By Peter Stanford
A new appraisal of theological firebrand Martin Luther, on the 500th anniversary of the religious revolution he triggered - the Protestant Reformation.
'A compelling biography of one of the greatest men of the modern age. Stanford is particularly brilliant on the tensions inside Luther's private and spiritual life. This is a very fine book, written with a flourish.' Melvyn Bragg
The 31st of October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther pinning his 95 'Theses' - or reform proposals - to the door of his local university church in Wittenberg. Most scholars now agree that the details of this eye-catching gesture are more legend than hammer and nails, but what is certainly true is that on this day (probably in a letter to his local Archbishop in Mainz), the Augustinian Friar and theologian issued an outspokenly blunt challenge to his own Catholic Church to reform itself from within - especially over the sale of 'indulgences' - which ultimately precipitated a huge religious and political upheaval right across Europe and divided mainstream Christianity ever after.
A new, popular biography from journalist Peter Stanford, looking at Martin Luther from within his Catholic context, examining his actual aims for Catholicism as well as his enduring legacy - and where he might fit within the church today.
'Peter Stanford makes the life of Luther into a thrilling narrative, told from a modern Catholic perspective' Antonia Fraser
Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include: Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.
- Other details
- Publication date:
16 Mar 2017
- Page count:
Hodder & Stoughton
Stanford - a practising Catholic and the former editor of the Catholic Herald - conveys brilliantly to a secular atheist like me the nature of the internal battle that Luther underwent... what makes this work so valuable is the writer's belief that religion is important and that the relationship of the believer to God requires explanation. I wonder whether an atheist like me would have been half so effective a communicator of Luther's true importance. — David Aaronovitch, The Times
A thoughtful new biography. — The Sunday Telegraph
It would be easy to portray all these early Protestants as fanatics...Stanford takes a more generous view. — Noel Malcolm, The Telegraph
An honest but sympathetic portrait of a profoundly complicated and at times contradictory individual, seen in the heated context of his times...Stanford has managed a rare thing: an easy, pleasurable read through difficult concepts and hard choices. Yet he also conveys Luther's most admirable qualities, not least the absence of self-satisfaction and the presence of what the author calls 'sheer, selfless courage'. In his quest to declaim his truth, Martin Luther's constant resting place was discomfort: a lesson in conscience for his times, and for ours. — Jenny McCartney, The Mail on Sunday
Stanford - himself a Catholic - has developed a reputation as a first-class biographer... [he] skilfully traces the course of the Reformation [and] has also gone to great lengths to make Luther's theology accessible. The core part of that theology, he argues rather convincingly, is as relevant today as ever... If you think this is a religious book for religious people, you'd be wrong. — Michael Kelly, The Irish Independent
Peter Stanford has a gift for taking theological complexity and running with it. An excellent story-teller with a grasp of the oddities of human judgement. — Piers Plowright, Camden New Journal
A beautifully judged mixture of the personal, the political and the historical, that renders Luther human and admirably accessible. Stanford exhibits exactly the evenhandedness that Luther himself lacked. — Michael Arditti
Cleverly structured and beautifully written, sparkling with insight and generosity. — Roger Bolton, Radio 4
"Peter Stanford makes the life of Luther into a thrilling narrative, told from a modern Catholic perspective." — Lady Antonia Fraser
Peter Stanford has written a compelling biography of one of the greatest men of the modern age. He is particularly brilliant on the tensions inside Luther's private and spiritual life. This is a very fine biography written with a flourish. — Melvyn Bragg
There is a great freshness and clarity here. By entering this complex history through personality as well as dogma, I found myself learning a great deal without ever feeling 'taught'. — Sarah Dunant