Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Reviews: ‘Martin Luther’, by Lyndal Roper and ‘All Things Made New’, by Diarmaid MacCulloch

By Malcolm Gaskill
July 15, 2016

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Like all great ideas, the thinking behind the Protestant Reformation resonated far beyond the imagination of its chief protagonist. Next year sees the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing (or possibly glueing) his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, an act of defiance against the Catholic Church that transformed theology and divided Christians in the west. Its significance was not merely religious, however. Luther’s assault on papal dominance revolutionised European society, politics and culture; it ignited rebellions and wars, made monarchs and broke them, and ultimately transformed the arts and sciences.

We may think we know Luther, but Lyndal Roper shows how much we’ve missed. The service that her magisterial biography does to his memory is twofold: she presents him both as a human being and as a man of his time. She describes a life as it unfolded, full of ambivalence and chance, not retrospectively mythologised. Hers is a book rich in meticulous research and eloquent prose, acute insights and humane judgments. It is surely the definitive account of Luther’s life and work, and will remain so for many years.

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