Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Luther: Out of the Storm

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Luther: Out of the Storm

Article excerpt

Luther: Out of the Storm. By Derek Wilson. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2010. Pp. xvi, 399- $24.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-800-69718-1.)

This book, in the weaving together of Martin Luther's story with its context, is told in fresh, appealing form. It announces its goal: replacing Roland Bainton's widely readable account, Here I Stand (New York, 1950), with one designed for a post-Christian audience.The author, Derek Wilson, even follows Bainton's example in reproducing sixteenth-century woodcuts, effectively selected to offer glimpses into Luther's age.

The opening, which Wilson labels "a fanciful reconstruction" (p. 1), is not typical of his modus operandi, which relates the story in lively fashion but with fairly consistent faithfulness to the original sources. It is just that such occasional "reconstructions" do not enable strangers to his subject to sort out reliably when he is using this kind of alternative narrative. Indeed, the footnotes are very sparse and indicate little engagement with the two generations of scholarship since Bainton's book appeared. Wilson's sense of historical context arouses interest throughout and is thick with the detailed flavor of the societal and religious context at points, but is superficial in this regard at others.

Wilson largely sticks to his biographical focus, but with a figure like Luther, some attention to his thought belongs to the story of his life.The author often shows sensitivity to Luther's way of thinking, as, for instance, in his interpretation of the reformer's doctrine of justification that is imparted not as a legal fiction but as a re-creative Word of God. …

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