Book Review: Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings


Westminster Seminary California has just published another one of my book reviews:

Martin Luther is perhaps the most popular figure of theological study, outside secondary literature on the life of Jesus Christ. As the foundational character of Protestantism, to control Luther is to control the reformation. For this reason, some historians have done their best to create a Luther after their own theological image. Today it seems the Luther of faith governs the Luther of history seen with the Luther Renaissance and the Finnish School of interpretation. The former made Luther the German idealist and the later the product of Eastern Orthodoxy. Both camps removed Luther from his actual writings and the 17th century confessional scholastics, who carried on his reform.

Modern schools of interpretation fail to understand that Luther’s theology developed over time. He was an “occasional theologian.” He did not write a single summary of theology but wrote as he had “concrete struggles for the gospel in the context of the sixteenth century church and society.” No single tower experience caused Luther to pen, “If the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost”—such conclusions came after years of study. Reading Luther’s early works may impress a medieval mold. Further reading, however, produces the Protestant Luther. Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings 2nd Edition was “prepared with the special hope that it might be useful in making the writings of Martin Luther available as a resource for contemporary work in theology,” and in so doing will allow the real Luther to stand up. This book comes highly recommended for those who want to know the man and not the myth…continue.


Sola Scriptura: Explanation of Tradition 1 (Part 3)

Sola scriptura rejects any idea that Scripture is incomplete and needs the augmentation of tradition. It does so with another attribute of Scripture—the doctrine of sufficiency. Sufficiency means Scripture contains the articles of faith and matters necessary for salvation, but not everything needed for church organization.[1] There are many different things needed for the Christian life and tradition plays a role.[2] The Reformation was not a revolt from tradition rather it was a reform. The Reformers, when developing these doctrines, did not believe they were starting over with the Bible alone. They were getting back to the analogy of faith that began with the apostolic church. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: Explanation of Tradition 1 (Part 1)

Sola scriptura (Tradition 1[1]) means that Scripture is the final and infallible authority.  The Bible is the sole authority because it is divine revelation (Scripture = divine revelation).  Nowhere else is special revelation found, but in the Bible alone.  God, however, did not just drop Scripture from the sky and leave us on our own to interpret it.  Scripture alone does not mean my Bible and me only.  It does not mean that there is no church or Spirit. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: Critique of Tradition 0 (Part 2)

Solo scriptura’s creed, “The whole Bible and nothing but the Bible” is lost in the sea of Christian history. It has surfaced in the past with heretics like Arius, with the Radical Reformers, Rationalism of the Enlightenment, and the Democratic Populism of early America. The Radical Reformers, rationalism and democracy all have the same underlying position of autonomy. The assumption is that all one needs is individual conscience and reason to survive, whether in religion or secular disciplines. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Understanding of the Authority of Tradition

Does tradition have any value in the church or for the Christian? Roman Catholicism believes tradition carries an authority equal or superior to Scripture. What about Protestants: during the Reformation, the Magisterial Reformers came up with sola scriptura in response to Rome. There is, however, a division within Protestantism over sola scriptura. Many Protestants, against Rome, fear any sign of tradition, whereas others are not so frightened by tradition. The result is two views of sola scriptura. The two positions have been labeled: tradition 0, which detests tradition as authority, and tradition 1, which affirms tradition as a subordinate authority. I plan with these posts to discover the position that correctly handles the doctrine of sola scriptura. For a sneak peek, I believe tradition 0 ends in autonomy, relativism and therefore skepticism. Whereas tradition 1, held by the apostles, the early church, and the Magisterial Reformers, preserves doctrinal truth, the church, and Scripture as the supreme authority.

Justification is the Heart of the Message of Salvation.

Purchase “Justified” and not your soul and learn that God justifies the “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).  This book is written for the thoughtful lay person as well as pastors. It supplies background, and context for those not up to speed on this historical Protestant doctrine.  There are also chapters on the history of this doctrine, recent studies, insights into justification and preaching, and finally justification and the Christian life, how justification relates to sanctification.  Anyone who loves the doctrine of Salvation will find this collection valuable.

Worship and Conscience: Does Your Church Bind Conscience with Man’s Ideas?

The first proof for the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW) is sola scriptura.  The second proof comes from the doctrine of Christian liberty.  This doctrine explains that if the Bible does not teach or command a certain practice, God forbids the church to add its own rites and ceremonies because man’s conscience must be free from human inventions. God freed men’s conscience from the doctrines and commands of other men, therefore, the church is forbidden to teach or command anything the Bible does not.  This doctrine is important especially because the tyranny of subjectivism that can bind the conscience in public worship having people do things they are uncomfortable doing. Biblical liberty is freedom from ceremonial law (Gal 5:1-5), the commandments of men (Col 2:18-20), in redemption (Gal 3:10-13), from the moral law’s cursing (John 8:36), from the dominion of sin (Rom 6:12-14), and from the need of being justified by the law and its works (Rom 8:15).  The Bible is the only ruler of men’s conscience and the judge of what is allowable in worship.  The Lord is the only one to bind our conscience; freedom is the result of being released from man’s ideas to understand how their God wants to be worshiped.  Human inventions may not be introduced into the worship of God for this is “Will-worship.”  Worship that man had willed but not God (Colossians 2:23).

The next post will explain worship and the Second Commandments prohibition against idols.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we develop the Protestant Christian idea of worship biblically, theologically and explain what biblical Reformed worship looks like.