let our country go downhill until we get to the point where we have a dictatorship. Then, and only then, can we get involved politically. Which, of course, calls into question the founding of our country. He mentioned the Hebrews in Exodus--they had to wait patiently for God to deliver them and did not get involved politically to overthrow Pharaoh. Last time I checked, we are not Hebrew slaves.

In fact, he made a couple of rather outrageous statements: "There is no point in the New Testament at which we should complain about taxes" and also, "I question whether or not we really have the *right* to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

One of his main Scriptures was Romans 13--which prompted my re-read of this book. I was a German major in college---worthless in many ways, I know, but I did have some good classes. Since I was an honors student, I had to write a thesis paper. I graduated summa cum laude, so mine had to be extra long. Not trying to brag--just fill you in on my background. I wrote my thesis on German resistance to the Nazis--specifically, comparisons of Jewish and Christian resistance. There are many things now that I would change in that paper. But, I did have to do significant reading on WWII history and the Church. One of the problems in the German Lutheran Church was an overly-zealous adherence to Romans 13, which encourages Christians to submit to authority. This evolved in the Lutheran Church through Luther, and I wanted to re-read that history. When the Protestant Reformation was in full swing, one of Luther's former professors, Carlstadt, became almost radical, advocating the destruction of statues of the saints and Mary. IIRC, this led to a peasant rebellion, in which peasants were revolting against their Catholic princes and lords. Luther abhorred this type of violence and wrote a tract, something like "Against the Murdering Hordes of Peasants" (can't remember exact title there). Anyway, he invoked Romans 13. I do not personally believe that Luther envisioned the zealous adherence to this Scripture to the point of choosing to ignore OTHER Scriptures which advocate a clear place in which the Christian should resist authority. At any rate, so the German Lutheran Church evolved, in a Prussian state which was already relatively autocratic. So--a prime set-up for Hitler. The Lutheran Church in Germany split into two camps: those who swore an oath of allegiance to Hitler--the German Christians--and those who refused--the Confessing Church, led by Bonhoeffer, Niemoller, Gruber, and others.

This pastor's sermon was based upon a lot of ignorance about German history, other ridiculous statements such as Henry David Thoreau was influenced by Immanuel Kant (NOT true--was influenced by Emerson). I vented about this on FB last week. He would have been better off if he'd just left the subject alone. It really annoyed Gary, and when I listened to his message online, I was seriously peeved as well.

Well, I guess I've given you an earful! Sorry; perhaps ways TMI. But--I wanted to re-read particularly how Luther dealt with the peasant revolt. Next on my list is Bonhoeffer's biography.

Sorry again for this being so terribly long!


Michelle Glad you enjoyed the book, Patricia! Yes, it's a great one. There's so much history packed into that book.

back to top