Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther
Authored by Roland H. Bainton
Critiqued by Kathy L. McFarland
December 2, 2011
Sixty-one years ago, a biography of Martin Luther was penned by Roland H. Bainton and that book entitled Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther became a beloved classic that has stood the test of time as both a popular read and definitive biographical work. Its reader- friendly chronological structure allows readers of all sorts to grasp the essence of the man with a balanced presentation that avoids the usual biographical pitfalls of biased and unsupported evaluations. But, its religious focus upon Luther's life dates the material, and might be considered out-of-touch with the theology of today that usually focuses upon spirituality instead of religion. It is my intention to show how important the religious expressions of Luther's theological development should be in Christianity today that is captured in this biography by 1950's author Bainton in a time friendlier to belief in God.
Old-Fashioned Biographical Approach
Bainton's sociological and religious evaluations of Luther's development begins with key events of notable importance; but, don't expect the usual medical preciseness of today's psychological autopsies that often look upon a person's nakedness and places abnormal importance upon profane characteristics in popular biographies. Instead, Bainton draws his conclusions to Luther's motivations by presenting known facts, measured in careful, unbiased presentation that allows the reader to recognize the inner being of Luther in common sense evaluation without scandalous overtones. The important religious development of Luther is examined without exploiting perceived hidden spiritual issues that no biographer can ever really know. This old-fashioned biographical approach gives confidence to the reader, and prepares a deeper understanding of Luther's religious positions as notable events in his life unfold.
Format Presentation Gives Ability to Measure Religious Significance
Unlike popular biographical techniques today that skip from the subject's reality to delve into the inner workings of the psyche as author Derek Wilson does in his twenty-first century biography "Luther: Out of the Storm,” Bainton's careful presentation of the chronological order of Luther's life gives the reader ability to measure important events without the author's blatant suggestions of unsupported thought processes. Bainton allows Luther's story to be told naturally, and focuses upon the key events of most importance with a more detailed presentation that smoothly transitions the reader into taking note. For example, Luther's stressful angst of standing in the presence of God at the communion table as he performed his priestly duties to make transubstantial change of the bread to the Body of Christ infused with God's real presence develops into horrified confusion when he visits Rome and sees the lack of unholy care demonstrated by Rome priests upon the Eucharist. The progressive development of these two conflicts of Luther allow the reader to understand Luther's concerns and motives, and sets a foundation for Luther's reform later on in his life.
Luther's theological conclusions are understood through this natural development of his experiences by an author that measures religious significance very well. By the time Luther's war against indulgences unfolds, the reader is acutely aware of his relationship with God and the complications that the Roman Catholic Church places upon his religious reforms.
Though you will be hard pressed to find a better biography of Luther that flows with the perfect amount of character development, it is not a scholarly work filled with exhaustive information bits such as that written in the same decade by E. G. Schweibert called Luther and his Times. Also, the references are made clumsy by a numbering of lines, requiring a count back to link reference to idea.
Religious development differs from spiritual development; in the past, most people of belief were guided by God through religious standards developed to raise His people to stand in faith and walk toward Him. Sadly, in the twenty-first century, church attendance is down, faith is often based upon emotional appeal, and personal spiritual exploration individualizes Christianity to places that are often far removed from God's intent.
Bainton's biography of the life of Martin Luther reminds us of the importance of religious development, in a step-by-step process, that leaves room for spiritual contemplation, but keeps it in God's proper perspective, allowing the religious order to exist. When that order becomes corrupted, God moves extraordinary people to right what has been wronged. Luther's captivity to the Word of God and his noble stance against error is captured by Bainton in perfect words revealing an obedient reformer that restores religious order to conform to God's will, in a time when that still mattered.
Grimm, Harold John. "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther." Church History 20, no. 1 (1951): 73-74.
Whitford, David. "Luther: Out of the Storm - by Derek Wilson." Religious Studies Review 37, no. 1 (2011): 70-70.
Wood, A. Skevington. A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Reformation. Vol. 2 Themelos. United Kingdom: The Gospel Coalition, 1977.
 Harold John Grimm, "Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther," Church History 20, no. 1 (1951).
 David Whitford, "Luther: Out of the Storm - by Derek Wilson," Religious Studies Review 37, no. 1 (2011): 3.
 A. Skevington Wood, A Bibliographical Guide to the Study of the Reformation, Themelos, vol. 2 (United Kingdom: The Gospel Coalition, 1977), 54.
Kathy L. McFarland is a Becker Bible Studies Teacher and Author of Guided Bible Studies for Hungry Christians. She has received her Bachelor of Science degree in Religious Studies from Liberty University, is on track for the Master of Divinity (Professional Ministries Track) degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary & Graduate School in 2015 and will be seeking a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Theology and Apologetics beginning in the fall of 2015. She is the Curriculum Developer for Becker Professional Theology Academy and a teaching faculty member. Kathy's favorite studies to teach include the connections between Old Testament exegesis, Christian Apologetics, and Bible typology and mysteries.