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Out of the Storm: The Life and Legacy of…

Out of the Storm: The Life and Legacy of Martin Luther

by Derek Wilson

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NCLA Review -Does the world (and your library) really need yet another book with Martin Luther as its subject? Well, if the book in question is Luther: Out of the Storm, then the answer is an unqualified, even enthusiastic, “Yes!” This work is the second in a series of books (the first being a reconsideration of Charlemagne) in which this critically acclaimed and bestselling author seeks to answer the question, “What is Europe?” In pursuit of an answer, Wilson not only puts Luther in the context of his times, but his (and even our) times in the context of Luther. His final chapter – “God’s Word and God’s World” – in which he provides insights on what the present owes to Luther and the other prime movers of the Reformation might well be worth the price of the book, all by itself. Wilson is never content merely to relate what happened, but constantly reflects on why events happened the way they did, and what meaning those events had for the future. His analysis is unrelentingly both fair and balanced, and often causes the reader to pause and re-think previously held beliefs and assumptions. This, of course, is a very good thing. Wilson writes: “We must feel the force of Luther’s passion . . . (to get) close to the real man.” The author obviously has felt that force, and in this book he has shared it. As a result, the “real man” Luther comes through on every page. Do yourself and your patrons a favor. Get this book. Rating: 4 —WS ( )
  ncla | May 17, 2011 |
Out of the Storm by Derek Wilson is a very nice overview of the life 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 on the life of a man who had 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 the 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. 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 quite anti-catholic. 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. 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 a hardcore student 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 period 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 going on 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 event to this day when religious fundamentalist and zealots acquire too much power and influence. Something we certainly should take note of hand heed.

There are a group of men and women such as Martin Luther, Charles Darwin, Alexander the Great, et al, 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 them and 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 works.

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 there if you are interested in this era as there are many, many other works out there that need to be dug through.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks ( )
  theancientreader | Jan 4, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312375883, Hardcover)

“Scores highly in thoroughness, clarity, and human sympathy. If you want a model of how to defy uncomprehending power . . . or a model of how to laugh at the Devil, Wilson has provided a reliable guide as to how Luther did it.”  

---Sunday Telegraph (UK)


Martin Luther changed Europe and, through Europe, the world. It was he who originally exposed the myth of a unifed 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 that is incalculable.

The first major biography in English for many years, by leading historian Derek Wilson, Out of the Storm responds to recent Reformation scholarship to assess Luther’s impact on his own and later ages. This warts-and-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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -0400)

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Examines the complex life, motivations, and convictions of Martin Luther, and describes the religious, social, and cultural legacies of the man that helped ignite the Protestant Reformation and transform the face of Europe.

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