Sunday, January 2, 2011

Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by James Kittelson

Fortress Press sent me a review copy of Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career by James Kittelson. I am very impressed with this book. There are lots of biographies of Luther out there. I've read a few that focus on some particular theological aspect of Luther's writings. This book provides an easy to read history of Luther's life based on the some of the best research without forcing the reader to wade through all the scholarly opinions. I am by no means an expert on Martin Luther but from the works of Luther that I have read, Kittelson seems to be an honest interpreter. He doesn't seem to have any ax to grind or particular agenda. With someone as important and prolific as Luther, it's always easy to use quotes here and there to create the person in your own image. But Kittelson doesn't do that. He just tells the story of Luther's life accurately and honestly. For most of the quotations, Kittelson provides his own translations which are not filtered as they are in some other English translations. Luther's language can be more than a little jarring at times but it also shows how strongly Luther felt about the issues being debated. Luther would not fit in well at the modern ecumenical conferences. The book's goal seems to be to provide a portrait of Luther that Luther would recognize as being himself and I think it lives up to that standard. In around 300 pages the book gives an excellent of Luther's entire life and theology. My only gripe is with the sections dealing with private confession. If all you read was this book you might be led to think that Luther was completely opposed to private confession. Luther was opposed to the way it was conducted in the Roman church but continued the practice of private confession in an evangelical way.

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