Martin Luther: A Brief Introduction to His Life and Works
January 2005, ©2005, Wiley-Blackwell
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The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries witnessed a transition in the history of Western Civilization, during which the world of medieval Christendom began to give way to a new world order. Western medieval civilizationa synthesis of classical humanism and Judeo-Christianitywas overseen by the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church. People of the day believed in an orderly universe created by God and a great chain of being. This secure hierarchy was shattered when scientists, philosophers, and theologians began to explore the world around them with new eyes. Meanwhile, a number of national monarchs sought control of the church within their territories in order to secure a strong, unified nation-state apart from the influence of the Roman church. One avenue to control was provided for these monarchs by the Reformation, begun in 1517 by the obscure German monk Martin Luther. Because of his personal experience, reflection, and study of scripture, this religious scholar revised his Catholic faith to the alarm and contempt of Rome. Before long, Luther was accused of heresy, and the Reformation was underway.
In this concise and thoughtfully prepared volume, Paul Waibel introduces readers to Luther with a brief biography followed by chapters that address why Luther chose to risk his life by challenging the authority of the papacy. Next, Luther’s most important Reformation writings are considered in chronological order. Among the writings discussed are his The Ninety Five Theses, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, Concerning the Reform of the Christian Church, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, The Freedom of the Christian, and The Bondage of the Will, as well as his two most controversial publications, Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants and On the Jews and Their Lies, which some books on Luther gloss over or ignore.
In this highly readable and thoughtfully prepared volume, Dr. Waibel provides a brief and accessible introduction to one of the most influential persons in European and church history, making it an ideal supplement to wide variety of courses including World and Western Civilization, European History, Renaissance and Reformation, and, naturally, the History of Religion and Christianity. The appendix provides an annotated list of Luther’s extensive writings.