Martin Luther: Exploring His Life and Times
by Helmar Junghans, and others
Fortress, CD-ROM, $39.00
Reformation Sunday (October 31) fast approaches. What better way to remember it (an event accelerated by a media—print—revolution) than by rehearsing in one of today's revolutionary media the life of the greatest Reformer.
To be frank, when this CD-ROM came to our offices, we were ready to shelve it with our other "multimedia" history discs, most of which simply throw together public-domain documents, easily accessible over the Internet, into a clunky browser.
Not this CD. The emphasis is on spending time getting to know Martin Luther and his world, not just finding out what year he became a doctor of theology (1512, in case you were wondering). The backbone of the CD is a narrative of Luther's life by Helmar Junghans, a Lutheran pastor and Luther scholar at the University of Leipzig, Germany. The text is linked to thousands of images, documents, timelines, maps, music, and other "extras" that turn a search for a quick fact into a delightful hour-long excursion.
Other options on the CD include listening to an actor read from Luther's sermons and writings, and special sections on travel, the printing press, purgatory, and other themes.
Our favorite area of the CD, though, is "Martin Luther: The Film." It's an animated film of Luther's life—historically accurate, but very, very funny. The narration is sincere, but whoever animated it was obviously a big Monty Python fan. We not only learned about Luther but had some mighty good laughs doing so.
The project was sponsored by ibm Deutschland in 1996 to commemorate the four-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Luther's death. But even though that sounds like three-year- old technology, this is years ahead of any similar product that we've seen on the market. The creators deserve praise for a truly innovative and entertaining history product. It's the first informational CD we've used that's as enjoyable as a good book—maybe more so.
By Ted Olsen and Mark Galli.
A little church on Sunday morning is a negligible thing. It may be the meekest, and least conspicuous, think in America. Someone zipping between Baltimore's airport and beltway might pass this one, a little stone church drowsing like a hen at the corner of Maple and Camp Meade Road. At dawn, all is silent, except for the click every 30 seconds as the oblivious traffic light rotates through its cycle. The building's bell tower seems out of proportion, too large and squat and short to match. Other than that, there's nothing much to catch the eye.
In a few hours, heaven will strike earth like lightning on this spot. The worshipers in this little building will be swept into a divine worship that proceeds eternally, grand with seraphim and incense and God enthroned, "high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isaiah 6:1). The foundations of that temple shake with the voice of angels calling "Holy" to each other, and we will be there lifting fallible voices in the refrain, an outpost of eternity.
If this is true, it is the most astonishing thing that will happen in our city today.
From the opening of At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy, by Frederica Mathewes-Green; Tarcher/Putnam, 279 pp,, $22.95.
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