Luther for Armchair Theologians

by Steven D. Paulson

Paperback, 2004



Call number




Westminster John Knox Press (2004), Edition: 1, 224 pages


Martin Luther started a reformation movement that revolutionized Europe in the sixteenth century. His far-reaching reforms of theological understanding and church practices radically modified both church and society in Europe and beyond. Steven Paulson's discussion of Luther's thought, coupled with Ron Hill's illustrations, provides an engaging introduction to Luther's multifaceted self and the ideas that catapulted him to fame. Written by experts but designed for the novice, the Armchair series provides accurate, concise, and witty overviews of some of the most profound Christian theologians in history. This series is an essential supplement for first-time encounters with primary texts, a lucid refresher for scholars and clergy, and an enjoyable read for the theologically curious.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ebnelson
It's been several years since I studied Luther's theology so I picked up this book as a primer. I thoroughly enjoyed the Aquinas book in the same series and was hoping for an equally light-hearted, accessible overview of Luther.

I am not at all disappointed with this book. I found it to be quite
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good at getting inside Luther's head. Paulson could have written this book one of two ways. He could have portrayed Luther as a theologian whose thought is everywhere , showing readers how many of their own assumptions (e.g., justification by faith alone) can be traced back to Luther's revolutionary take on the apostle Paul and the Bible.

Instead, Paulson takes a different approach. Paulson decides to show his readers what he belives is the heart of Luther's theology; a core that will surprise nearly everyone but the professional theologian. Paulson discusses the big Luther topics like Law & Gospel, but he does so while emphasizing what he believes are the the central, but forgotten themes of Luther...topics like people's lack of free will, the creative power of the Word, and that it is Scripture that interprets you (not the other way around).

I loved this book, but I am concerned that it may not be as accessible as other books in this series. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone who has a passion for theology, is planning to study theology, or wants to go back and refresh their understanding of Luther. The casual reader, I fear, may need to take this book slow...though the payoff is huge. I do not mean to say that to some this book is inaccessible...rather I want to warn people that the book may not be as easy to read as the fun pictures make it seem.

This is a wonderful, complete portrait of Luther, one that does not gloss over things, and invites the reader to experience the Word in a way that is truly revolutionary. This book challenges common theological assumptions and brings Luther's down-to-earth theology into everyday life. Whether you end up agree with Luther or not, most readers will appreciate Luther's desire to be faithful to the Bible.
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LibraryThing member justindtapp
2.5 stars out of 5. The book would more properly be titled "The Gospel According to Luther," as the author focuses on Luther's theological evolution towards the understanding of the Gospel that caused him to nail his theses to the church door and work out his understanding of the Gospel in everyday
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life. I have become more interested in the Luther's views on work recently, and that is mentioned toward the end of the book.

In many places it is not clear what thinking is the author's and what is Luther's. Luther said a lot of disturbing things or supported some causes that in hindsight were not very Gospel-centered (as this website shows). But the author doesn't give much biographical information as the context for these or explain their theological underpinnings. That said, his quotes from various Luther writings inspires the reader to dig deeper.

This is the third Armchair Theologians book I have read. It contained some cursory biographical material, mostly at the beginning and end (paraphrase, "oh, by the way, he got married and it meant a lot.") I would recommend reading something like Civilization of the Middle Ages for the pre-Lutheran context so you can better understand Germany and the state of doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church when Luther came onto the scene.
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Physical description

224 p.; 8 inches


0664223818 / 9780664223816
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