Book Report, Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther

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Daniel Lee
HIS-1101-XTIB 12/T1 (Williams)
10 October 2012

Book Report
Bainton, Roland H. Here I Stand: A life of Martin Luther. Third Printing Hardback March 2011. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 1950. Bainton’s Here I Stand is a chronologically arranged biography of Martin Luther’s life which seeks to show his philosophy and ideas for the reform of the Catholic Church without seeking to perform psychoanalysis of the Reformer. The book has twenty two chapters separated in groups of various events in Luther’s life. These different episodes are then further divided by concentrations of ideas or events that happened during a given time period. I felt the books main portion is the run up to the Diet at Worms which I spend most of this report treating. The early portion of Martin’s life is skimmed over very rapidly in three chapters leading up to, perhaps the most familiar, event in Luther’s life the nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church. (pg 62) Martin Luther, much like the majority of German people of this period, had a mind full of superstition and reverence for the Catholic Church. So much so that when a sudden thunderstorm came upon him in 1505, thrown to the ground by a lightning bolt frightening him, ‘…he cried in terror, “St. Anne help me! I will become a monk.” The man who thus called upon a saint was later to repudiate the cult of the saints.’ (pg 1) The author seeks to establish an understanding of the man quickly pointing out that for all the things Luther may have done for the Reformation, he was constantly struggling internally with his walk with God. (pgs 2, 372-386) Before his spiritual awakening of the lighting strike Luther was well on his way to doing what was expected of him. Namely to study at university, become successful enough to support his parents in old age. (pgs 14-15) Luther entered into monastic life in one of the strictest orders the Augustinians. (pg 15) Luther went through probation and came out without any reason, from anyone, to be lacking in what was required for monastic life. (pg 17) Luther’s first mass as officiating approached and he had it delayed for a month so his father could be present. As he performed this mass; there was another revelation which prevailed itself on him. This time it was a spiritual dilemma in addressing God, “The terror of the Holy, the horror of the Infinitude, smote him like a new lightning bolt, and only through a fearful restraint could he hold himself at the alter to the end.” (pg 21) After this incident Luther was looking for some support from his earthly father, Hans Luther. This was not to be as Hans was not happy with his son’s choice and blew up when Martin pressed the issue, “You learned Scholar, have you never read in the Bible that you should honor your father and your mother? And here you have left me and your dear mother to look after ourselves in our old age.” Luther protested, mentioning the spiritual event of being called to monastic life by the thunder storm his father retorted, “God grant it was not an apparition of the Devil.” (pg 23) The author of the book points out that this was a weak spot in medieval faith as it could just as easily been the Devil who had gotten Luther to disobey clear guidance in honoring his mother and father. This confrontation with the Devil would prove to be a theme throughout his life, ‘Sometimes he would engage in direct encounter with the Devil…’ or in Luther’s own words, “When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me.” (pg 375) In response to this inner conflict Luther went further and further with his fasting and austerities he later thought attributed to his poor health in later life. (pg 26) He continued in this fashion until he was chosen to represent his order in Rome and made the trip in 1510. The things he saw did not impress him, even though the renaissance was in full bloom. Instead Luther saw the ruins of Ancient Rome as just...
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