With 2017 being the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the doors of Wittenberg, this is a rich year for us as Protestants. Books, conferences, documentaries, and resources abound for helping us refocus our minds on the importance of the Protestant Reformation and how God used that for the recovery of the Gospel and His Word.
One excellent resource that you definitely don’t want to miss out on is a new documentary by Patrol on Martin Luther. The documentary is titled Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer and is directed by Stephen McCaskell, the same man behind this excellent documentary on Charles Spurgeon.
Martin Luther’s name is often synonymous with the Protestant Reformation, and for good reasons. Though he is not solely responsible for the Reformation that recovered the Gospel from the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church of the day, his life and ministry certainly brought the work before to a climax, as well as ushered in generation upon generation of new Christians who championed the cause in the decades and centuries following.
The documentary is excellently made, consisting of animated reenactments, scholarly interviews, on-site commentary, and more. The film is narrated by Barry Cooper and includes contributions by R.C. Sproul, Stephen Nichols, Carl Trument, Steven Lawson, Robert Godfrey, and more.
The film is split into 4 parts, with a total run time of 91 minutes.
Part 1 (Before The Fire) looks at the cultural climate and state of the church at the time of Luther, including a look at the work already begun by men like John Wycliffe and John Huss before Luther.
Part 2 (The Monk Who Changed The World) comprises the bulk of the film. This section looks at the life of Martin Luther from the time that he was a child, through the period of his becoming an Augustinian Monk, and all the way into his posting of the 95 theses, his stand at the Diet of Worms, and his German exile.
Part 3 (The Untamed Tongue) steps back and looks a bit deeper into the character of the man. For better or for worse, Martin Luther was known as a man with an untamed tongue. The same resilience and fire that enabled him to make his stand at Worms equally got him into trouble with claims of anti-Semitism and other allegations. In his own words, speaking of the difference between himself and his partner and successor, Philip Melanchthon, Luther says: “Melanchthon cuts with a knife. I swing with an axe.”
Part 4 (The Fire Still Burns) looks at the effects of Luther’s life and the Reformation not only in the decades that followed in the 1500s, but even into today. The Reformation is not over. What Martin Luther began in the 1500s is a fire that still burns alive and well in Christianity today. As the narrator in the film says: “Once you begin to see what Luther did 500 years ago, you begin to see his fingerprints all around you today.”
A Few Interesting Things
Though I have previously studied Luther and read some of his writings, I still found myself walking away from this documentary learning a few more interesting things.
One of those things is that the doors of Wittenberg on which Luther posted his 95 theses was the sort-of “bulletin board” for the faculty. Luther was not intentionally splitting the church or aiming to form a new religion per se. Rather, he was seeking to propose a serious, intellectual discussion over the whole structure of the indulgences and the Catholic Church. Though I knew that latter part, I was unaware that the doors customarily served as the “bulletin board” upon which to post things. I just assumed that he was trying to make a statement by nailing them to the front door.
Another thing that I did not know was the question that Luther wrestled with as he made his stand at the Diet of Worms. Though many are familiar with his “Here I Stand” speech, and some are aware of the 24-hours that Luther requested to have in order to think before he answered whether or not he would recant, I was unaware of the reason for which Luther requested this delay. What did Luther have to think about? The question that Luther wrestled with was whether he considered himself to be alone wise? His critics told him that he would have to stand before God and answer that question: “Are you alone wise? Are you the only person that has been wise enough to see these things?” Luther wrestled to make sure that he was not operating out of a supposed higher knowledge or deeper wisdom. He concluded that he was not driven by the conviction that he alone was wise; rather, he was driven by the Word of God, and what it clearly taught, and he could argue no other.
Whether you are a Luther scholar, decently familiar with the man and his ministry, or have no knowledge of him (and maybe even thought I was talking about Martin Luther King Jr most of this review), you will find this documentary to be a great help and inspiration to you. Not only will you walk away more informed on who Martin Luther is and why the Reformation is important, but you will also walk away with a greater confidence in the Word of God, a great conviction of its authority and sufficiency, and a greater boldness to stand firmly and faithfully upon that Word.
As we celebrate the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther and the Reformation, let us not be content to stop there. May our study of the man and the event lead us to a greater confidence, conviction, and boldness as we stand faithfully for the inerrant, authoritative, and sufficient Word of God. This documentary will help you do just that.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Patrol for providing me with a review copy of this DVD in exchange for a fair and honest review.