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Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther

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"Here is an outstanding modern contribution to religious literature--a vivid portrait of the man who, because of his unshakable faith in his God, helped bring about the Protestant Reformation."

336 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1950

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About the author

Roland H. Bainton

46 books32 followers
ROLAND H. BAINTON (1894-1984), a specialist in Reformation history, was for forty-two years Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale, and he continued writing well into his twenty years of retirement. He wore his scholarship lightly and had a lively, readable style. His most popular book, Here I Stand, sold more than a million copies.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 417 reviews
February 10, 2017
It's funny to think that the Protestant religion - today, at least, a moderate and forward-looking religion - is based on the writings of this man, one of the evilest human beings that ever lived. He was also the acknowledged inspiration for the Nazi party which should tell you plenty of his sentiments on race and the value of life. Not only did he advocate violence, including arson and looting, against Jews but was behind the Peasants' War where thousands died. All because he felt that men should not ape their betters nor expect to improve their station in life but accept whatever lowly status they may be born into and serve their betters cheerfully.

This is not exactly a Christian sentiment, more one of the Eastern religions concept of dharma. Luther was, needless to say, in the pay of the aristocratic class he so felt he belonged to. Naturally this book is not required reading for Protestants in Sunday school.

In 1521 Henry VIII published a book about Luther, referring to him as a “a venomous serpent, a pernicious plague, infernal wolf, an infectious soul, a detestable trumpeter of pride, calumnies and schism.” The Church was mightly pleased. But a few years later was not minded to give Henry a divorce. I think the hated Luther was where he got his ideas of reform from though.

The good men do lives after them. The evil is forgotten (when expedient). That certainly describes Luther.
485 reviews136 followers
July 24, 2009
As a young Catholic monk, I and several other students were sent off to Adelaide University.I chose English and History.
And the first unit of History was the Reformation.
When I came to read about Martin Luther, (I can recall the book, the library, the sunlight AND the dawning that I totally agreed with him), my own Reformation had already begun but now I found I had allies I never expected.
And later when I heard my new mate labelled as "a Wolf in Sheep's clothing" by one of our priests(my former Novice Master as it happened) in his Sunday Sermon to a trusting and ignorant congregation, I was furious as only passionate youth can be.(Suitably, as I was in the Passionists, a religious order originating in Italy in the 18th Century and whose founder used throw himself into thorny bushes when he felt a temptation of the flesh coming on! Those Italians...so Passionate. )Luther, however, was far more pragmatic, being a German - he just married a nun!!!
He wasn't perfect by any means, and I'm not referring to either the nun or the marriage. He was anti semitic, but everyone was, and he sided with the Nobility against the Peasant Revolt.But even today the "lower" classes are scorned.
I just had D.H.Lawrence preaching it in his "Kangaroo." Idiot.
Times haven't changed much.
But Luther DID change things.
And THIS is a Great and Wonderful read by Roland Bainton.
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 4 books571 followers
February 16, 2022
Note, Feb. 16, 2022: I just made two slight edits here, to correct a typo and clarify a sentence.

16th-century German theologian Martin Luther, instigator of the Protestant Reformation, is a pivotal figure in Christian church history, in subsequent German history and culture, and in the history of the modern world as a whole. The larger picture in any of these areas can't really be grasped without understanding his influence. Having been raised in a Lutheran denomination originally founded by German immigrants, I naturally heard plenty about Luther as a child and teen in church (and parochial school for five years), though what I heard tended to be a hagiographic version of his life and a simplistic and uncritical distillation of his thought. I set about gratifying my curiosity for a fuller and more balanced treatment with this biography sometime after graduating from high school in 1970 (1971 is a rough guess as to when I read it). The book was a good choice for the purpose, usually considered to be the definitive Luther biography, and written by a liberal Quaker scholar who was basically sympathetic to his subject but able to view him with a certain detachment. Bainton was also an accomplished scholar (Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale, an endowed chair also held by another church historian whose work made even more impression on me, Kenneth Scott Latourette), and literate in German.

This is a fairly thick book, with 386 pages of text; but it's narrative popular history for interested and intelligent lay readers, rather than very dry and pedantic academic history, and doesn't presuppose any specialized knowledge or vocabulary. It's a full-length biographical treatment, going back to Luther's childhood, as far as we know of it, carrying through to his death in 1546, and assessing his postmortem influence. The author doesn't employ footnotes, but he bases his text solidly on substantial acquaintance with primary and secondary sources, and documents the provenance of quotations (by page number and line) in a roughly 10-page list of references in the back. (As that indicates, there are quite a few quotations of Luther's own words, and those of his contemporaries.) Luther's theological and social thought, and that of the thinkers with whom he interacted (often in dispute), are presented in the context of his life, and in terms that make them intelligible to theological nonspecialists. Bainton doesn't whitewash his subject, giving an honest appraisal of the less palatable aspects of his career, particularly the savage controversial writings he produced in his pain-wracked and increasingly irascible old age.

By the time I read this, I had already embraced the concept of a church voluntarily composed of adult believers (or, at least, believers old enough to know in whom they're believing), and so had rejected the Constantinian conception (which Luther and many of the other Reformers retained) of a State-sponsored church entered by infant baptism. That conviction has only deepened in the decades since, and undergirds a strong belief that the greatest problem of the Christian church, which directly stems from that terrible historical wrong turn, is the popular identification of the "church" as a huge, amorphous mass of nominal "members" who have no more personal Christian beliefs than my daughter's pet house-cats (but who are thereby "entitled" to represent the church to the world and share in its governance). If the church had held to the believer's church concept in the second century and afterwards, IMO, or if more Christians had adopted it in the 16th, its subsequent history would have differed for the better. Closely related to this is my belief that the church's true unity is as the organic fellowship of believers united around a common loyalty to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, rather than as an adherence to a set of creedal formulations determined and enforced by a human authority (again, Luther didn't originate the latter view, but both he and his Catholic and Protestant opponents certainly embraced it with a vengeance). Bainton doesn't actually deal in great detail with any of these issues; but for me they tend to be inherent in the historical narrative itself, and to color my interpretation of Luther's significance. I think they dilute the practical impact of his insight about justification by faith (which was not as radical a break with historic Catholic thought as some modern interpreters treat it, though again Bainton doesn't discuss that in detail), and make much of his legacy an exercise in missed theological and ecclesiastical opportunity. (Some fellow Christians, whom I respect, would of course disagree with some or all of these views; but they do represent my honest principal take-aways from the book.)

Given the 1950 publication date, Bainton's 11-page bibliography of books and articles (which don't include Luther's own writings, though he made use of those too) is somewhat dated; but it's extensive enough to indicate a thorough familiarity with the entire scope of Luther scholarship up to that time. The book also has an over 12-page index, which is pretty comprehensive, and is enhanced by dozens of black-and-white illustrations, mostly contemporary woodcuts.

In summary, this is a must-read starting point for anyone who wants to seriously study Luther, the Reformation, or modern (post-medieval) Christian history. It stands as a worthy magnum opus for a distinguished historian.
Profile Image for Dan.
57 reviews4 followers
February 28, 2011
After reading The Unquenchable Flame, I had to re-read this biography of Luther. This is regarded as the classic biography on the life of Martin Luther and it certainly holds up to this standard. I appreciate Bainton's effort to be honest about Luther's strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses only help us see better the greatness of the God Luther served instead of glorifying the man. On the other hand stands Luthers prodigious life work which among other things includes a translation of the Scripture in German, over 2,000 hymns, catechism and books for liturgy and prayer along with the regular preaching and teaching which at one point included preaching around 197 messages in 145 days. Whew! Reading this can't help but to encourage our appreciation for doctrine and the truth of Scripture. My one criticism is that some historical details are assumed and it would have been helpful to provide more background context for some of the people and events mentioned in the book.
Profile Image for Jack Neary.
19 reviews56 followers
October 1, 2013
As a staunch and long-standing RC, I, of course, knew absolutely nothing about Martin Luther beyond the notion that he messed up everything for us back in the 1500's and made way for all those churches where you could still believe in Jesus and not have to get up for Mass on Sunday. I experienced Bainton's book via the Audible route, as I am wont to do these days for a lot of non-fiction, and though the minutiae of a good deal of ML's idiosyncratic takes on religion became, at times, more whelming than I had the ears for, still, I have to say that his basic premises made sense, and despite what was probably a pretty annoying way of going about things (no doubt necessarily, given that the Popes were distracted by selling all those indulgences), the guy stuck to his guns, made his points, and jump started a Reformation. Four stars for content (and for the Audible reader), maybe minus a star for minutiae.
Profile Image for David.
830 reviews27 followers
January 30, 2020
To read this book, according to Bainton, you would be led to believe that Martin Luther was quite possibly the most angelic of all men, without fault, judging the Papacy correctly for enriching themselves from indulgences and all the excess of the Roman Catholic Church. And if I didn’t know about Martin Luther’s darker side, I might have been completely pulled in by this hagiographical account of Martin Luther’s life.
I think the scholarship is excellent on Martin Luther’s war on the excesses of the Catholic Church, the need for reformation, and the ‘who, why, where, and why’ of Martin Luther’s life, but the author seems to go out of his way to interpret, selectively omit, or ignore some of the more troubling aspects of Martin Luther’s worldview and philosophy and treatment of others in his writings, for instance, his antisemitism, which was completely glossed over and relegated to a sentence or two. Luther wrote a 65,000 word antisemitic tract entitled ‘The Jews and their Lies;’ how did this escape the author’s account of Martin’s life? His antisemitism grew much worse near the end of his life, but he certainly held other ‘unsavory’ views that received similar kid gloves treatment by Bainton. I didn’t realize this book was 50 years old, so I should have perhaps expected the scholarship to be one-sided, but even so I expected a more even-handed biography rather than a hagiography of Martin Luther.
Profile Image for Theo Logos.
611 reviews93 followers
July 9, 2022
Martin Luther stands among those rare individuals who shifted the flow of history and changed the world. The scholarly religious debate he sought when he nailed his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door became the genesis of a movement that not only tore apart the ancient unity of Latin Christianity, but reshaped the social, political, and (eventually) economic destiny of the Western World. There can be no understanding of how the modern world emerged and grew from the medieval one without a basic understanding of the man Martin Luther. This book is an excellent place to begin.

Luther was an unlikely world-changer. This man who shook the world was a son of modest parents, not a high born aristocrat, in an age when such things mattered. He suffered from extreme bouts of depression and elation that some today are tempted to identify as Bipolar disorder. His mind was set firmly in medieval traditions. Yet he changed Western Christianity forever, helped to bring about major political realignments that eventually made possible the nation state, sowed the seeds for a Capitalist economic system, and produced a prodigious body of work of such erudition and power that he is widely seen as the father of the modern German language.

Here I Stand is a sympathetic interpretation of Luther. When it does touch on his less admirable behavior (such as his brutal response to the Peasant’s Revolt), it rationalizes and downplays it. The bulk of his most questionable activities are only touched on in the most cursory and dismissive fashion in the last, short chapter of the book.

Though biased in Luther's favor, it is thorough, informative, and well written. Even when delving deeply into fine points of arcane theology, Bainton manages to hold the reader's interest with flowing prose that is clear and concise. This is the book's greatest virtue, and the chief reason why Here I Stand is the logical starting point for an examination of the life and ideas of Martin Luther.
Profile Image for Andrew Huish.
3 reviews4 followers
May 13, 2016
A fascinating and well-written biography of one of the most influential men in church history. The account of Luther's emergence from within the Roman Catholic Church to become a prominent religious dissenter and champion of justification "sola fide" occupies the majority of this work. This portion of the work almost mandates a second or third reading due to the sheer number of characters which interplay in the complicated ecclesiastical and governmental milieu of Luther's day. The latter portion of the book contains a comparatively brief, but helpful, overview of Luther's Bible, his reform of the liturgy and music (especially congregational song!), and his often criticized (and perhaps somewhat misunderstood) anti-Semitic sentiments. A must-read for anyone interested in Reformation history.
Profile Image for Rick Davis.
820 reviews104 followers
February 4, 2017
When I last read this book (sometime between 2000 and 2004 when I was in college), I thought it was good, but I didn't really retain a lot except for the exciting parts (95 theses, Diet of Worms, and all that). This time around I took my time and also took about 40 pages of notes, and I am impressed by what an excellent biography this is. It balances the historical, theological, and political perfectly. It presents Luther with all the praise and credit he deserves but doesn't veer into hagiography by shying away from the negative aspects of Luther's character. All in all an amazing book.
Profile Image for Corinne.
1,033 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2017
Luther's medieval life has had major influnces on our modern world, and he is both unfairly praised and maligned frequently, especially when his statements are taken out of context. This even-handed and readable biography was quite helpful in understanding the backdrop of the reformation and the man who became the father of Protestantism.
Profile Image for Willy Robert.
128 reviews3 followers
October 11, 2020
Excelente. Foge ao comum no que se refere à biografias e, por isso, é tão interessante.
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,466 reviews1 follower
August 23, 2019
Five Stars. Three for the text plus two for the illustrations.

Here I stand is an extremely charming book published in 1950. In addition to being a professor at Yale, the author is described on the dust jacket as being both a Congregationalist and a Quaker. The intended audience would seem to be the graduates of Yale and the other Ivy League universities of New England who at the time of the publication it could safely be assumed would have been predominantly practising members of some protestant church (Congregationalists, Quakers, Methodists, Baptists or Presbyterian) with a strong liberal arts education.

Bainton admires Luther for his courage as his strong criticism of the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the era put his life in jeopardy. Hence the title "Here I Stand". Bainton has a considerable lower opinion of Luther's actual theology which in his view was a miserable compromise with that of the Catholic Church. In his view, the Reformed and Anabaptist Churches had during Luther's life time arrived at vastly superior theological positions.

What makes for the great charm of this book are the vast number of engravings taken from Religious pamphlets published in Luther's time. Like the engravings from Eco's personal collection that appear in the "Prague Cemetery", they add a great element of beauty to the work. They also serve to drive home the point that the Reformation was a mass movement not simply a dissident theology.
Profile Image for ValeReads Kyriosity.
1,100 reviews144 followers
January 9, 2013
Simply wonderful. This missing fifth star is an indictment of me, not of Bainton or Luther. The chapters on politics and economics were just brutally dull to my dull mind, and my interest was lost for months on end. As for the rest, I love Luther and I love this recounting of his life and influence. I wish I had better reading habits, especially that of keeping a pen handy to mark and underline, because this volume was replete with gems. We owe so much to Brother Martin, and I was grateful for the reminder to be grateful. I will read this again, skipping certain chapters, if need be, to get this story deeper into my bones.

Oh, one more thing: if I do read this again, I want to find another edition. The illustrations were printed so small and blurry that it was nigh unto impossible to make them out.
Profile Image for Chris Hall.
18 reviews10 followers
May 13, 2014
A very readable biography that's gives a broad view of the life & ministry of Martin Luther. It's a fun read that's fast-moving and keeps you interested until the end. I would love another biography that provides more depth regarding his teaching, battle with the Roman Church, and inward struggle amidst the Reformation.
Profile Image for Andreea Stefanica.
41 reviews5 followers
October 15, 2017
O biografie completa si complexa, cu multe detalii si informatii despre Luther. Desi am citit-o incet si la un moment dat am simtit ca ma pierd printre diete, bule papale si calatoriile lui Luther, recomand cartea oricui vrea sa inteleaga Reforma si sa afle despre Luther...atat ca om cat si ca teolog si luptator al credintei.
Profile Image for Nathan Schneider.
194 reviews
March 19, 2016
The greatness of a book is in large part due to its writing. This book was a very well written biography of a very well lived man. Enjoyable to read, Here I Stand is an accessible and enjoyable read on someone that we, as Christians, owe much to.
Profile Image for Numidica.
362 reviews8 followers
September 29, 2019
I read this book in college and loved it then. I always liked crusaders for justice and underdogs, and Luther fit the bill in that regard. He was the right man at the right time; the honest man who called out the Catholic Church on its hypocrisy, and was willing to take the consequences of speaking truth to power. Regardless of what you think of his theology, one has to give him credit for courage.
Profile Image for Demetrius Rogers.
410 reviews63 followers
December 29, 2015
It's hard to imagine a historical figure more significant than Luther. This was an excellent biography to gain a familiarity with the man and his times.

I was a bit frustrated with it though. Bainton seemed to try so hard to present an objective narrative that I felt he failed to speak to his reader. I wanted to hear from Bainton. Tell me why, Bainton, I should be reading about Luther. What do you like about him? Is there anything you find unsavory? Yes, as an historian, I should think you'd want to get out of the way and just present your material. But, history is never truly told that way. Everyone has their perspective. Everyone has their opinion. And when they don't disclose it, I spend my time wondering what it is. I wanted to hear from Bainton. But, don't feel like I ever did. His objectivity, bordered on dispassionate. And it made the thoroughness of his account a bit cold and sterile.

Please don't just inform me; move me. And I felt an account of this magnitude should've moved me a bit more.
Profile Image for нєνєℓ  ¢ανα .
741 reviews43 followers
February 27, 2016
One of the best biographies I've ever read about Martin Luther. I gave it my two thumbs up! Great perspective, good presentention and accurate data about this figure in history.
Profile Image for Max Nova.
419 reviews163 followers
October 8, 2017
Full review and highlights at https://books.max-nova.com/here-i-stand

Halloween 2017 is the 500th anniversary of a turning point in Western history. Although few actions have changed the world as much as Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg, it was barely mentioned in my formal education. Bainton's "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther" filled an important gap in my understanding of the world. Bainton introduced me to the complex issues of religion, politics, and history needed to comprehend the daring and the significance of Luther's rebellion against the Catholic Church. Before reading this book, I had a completely inadequate appreciation for the unfathomable bravery and conviction Luther must have had to stand alone against the enormous power of the Church. But German being German, there's a word for this:
The word he used was Anfechtung, for which there is no English equivalent. It may be a trial sent by God to test man, or an assault by the Devil to destroy man.
The story of Luther is at heart a religious and intellectual one. As Bainton writes, "Luther was above all else a man of religion. The great outward crises of his life which bedazzle the eyes of dramatic biographers were to Luther himself trivial in comparison with the inner upheavals of his questing after God." The book explains how the early 1500's saw the primacy of Christianity contending with the challenge of Erasmian Humanism and the birth of nationalism. I was surprised to learn that Luther and Erasmus were correspondents and enjoyed Bainton's exploration of their perspectives on rationality and religion. Luther's religious fundamentalism and unshakeable faith was core to everything about him - simultaneously admirable and a bit disturbing. How are we to judge Luther in our modern age of religious fundamentalism? And yet, Luther was clearly not one to blindly trust in authority - his disposition was ferociously rational as he pointed out the hypocrisies in the Church. Bainton helped me wrap my mind about this seeming contradiction between Luther's faith and his rationality:
The reason why faith is so hard and reason so inadequate is a problem far deeper than logic. Luther often railed at reason, and he has been portrayed in consequence as a complete irrationalist in religion. This is quite to mistake his meaning. Reason in the sense of logic he employed to the uttermost limits.
Luther himself is a fascinating personality. Even more than his famous defense of himself at the Diet of Worms, what really struck me about Luther is what he didn't do. He never advocated for violence and although his Protestant theology got caught up in the waves of religious/nationalist wars that roiled Europe thereafter, he himself was completely nonviolent. I was astounded by his willingness to risk his life - completely defenseless - in the service of his ideas - even while enduring the constant refrain, “Are you alone wise and all the ages in error?”

And while the serious side of Luther's life gets a full treatment, Bainton doesn't neglect his lighter side either. I particularly enjoyed the sections about Luther's marriage and his influence on German domestic life. His humor shines through in such passage as:
When Luther looked at his family in 1538, he remarked, “Christ said we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. Dear God, this is too much. Have we got to become such idiots?”
Bainton's book filled a major gap in my understanding of the Western history of ideas. He made me feel the inner struggle of Luther as he wrestled with Scripture - carefully explaining the subtle points of doctrine and enlivening the issues with historical context and Luther's own pointed commentary. Given Luther's enormous impact, Bainton's book deserves a read by anyone seeking to understand how the West thinks about religion, authority, and faith.
Profile Image for Bill.
309 reviews14 followers
February 8, 2014
This book is more than fifty years old but still accessible and full of insight into Martin Luther’s life and times. Early on, it is evident Bainton admires Luther very much – maybe a bit too much to take an honest and well-rounded approach to Luther, the man, in toto. My first significant exposure to Martin Luther was in Will Durant’s volume, “The Reformation”, (From his magnum opus, “The Story of Civilization”) a comprehensive look into the religious and secular conflicts that occurred during Luther’s time as well as before and after. From about 1376, when John Wycliffe – The so-called ‘Morningstar of the Reformation’ – posited his 18 theses urging the church to renounce temporal dominion: Rigid control of doctrinal issues, as dictated by the Pope and his bishops, over the populace to the point of absurdity. Wycliffe went on to translate the Vulgate Bible into English. All this was happening even as the Roman Catholic Church had two popes; one in Rome and one (antipope) in Avignon (The Western Schism, 1378-1418). As in Luther’s time, Wycliffe’s complaints led to a peasant’s revolt which Wycliffe strongly opposed. This all happened more than 130 years before Luther posted his 95 theses on the castle church door in Wittenberg. Wycliffe died before he could be tried and convicted but the Roman church fathers were not happy with his work; he and his body of work were eventually condemned by the church, post-mortem. While Wycliffe was a scholar, Luther was just a smart and stubborn monk. Beginning about 1402 – nearly 20 years after Wycliffe’s death, John Hus, a Czech clergyman, began to denounce church abuses and hubris. Unlike Wycliffe, Hus was tried, convicted and burned at the stake in 1415. His followers continued the fight by way of the Hussite wars and by the time Martin Luther came onto the scene, more than one hundred years later, up to 90% of the Czech populace were already de facto Protestants. October 31, 1517 is a popular starting point for many protestant Christians as the beginning of the Reformation. Wycliffe was, arguably, the first serious threat to Roman Catholic supremacy in Europe; although the Cathars began to break away from Catholic rule in the 12th century. The Roman Catholic Church annihilated the Cathars. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of men, women and children were slaughtered by French troops at the direction of the Vatican. The Cathars weren’t really Protestants, per se, they were more of a breakaway church tending to a more Manichean-style dualist sect.
Bainton does a fair job of describing Luther and his trials but he leaves a lot out – or he downplays Luther’s negatives. To be completely honest, Martin Luther hated the Jews. He despised them with such fervor that, in 1543, he wrote a book, “The Jews and Their Lies”, excoriating ALL Jews and strongly suggesting they all be deported from greater Germany and that their homes and properties be burned or otherwise destroyed – not a very forgiving kind of sentiment: “They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and these ‘poisonous envenomed worms’ should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing ‘[w]e are at fault in not slaying them’.
A key Renaissance figure, Desiderius Erasmus (a Dutch Humanist), was an on-again, off-again admirer of Luther but the two of them argued – primarily by way of correspondence – incessantly. Their arguments led Luther to come to despise Reason. His diatribes against Reason are shocking to 21st century thinkers: “Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason”. In another statement, Luther is unintentionally ironic: “This fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth”. So, Martin Luther, the great reformer, was also a foremost denier of science – not atypical of churchmen in his time. His blind adherence to literal interpretation of scripture completely clouded his innate ability to cogitate and evaluate secular ideas and theories. He was an unflinchingly hidebound theologian. Only John Calvin, who murdered more than two dozen people during his reign in Geneva, was more brutally rigid.
Most of the bios of Martin Luther (the ones I have read) seem to skip over Luther’s powerful prejudices and adherence to faith to the exclusion of anything and everything else. I think this is intentional; most of these books are written by theologians or Christian authors for Christian audiences. Yes, Luther stuck his neck out – he truly expected he would be killed by the Roman church (they didn't do the actual killing, they farmed it out to the local authorities). He changed our world, no doubt. Any damage done by his hatred of Jews or science very likely had little impact on his world. Whether his writings impacted Nazi Germany, as Julius Streicher claimed, is arguable. And yet he was what he was. I think it’s only fair that Luther and Calvin be shown for what they are, warts and all. I don’t think it will have a deleterious effect on the faith of the Christian masses or seminarians.
I rated this book 3 of 5 possible stars. The takeaways were: Too much focus on doctrinal issues and arguments and not enough focus on Luther, the man, as a loving husband and father as well as a bigoted and intolerant cleric. I am reminded of a song by “The Who”, “Won’t get fooled again”. The lyric goes like this:
“Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss”
Profile Image for Flynn Evans.
121 reviews7 followers
August 24, 2022
Masterful. This work serves as an intellectual catalogue of Luther’s thought as much as it does as a recounting of Luther’s spiritual journey and historical context. Bainton’s prose makes it even more enjoyable.
155 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2020
This was a fantastic read. Luther's life and convictions are inspiring and hilarious all at the same time.
Profile Image for Nathan Moore.
203 reviews38 followers
October 13, 2015
Briskly paced, exciting read. The scope of Luther's life is staggering. Should he not be considered the most influential figure of the last two millennia? I find it truly fantastic that God used a single man to up-end the religious, economic, social, and even artistic, climates of Europe. What remained untouched?

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.
Profile Image for Ebookwormy1.
1,779 reviews252 followers
February 7, 2017
A brilliant treatment of Luther that doesn't settle for simple caricature, but examines the complexities of this famous man from childhood to death.

What makes this biography stand out is Bainton's dependence on primary source material, as well as his consideration for *context*. We see Luther as a man of medieval, not modern, times. His years long struggle to find peace with God, and then open the door for others to walk through. We see the anxieties of Luther, who lived for years as an exile in his own country, willing to lay down his life, and yet feeling somewhat guilty that martyrdom passed him by due to the protection of his faithful princes. We walk with Luther through Augustinian and Pauline theology to mine for answers to the perplexities of defining and implementing a new way. We see Luther's incredible courage, as well as his lack of concern for earthly organization or balance of powers that was a stumbling block to him. We see Luther the young zealot, unexpectedly tamed in middle age by a wife and family that he never expected to see.

And over all, we see a man learning and living and teaching by faith alone, by grace alone, by Scripture alone. I give my highest recommendation for this biography.

This is treatment of Luther for scholars and adults. For children or layman, I prefer:

Torchlighters DVD: Martin Luther
30 min animation, plus a documentary and worksheets to engage children. Also highly recommended.

Martin Luther, Simonetta Carr, 2016
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