What Did I read? "Martin Luther" by Eric Metaxas
Why I read it: One of my goals this year to read more biographies. There are numerous reasons I find myself enjoying biographies. I enjoy how I am challenged, encourage, inspired, by the lives of others. I am encouraged as I see the numerous ways in which God works through the lives of others. It also serves as a way to learn more about history. I am no history buff, and to be honest have never enjoyed most history books I have read, which I why I love biographies because they allow me to learn a little more about the events, circumstances, and cultures of the individual whose biography I am reading. So why did I chose to read, "Luther?" First, I have never read a biography on Luther and wanted to learn more about the man who changed the world in so many ways! Secondly, after reading my first Biography by author Eric Metaxas a couple years ago (it was on Bonhoffer) I made a mental note to read more of his biographies as I really appreciated his writing style. Those two combined together led me to read this book and I wasn't disappointed.
The Content: The books follow the life of Martin Luther (duh) as the devout monk who discovered the grace of God and was compelled to make that known! Having not studied Luther before was struck by the course that his life took. Luther's intent when posting his 95 thesis on the door of Castle Church was never to leave the Catholic church, much less to start a new church. Luther's intent was simply to debate what he saw as errors in the catholic church that he believed to be going against Scripture. Luther wanted to serve the Catholic church to make it better, not walk away from it and start the protestant reformation. However, what became clear is that God had a different plan and the combination of numerous things led the posting of the 95 Thesis on a very different route than Luther would have ever anticipated. Was struck over and over again by the numerous things that happened that allowed the protestant reformation to start, continue, and survive. From the printing press which made Luther's work be able to spread quickly, to other more pressing concerns in Europe that kept the government and the pope from being able to squelch the movement when it was young. It seems there were so many things that happened that had they gone just a bit different the reformation at that time would have not happened. However, God had a plan that was bigger than Luther would have ever imagined and it seems that Luther at times was just along for the ride not sure where it was going but trusting in God through the whole process.
What I liked: Almost everything! Metaxas writes another good biography that is simply enjoyable to read! I appreciated how Metaxas works hard to dispell so many of the myths that have come to be associated with the life of Luther and many that I had heard on numerous occasions and simply believed to be true. For example, the posting of his 95 thesis on the Castle Church door was very anti-climatic compared to how it is described in many instances today! It was simply the community bulletin board and if you wanted to debate something that is where you would put it. In fact, it is possible that it was the church's custodian who nailed it to the church door. I appreciated Luther's firm resolve to declare the truth of God as clearly as He could no matter the cost. I also appreciated how Metaxas at the end spends time describing ways in which what Luther did not only ushered in the protestant reformation but made significant, world-changing, impacts in many ways. The most significant is it gave the people the power to dissent, to disagree, and it opened a door for truth (and also non-truth) to walk through the door which we would call today pluralism and religious freedom.
What I didn't like: Luther, like all of us, was a sinner who needed the very grace that he so often spoke of and taught and one of the ways you see Luther sin is in the ways he speaks of and treats other people. He speaks harshly, he seemed to refuse to budge on seemingly small issues of theology even with those who agreed with the major tenants of the reformation. Disliked, his writings against the Jews late in his life that seemed to go against so much that he had previously written. I actually wish the author would have spent more time looking at this puzzling dilemma. I think this quote from Luther's Eulogy that was written by his good friend sums this up well, "Some have complained that Luther displayed too much severity. I will not deny this. But I answer in the language of Erasmus: 'Because of the magnitude of the disorders, God gave this age a violent physician.'.... I do not deny that the more ardent characters sometimes make mistakes, for amid the weakness of the human nature no one is without fault. But we may say of such a one, 'rough indeed, but worthy of all praise!' If he was severe, it was the severity of zeal for the truth, not the love of strife, or of harshness.... God was his anchor, and faith never failed him."
Who Should Read this Book: You should! If you want to know more about the life of Luther and the ways the world has never been the same since I would point you to this book!
If you read or have read "Luther" I would love to hear your thoughts!