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The Genius of Luther's Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church

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This volume offers a unique approach to the study of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand offer an introduction to two significant themes that form the heart of Luther's theology. The first theme concerns what it means to be truly human. For Luther, "passive righteousness" described the believer's response to God's grace. But there was als This volume offers a unique approach to the study of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand offer an introduction to two significant themes that form the heart of Luther's theology. The first theme concerns what it means to be truly human. For Luther, "passive righteousness" described the believer's response to God's grace. But there was also an "active righteousness" that defined the relationship of the believer to the world. The second theme involves God's relation to his creation through his Word, first creating and then redeeming the world. Clergy and general readers will find here a helpful introduction to Luther's theology and its continuing importance for applying the good news of the gospel to the contemporary world.


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This volume offers a unique approach to the study of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand offer an introduction to two significant themes that form the heart of Luther's theology. The first theme concerns what it means to be truly human. For Luther, "passive righteousness" described the believer's response to God's grace. But there was als This volume offers a unique approach to the study of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. Robert Kolb and Charles Arand offer an introduction to two significant themes that form the heart of Luther's theology. The first theme concerns what it means to be truly human. For Luther, "passive righteousness" described the believer's response to God's grace. But there was also an "active righteousness" that defined the relationship of the believer to the world. The second theme involves God's relation to his creation through his Word, first creating and then redeeming the world. Clergy and general readers will find here a helpful introduction to Luther's theology and its continuing importance for applying the good news of the gospel to the contemporary world.

30 review for The Genius of Luther's Theology: A Wittenberg Way of Thinking for the Contemporary Church

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joel Wentz

    What a fantastic, enriching, and life-giving overview of a frequently-misunderstood theologian! As someone who grew up in an evangelical, "low-church" setting of worship, I found many chapters in this book to be simply breathtaking and wildly refreshing. The writers frame Luther's thought primarily around two questions: 1) What does it mean to be human? 2) How does God relate to humanity through His word? Stepping through the Gospel in this way brought new life and understanding to many of my pr What a fantastic, enriching, and life-giving overview of a frequently-misunderstood theologian! As someone who grew up in an evangelical, "low-church" setting of worship, I found many chapters in this book to be simply breathtaking and wildly refreshing. The writers frame Luther's thought primarily around two questions: 1) What does it mean to be human? 2) How does God relate to humanity through His word? Stepping through the Gospel in this way brought new life and understanding to many of my preconceptions of Reformation-era theology, especially in how Luther understood the way the Gospel undermined the ways we construct our own identities, and how one can be simultaneously completely justified and completely a sinner. Additionally, his understanding of sacraments, particularly prayer and baptism, are profoundly practical and helpful to the lay-person. While I remain in disagreement with certain "pillars" of Lutheran thought, this book has provided a remarkable intro to an important man of faith and history, and has sparked significant interest in me to pursue his work more fully.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt Crawford

    I really enjoyed this book. Kolb is an excellent scholar on all things Reformation and specifically Luther. 2 things however, though the title would have otherwise, the book is not on Luther, the book is on Luther and Melanchthon, who Kolb continually refers to as the Wittenberg Reformers. It is not about Luther exclusively. Surely, the boisterous man that Luther was he influenced his comrade but anyone with an understanding of Lutheranism realizes that Martin and Philip had opposing viewpoints I really enjoyed this book. Kolb is an excellent scholar on all things Reformation and specifically Luther. 2 things however, though the title would have otherwise, the book is not on Luther, the book is on Luther and Melanchthon, who Kolb continually refers to as the Wittenberg Reformers. It is not about Luther exclusively. Surely, the boisterous man that Luther was he influenced his comrade but anyone with an understanding of Lutheranism realizes that Martin and Philip had opposing viewpoints on a number of important doctrines (such as election.) The 2nd thing that needs brought up is that the title and beginning chapters dictate that this is an exhaustive survey of Luther's theology. Most of the text concentrates on Genesis and Galatians. Luther spoke on much more and I felt more shouldve been added of his study on the Psalms and Romans, but the book is not so much about Luther, but moreso about the ongoing conversation with the Creator.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Todd Wilhelm

    Great read. Rich quotes from Luther with application to our day. "Luther defined martyrdom as a gift from God, not a meritorious accomplishment of those who had cultivated a special strength through their own powers. His student Ludwig Rabus collected stories of Christian martyrs and witnesses to the faith; Rabus also described two ways in which the devil attacks God's church: through the violence of persecution and through the deception of false teaching. Luther, too, presumed that believers "mu Great read. Rich quotes from Luther with application to our day. "Luther defined martyrdom as a gift from God, not a meritorious accomplishment of those who had cultivated a special strength through their own powers. His student Ludwig Rabus collected stories of Christian martyrs and witnesses to the faith; Rabus also described two ways in which the devil attacks God's church: through the violence of persecution and through the deception of false teaching. Luther, too, presumed that believers "must endure every misfortune and persecution, all kinds of trials from the devil, the world, and the flesh,... by inward sadness, timidity, fear, outward poverty, contempt, illness, and weakness in order to become like their head, Christ. And the only reason they must suffer is that they steadfastly adhere to Christ and God's Word...No people on earth have to endure such bitter hate." At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Christians look back on one century of immense and intense suffering for the faith, in the Soviet Union, in National Socialist Germany, and in Muslim lands throughout Asia and Africa, among other places. Persecution continues and will not cease. Neither will the devil's deception in the realms of our teaching and living. Believers must prepare each other for the day when the Holy Spirit may give them the gift of martyrdom." -page 219 “Luther believed that the sermon should last about a half hour and that the entire service should “be completed in one hour or whatever time seems desirable, for one must not overload souls or weary them.”” -page 217 "In 1539 Luther laid out the Anabaptist argument that children cannot believe because they do not exercise reason and therefore cannot say, "I believe." Luther replied, "Christ did not die for older people but for all of humankind. When a child is brought to baptism, the gospel says, 'Do not forbid this.'" "for such is the kingdom of heaven" (Mark 10:14 KJV). Against the argument that the word "child" here refers to large children, Luther contended that their mothers had to carry them. More important was the theological understanding of what baptism, as a form of God's Word, is and does. "God is acting here, not the human creature. Father, Son and Holy Spirit baptize. Baptism is true. If it is possible that children do not have faith - and that they cannot demonstrate [it] -nevertheless, we should piously believe that God himself baptizes children and gives them faith and the Holy Spirit. That follows from the text. Therefore, regard baptism as a divine word, for God himself does it." There would be no church at all on earth if God did not assemble it through baptism, Luther added." -page 195 "As they inquired into how we receive the righteousness of Christ, the reformers made a critical distinction between Christ obtaining salvation for us two thousand years ago and Christ delivering salvation to us centuries later. Here Luther's strong theology of the Word steps into the foreground: "Although the work took place on the cross and the forgiveness of sins has been acquired, yet it cannot come to me in any other way than through the word." For Luther, then, a Christian who desires to receive the forgiveness of sins cannot run to the cross, for there forgiveness is not yet imparted to us. Nor can we count on receiving it by keeping the memory of the suffering of Christ alive in our minds. Instead, we must go to the Word that imparts, gives, proffers, and delivers the forgiveness of sins that has been purchased on the cross. Christ bestows his righteousness on God's human creatures through the Spirit, who brings it to us in the gospel. Luther saw in his opponents, both the medieval theologians as well as the more radical elements of the Reformation such as the Anabaptists, a tendency to deal with God apart from the Word. In the former instance, the church claimed a revelation of God to its hierarchy; in the latter instance, they saw it as an inner voice within each Christian." -page 41 “Luther’s insight that works are not needed for justification before God soon elicited the question “What are they good for?” Why are they needed at all? Luther’s catchphrases “faith alone” and “freedom of the Christian” raised alarms that a Lutheran antinomianism would undermine the social order of the empire and foster anarchy. Indeed, Roman Catholic opponents claimed that the German Peasants’ Revolt of 1525 gave those charges strong credence even though serious peasant rebellion had rocked several areas within Germany in the previous quarter century. In addition, a student of Luther, Johann Agricola, argued in 1527 that the law no longer applies to Christians since they are freed from the law. The law belongs in the courthouse, not in the church. In other words, the law must be proclaimed to non-Christians, not to Christians. As a response to the conflict between Agricola and Melanchthon, Luther wrote the Large Catechism (1529), in which he devoted nearly half of the entire text to giving a positive exposition of the Ten Commandments.” -pages 101-102 ."at the same time, righteousness in the world with our fellow creatures (corm mundo) depends on our carrying out our God-entrusted tasks within our walks of life for the good of creation. God created human beings as male and female to complement and complete each other. Together they formed human community, and together they were given responsibility for tending God's creation. To guide them in their task, God hardwired his law into creation and engraved it on the human heart. At the same time, God gave human beings dominion in such a way that they have the freedom to figure out how best to tailor that to the specific challenges and questions of daily life. Here human reason and imagination play critical roles in mediating the law into our daily lives in such a way as to carry out God's ongoing work of preserving and promoting creaturely well-being. Human beings carry out their God-given tasks for the well-being of both the human and the non-human creation. As they do so, they stand accountable both to God and to their fellow creatures for the way they carry out tasks." -Pages 28-29 "Luther believed that the church of his youth had played power games that obscured the simple truth of Christ's victory over evil through death and resurrection. In so doing, the reformer and his associates charged church leaders with neglecting the care of the people of God. The Reformation Luther led with his colleagues at the University of Wittenberg arose out of the crisis of pastoral care that plagued the late medieval church." -page 11 Few fall into the category of those gifted with outstanding insight and wisdom. Most must remain disciples of those speechless teachers called books. -page 74 "God calls me to bring his love in as complete a form as possible into my part of his world." -page 76

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ricky Beckett

    This book is separated into two parts: part one that examines Luther's theological anthropology (what it means to be human); and part two that examines Luther's thought on how God has chosen to relate to His human creatures, particularly through His Word in all its forms (oral, personal, and written). Written by two of our brightest minds on the Lutheran Confessions—Robert Kolb and Charles Arand—this book is an absolutely fascinating read for Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike. This book is separated into two parts: part one that examines Luther's theological anthropology (what it means to be human); and part two that examines Luther's thought on how God has chosen to relate to His human creatures, particularly through His Word in all its forms (oral, personal, and written). Written by two of our brightest minds on the Lutheran Confessions—Robert Kolb and Charles Arand—this book is an absolutely fascinating read for Lutherans and non-Lutherans alike.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    Great insight into really understanding some key components of Lutheran theology. Particularly found the conversation about how the will is bound by sin and cannot choose God. Instead God chooses us.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg Dill

    Although somewhat dogmatic, I enjoyed the book for what it’s worth. It clearly expressed the genius of Luther’s theology in an articulate and simplistic way. I have always been intrigued by the Protestant reformers including: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Tyndale. And this book affirmed what I already knew about Luther and his contemporaries, pure theological geniuses that God used to bring His Word closer to the hearts and minds of the common people in an age when it was isolated and withheld fr Although somewhat dogmatic, I enjoyed the book for what it’s worth. It clearly expressed the genius of Luther’s theology in an articulate and simplistic way. I have always been intrigued by the Protestant reformers including: Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Tyndale. And this book affirmed what I already knew about Luther and his contemporaries, pure theological geniuses that God used to bring His Word closer to the hearts and minds of the common people in an age when it was isolated and withheld from them by selfish ecclesiastical powers. Luther’s theology also affirmed to me the importance of helping others. Luther stressed the importance of works and good deeds, not to attain favor or merit, but as a fruit of our newly found relationship in Christ Jesus. In today’s society it seems many churches and many believers sit comfortably in their pews every Sunday, attend Christian seminars, do their devotional and “quiet time”, but don’t do a thing for their neighbor. Luther, and the Bible both clearly state the importance of helping our neighbor and loving them in such a way that they would be intrigued to inquire as to the source of this love and care… a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel with an unbeliever. Luther also stressed the importance of proclaiming, or sharing, the Gospel with others. In the last two chapters of this book, Luther talks about the ways in which God reveals Himself to His creation. This is only accomplished through people. God uses people to proclaim the Gospel. Today, this can be channeled through radio, TV, internet, printed material, and one-on-one conversations. Nevertheless, it is accomplished through people. This affirms to me the importance of sharing the Gospel with others not as a choice, but as a command from our Lord, as described in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) Some of what Luther taught and what was made clear throughout this book has helped me gain a better understanding of the Gospel message from a slightly different angle. One of the things that struck me the most about Luther’s theology was his idea of God restoring us as His creation to our rightful place in His Kingdom. In other words, Luther believed since God is our Creator, it was ultimately His responsibility to restore us into the creature in which He originally intended for us to be. The way in which He achieved this was through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Luther summarized it in a way that truly opened my mind to what God did for us. Jesus became sin for us, although He himself did not sin. Since the penalty for sin was death, He willingly allowed Himself to be a sacrifice for all of us. And all those that surrendered themselves to the resurrected Christ, has become a new creation rightfully restored to the way in which God originally intended in the Garden. I liked how Luther was able to simplify the twofold process of the Christian life in his concept of the two different kinds of righteousness. The “passive righteousness” is our direct relationship with God. And, the “active righteousness” describes our relationship with fellow man. Although distinct, the two work together in tandem with one another in order to accomplish God’s will. I learned that every person has a place in God’s natural order of things on earth, even if that individual is not a believer. Everyone has a vocation and skillset that benefits other people, whether it’s a chef, a mechanic, a teacher, a doctor, or a plumber, they all do things that ultimately meet a need and therefore benefit others and maintain the circle of life that is comprised of a society.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeremiah Gumm

    A doctrinal study of Luther's theology with the goal of applying it to the 21st century Christian church. It has a good premise and provides a pretty solid exposition of the Scriptural basis of Luther's theology primarily in relation to his presuppositions regarding humanity and how God relates to humanity through his Word. The authors do an excellent job presenting the historical background for Luther's theological views in various areas. However, the book limps when it comes to application. Th A doctrinal study of Luther's theology with the goal of applying it to the 21st century Christian church. It has a good premise and provides a pretty solid exposition of the Scriptural basis of Luther's theology primarily in relation to his presuppositions regarding humanity and how God relates to humanity through his Word. The authors do an excellent job presenting the historical background for Luther's theological views in various areas. However, the book limps when it comes to application. This is largely due to the fact that the book was written right at the turn of the 21st century and the authors couldn't have possibly foreseen the drastic changes within the Christian church and modern culture in the past 15+ years. Personally I think Gene Veith's Spirituality of the Cross does a better job with application. Nevertheless, this book is a worthwhile doctrinal resource that can serve as a jumping-off point for further study into the writings of Martin Luther and the teachings of confessional Lutheranism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    This analysis of the theology of Martin Luther is readable, profound, and pastoral. In this way it is much like the writings of the great reformer himself. The authors divide the book into two sections. The first deals with two key themes for Luther: the active and passive righteousness. Active righteousness is the righteousness of Christ which is credited to sinners by grace through faith. Passive righteousnss is the righteousness of the believer in Jesus. It is a passive righteousness in that This analysis of the theology of Martin Luther is readable, profound, and pastoral. In this way it is much like the writings of the great reformer himself. The authors divide the book into two sections. The first deals with two key themes for Luther: the active and passive righteousness. Active righteousness is the righteousness of Christ which is credited to sinners by grace through faith. Passive righteousnss is the righteousness of the believer in Jesus. It is a passive righteousness in that it is a received or alien righteousnss. The righteousness possessed by a believer that is truly pleasing to God is the righteousnss credited to the believer from Christ. In the second part of the book, the authors explore Luther's understanding of the Word of God. All along the way the reader is reminded of the timeless relevance of such doctrines as justification, imputation, and faith.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Whitney Crowell

    You know the kind of book that's so profound that you're reading along and suddenly drop it on the floor with your mouth hanging open and think, "That. explains. everything."? Yeah, this is that kind of book. "Genius" does not even begin to describe Martin Luther's incredibly nuanced and yet amazingly simple understanding of God's Word. Kolb and Arand do a superb job of distilling Luther's way of seeing God and the world that makes it as relevant and insightful 500 years later as it was at the be You know the kind of book that's so profound that you're reading along and suddenly drop it on the floor with your mouth hanging open and think, "That. explains. everything."? Yeah, this is that kind of book. "Genius" does not even begin to describe Martin Luther's incredibly nuanced and yet amazingly simple understanding of God's Word. Kolb and Arand do a superb job of distilling Luther's way of seeing God and the world that makes it as relevant and insightful 500 years later as it was at the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

    Fantastic primer of Luther's two-fold approach to Christian theology: 1) the Christian in relation to God and His creation (specifically one's neighbors and one's vocation); 2) God's relation to His creatures through His Word and Sacraments. Fantastic primer of Luther's two-fold approach to Christian theology: 1) the Christian in relation to God and His creation (specifically one's neighbors and one's vocation); 2) God's relation to His creatures through His Word and Sacraments.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Hanson

    Absolutely essential if you want to really begin to understand how Luther and the other Reformers thought and what was really the significance of the Lutheran Reformation which most miss. Most people don't even know what they don't know about the Lutheran Reformation. This book would help them. Absolutely essential if you want to really begin to understand how Luther and the other Reformers thought and what was really the significance of the Lutheran Reformation which most miss. Most people don't even know what they don't know about the Lutheran Reformation. This book would help them.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Philippe Deblois

    A very readable look at Luther's Theology taking into consideration contemporary research. A very readable look at Luther's Theology taking into consideration contemporary research.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Fine, I only read the first third of it, but what I read I liked.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Raffa

  15. 4 out of 5

    C.A.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rob Donaldson

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Bauer

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Don Geser

  22. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Weight

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matt Gary

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

  26. 4 out of 5

    Juli Patten

  27. 5 out of 5

    Scott Licht

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andre Murillo

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Kvanli

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