Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 39:2 (Spring 1977) p. 354
Reviews Of Books
Mark U. Edwards, Jy.: Luther and the False Brethren. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975. ix, 242. $10.00.
The twentieth century has witnessed a great proliferation of studies on the life and thought of Martin Luther. The literature on Luther is not only extensive but also generally of high quality. Yet most of this scholarly attention has focused on the younger Luther: his education and intellectual development, his conversion and his leadership of the reform movement in its early days. It is the young, courageous, independent, creative Luther who successfully defied Pope and Emperor under the banner of The Freedom of the Christian who has appealed to modern historians. Scholarly interest in Luther after the mid-1520s, however, has been small. The last twenty years of Luther’s life, when he became increasingly cantankerous and dogmatic, are often ignored. Roland Bainton’s justly celebrated biography of Luther, Here I Stand, is emblematic of this tendency. Bainton devoted only a small proportion of the book to Luther after 1525.
Professor Edward’s book seeks to examine this neglected area of Luther’s life and thought. Edwards provides a very useful survey of the major disputes that occupied Luther’s later years beginning with Luther’s confrontation with Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, moving on to his attitudes toward the Peasants’ War, his battle with Zwingli, his negotiations with Bucer, and his rejection of the Antinomians. But Edwards does much more than just review the history of Luther’s later years. He also investigates Luther’s evolving self-perception as well as Luther’s understanding of the course of church history as the key to his increasingly dogmatic stance. Edwards provides a fascinating story.
Edwards views the years 1521–1522 as crucial for appreciating the thought of the mature Luther. Before this critical period, Edwards argues, Luther did not see himself as essential to the success of the Reformation. In fact he fully expected that Philipp Melanchthon would soon become the real leader of the movement. However while Luther was hidden away at the Wartburg in 1521, Melanchthon proved unable to cope
WTJ 39:2 (Spring 1977) p. 355
with the situation in Wittenberg. Luther’s colleague on the theological faculty, Karlstadt, insisted on introducing practical reforms which led to unrest in the city and angered Luther and the Elector Frederick. Luther’s return to Wittenberg in March 1522 put an end to the unrest, but his trust in Karlstadt was undermined. He believed that Karlstadt showed signs of being a false prophet because of his self-confidence, indifference to fraternal rebuke, and his vanity. Worst of all, Luther decried his de...
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