On Reformation Day, at a chapel here, our speaker, a theologian, told this wonderful little story about Martin Luther, the writer, whose right hand, in death, hadn't loosened a bit from the shape his fingers made when holding a quill. I thought that was a sweet image. What he left behind, our speaker said, was an entire shelf of thoughtful books.
I liked all of that, a lot--and I said so. Check for yourself. I told the story on Halloween.
Yesterday, Luther's birthday, I heard another side to the tale from none other than Garrison Keillor, who some consider one of the finest Lutheran theologians of the contemporary era (I'm only partially tongue-in-cheek). Here's how The Writers Almanac celebrated Luther's birthday:
It's the birthday of poet and theologian Martin Luther, born in Eisleben, Saxony (1483). He wrote: "A mighty fortress is our God/ A bulwark never failing." He's best known as the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, but he was also an extraordinarily productive writer. After he posted his 95 Theses and had to go into exile, he completed the first translation of the Bible into German. He wrote theology, hymns, poetry, liturgies, sermons, commentaries, translations, and polemics. Toward the end of his life, Luther began to regret how many books he had written. He said, "The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no limit to this fever for writing." Today, most of Luther's writings are only read by theologians.
Ouch. My heart much prefers the take from that sweet and comely chapel speech. My head--and my age--tells me Keillor likely isn't all wrong.
I do believe I got spun. But then maybe not. A really thoughtful scholar would seek out and then read a biography of the man and from thence determine the truth.
But whose biography?
Sheesh. Think I'll just listen to music.