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Martin Luther: A Life [Paperback]

By James Nestingen (Author)
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Item description for Martin Luther: A Life by James Nestingen...

Designed to coincide with the release of a major motion picture on Martin Luther's life, this book offers a compact, up-to-date, and accessible biography of the great reformer. Nestingen combines his knowledge of Luther and Reformation history with his considerable storytelling skills to present this concise and compelling story of Martin Luther's life and times. Information boxes and excerpts from Luther's words extend the story and provide helpful historical reference points and commentary. Here is a Luther biography for a broad range of readers that appeals as well as informs.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Pages   111
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.43" Width: 5.29" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.38 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2003
ISBN  0806645733  
ISBN13  9780806645735  

Availability  0 units.

More About James Nestingen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James A. Nestingen is professor of Church History at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a nationally recognized Luther scholar as well as a popular speaker and lecturer. Nestingen is the author of numerous books, including The Faith We Hold; Martin Luther: His Life and His Writings; Roots of Our Faith; and Manger in the Mountains.

James A. Nestingen has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Lutheran Quarterly Books

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > People, A-Z > ( L ) > Luther, Martin
5Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Germany > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > Protestant
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > General
10Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Inspiration > Motivation > Biography & Autobiography

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Reviews - What do customers think about Martin Luther: A Life?

Well researched and written  Jan 26, 2005
James Nestingen graduated from of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota in 1967, earned a master of divinity degree from Luther Seminary in 1971, and the master of theology degree in 1978. In 1984, He received his doctorate in theology from St. Michael's College, University of Toronto.

Following his ordination in 1971, he served as a parish pastor for two congregations. In 1980, Nestingen returned to Luther Seminary as a professor of church history. Today, he is part of a renewal movement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, trying to return his church body to its confessional roots.

At first look, Nestingen's book appears as nothing special: the book is cheaply bound and the print is too small. However, do not let such dissatisfiers dissuade you from reading this book. Like some other recent Martin Luther biographies, Nestingen tries to get the reader to understand the man Luther and his theology. Nestingen mostly succeeds. If I can say anything negative about this book, it is this: it is too short to flesh out his thoughts and put Luther more in context within his medieval, historical surroundings.

Luther: a Life takes more dedication to read than, perhaps, what is considered (and rightly so) the current-day standard of Luther biographies: Kittleson's Luther the Reformer. Nestingen delves more deeply into Luther's mind and theology, yet skimps on covering some historical events that were simultaneously taking place. Although Nestingen's theological explanations are needed to understand Luther, they are never discussions merely to impress, or are they off-putting. However, Nestingen puts the reader in the precarious position of filling the depth, shadows, and color of much of what takes place in Luther's life.

Starting chronologically, Nestingen glosses over Luther's early life and does not slow down to delve deeper until Luther becomes a monk. But as he digs deeper, one begins to see the rich deposits stored in Luther's mind that Nestingen brings to light. Nestingen describes the Christian life as "a dance of dying to Christ in the crucifixions of everyday life to be raised with him to newness of life--life in faith" (pg. 23). The very next page, Nestingen proclaims the purpose of preaching within the Church: "[it is] not merely to communicate information or to appeal to people's wills, but actually to give the gifts and benefits of Christ Jesus." Oh, what joy to read from a man who truly understands Luther!

But Luther the man and theologian is not one so easily grasped. Nonetheless, Nestingen in short order opens a door to a way of thinking that we living in the 21st century do not naturally have: we contend for the "golden mean" or the ideal, middle ground. Yet, Luther worked within a dialectical world--a world of seeming opposites. Nestingen writes, "Truth comes out of the dialectic, that is, from the way in which two extremes butt up against one another to limit or to establish each other" (pg. 35). Luther "is paradoxical, so that it often seems as though he is contradicting himself, saying one thing in one situation, something completely different in another" (pg. 36).

On Luther's "Gospel discovery," his "tower experience," I agree with Nestingen (and Lohse) that it probably coincided with his name change from Luder the Luther, "a small change based on the Greek word for freedom, elutherius. I see the similarity as too exceptional simply to explain Luther's name change as merely a respelling from Low/Middle German to High German.

As Luther aged and chaos began to rule in much of Germany, Nestingen brings out more than other biographies the strain it took on Luther and Melanchthon's friendship. Nestingen also revisits that strain renewed in their theological differences well into 1530s and 40s (pgs 92-93). In addition, Nestingen uses enough pages to show clearly what was at stake in the debate between Erasmus and Luther on human free will. I found his treatment of the Peasants' War especially balanced; he shows Luther's efforts of trying to bring peace and order, but how poor timing and excessive blustering brought his efforts to nothing (pgs. 57-58).

Chapter 6, "Luther at Home: Refuge from Chaos," shows Luther the family man, focusing on the relationship between Luther and Katie. If it were not for Katie, Luther would probably have given everything away. Katie was a strong and astute household manager, and perhaps, at times, proud. But Luther and Katie loved each other dearly. Luther's letter to Katy on February 10, 1546 had me cackling with laughter at the banter they shared as husband and wife.

When Emperor Charles V commanded the Lutheran princes to explain their beliefs, Nestingen gets under the surface and shows what took place for the Augsburg Confession to become a reality. "Consulting the Marburg Colloquy, [Melanchthon] edited the Schwabach Articles. . . . He then added three articles of his own . . . [and] finished the work on liturgical matters begun at Torgau" (pg. 85). Eventually, he even shows how the Emperor's reluctance to tolerate the Lutheran churches led to the eventual state-churches in Europe.

Martin Luther: a Life shows well the chaos that the Reformation had wrought by the late 1530s. "Luther's old friend Agricola had turned on him and left town. The Swiss were blocking an agreement on the sacrament [of the Lord's Supper]. He had given up on councils . . . the emperor was poised to make good on his threats" (pg 100). By 1545, Luther was so tired of his fellow Wittenbergers' moral laxity and abuse of the Gospel that he, in effect, went on strike.

Martin Luther: a Life is an admirable book, primarily weakened because its length is too short to do full justice to the sweep of Nestingen's look into Luther's life. If the book had more supplementary information to paint a fuller palette--and had a proper binding and text size!--this book could surely supplant Kittleson's as the biography of Luther to read.
What a lame book  Oct 30, 2004
Slapped together, obviously. Hard to read the print is so small and crammed together. Some egg-head approach to Luther. Don't bother.
Bummer of a Book  Nov 8, 2003
It is surprising how bad this book really is. I have to echo what others have said here. I thought, "Oh, come on, can't be as bad as they said." It's worse!

Pathetic to think a publishing company that is supposed to be Lutheran would put out something this poor. But, as I look at other things that Augsburg-Fortress offers, it is not surprising. They are so into politically correct left-wing theology it is not really a mystery why they would give a book on Luther such short schrift.

Bad layout, design, printing, formatting and writing.

A real bummer of a book.

Poor Effort for a Great Subject  Nov 8, 2003
I have to agree with the negative reviews posted here. The book "Martin Luther: A Life" was obviously slapped together in a hurry and printed very poorly. You do have to just about break the book in half to read the text, it is printed in small hard to read type, on low quality paper, set very densely together. It almost looks to me like somebody printed this on their home printer! Pictures from the movie are slapped into the middle of the book with no rhyme or reason, and the credits are as large as the picture titles, making them irritating to view.

The text of the book is written with a "snippy" attitude of, "Oh, well, yes, Luther and all that, but today we know this that an another thing." I was expecting better when I ordered this book. I thought, "Oh, come now, the negative reviews can't be right, and I read the positive reviews and thought, this can't be too bad."

WRONG it is a very poor excuse for a book. Don't bother with this one.

Riveting - a must-have for Christians  Nov 2, 2003
I grudgingly went to see the Martin Luther movie with some friends, but the film piqued my curiosity. This book not only answered all my questions, but I found it a fun and easy read. There are other books out there on Martin Luther, but this one is the best. Nestingen has written a book that manages to be not only informative, but amusing. Finally, considering Luther's revolutionary role in church history, this book is a must-have for anyone who identifies themselves as a Christian.

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