Of the many ways available for Christians to grow in understanding and in living out vocations, one of the most helpful ways I have found is through reading biographies of other Christians. Of all the people you can read about, one of the most fascinating is the man to whom Protestants are singularly most indebted, Martin Luther. And of course, what better time to read about Luther than right now, with Reformation Day right around the corner on 10/31?
The best introductory biography on Luther is Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand, first published in 1950. Though some minor details in the story have turned out to be flawed, Bainton’s work was and still is used widely as the standard in coming to terms with the greatest Reformer of all.
Bainton begins with a look at Luther’s vow to St. Anne, made hastily as he tried to avoid being struck by lightning, which landed him in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. Bainton then flashes back into Luther’s early life, before bringing the reader back to monastic life. It was there that Luther would learn to truly fear God, to see and hear the Gospel call of Christ, and to stand with ferocious courage against even the most fearsome of enemies.
This book is a page-turner. It is filled with wit, humor, and action. Of course, any Luther biography that doesn’t contain these things knows nothing about Luther. Read it and you will find yourself in an age quite different from our own, full of kings and princes, monks and peasants. Yet for all its medieval characteristics, Luther’s was an age quite like our modern America, where most people claimed to be Christians, and nearly everyone focused on everything but Christ. You will also find lots of pictures, which I always love.
(I'm not a Lutheran, but I consider myself something of a Lutherite. If you wind up becoming one too, here is a link to the extremely-not-nerdy Playmobil Luther doll. It was designed for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses (in 2017), and overnight became the single best-selling Playmobil in the company's history. Take that, Playmobil Rembrandt!)