A few years back, I scanned, reformatted, gently updated, and published Gustav Just’s classic biography of Luther. Now, I’m happy to announce that, for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it’s available for only $4. ($2.17 for the downloadable PDF version.) Why did I go through the trouble of reformatting a hundred year old biography of the reformer? First, because it’s no longer in print.
Second, because modern scholarship hasn’t added much to our understanding of who Luther is, or what he accomplished for the church. Modern biographies have more footnotes. Sources of information are meticulously documented. Often-times they try to present a balanced approach to the Reformer.
But on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, perhaps we should listen to what out fathers had to say about him. The Epistle reading for Reformation Day in TLH is from Revelation 14. John sees, the angel with the pure and everlasting Gospel. Some of us believe that this is not just a generic statement of churchliness, but is a specific prophecy that Luther would restore the Gospel to the church. For us, the important thing about studying Luther is not (as the 1999 Luther movie would have us believe) that Luther was a caring and feeling guy, who was possibly also a little bit crazy – but mostly in a good way. The important thing is that the Gospel was almost entirely lost, and Luther recovered it. He did so against threats of death, constant ill health, and a system of church government specifically designed to prevent a small monk in backwater Germany from doing exactly what he did.
That is to say, we want to teach our people about Luther the Reformer. Or, as J.M. Reu calls him “The Reformator”. (Calling him “Reformer” lumps him in with men like Calvin and Zwingli. And the truth is, Luther preached the truth and they didn’t.) In my mind, recent biographies, as good as they may be, tend to present a more balanced Luther. Don’t get me wrong. They recognize him as the great Reformer. But the simple fact is, I want a biography that understands that luther was not just the Reformer. He was the one, the only, the Reformator – the angel with the pure and everlasting Gospel, who restored the Gospel to the One, Holy, Christian, and Apostolic church, and in doing so, took down mighty Babylon.
I don’t need the latest research, or the most up-to-date footnotes to get that. What I want – and especially as I teach my people – is a biography written by someone who drank deeply of Luther’s theology. Who knows how precious it is, who believes that Luther was a gift God gave to the church to bring back the Word of God, and save us from ourselves.
CPH published such a biography in 1905. And it was, in my mind, a tremendous theological look at Luther’s impact and importance in the church. It was short, (only 116 pages), but thorough enough for a book club or bible study. It covers Luther’s life, as well as the events leading up to, and after his life. It is very pro-Luther. Not because of some parochial interest. But because Luther taught the pure Gospel, against all the threats of the church’s entire magisterium. Luther did it not for personal glory. But because he knew that the true head of the church was not the pointed-hat, gold-encrusted leadership in Rome. He knew that the true head of the church was Jesus. He preached, and lived that.
And Gustav Just’s biography gives us *that* Luther.
After a friend asked about a reasonably priced, well written, biography for laity I went in and lowered the price. It’s only $4 for the paperback. (Sadly, the S&H is a bit high.) You can order copies for an entire bible class or book-club without breaking the bank.
And here’s an extra tip. My friend was a bit put off by the S&H, and figured if he waited a few days or weeks, Lulu might have a sale. So, he left the items in his basket and closed the browser. Within an hour, he got a note telling him that if he came back and finished the order, he could save 25%. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a try.
Here’s the link for ordering the Book: Life of Luther Book. And Life of Luther, the PDF. Order today, and enjoy teaching your people about Luther, who stood steadfast against false doctrine, and gave the church back her most precious gift: The Word of God.