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Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470655306
ISBN-10: 0470655305
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"McGrath has made a major contribution to this problem of Luther studies by his learned, lucid and informative book." Journal of Theological Studies.

"It is refreshing to turn to Alister McGrath's study, Luther's Theology of the Cross, and to see how a work which is uncompromisingly theological in its focus can be rigorously historical throughout ... a work of impressive scholarship distinguished at the same time by a clarity of expression all too rare in books of this kind ... McGrath's magisterial study ... brings the most traditional of themes into fresh historical focus." Journal of Ecclesiastical History.

"A study of the first rank." Choice.

"Is a major study of Luther's theology, and ought to be consulted by everyone teaching the Reformation, and by Luther scholars in particular. An impressive achievement at the level of theological sophistication that has established McGrath as one of the pre-eminent Luther scolars. Its arguments are very tight and it displays a complete mastery of Luther scholarship." Journal of Religious History.

Review

"The first edition of this book was an excellent guide to Luther's breakthrough to a theology of the cross. This new fuller and updated edition is to be greatly welcomed."
Tony Lane, London School of Theology
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (May 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470655305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470655306
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,002,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Douglas VanderMeulen on January 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating read for anyone who has a serious interest in understanding the gospel and the significance of the Reformation. While I could hope everyone who loves Christ carefully read this book, it isn't for everyone.

A Luther scholar for serious students of the reformer and the reformation wrote this book. The author seems to be having way too much enjoyment sifting through Luther's lectures on Psalms and other Bible books to discern the timing and nature of the reformer's conversion. While this may seem a bit tedious, McGrath makes it quite fascinating. I have read through it twice and each time I can't stop and put it down.

The book is divided into two sections; The Background: Luther as a Late Medieval Theologian 1509-14, and The Breakthrough: Luther in Transition 1514-19.

In the first section, McGrath very methodically takes the reader through the specifics of the medieval gospel that Luther was schooled-in and taught. I found this to be the hardest part of the book because McGrath deals with some very specific medieval theology. If this is unfamilar to you it may prove to be slow going for you as well. But this is absolutely necessary in order for the reader to fully graps what Luther rejects and embraces. The effort is worth the reward.

In the second section, with great detail the author lays bare the development of Luther's thought through changes in vocabulary found in his biblical lectures and teaching. McGrath takes his readers right up through the Luther's defense of the new evangelical gospel at the Heidelberg Disputation of April 26, 1518. This disputation is Luther's most concise presentation of gospel doctrines. It is a document that itself is worth of serious study.
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While most of us probably think of Luther's main contribution to the Reformation as being a protest against indulgences, Mc Grath reveals the real substance of Luther's revolutionary thought as being an emphasis on the cross of Christ. Mc Grath contends that a prooper emphasis on the cross of Christ is to apply it to every area of one's theology since Luther regarded the cross as the centerpiece of God's revelation to mankind.

Although Luther's term, "theology of glory", is most often applied to the modern health/wealth preachment, Luther actually said any area of our faith which does not center on Christ and His death is a theology of glory since it may ignore the dynamic of Christ dying for our sins.

Mc Grath is a thorogh historian/philosopher/theologian who also introduces Luther as the first modern critic of Scripture with his acid tests of Scripture reliability being Christ-centeredness and cross-focused.

Luther's own struggles to be consistent with his own thinking is an accurate protrayal of our daily struggle to be concistent with our faith. Luther's humanity is a good example to follow in maintianing personal honesty in one's pursuit of being like Christ.
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Format: Paperback
The first part of McGrath's book is background to Luther's development of the cross. He spends some time elaborating upon the evolution of certain patterns of thought which influenced Luther. He discusses the influence of humanism, the order Augustine and via moderna. He concludes the section by stating that Luther was a typical theologian at the outset and there is little remarkable in his theology when he posted his theses. It is a scholarly book, but not one which is too difficult to read if one is interested in the period. In this section I appreciated his treatment of the similarities and differences of Luther to the humanists in general and to Erasmus in particular.

I found the second section on Luther's breakthrough rather vivid and exciting; something unusual perhaps for books of this kind. The section, and indeed the book, is theological in focus yet the story that it tells make it a good read. I appreciated how, in this section, he examines the similarities and differences between Luther's, Aristotle's and Augustine's view of justification and the unique view Luther held when it came to imputed (or "alien") righteousness.

In the penultimate section McGrath explains Luther's theology of the cross which developed as a result of this breakthrough. I found this part insightful but a bit repetitive. Finally he briefly explains the significance of this theology for us. He explains how "God crucified" has come to the forefront over and above liberal theology after the advent of two world wars.

My biggest criticism of the book would be the failure to translate German and Latin phrases into English. I could handle it if it were French.
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Format: Paperback
this is one of the best books on the market for laymen and
clergy...mcgrath does a fine job explaining the epistemological,
philosophical, and theological background that led luther to discover the theology of the the cross...it is only because luther had a proper understanding of the Law & Gospel, that he was able to kneel before the foot of calvary with this beautiful doctrine..."the cross," said luther, "is the safest of all places. Blessed is the man who understands this." Blessed also are those who purchase this book and work through the intense scholarship perhaps to find a tower experience of thier own.
Once Luther was able to establish the theologia crucis, he then set to distingiush it from the theology of glory...this meant that fallen man desired to use his rational powers, his merits, and his mystical assent to live coram deo---before the face of God...luther showed that God can only be found in the shame and ignomy of suffering of the God-man Christ Jesus.....only faith can understand this (sola fide)... as a final note, it was exactly this doctrine which gave deitrich bonhoeffer to call the church to suffer amidst persecution and challenge the Nazi regime by martydom...bonhoeffer was the best student, in my opinion, of Luther's theology of the cross. amen
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