Herman Selderhuis’s biography proves that just about every adjective, good or bad, can apply to the great reformer.
Brilliant, tormented, passionate, scatological, superstitious, devious, loyal, bitter—pick an adjective, good or bad, and it invariably applies to the German reformer Martin Luther at one time or another in his turbulent life. “I was born to wage war against sects and devils,” Luther said, “and that is why my books are so stormy and combative. … I am the great woodcutter who has to forge a path and therefore I have to destroy so much.”
The towering figure who changed the course of Western civilization also had feet of clay. That is one reason why, 500 years later, we continue to find Luther captivating. There is a historical footnote that illustrates Luther’s ongoing impact. In 1934, Rev. Michael King Sr., pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, attended the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. So taken with the story of the German monk, Rev. Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King Sr. and then changed the name of his five-year-old son from Michael King Jr. to Martin Luther King Jr. Such was the enduring legacy that inspired an African American pastor to name his son after a German monk.
As a Reformation scholar, I too find myself returning again and again to Luther, both for amusement and insight. I am not sure my ego could have survived the scathing rebukes he dished out to some of his closest friends. The truth is many of his friends learned to bite their tongues, or else they became his enemies. It was indeed difficult to stand in the presence of what his closest ally, Philip Melanchthon, described as a “militant temperament” and a “cocky self-righteousness.” Luther was a raging fire.
Herman Selderhuis has managed to write a biography …
Source: Christianity Today Most Read