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Luther on the Christian Life - A Review by David Luy

Posted at Reformation 21:

Carl R. Trueman. Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom.
Theologians of the Christian Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 224pp. $14.99/£11.99

It is not immediately obvious to many Christians that Martin Luther has much that is interesting or helpful to say about the Christian life. Indeed, the Luther of popular lore comes across as a man so positively intoxicated by the doctrine of justification, that he couldn't quite muster any enthusiasm for holiness and discipleship. Within contemporary theological discussion, Luther serves all too often (whether positively or negatively) as the rallying banner for a mode of Christianity within which the doctrines of grace deliberately exclude any and all practical consideration for how Christians should actually live. A book on the Christian life with this version of Luther as its protagonist would necessarily be brief and uninspiring.

Carl Trueman's recent book, Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom casts a very different picture. To be sure, Trueman's Luther remains a theologian intoxicated by the doctrines of grace and deeply suspicious of the subtle tendency for talk of holiness to lapse into self-righteousness. And yet, Luther remains for Trueman a source of uniquely concrete and lively spiritual counsel. "As a theologian who was also a pastor," the author writes, "[Luther] was continually wrestling with how his theological insights connected to the lives and experiences of the people under his care" (p.25). What is more, Luther writes as one who knows rather acutely what it is like down in the trenches of daily discipleship. Luther has something to offer us, because "he wrote theology from the position of being immersed in the mucky reality of everyday life" (p.26).

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