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Thursday, June 4, 2015

New book on Luther—"the great Reformer"! J. Reston, Jr.

James Reston, Jr.
Luther's Fortress
by James Reston, Jr.
      A surprise came to me as I saw a book at a Barnes and Noble store that I had not seen before: Luther's Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation Under Siege by James Reston, Jr..  And Amazon confirmed that it is currently the "#1 New Release in Lutheran Christianity".  But what amazed me as I read the first sentence was this phrase:
“...the great Reformer Martin Luther.
In today's world, that is quite a bold phrase to use, given the unpopularity of its subject.  And a quick perusal confirmed that this author was not as judgmental of Luther as most of today's theologians.  I will not offer an in-depth review here.  But I would like to examine a few particulars.  

     Why did Reston write this book?  Was it because of the upcoming 500th Anniversary (in 2017) of Luther’s 95 Theses and the beginning of the Reformation?  Reston states under his “Author’s Note”  on page 235:
“The inspiration for Luther’s Fortress lies in my 2008 book, Defenders of the Faith, which covers … from 1520 to 1536.  In that age… Luther’s impact in history surpasses them all. … utterly captivated by the great Reformer: his personality, his courage, his rebellion, the drama of his life, his passion and his honesty, his grace and his coarseness, his wit and humor, and his flaws.”
Hmmm... that is quite a lot of praise... mixed in with the usual caveats.  Praise indeed! It seems James Reston, Jr.  did NOT write this book so much for the Anniversary, but because he was “captivated by the great Reformer”.  Never mind Reston's epilogue (Author's Note) talk of the “dark side” or “flaws” of Luther  – something no well known author of today could omit, something practically all “Lutheran” theologians harp at.  Reston calls Martin Luther “the great Reformer” no less than 5 times in this book.  He uses the phrase “the Reformer” no less than 45 times  – could it be that he means this in an exclusive sense?... after all he said “Luther’s impact … surpasses them all”.  If only today’s Concordia Publishing House editors could speak of Luther this way!  If only the LC-MS would inform its members of what Reston reveals on page 241 to the world:
  1. “the Roman Catholic ban on Luther ‘and all his followers’ is still in effect”
  2. The Catholic provost’s (at Worms, Germany) answer to Reston’s inquiry (plea?) that “Wasn’t it time, in the interest of ecumenicalism, after five hundred years, that the excommunication of Luther and the ban on Lutheranism be lifted?” – Answer:
The time to lift the ban has not yet come. 
Does everyone in the LC-MS know that they remain officially under the same ban as Martin Luther?... No?  Why not?  Is there not anything said by the editor of Concordia Publishing's book The Lutheran Difference?... in their Reformation Anniversary Edition?   Nothing?
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      ⇒ To James Reston, Jr.:  If you are a Christian who is “captivated” by Luther, you will find many of my blog posts to be of interest to you.  You certainly know a lot of facts about Luther, but to really know Luther, one must be a Christian first.  Then one can rightly judge the anti-Christian Roman Catholic Inquisition which spilled the blood of so many Lutheran martyrs who were their most hated and feared opponents.  It is for the sake of the true Gospel that Lutherans take the name of Luther, even if he himself protested against this in his earlier days (ref. your book, pages 135-136).
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      One of the delightful details Reston reveals regards Argula von Stauff, a dear woman who gloried in the message that Luther exposed, in the Gospel… a woman of the Reformation.
      So I can recommend Mr. Reston’s book to almost all who would desire to have a true introduction to Luther  – even with its bow to modern theology’s distaste for Luther.   But in the end, the better account of Luther comes from those who not only died because of him (i.e. the Martyrs), but those who would follow him, in spirit, in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, the Book of Concord.
      As an incentive to read this book, I quote C.F.W. Walther’s comment on Luther’s polemical writings:
“It’s all entertaining.”
Indeed, "that's entertainment"!... or as Reston says "the drama of his life".


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