I’ve written about this book before. I love it so much I scanned, lightly edited, and republished it (for the first time in almost 100 years.) It’s Gustav Just’s biography of Martin Luther. It’s actually available as an e-book on Google books for free. But the paperback is available on Lulu for only $5. (And with the code BOOKSHIP17 you can get reduced price/free shipping!) Why is it such a great biography?
Lutherans believe that Luther was the angel prophesied in the book of Revelation, the one with the pure and everlasting Gospel. The popes had corrupted the church with merits, prayers to saints, and private masses. Luther recognized that the church was not about raising money off the backs of sinners (Tetzel et al.), but about giving them the forgiveness won by Jesus.
Nowadays it is popular to deconstruct heroes, to try and understand the deep psychological problems that lie beneath their diminished achievements. This biography is in the old mold – it considers Luther to be God’s chosen instrument to restore the church (which he was).
It also places Luther in the broader context of church history. But it isn’t just a collection of names and dates. Church history is the history of bringing Jesus to the world. The entire biography is written with that Gospel-centered understanding. Heroes are those who advance the cause of the Gospel. Villains are those who fight against it.
It isn’t the most sophisticated biography out there. It doesn’t deal in fine distinctions. But it will give you the background of Luther as the one who saved the church from sinful human pride. He went back to the word of Jesus, and held fast to that Word against all opposition – whether from the Pope in Rome, the Emperor, or even his old colleague Carlstadt. In everything he looked to what God had to say to us. And in everything, the church looks at the Word of God and the promise of Jesus Christ.
That’s the sort of Luther Biography that’s especially helpful this year as we celebrate Reformation 500. A quick look at how the church carries the Gospel into the world, and how Luther (against all odds) reformed the church to refocus it on that precious Gospel.