I love reading biographies. I thoroughly enjoy reading about people of past that have been great leaders, great pastors or great people and have made a great contribution to the world for whatever the reason might be. I love historical figures and seeing how they lived, what they overcame and what they did that made things around them a better place. When it comes to Christianity, I am no different in my love for reading theological “giants” in the history of the religion. I’ve read a great deal on Calvin, Edwards, Augustine and many others but to date I had not read much on Luther. I have read things written by Luther, but I had never read much on the man himself.
I am incredibly thankful for Carl Trueman’s new work, Luther on the Christian Life, in this series of biographies on Christian pastors/theologians/leaders. Trueman is thorough in his discussion on Luther’s life and dives deep into key areas to Luther in his life and some of the “battles” that he pursued to bring about and create what became the Reformation. Luther is one of the most read, looked at and sought after in the history of the church so it is important that Christians still today look at what made him so influential. Most important in this work by Trueman is to consider what can Christians learn and pulled from Luther to help them understand and live out the Christian life better.
Trueman walks through some of the controversies of the time that Luther was engaged with and pushed against, and also what were some of the internal battles that he was facing that really moved his understanding of God and Scripture. Trueman starts off reminding the readings that, “Too often theologians are treated as if they were simply abstract collections of ideas. Luther was a man of real flesh and blood; he was a son, a priest, a pastor, a preacher, a politician, a controversialist, a professor, a husband, a father, a drinking companion, a humorist, a depressive, a man who was to stand more than once at the grave of his beloved children. He baptized babies, performed marriages, heard confessions, presided at funerals. All of these things shaped his theology. Indeed, he wrote theology from the position of being immersed in the mucky reality of everyday life” (Kindle Loc. 306). This is really helpful to consider before jumping into wanting to know this man more. He was human and he went through many of the same struggles that we have/will face in life, and he lived and wrote out of them.
Luther wasn’t just this rebel of a man standing up to the “authoritative” Catholic Church but instead was a man desiring to know God more in his life and how he was to lead as a pastor/priest for people to know Him more. Christians today often want to think of Martin Luther as this defiant, rebellious man but this was simply not the case. He saw Scripture as authority and saw things that the Church was doing that was not biblical, and he questioned it. He didn’t do it to remove himself from the Catholic Church and start a new denomination/church of Lutherans. He did it so people were pursuing God and living their lives in ways that were within the understanding of Scripture. Trueman does a wonderful job of showing this throughout the book of who Luther was and the passions that moved him.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to know who Martin Luther was and what motivated him to do the things that he did. I would also recommend this specific book over others simply for the fact that Carl Trueman writes this book as a Presbyterian who theologically does not agree with many of the doctrines that Luther believed in. I appreciate his approach to Luther and writing it from a perspective of honesty and showing who he was as a man in an unbiased way. Much can be learned from Trueman’s approach here in how we as brothers and sisters can disagree with each other on doctrine and theologies, but still show grace and love to one another.