Does an unbiased book on Luther exist?

I know, a potentially dangerous question to ask on a Catholic forum. I would like to find a biography or book about Luther but I’m afraid any book is either going to be pro-Luther or Luther was a heretic and I’d like just the facts so I can decide for myself.


I suspect most are biased to some extent, but I’m sure there are some that are at least substantially less biased. A good friend of mine is going through seminary to be a Lutheran minister, so I’ll ask him for suggestions and see if he knows some good ones. I’ll post back when I find out!

Thanks! My pastor offered access to his personal library but I’m guessing his collection is pretty slanted. I need to spend time researching online too but I figured it never hurts to ask for more opinions:).

Here I Stand: a Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton, is supposed to be one of the best. It also is written in a very lucid style (following the maxim of the philosopher Schopenhauer, who wrote, “use ordinary language to express extraordinary things”).

I would suggest you read three:
one by a Catholic
one by a Lutheran
and one by an atheistic historian
Together, I think you’ll get a pretty clear picture. If you’re short on time, the third would be unbiased in the way you’re talking about, but might be biased against his position as a religious person in general.
EDIT- or you know, Portofino had a good idea. :slight_smile:

It incredibly long, but Luther’s Works are his own writings, for the most part.


I agree with Jon. If you want to determine if Luther is a heretic or not, don’t mess around with his biography, read stuff he penned. I would start with the Small and Large Catechisms and the Smalcald Articles, then move on to his collected works. Finally, remember that Lutherans do not swear to uphold the teachings of Martin Luther, rather we hold to the Lutheran Confessions and Scripture.

Keep in mind, Roman Catholic approaches (or rather, Roman Catholic scholarly approaches) toward Luther shifted in the early 1900’s away from seeing Luther as a minion of Satan (for lack of a better phrase) towards more positive evaluations. There was a desire to understand the theological issues raised by Luther rather than setting up vilifying caricatures as earlier Roman Catholic authors had done. On discussions boards like this, there is typically a fair amount of the earlier Roman Catholic sentiment (unfortunately).

I could recommend a number of Roman Catholic books on Luther if you’re interested. I was very impressed recently with The Real Luther by Franz Posset, a Roman Catholic writer. It was one of the best books I had read on Luther in a long time.



I always recommend Luther’s sermons to begin with.

I’m in the middle of LW 59 at the moment, the most recent edition of Luther’s Works in English. In fact, this reminds me that a new volume should be out in a couple of weeks.


OK, I’ll bite on this:

For the Roman Catholic, I’d pick anything by Jared Wicks.
For the Lutheran, I’d pick anything by Martin Brecht.
For the atheistic historian, I’d reluctantly pick something by Richard Marius. I’ve yet to really find anything by a non-theist on the Reformation worth anything. Marius at least is good with his footnotes.


There probably is not a book out there that is not biased, I agree, that Luther’s Works and his sermons are the way to go. I have Luther’s Works on software that works with Logos. CPH and Amazon sell the individual books as e-books.

That’s a difficult quest skigirl1689. All books are written from a point of view. The author(ess) will choose what to leave in and what to leave out. The editor may also have a hand in shaping the way in which information is presented and emphasized. Sometimes, despite best efforts, information is not included because a writer is unaware of its existence.
Perhaps you might read a variety of books about Luther and screen each one carefully as you seek to determine its bias(es).
I wish you pleasant reading. Amen.

Its always good to see you pop up. I enjoy your work, even when I don’t agree.


Luther was a man of many words. :smiley:


I’ve attempted to tackle Luther’s writings, but it is a rather daunting task.

MARTIN LUTHER’S WRITINGS: Sermons, Commentary & other Works is an online source. You can easily choose what sections you want to read.

Peace and blessings,

Thanks everyone for your responses!

That is a good idea…too bad I hardly have any time to read to begin with:o

I don’‘t think Luther was a heretic, but used that term to describe the very extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to how people view Luther. I do have the Catechisms and had to memorize all of the commandments, articles of the Apostles’ Creed, petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, Keys, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper and all the explanations for public examination before I was confirmed when I was 14.

Thanks for the link, this will be helpful.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit