Luther – The Movie

I don’t normally do movie reviews on my blog, but I thought I’d recommend this one, which I rented this week. Its basically the life of Martin Luther, and it was really well produced. I must confess I am not an expert on the life story of Luther, so I am not in a position to comment on how historically accurate it was. Doubtless they had to simplify and condense the story to fit it into a feature film format, but the characterisation is believable – its not just a film about the “goodies” versus the “baddies”. Luther came across as a man of courage and conviction, but also as a real person with struggles, who was the leader but not always in control of the movement he had started. It inspires you to think about what are the real issues worth standing up for in the church, and what are the secondary matters.

Well worth watching if you haven’t seen it. Makes me want to read a biography of his life. Anyone recommend one? (preferably not an exhaustive one – I’ve got a lot on my reading list at the moment).

You can read more about it on IMDB, or Amazon.

9 thoughts on “Luther – The Movie

  1. The best brief biography I think is in John Piper’s “Legacy of Sovereign Joy” – the biography addresses he brings to the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. He covers Luther, Calvin and Augustine in that volume. Although he is a preacher not a biographer so he teaches from Luther’s life but there is plenty of historical fact in there to learn from as well as a good dose of Piper! Well worth your time if you are pushed for time to read!

  2. I was about to recommend the same book. If you don’t have time to read, you can listen to Piper’s audio lecture of Luther (and other great reformers). I believe the chapter in the book was an adaptation of the lecture.



  3. Thanks for the recommendations, Dan & Hoshea
    strangely enough I have actually got that book! I picked it up when it was on special offer but never got round to reading it. I knew it had Augustine in, but had forgotten that Luther was in there too.

  4. As it happens, I just finished reading a biography of Luther yesterday! Roland Bainton’s _Here_I_Stand_ is 300 pages long(in my version), so maybe a little long for your busy schedule, but I found it very instructive. I got it for only £3.80 off amazon.

  5. Hi Jon,

    In the movie, Luther is taught to pray (by Johann von Staupitz?) “I am yours, save me” at what I guess is supposed to be his moment of conversion. I did a bit of googling to see whether this has some basis in fact, or whether this was just some artistic licence, but the only references to the quote were from people who had seen the film. I think it is one of the most succinct versions of the “sinner’s prayer” I have come across, simple yet profound.

    the full dialogue goes like this:
    “Martin, what is it you seek?”
    “A merciful God! A God that I can love! A God who loves me…”
    “Then look to Christ…bind yourself to Christ, and you will know God’s love. Say to him, “I am Yours – save me!”

  6. Hi Beef,

    According to Bainton, Staupitz was a determinative influence on Luther in many ways. He offered much help and advice as Luther agonised over his separation from an angry God. However, he was unable to help Luther decisively resolve his crisis. If Bainton is right, Staupitz was not the key instrument God used for Luther’s conversion.

    But Staupitz was crucial, for it was he that asked Luther to teach the Bible at the university of Wittenberg. Bainton suggests that Staupitz had ran out of things he could say to try to help Luther in his crisis but that by appointing him to this chair Staupitz was trying to find another way to help him. On the one hand, Luther would be forced to grapple with the Bible more directly and on the other, by being responsible to teach others, he would have to pay more attention to the message of grace for his students’ sake, and perhaps would be able to start applying the same to himself.

    Central in Luther’s conversion, it seems, was his own wrestling with Scripture as he lectured through them, particularly the Psalms, Romans and Galatians. Here is a crucial quote of Luther’s which describes the moment light dawned, as he was meditating on Romans 1.17:

    “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know that he meant.

    “Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.”

    (I’m not sure of the exact source of this quote, but it may be in his commentary on Romans)

    I have no idea if the conversation you mention is authentic, but my conclusion from reading Bainton is that even if it is, it wasn’t primarily through Staupitz that Luther was converted, but through his reading of Scripture. Hence such a conversation would not have been the moment of conversion.

    Furthermore, part of Luther’s problem was that when he thought of Christ, he thought only of Christ as judge, and not as redeemer. And so when Staupitz did speak of Christ to Luther, that give him no consolation. Again, it was his meditating on Scripture (e.g. Psalm 22) that helped him to begin to understand that Christ is a merciful saviour.

  7. Thanks Jon,

    I guessed that there was at least a bit of artistic license going on. Its interesting that you mention Psalms, as the prayer “I am yours, save me” is a quote from Psalm 119.

    BTW Sorry I didn’t see your response earlier – my blog software has been really slow in notifying me of comments recently.

  8. Pingback: Lamedh–I am yours

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