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Out Of The Storm: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther [Hardcover]

Derek Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

3 May 2007

Martin Luther changed Europe and, through Europe, the world. It was he who finally exposed the myth of a unified Latin Christendom, in fact only held together by crusades, heresy hunts, Inquisition, and priestly magic. Though not the first radical thinker to challenge papal pretensions and the doctrines they were founded on, by his defiance Luther created the biggest cause célèbre of the age. But this renegade monk did not just split Europe into rival Protestant and Catholic camps. By urging Christians to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, he gave a religious boost to that emancipation of the individual we associate with the Renaissance. By putting men and women in charge of their own destiny he made a cultural impact which is incalculable.

This first major biography in English for many years, by leading historian Derek Wilson, responds to recent Reformation scholarship to assess Luther’s impact on his own and later ages. This warts-an-all study gives a vivid picture of a complex and driven man – courageous, stubborn, rumbustious, vulgar, erudite, self-opinionated but a man of tireless energy and, above all, total conviction. For his achievements we can admire him.In his failings we can identify with him. Luther remains perpetually fascinating.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; First Edition edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091800013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091800017
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 4.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,089,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Book Description

A revelatory biography of a remarkable Renaissance man whose rationalist convictions changed not only the development of the church and Europe post-Reformation, but also exercised a profound influence on how the individual relates to society. (2004-09-27)

From the Publisher

A revelatory biography of a remarkable Renaissance man whose rationalist convictions changed not only the development of the church and Europe post-Reformation, but also exercised a profound influence on how the individual relates to society.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luther's passion 30 Sep 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I recently read this book by Derek Wilson, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Wilson presents Luther as a passionate individual, who sometimes finds trouble by sticking rigidly to his position. (Naturally, this appeals to me.)

It's over 20 years since I read Bainton's `Here I stand', so comparisons are difficult. But my impression from reading Wilson is that there is less of a heroic emphasis on Luther. While Wilson clearly admires him, he does show Luther in unfavourable light at certain times.

"We must feel the force of his passion because, if we do not, we have not got close to the real man."

For me, it felt like Wilson was close to capturing the real man.

I particularly enjoyed the final section of the book when the author assesses the impact of Luther over the intervening centuries, up to our times. It is a fascinating analysis and well worth reading.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars About Luther: The Man for the Hour 26 May 2008
By Loves the View - Published on Amazon.com
The time was right. Movable type meant books for the masses. The hucksters who marketed indulgences were becoming more and more crass. It's not surprising that the main voice of dissent came from Germany, away from Rome, where religious issues, taxes and autonomy for principalities could be rolled into one cocktail of dissatisfation.

Wilson writes that in posting the 95 thesis, Luther was unaware of the Goliath he would be fighting. Once he took it on, his defense required him to realize, frame and expose the chasm between the scripture and the church that had evolved in its name.

The book shows how Luther rose to the occasion and how his trials opened up a torrent of thought, discussion and liberation. He advocated that the people should read the Bible and not rely on clerical intermediaries to tell them what it said. He walked the talk, by translating the Bible to eveyday German so that common people could understand it. He wrote hymns to illustrate Biblical passages and to facilitate worship. He provided both wine and bread for communion for everyone, not just clergy. Most importantly, he distinguished God's word from the words of man and the manmade structures built in its name.

While, Luther was prolific, an intellectual powerhouse of new and liberating thought, his domain was the scriptures. Wilson writes of reformers who, inspired by his words, tried to relieve the plight of the peasants, but Luther's message was spiritual and not political. Wilson does not lay the turmoil of the age on his doorstep.

Luther finds no scriptural authority for clerical celebacy. In one curious page we learn that he liberated nuns from a convent, returned some to families, found husands for some and from this group, eventually found a wife. Since this foray changes his life it has to be part of his biography, but how many "liberating" assaults on convents or monestaries did he make? This is a time when governments are using his texts as justification for taking over church lands.

The author shows affection for his subject, but also sees his failures. Luther's tenacity and zest have a downside: the passion can be turned on those who disagree. One chapter is devoted to Luther's problems in living beyond his time. Events have eclipsed his ken.

Many attribute to Luther the ushering in all that is modern. In challenging the powerful and ossified church of Rome, Luther empowered individuals to embrace their own spiritual life, and from this flowed ideas about freedom and individual responsibility.

Wilson sticks to his subject. He resists many potential side trips into other aspects of the time.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Intro To Luther and His Life 8 April 2008
By MO - Published on Amazon.com
Derek Wilson's book, Out of the Storm, is a helpful overview of reformer Martin Luther and the Reformation. This well-written account offers a presumably real portrait of Luther, a man that was complex and reactionary, heroic and bedeviled. Out of the Storm demonstrates that Luther was a man inspired by faith in God to proclaim the truth of the Bible over the miasma of medieval religion, as he effectively demonstrated that the Scriptures yield greater truth than that of Popes, Councils or ancient traditions. Through Luther's teaching, one sees how the sunlight of Scriptures is greater than the moonlight of the Catholic Church. For this, we will always recognize that Martin Luther was a man in the hand of God to do the work of God.

Yet, as the pages of Out of the Storm show us, Luther was also beset by pride and anger. He often argued with all who disagreed with him, believing himself to be the sole possessor of divine truth. This hindered much of the unity in the Reformation. During the last decade or so of Luther's life, he became increasingly bitter, even saying unspeakable things about the Jewish race in society. It is interesting to note how Derek Wilson speaks of Luther's last years in the second to last chapter, entitled, "A Death too Late?". It is in fact possible that Luther lived too long. If he had died before he had written his anti-Semitic diatribe, we would be free to simply admire him as a man of great faith who made effective challenges to medieval Catholic hegemony. However, this same man's life account becomes marred by a most troubling and angry temperament. Other books about Luther's life (see Roland Bainton's Here I Stand) tell how Luther did in fact apologize for his anger when upon his death bed. If only he had confessed his devilish rage and fury to God during his prime decades, he would not have discredited so many of his accomplishments in the eyes of those who would possibly otherwise learn from him. But perhaps this all merely demonstrates that the real hero of the Reformation is not Luther, but God himself. And the real words that overcame the Catholic traditions and liberated the faith of Europe and then the entire world were not those of Luther, but those of God, preserved in the Scriptures alone.

Derek Wilson's book shows all these points of interest in a readable and accessible manner.

Matt Oskvarek
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book! 14 Aug 2013
By K. Knowlton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Remarkable detail and insight as to what was going on in Europe, both with the church and socially during the early 1500's.
By D. Blankenship - Published on Amazon.com
Out of the Storm by Derek Wilson is a very nice overview of the life and times of Martin Luther and a very nice introduction to the workings and beginnings of the Reformation. This work by Wilson, like any other popular history book, must be read with the knowledge that it alone is not the beginning nor end nor the last work dealing with the subject of the life of a man who had such a profound effect on Western Civilization. Out of the Storm has some very strong points and does have some weak areas. First I will mention what I did not like about the book, and which in my own humble opinion were its weaknesses.

The author has spent quite a lot of ink on the theological hair splitting of the day. Now I grant you, an understanding of these complex issues is vital to an understanding of the reformation, and indeed of Luther himself, but if the reader is not well versed in this subject, parts of this book can be a rather difficult read and a bit intimidating. The issues discussed are very complicated and in an ever increasing secular world, they are not issues we encounter on a daily basis, if ever. Like another reviewer here, I found myself constantly reaching for other reference books and having to reread portions of this work in order to understand just what the author was talking about. In all fairness though, I must admit to not being a theologian, nor have I ever had any desire to be such. Secondly; if you read this work with a certain mind set, it is quite evident that it is very anti-catholic, to the extreme. The reader must constantly remind themselves that the author is talking about the Catholic Church of that day, and not the one we presently have. Anyone who feels that the church was in great shape in those days, and that everything was as it should be, and that there was little corruption, really needs to read their history a bit closer. The church at that time was rotten to the core, from its center out. Thirdly, the author makes some assumptions as to Luther's motivations and mental state that could quite well be questioned, and indeed, should be. Speculation is fine and is quite necessary in cases and studies such as this, but the author fails at times to emphasis when he drifts into the area of pure speculation. I like footnotes, and I like a lot of them to back up what the author is telling me and in this case, there certainly were not enough to suite my needs. Forth, and this is really not the fault of the author, as I don't feel it was his intention to break new ground, but there is really nothing new to be found between the covers of this book. Most of the information found here is a rehash of what we already know but is simply written differently. I was a bit disappointed in this.

Now, what I did like about the book... The author, I feel, has done a very nice job of giving us a good look at the life of Luther, warts and all. Luther was far from a perfect person and his faults were many. The author addresses these problems and does give us reasons for these faults (this is where some of the speculation comes in), but the reasons are logical and I can live with them. Luther was also a great and brilliant man and the author has given him his due. Luther has always been one of my "historical heroes" and I liked this aspect of the work. Secondly, this work gives us a very nice and brief overview of the Reformation. It is certainly not as detailed as many hardcore students of those times would want, but for my purposes, it was just fine. It brought up points of interest which will motivate me to do some further reading in this area. The author has done a wonderful job of giving the invention of the printing press its fair share of credit. This is something that is often overlooked. Without this wonderful invention, neither the Reformation nor Luther would have had the impact it/he did. I was also enlightened as to just how complicated and complex civil politics and the politics of the church were in those days. The author does a wonderful job in stressing this point. This work does a very nice job of pointing out the effect this era had on our own times and indeed, in the overall history of Europe and the entire world. It brings home the fact that we cannot really understand what is happening in this day and age without a good understanding of what went on at that time. If also, if you read closely between the lines, points out the dangers we face even to this day when religious fundamentalist and zealots acquire far too much power and influence. This is something we certainly should take note of and heed.

There are a handful of men and women such as Martin Luther, Charles Darwin, Alexander the Great, et, who almost single handedly changed the course of world history. We need to know of these men and women as we can learn much from them. The more we know of their lives, the richer our lives will be. We may not agree with them, but we should know them and of the impact of their work.

This is a readable book, an enjoyable book for the most part, and quite informative. I do recommend it. Granted, it could have been better in some areas, but I suppose you could say that about most historical studies.

I recommend you read this one with an open mind and leave your own dead horses at home for someone else to beat. Read this work, enjoy, but for goodness sakes carry on from here, if you are interested in this era, as there are many, many other works out there that need to be read and digested.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars sola scriptura but only if it's Martin's version 21 Jun 2008
By CarlosQuintoCatolico - Published on Amazon.com
This book is decidedly anti-catholic but it does reluctantly cover most of the many inconsistencies and hypocrisies of Martin Luther.
The author goes out of his way to bash the Church while at the same time excusing the hypocritical and boorish behaviour of Luther.

For example Luther chastised Henry VIII for wanting to divorce while at the same time arranging for the German Prince Phillip to take on a second wife; thereby aiding Phillip to commit the more blasphemous sin of polygamy. The author excuses this by indicating that Luther had aided Phillip only "reluctantly" and only because "the entire Reformation of Germany was under threat with the possible defection" of Phillip (p. 295).

And when Luther wrote his scathingly anti semitic diatribe (later cited by Hitler himself), the author excuses it because others were doing the same at that time (p. 314).

Luther was right about the selling of indulgences but wrong on almost everything else. When Luther referred to sola scriptura, he clearly meant that only he, Luther, would be allowed to interpret scripture but certainly not anyone else. Not the Catholic church and not the thousand of peasants who he urged should be killed because they were not Lutherans. The peasants disagreed with the Church but Luther labeled them extremists and "new heretics" because they also disagreed with Lutheranism.

He also added his own commentary and changed passages in his "translation" of the new testament. So much for sola scriptura.
It should also be noted that Luther's new testament included the seven deuterocanonical books which after all had been in the bible for 1,500 years. It was only later that other Protestants labeled these books "apocryphal" and took them out of the bible. They then accused the Church of "adding" books to the bible.

The book is interesting but lacks credibility. It is simply too one-sided and leaves the reader wondering if other incriminating episodes were omitted or glossed over.
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