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Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death
Amazon.com Review Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death is an empathic, critical, and beautifully written account of the life of one of the most important figures in Western history. Marius's primary goal is to describe the inner life of Martin Luther--specifically, to describe the way Luther's near-obsessive fear of death drove him to search for a gospel that would convince him that God offered real hope for everlasting life. Marius argues that Luther's failure to find the answers he sought was a primary cause of the Reformation--and that it led him to demonize whoever he believed had taken shortcuts to find those answers. Marius defends his arguments with close readings of Luther's voluminous writings and with ample documentation of the political movements during which the Reformation occurred. The book's broad scope gives it an appealing quality of honestly grappling with the fullest possible understanding of Luther's situation as a man of the middle ages, even if Marius's ultimate verdict on Luther and his legacy is quite harsh. Marius claims that Luther's angry denunciations of Catholics, Jews, and other Protestants exacerbated the disastrous nationalist movements and religious schisms that determined the subsequent course of European history. "Luther's temperament was his tragedy," Marius writes. "He was an absolutist, demanding certainty in a dark and conflict-ridden world where nothing is finally sure and mystery abounds against a gloom that may ultimately be driven by fate, the impersonal chain of accidents that takes us where we would not go because our destiny is to be the people we are, and so we have no choice but tragedy." --Michael Joseph Gross Read more From Publishers Weekly Marius, a retired Harvard professor, provides a thoroughly challenging and scholarly biography that brings theological giant Martin Luther into human scale. He traces Luther's life from his birth in 1483 to his ordination and on to the tumultuous years of Luther's reformation of the Church, from 1517 until the end of his life. Through a close reading of Luther's many writings, Marius narrates Luther's development as a theologian and as a cultural figure. Marius characterizes Luther as a "catastrophe in Western civilization," a judgment stemming from Luther's struggle with death as the cosmic enemy, a struggle that could be overcome only by faith. Most intriguing is Luther's confrontation with the humanist Erasmus. Marius contends that Luther discounted Erasmus's perspective, thus dismissing the possibility of a peaceful reform of the Church through reason. Laid at Luther's doorstep, then, is the tragedy of a 16th-century Western civilization torn by religious intolerance and violence. Marius's biography is bound to be an influential and, for some, definitive study of Luther's life and work. Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. Read more See all Editorial Reviews nsi-MartinLuther