Martin Luther A Penguin Life

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-02-02
  • Publisher: Viking Adult

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Martin Marty—professor, author, pastor, historian, and journalist—is, in Bill Moyers’s words, the most influential interpreter of American religion.” In Martin Lutherthis man of unswerving faith, rooted in his own Lutheran tradition yet deeply committed to helping enrich a pluralist society, brings to powerful life the devout Reformation figure whose despair for a perilous world, felt anew in our own times, drove him to a ceaseless search for assurance of God’s love. It was one that led him steadily to a fresh interpretation of human interaction with God—as born solely from God’s grace and not the Church’s mediation—and to the famous theses he posted at Wittenberg in 1517.Luther’s persistence in this belief, and in his long battle with Church leaders—embellished by rich historical background—make Marty’s biography riveting reading. Luther’s obdurate yet receptive stance, so different from the travestied image of fundamentalism” we currently face, restored the balance between religion and the individual. Martin Lutheris at once a fascinating history, a story of immense spiritual passion and amazing grace, and a superb intellectual biography.

Author Biography

Martin Marty, one of today-'s most respected theologians, is professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, where the Martin Marty Center has been founded to promote public religion endeavors. His more than fifty books include Modern American Religion. He is a winner of the National Book Award and was the first religion scholar to receive the National Humanities Medal.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
The Hunger for Certainty, 1483-1519p. 1
Defining the Life of Faith, 1520-1525p. 53
Living the Faith, 1525-1530p. 101
The Heart Grown Cold, the Faith More Certain, 1530-1546p. 143
Afterwordp. 191
Acknowledgmentsp. 195
For Further Readingp. 197
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Preface Martin Luther is the story of Martin Luther, not a history of the Protestant Reformation, though its subject was the most prominent figure in the combined religious and political stirrings of sixteenth-century Europe. While his name appeared near the top in the inevitable rankings of "most influential people" of the millennium past, not until a brief afterword does this book include a measure of his influence, examine his legacy, or visit the twenty-first century.Curiously, for all the academic and popular attention long given him, at the time of this writing only three or four biographies of Luther are in print in English. Librarians report that few historical figures have received more monographic scholarly attention than he. Such scholarship has informed its author, but this Penguin Life is not and cannot be an extended entry into the debates that it inspires. There are suggestions for further reading in the final pages. Nor is this the work of either a hanging judge or a flack. The flaws that blighted Luther's reputation, such as in his relation to peasants in 1524-25 or to Jews late in his life, are gross, obvious, and, in the latter case, even revolting. While it is tempting for us contemporary scholars to parade our moral credentials by competing to see who can most extravagantly condemn historical figures such as Luther, in this story wherever denunciation would be in order his words and actions will show him condemning himself without much help from this biographer interfering as a righteous scold. Conversely, as for possible efforts at biographical public relations on Luther's behalf: For his positive contributions to the development of human liberty, the free expression of conscience, support of music, development of literary style, and his role in reshaping religious life, he needs no advertiser, and readers will not find one here. This portrait of Martin Luther will not depict a modern person, because he was not one. Those devoted to periodizing in history might call him a late-medieval contributor to the early modern scene. He left tantalizing and often unsubtle clues that credibly evoke deep psychological assessments, and touching on them here will contribute to but cannot begin to exhaust efforts at accounting for some dimensions of his personality. He makes most sense as a wrestler with God, indeed, as a God-obsessed seeker of certainty and assurance in a time of social trauma and of personal anxiety, beginning with his own. Those who bring passion to what is a universal search for meaning in life may well identify with such a search, though of course by no means all will find Luther's resolution attractive or even accessible, because it appears in a Christian framework. People of other faiths or of no explicit religious commitment may find his specific solutions alien, but they can grasp what he was about by analogy to approaches that they already find familiar from other studies of literature and history or from their own experiences. This account consistently connects the story of Luther's inner experiences with that of his relations to the external surroundings. Biographers of controversial, spiritually profound figures regularly receive warnings that in a changed world, often described as secular, publics cannot identify with or find relevant inner struggles that reflect remote times and places. Yet moderns who cannot picture receiving direct messages from God, like those Joan of Arc claimed, have little difficulty discerning how her response to such messages changed French and English history and why it is urgent to pay attention to her own accounting. Few people have mystical experiences like those of Bernard of Clairvaux, but awareness of his informs the understanding of his preaching to support crusades. Stories of Francis of Assisi's stigmata, which looked like replications of the wounds of Christ on his body, sound incredibl

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