Saturday, March 19, 2016

MARTIN LUTHER: VISIONARY REFORMER - Scott H. Hendrix

Although a very readable book, finishing the nearly 300 pages took me longer than desired.  Part of this was due, in part, to the final revisions on my thesis and the ongoing labor of pastoral tasks.  Normally I don't have the opportunity to read and review such a new book (Yale University Press, 2015), but my wife, who works at the local library, saw it as a new acquisition and brought it home, aware of my interest.  Hendrix produces a fresh and somewhat original biography, choosing to see Luther not as a larger-than-life saint, but as a man given to a very human combination of strengths and weaknesses.  Although it might seem as if such a biography could turn into an attempt to downgrade the great reformer from the usual accolades of those who admire him, Hendrix instead reveals his flaws while clarifying misunderstandings of Luther, placing everything into the historical context of the times.  Seeing this human side of Luther is actually refreshing since our heroes too often seem super-human and thus practically unreal and intangible.  Hendrix does recognize Luther's passion and commitment to the Gospel and to Christ, even as he exposes his sometimes human foibles.  Many historical details gave vivid context to the story, helping the reader to feel far closer to the events than many more academic accounts.  I would actually like to purchase this book and reread it in the near future as it seems impossible to soak up all that you read over a period of many weeks.  Hendrix also does a wonderful job of describing the various personalities that surrounded Luther, helping the reader to appreciate their true value in the reformation, which like most endeavors in life, is seldom the work of just one man. I highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in the life and times of Martin Luther, especially as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.