When it comes to some of the giants of the faith, there are some whose catalog of written works is condensed enough that the task of determining just where to start reading does not seem such an ominous one. Take for instance the Apostle Paul. His letters are found within the New Testament and even if you didn’t know where to start, the works are brief enough that one could potentially tackle them within a month’s (or less) period of time.
At the same time, there are theologians across the centuries whose works are so many that to determine a starting point can seem like such a monumental task that one chooses instead not to dive into those works at all. In cases like the reformer John Calvin, or more modern theologians such as Charles Hodge, Karl Barth, and N.T. Wright, it would be incredibly helpful to have a tool that would be useful to find that starting point.
Enter Jack Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer. Kilcrease and Lutzer have edited Luther’s writings and compiled and arranged them in a very approachable way in their work “Martin Luther In His Own Words.”
In the introduction, Lutzer writes, “We can neither forget Luther nor ignore him.” Through his words, we can see the reformer’s theology as well as his influence that continues to reach far beyond his lifetime because of the availability of his writings and works.
Appropriately, the book is divided into five sections based on the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory). Each section contains two or three separate excerpts from Luther’s writings.
The sections are well-footnoted with helpful content. Context and word definitions that are specific to Luther and his time are explained so as to assist the reader, especially those with limited knowledge of the Reformation and church history. With the addition of these footnotes, there is no background information required prior to reading this book. It is a work that can stand on its own.
Lutzer begins the introduction by saying, “This is a book you will want to read more than once.” He is right. The works of Luther that are excerpted and cited are rich and deep, requiring multiple readings to fully drink in all that he expounds upon and shares. All of the specific source material is cited at the end of the book so as to ensure the reader knows just which translations of Luther’s works were used.
Whether you are already familiar with Luther’s works or if you are seeking to venture into them for the first time, this book is a great primer that might act as an appetizer and compass to know just where to start in digging deeper into Luther’s expansive works. While it may seem dry and even too scholarly at first hearing of it, this book gave me new insights into Luther and also helped me to realize that his works are approachable and more easily understood than I initially expected.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)