Luther may not be the greatest theologian ever, but he is certainly a theologian, a titan, who’s a joy to read. Carl Trueman writes an engaging book on Luther in the “… on Christian Life” series, introducing to readers Luther’s understanding on the christian life.
Having finished this book for quite some time, I have to say that this book has been a joy to read and a book that gives the readers a great introduction to Luther’s writing. Trueman starts by introducing Luther to the readers. He writes about his life and the historical context. Next he elaborates what made Luther raised his 95 theses in 1517 how that finally lead to the reformation of the church. Next he brings out key events in Luther’s life, as such his marriage to Katherine von Bora, his disagreement with Zwingli to the extent of even calling Zwingli to be of a different spirit and finally his death in 1546.
After giving the readers a quick lesson on the life of Luther, Trueman brings the readers to one of the key teaching of Luther, the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. Simply put, the theology of glory is what man think about God and how we should serve Him, and the theology of the cross is knowing what God think about how we should serve Him and to serve Him accordingly. This distinction between the theology of the cross and glory is what separates the man who wants to serve God as He commands and man who wants to serve God as he desires.
Next Trueman shows the readers how important the doctrine of the preach word is in the life and ministry of Luther. He bring out the centrality of the Word of God in Luther’s ministry and also Luther’s understanding of the power of God’s word. As I was reading the chapter it is a big reminder to me of how often I see very little power in the power of Word, this is not the case for Luther. He understands and firmly believes in the power of God’s Word and puts the preaching of the word as a central component in the church service. This can be seen in the liturgy used in the service and also the catechism he created to teach children a summary of what the christian life is.
The next topic that Trueman discusses is that of the Lord supper and baptism. Truman brings out the sacramental aspect of Luther’s understanding of both the baptism and the Lord supper. Baptism for Luther is how one begins or enters into the christian life. So important is baptism in Luther’s understanding that he tells his congregation that when they are tempted about their assurance in Christ, they are to remember that they have been baptised, and truly belong to Christ. The Lord supper is then a sure sign that is repeated reminding them of what Christ has done for them.
Trueman also shows Luther’s understanding of righteousness, and how christians are declared righteous by their faith in Christ. Luther however has learnt over the years that it is not enough to simply preaching the word of God and drink beer in the pub. No, the work in the ministry still requires discipline and instruction. Which is what Luther addresses when talking about the two kinds of righteousness a christian possesses — an alien righteousness and proper righteousness. Alien righteousness is what a christian obtains when he believes in Jesus. That is what puts a believer righteous when he stands before God. But proper righteousness is what is often termed as sanctification, it is what a christian does in killing sin and when he does good to the neighbour. The proper righteousness is therefore an extension of the alien righteousness the christian receives from Christ.
This culminates into the death of Luther in which his last words are “We are beggars, this is true” Luther is clear that despite what he has done and accomplished in light of eternality, he is nothing but a beggar, one who only receives what the good Lord has given so freely.
This book has been a great introduction to Luther, and has made me want to read Luther more. I hope anyone who is interested in Luther will read this book. Highly recommended for those who need an introduction to Luther. As with every other book in this series, I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from reading it and look forward to reading the next book within this series.
Rating: 4.75 / 5
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review