Monday, February 13, 2017

Lyndal Roper

Much has been written about Martin Luther: he and the religious reform bearing his name seem an inexhaustible source of inquiry. But a new biography of Luther -- by the acclaimed Oxford historian Lyndal Roper -- does something most works do not: it evaluates Luther both as a personality and as a product of geography. The novelty of this approach is worth the price of admission: Roper is excellent on the psychological underpinnings of Luther's development, and his turn from Catholic tradition. She's equally strong on the ways Luther manifest his German roots: where Luther was raised, and where he later taught, had a considerable impact on his theology. Roper is mindful to contextualize Luther: not to see him as an advocate of individualism and free will as much as a persistent critic of those ideas. Luther's sense of individualism was, if anything, defined by its rigidity, by its submission to God alone. I found Roper's biography an engaging piece of historical writing, and would suggest it as an absorbing account of those critical years at the start of the sixteenth century.  

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