Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book Review: Steven J. Lawson- The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

186932: The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther

By Steven Lawson / Reformation Trust Publishing
Many contemporary Protestants are almost completely ignorant of church history in general and in the history of their own tradition in particular. Probably the one personality that every Protestant has heard something about, however, is Martin Luther. Luther is a Titan; it is probably not an overstatement to say that he is the most influential person of the past 500 years. His influence extends well beyond the rich depths of his theology.  This German monk measurably altered the social, economic, political, theological, and linguistic flow of Western culture itself. Luther is the subject of the most recent profile in the Reformed hagiography series A Long Line of Godly Men by Reformation Trust Publishing.

Dr. Steven Lawson, who is the series editor and the author of a number of the other profiles, walks the reader through six chapters that each focus on an element of Luther’s life or ministry. These are followed by a concluding chapter that expresses a desire for preachers with similar passions and commitments to be raised up in our time. The following is a glimpse of the table of contents and gives a good illustration of how the book is organized and its general flow.

The purpose of this series is not to offer serious historical, theological, or biographical analysis. Instead, these books are designed to offer to the reader an illustration of how influential men of faith in the past have interacted with issues of serious concern in our time. They are written to offer encouragement and a little historical perspective to those who identify as conservative evangelicals. They are intended to show that the doctrines and commitments of the faith have been shared and defended for many centuries.

Lawson’s writing is clear and his points are well stated. Although the format prevents the author from developing the complex theological and historical contexts in which the selected characteristics of Luther’s ministry developed they clearly come through in any more substantial study of Luther’s works. Lawson’s intention with this profile as well as the broader series is that these brief illustrations offer lessons for the contemporary state of ministry. Lawson does a valuable service when he calls our attention to these elements of Luther’s ministry that remain pressingly relevant. These concerns of Luther are just as important now as they were in his day and Lawson recognizes that they always will be. For this reason, it is appropriate for us to understand and take courage from Luther’s heroic boldness and Lawson should be thanked for making this material accessible to those who have not the time or inclination to wade through weighty tomes of history or theology.

Luther is such a complex personality that it very difficult to capture him, or his importance, in a single book. Lawson, however, does a good job of connecting the great Reformer to certain fundamental issues related to ministry that continue to be contested and debated in our time. I recommend the book to anyone who is looking for a brief uncritical introduction to Martin Luther, particularly with respect to his work as a preacher.

* I received a free copy of this book from Reformation Trust Publishing as part of their book review program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

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