When it comes time for me to select a book to read, I am usually happier when I have selected an older book. It’s not that new books are not worthwhile, but books that have stood the test of time have been more edifying for me.
So when I pulled my copy of Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther off of my shelf, I knew I was in for a special treat. The book did not disappoint. Bainton managed to put together what has stood as the standard for biographies about the German Reformer. He managed to pull together the various strains of Luther and his times in a readable format. The issues of the day are thoroughly presented. In the end the reader should come away with a clear picture of the man who was used by God to shape both church and culture long after his death.
This review has an added feature. Below you will find the chapters with titles, outlines and theses. The titles and outlines are Bainton’s. The theses are mine.
Chapter 1 – The Vow
Luther was a man of religion. This quest for God caused inner turmoils which led to his vow to become a monk when he was struck by lightning. From home to school to the monastery, Luther’s life centered on this religious quest for God.
- At Home & School
- Religious Disquiet
- The Haven of the Cowl
Chapter 2 – The Cloister
Though devout in monkery, Luther began to doubt whether his religious activities could really bring him near the holy God despite what the church taught.
- The Terror of the Holy
- The Way of Self-Help
- The Merits of the Saints
- The Trip to Rome
Chapter 3 – The Gospel
Luther probed every Catholic resource for assuaging his spirit alienated from God to no avail. In the Psalms and Paul he was rebirthed by the gospel.
- The Failure of Confession
- The Mystic Ladder
- The Evangelical Experience
Chapter 4 – The Onslaught
In his pastoral role, Luther began to challenge the practices related to indulgences and purgatory.
- The Indulgence for St. Peter’s
- The Ninety-Five Theses
Chapter 5 – The Son of Iniquity
Under German protection, Luther is asked to recant by Cardinal Cajetan.
- The Dominican Assault
- The Case Transferred to Germany
- The Interviews with Cajetan
- Threatening Exile
Chapter 6 – The Saxon Hus
From the debate with Eck at Leipzig, Luther linked himself with Hus regarding the role of the pope and councils.
- The Gauntlet of Eck
- The Leipzig Debate
- The Endorsement of Hus
Chapter 7 – The German Hercules
Luther became a German hero as he headed the Reformation. The Reformation came into relation with both the Renaissance and with a nationalistic philosophy.
- The Humanists: Erasmus
- Melanchthon and Durer
- The Nationalists: Hutten and Sickingen
Chapter 8 – The Wild Boar in the Vineyard
Luther’s writings disputed Rome’s teachings on the sacraments. In response Rome issued a papal bull against Luther.
- The Sacraments and the Theory of the Church
- Prosecution Resumed
- The Bull “Exsurge”
- The Bull Seeks Luther
Chapter 9 – The Appeal to Caesar
After failing in his appeals to the pope and to a council, Luther made an appeal to the emperor.
- Publication of the Bull
- Against the Execrable Bull of Antichrist
- The Freedom of the Christian Man
Chapter 10 – Here I Stand
Luther refused to recant before the Diet of Worms which issued the Edict of Worms condemning Luther as a heretic.
- A Hearing Promised and Recalled
- The Emperor Assumes Responsibility
- Invitation to Luther Renewed
- Luther Before the Diet
- The Edict of Worms
Chapter 11 – My Patmos
While in hiding at The Wartburg, Luther battled ills and focused on writing while the Reformation began taking shape in Wittenberg.
- At the Wartburg
- The Reformation at Wittenberg: Manasticism
- The Mass
- The Outbreak of Violence
Chapter 12 – The Return of the Exile
As turmoil surrounded the reformation in Wittenberg, Luther returned to bring some stability to the situation.
- The Invitation to Come Back
- The Return to Wittenberg
Chapter 13 – No Other Foundation
In rebuilding a new church and society, the foundation was to be Christ alone.
- Nature, History & Philosophy
- Christ the Sole Revealer
- The Word and the Sacraments
- The Menace to Morals
- The Ground of Goodness
Chapter 14 – Rebuilding the Walls
Luther’s domestic ethic was Pauline and patriarchal. His economic ethic was Thomistic and agrarian. His political ethic was Augustinian and small town.
- The Callings
- Church and State
Chapter 15 – The Middle Way
Luther found himself in between Rome as well as men like Erasmus and the Radicals like Carlstadt and Muntzer.
- Hostility of the Reformed Papacy
- Recoil of the Moderate Catholics: Erasmus
- Defection of the Puritans: Carlstadt
- The Revolutionary Saints: Muntzer
- Banishment of the Agitators
Chapter 16 – Behemoth, Leviathan, and the Great Waters
The reforms of Luther waned in influence as alternative views rose in the forms of Zwingli, the Anabaptists and the peasants.
- Rivals: Zwingli and the Anabaptists
- Religion and Social Unrest
- Luther and the Peasants
- Muntzer foments rebellion
- The debacle and the effect on the reformation
Chapter 17 – The School for Character
In marriage, Luther found great joy and the place to be taught by God.
- Katherine Von Bora
- Children and Table Talk
- Views of Marriage
- Consolations at Home
Chapter 18 – The Church Territorial
Luther wanted both a confessional church and a territorial church, but the impossible logistics resulted in the territorial church as the dominant force.
- Dissemination of the Reform
- Practical Church Problems
- The Godly Prince
- The Protest
- Protestant Alliance: The Marburg Colloquy
- The Augsburg Confession
Chapter 19 – The Church Tutorial
Luther worked to teach the church through a German translation of the Bible, catechisms, liturgy and music.
- The Bible Translation
- Doctrinal Problems in Translation
Chapter 20 – The Church Ministerial
Luther ministered through preaching, lecturing and praying.
- Sermon on the Nativity
- Exposition of Jonah
Chapter 21 – The Struggle for Faith
Throughout his life, Luther experienced spells of Anfechtung.
- Luther’s Persistent Struggle
- His Depressions
- The Way of Indirection
- Wrestling with the Angel
- The Rock of Scripture
Chapter 22 – The Measure of the Man
Luther’s final years and his legacy reveal one who shaped a church, a nation and more.
- The Bigamy of the Landgrave
- Attitude to the Anabaptists
- Attitude to the Jews
- The Papists and the Emperor
- The Measure of the Man