Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Church History

The Reformation Still Matters!

0801017130_bErwin Luther. Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016. 206 pp. $14.79

The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation will soon arrive. A handful of evangelicals await this special day of celebration, when on October 31, 2017 they will remember Luther’s courageous act as he nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Tragically, most will allow the day to pass by – completely unaware of the significance of the day.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer’s new book, Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation tells the fascinating tale of the Protestant Reformation and walks readers along a God-glorifying path that shine the spotlight on the central figures of the movement, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, and Huldrych Zwingli.

The author covers much ground in this 200-page volume. He not only surveys the broad sweep of Reformation history; he also summarizes the foundational doctrines that were rediscovered during the Reformation.

Lutzer writes in a popular style which will no doubt appeal to a wide variety of readers and skill levels. The book is filled with beautiful photographs that bring the Reformation to life and invite readers on a journey that they will not soon forget.

The concluding chapter, Is the Reformation Over? is the most important part of the book. Dr. Lutzer interacts with theologians and historians that argue for the so-called demise of the Reformation. Nothing could be further from the truth as Lutzer makes painfully clear. Indeed, the doctrinal divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals is deep as it is wide. The point of the chapter and the point of the whole book is this: The gospel was largely forgotten and under attack in the days leading up the to the 16th century. The battle for the truth of the gospel continues in our day as well.

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and Significance of the Reformation is an important book that will educate and inspire. It will drive readers back to the rugged terrain of history and the deep wells of Scripture. It will challenge them to engage in the ongoing work of rescuing the gospel and continuing the legacy of the Protestant Reformers. I would urge readers to pick up a copy of my recent book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther, as a companion volume to Erwin Luther’s excellent work.

Soli Deo Gloria!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS · Church History

REFORMATION THOUGHT – Alistair McGrath (1988)

0470672811_bAlistair McGrath. Reformation Thought: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988. 285 pp. $40.54

Reformation Thought: An Introduction by Alistair McGrath explores the fascinating contours of the sixteenth century. The author helps readers understand the historical, cultural, and theological context of the events that led up the Protestant Reformation.

McGrath guides readers on a fascinating Reformation tour and overviews key areas such as justification by faith, predestination, Scripture, and the sacraments.

There is much to commend about this excellent work. Pastors, students, and theologians will greatly benefit from McGrath’s work.

Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Uncategorized

RECOVERING THE REFORMATION

Today, you will have an opportunity to pick up Stephen Nichol’s excellent book, Martin Luther: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought (2002) for $1.99.

Students of the Reformation will also want to pick up my new book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.  Here’s a brief sample: Bold Reformer - d5

The Protestant Reformers were men of unbending principle.  They were men of unyielding conviction.  These men fought relentlessly  for the truth.  Some of the battle took place privately as godly men wrote books and treatises, which magnified the mighty work of the gospel.  Much of the battle, however, took place in public as the reformers made their bold ascent into the pulpit.  Lines were drawn, the Word of God was declared, and lives were forever changed.

Oh, that we would recover the spirit of the Protestant Reformers in our day.  May our pulpits reflect the great truths that Luther boldly proclaimed.  May the great Name of Jesus be exalted in our generation.

Soli Deo gloria!

Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Leadership · REFORMATION

BOLD REFORMER: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther – David S. Steele

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On April 1, 2016 my new book, Bold Reformer will be available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Booksamillon.com.  Here’s a brief summary:

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the ninety-five theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world ablaze in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther takes readers on a journey through a remarkable period of church history. It will challenge contemporary readers to learn the lessons of courage, and perseverance. It will inspire a new generation of people to follow Jesus, obey Jesus, and worship the Savior with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. It invites a new generation of Christ-followers to recover the gospel in their generation and make their stand as a bold reformer.

Bold Reformer is born out of personal pastoral turmoil and inspired by the courage of Martin Luther.  My hope is that many pastors, Christian leaders and Christ-followers will be encouraged as a result of reading this book; that God will propel them into the future by his grace and for his glory.

Soli Deo gloria!

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Church History

AUGUSTINE ON THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – Gerald Bray (2015)

augIt is no secret that Aurelius Augustine was a stalwart of the Christian faith; a pagan turned Christ-follower; a man of the world turned to a man of the Word; a man controlled by sin to a man controlled by the Spirit. Gerald Bray offers up a thoughtful overview of Augustine of Hippo in his latest work.

Augustine on the Christian Life summarizes the life of the influential theologian and meticulously navigates his life from pagan to pastor. Bray’s work is historically sound and captures the essence of Augustine’s life and legacy.

Practical application is drawn from Augustine’s life which will surely be an encouragement to readers. Much can be learned from Augustine – lessons from his life in defiance of God before his conversion and lessons from his devotion to God.

BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Church History

GOD’S GLORY ALONE: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith – David Vandrunen (2015)

aGod’s Glory Alone – The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life is the second title in the 5 Solas Series. The first volume by Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification walked readers through this important doctrine which was rediscovered in the sixteenth century. The latest installment is penned by David Vandrunen, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.

God’s Glory Alone unfolds in three parts. Part one, The Glory of God in Reformed Theology summarizes the essence of the Reformation and is captured by the Latin words, soli Deo gloria – ”to God alone be the glory.”

Part two, The Glory of God in Scripture is a tour of redemptive history which presents the glory of God in both testaments and also includes a section the describes the glory of Christ in the glorification of his people.

Part three, Living for God’s Glory Today includes practical application which is an overflow of the first two sections. The author presents chapters that discuss prayer, worship, and the fear of the Lord.

Vandrunen’s work is welcome addition to the 5 Solas Series and is sure to serve pastors, theologians, and Christ-followers well, especially as we near the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Soli Deo gloria!

BOOK REVIEWS · Church History · Theology

FAITH ALONE – Thomas Schreiner (2015)

Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner is much-needed treatment of the scrinedoctrine which was rediscovered during the days of the Protestant Reformation, namely, justification by faith alone. The author makes it plain from the beginning that he does not intend to offer a comprehensive treatment of this doctrine. Rather, he guides readers through a tour of the doctrine of justification. The contours of this fascinating tour are informed by history, theology, and biblical/exegetical arguments.

Dr. Schreiner is unique among theologians as he fairly represents opposing positions and graciously refutes them. His stance toward Rome, in particular, is refreshing and sure to pose a challenge to Roman Catholic thought.

Despite the gracious intent of the author, his arguments are robust and biblical. His allegiance to the Sola Scriptura principle is evident throughout and his love for the doctrine of justification by faith alone is clear.

I commend this work highly and expect it shall receive a wide reading.

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Church History

BRAND LUTHER – Andrew Pettegree (2015)

lutherHow can an unpublished, obscure Roman Catholic monk move from the shadows to the world stage in a matter of years. This is the subject of Andrew Pettegree’s book, Brand Luther. Pettegree walks meticulously through the events of the Reformer’s life; events that would mark a nation and rock the world. This is Brand Luther.

The author sets the stage by alerting readers to Luther’s fascinating background. From his birth in Eisleben to his university days in Erfurt, and his teaching days at in Wittenberg, Pettegree establishes Luther’s cultural context along with vivid allusions to the theological landscape. Ultimately, his design is to show how Luther rises to prominence in a most unusual way.

Brand Luther is unique in that it captures the pathos of the 16th century. The author delves into matters that pertain to culture, theology, economics, and personal emotion – to name a few. The author has an uncanny ability of navigating readers on the path that Luther walked and placing them in the emotional state he experienced and the physical ailments he endured. The turmoil that Luther felt and the threat of impending death looms like London fog on a cold autumn evening.

The author argues that Luther’s writing along with the establishment of the printing press are integral to his success, not to mention the gains of the Protestant Reformation: “Many things conspired to ensure Luther’s unlikely survival through the first years of the Reformation, but one of them was undoubtedly print.” The book is filled with evidence that points in this direction which bolsters the author’s thesis along the way.

Brand Luther is a serious work of history which spans nearly 400 pages but the book reads like a novel – quite an accomplishment for a scholarly work!

Essential reading for students of the Reformation!

Biography · Calvinism · Church History · Gospel

LUTHER AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – Carl R. Trueman (2015)

lutherMartin Luther was one of the bright shining stars of the 16th centuries who God used to restore reason to the church and recover the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Carl R. Trueman unpacks the Protestant Reformer in his latest work, Luther on the Christian Life.

The book is a balanced blend of biography, Reformation history, and theology.  Beginners and seasoned students of Luther will all benefit from Trueman’s work.

While each chapter is a worthy read, the fifth chapter, Living By the Word will be the focus of this review.  The author does a magnificent job of drawing Luther’s love for the Bible in these pages.  But he demonstrates how important the Holy Spirit was in Luther’s life and theological framework: “For Luther, the Spirit is only given with the external word.”  Indeed, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform the people of God.  Eliminate the Spirit and the result is a dry rationalism.  Remove the Word and the result is a subjective train wreck.  Luther stressed the importance of both the Word and the Spirit.

Luther’s devotional life and approach to the Christian life is explored, leaving readers with much to contemplate and weight out.  The author contrasts Luther’s emphasis on being a theologian of the cross (as opposed to a theologian of glory):

The very essence of being a theologian of the cross is that one sees God’s strength as manifested in weakness.  The primary significance of that is the incarnation and the cross.  God’s means for overcoming sin and crushing death are the humiliation of his Son, hidden in human flesh.  Nevertheless, the cross also has a certain paradigmatic aspect to it, for it indicates that God does his proper work through his alien work.

Additionally, Luther’s approach to spiritual warfare is reviewed.  Anyone who battles melancholy stands in good company, for Luther battled the same throughout his adult life.  Truman adds, “Luther certainly regards the cultivation of despair as one of the primary tasks of the Devil … Everything hangs on this, from confidence before God to ethical conduct before neighbors, to the ability to look death in the face and not despair.”

Luther’s struggles are always held captive to the Word of God.  Ultimately, Luther’s relief comes when he rests in the promises of the gospel.  Luther says,

And so when I feel the terrors of death, I say: ‘Death, you have nothing on me.  For I have another death, one that kills you, my death.  And the death that kills is stronger than the death that is killed.’

Carl Trueman offers a carefully thought out treatment of Luther, which includes both triumphs and tragedies.  The reader can determine which issues merit further studies.  Luther and the Christian Life is a fine contribution to the growing work on the German Reformer.

Highly recommended!

Biography · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · Church History · Theology

THE DARING MISSION OF WILLIAM TYNDALE – Steven J. Lawson (2015)

DAR05BH_200x1000American people have the right and the freedom to criticize military movements in a foreign theater.  This kind of deplorable behavior makes freedom loving Americans cringe – for the freedom to criticize is actually secured and maintained by the very soldiers “under the gun” of critique.  In like manner, Christians have become quite adept at either criticizing their theological heritage or downplaying the importance of church history which subtly undermines the heroes of the Christian faith.  This mind-numbing, soul-shrinking language that discounts the pillars of church history only strengthens the assertion that R.C. Sproul often makes: “We live in the most anti-intellectual period in all of church history.”

Yet, church history is making a comeback.  Church history is rising from the ashes and is beginning to shine once again.  The heroes of the Christian faith who have been sidelined are making their way back onto the “field.”  Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Whitefield, Knox, and Spurgeon are returning to the collective consciousness of the church – especially in the younger generation.  In my own Christian pilgrimage, I give most of the credit to R.C. Sproul for rattling the cage of my mind and shaping my hard heart in order to not only appreciate church history – but to actually love it!

Another important contributor to this resurgence in the study of church history is Steven Lawson.  In 2007, he introduced the series entitled, A Long Line of Godly Men.  The first volume, The Expository Genius of John Calvin introduced readers to the Genevan theologian and sought to “raise the bar for a new generation of expositors.”  Since that time, several new volumes have been released that survey the lives and ministries of Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, John Knox, C.H. Spurgeon, Isaac Watts, John Owen, and George Whitefield.

The newest installment in the series, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale summarizes the life of brave Brit, credited with the first English translation of the Bible.

Lawson presents the high points of Tyndale’s life and guides readers on a step-by-step tour which culminates in the martyrdom of a courageous and godly man.

Tyndale’s theological convictions are summarized in five monumental sections:

  • Radical Corruption
  • Sovereign Election
  • Particular Redemption
  • Irresistible Call
  • Preserving Grace

Lawson is quick to alert readers to the Calvinistic piety of Tyndale, a man who stood shoulder to shoulder with the other giants of the Christian faith.

The Daring Mission of William Tyndale is yet another gift to the church from the pen of Steven Lawson.  Young and old will be challenged, emboldened and encouraged as they read about a man who lived what he preached and died for a worthy cause.

Highly recommended!

5 stars

I received this book free from the publisher.   I was not required to write a positive review.