31 Days, 31 Books
I was a sophomore in college and my reading interests had gone wild. I simply could not read enough history and was suddenly reading books on theology as well. When my mother saw me reading a book about theology, she asked, “Are you changing your major?” I answered, “I don’t know.” I think I was simply broadening my major. Along that time, I bought a trade paperback copy of Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton. As it turns out, this book, which was first published in 1950, has sold over one million copies.
And no wonder. It is an outstanding biography and an engaging read. It has been years since I have looked at it, but I still remember what an enjoyable and informative book it was. Bainton captured the times of Martin Luther. I still remember his descriptions of how people were fearful of Christ and so they felt they had to bypass Him and go to the saints. Bainton’s biography is one of those remarkable books that can be assigned to college students and read by just about anyone interested in church history.
Picking Luther as a subject is a key component in being able to write a good book. Luther’s life, personality, confrontations, and sayings, along with the other people of his times, are all fascinating. Consider: Here is an ordinary monk who posts some debate points on the church door in a less prominent part of Germany, far from Rome, and his 95 theses shake the entire foundations of Europe. No wonder that two major movies and hosts of books have been written about the man.
Here are some comments by some current church historians and Christian writers concerning Bainton’s life of Luther:
Mark Noll: “Newer scholarship has altered details (the book was first published in 1950), but it remains a captivating account of a life-changing person in a life-changing era.”
Doug Sweeney: “It remains the most widely read bio of Luther for good reason. It is a wonderful read on the most important Protestant pastor in history.”
Darryl Hart: “A colorful treatment of an even more colorful figure that captures the central dynamic of the Reformation, namely, how to be right with God.”
Tom Nettles: “A beautifully crafted story of a rough and resolute man whose discovery of truth so melded itself into his soul that he feared to distinguish between his truth-informed conscience and the final claim of God on his life.”
Mike Reeves: “A true masterpiece of a biography, Here I Stand draws you deep into Luther’s life so you both understand and feel the significance of what he faced and what he did.”
A downloadable free version of Bainton’s book can be found here: http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2007/08/free-book-here-i-stand-life-of-martin.html.
Other Bainton books include:
The Reformation of the 16th Century
The Church of Our Fathers–a very simple survey of church history