Martin Luther - Lesson 1

Introduction to Martin Luther

Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.

Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther
Lesson 1
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Introduction to Martin Luther

I. Course Objectives

II. Recommended Reading

Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, by Heiko Oberman

Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings: Third Edition, by William Russell and Timothy Lull (the anthology Dr. Isaac refers to)

Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther

Martin Luther's Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development, by Bernhard Lohse

  • Dr. Isaacs summarizes the course objectives and lists the recommended textbooks.
  • Luther expressed his views in a way that was shaped by his theology and the culture.

  • Martin Luther was born in Germany in the late 15th century, just after Guttenberg developed his printing press.

  • When Martin Luther posted the 95 theses, his intention was to discuss and debate the misuse of indulgences, but it was interpreted by the church heirarchy as an attack on the power of the papacy.

  • Luther's writings demonstrate his ability to understand and articulate issues that are at the core of the nature of God and man. His theology is distinct from philosophy and consists of many comments on passages in Psalms and Romans.

  • Faith alone justifies. By faith the Christian is made to love God, therefore a person does good works because they cannot remain idle.

  • The work of Christ when he allowed himself to be crucified on the cross, teaches us about God's nature, our nature and our relationship to God.

  • Luther's fourfold sense of scripture focused on historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future).

  • Luther's view of the atonement differs from classical views taught during his time and view held by the scholastic tradition.

  • Luther's teaching on justification by faith is central to his theology.

  • Theology of the cross assumes bondage and moves to freedom.

  • Four positions on predestination include the Calvinist, neo-Protestant, intuitu fidei, and Gnesio-Lutherans.

  • Luther's commentary on Galatians is an attempt to set "Law" in its proper setting.

  • The sacraments are an external expression of an internal reality.

  • Luther's teachings on the importance of baptism and arguments for infant baptism.

  • Luther's view of the theological and personal significance of the Lord's Supper.

  • The kingdom of God and secular government have areas of unity and areas of differences.

  • Luther gives a definition of the church and describes characteristics of the church.

  • Luther developed a catechism to help people focus on the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith.

  • Martin Luther's writings can encourage people to pursue their relationship with God on a deeper level.

This course is an introduction to the life and writings of the great German reformer, Martin Luther. There are 20 lectures totaling approximately 18 hours. These lectures were given at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Dr. Gordon Isaac
Martin Luther 
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] The Reformation is Luther, and Luther is the Reformation. So says James Atkinson. So if this is the case, then Luther is good study. And I guess you see it that way too, because you sign up for the course. It's going to be great and I hope at times rollicking fun as you read Luther. The course objectives are three one to acquaint you with the basic shape and issues of Luther's theology through class presentations and lecture. Two to enable students to assess and wrestle with a selection of Luther's most important writings through reading of primary texts in translation. Three. To allow students the opportunity to integrate their thinking on these subjects through supervised class discussion. Well, now let's talk just a little bit about the textbooks in the next few days. So the next week, we're going to be dealing with Oberman. Heiko Oberman is a a high flown Teutonic sort. He's Netherlandish and he thinks of himself as the world renowned scholar of Luther. Right now in our time. And a case could be made that indeed. And in fact, he is. So he's written this little book, Luther Man Between God and the Devil. And I think you'll find this lively and informative reading. We'll be dealing with this book and reading it through in the first week or so. I know that, you know, that's a fair amount to ask of you, but the way I figure it, better to front load our class with a bit of heavy reading now rather than me loading on two or 300 pages in the last couple of weeks. So we'll deal with this.

[00:01:58] This will give us good background for Luther, his time, his thoughts and some significant theological assessment on the part of Oberman. I think you'll find this a good piece. A second book is this anthology, and this has quite a number of Martin Luther's basic theological writings. This anthology will give you the freedom you need for the majority of your reading. You'll also find this, I think, a good addition to your library. Okay. The third book is Bondage of the Will. This is a classic of Luther's. This is one of these one of these text, you know, and you could you could do a history of the Christian church just by citing and talking about critical and important works that have lasting value in the Christian faith. And this is one of them. So we have a wonderful opportunity to read this text, and you'll find it lively reading at times and other times, as with much 16th century literature, you say, Didn't you already say that? And so, you know, you'll need to slog through this in parts. But there are some wonderful, wonderful passages in this classic. I think it's incredibly important for students attending an evangelical seminary to have some exposure to this classic piece. And we'll talk about it and we'll try to place it in context with current discussions and debates. Now, no doubt most of you, if not all of you at one time or another, have probably been in some conversation over lunch or coffee or something. Well, what about bondage of the will? Don't we have free will and that sort of stuff? Well, this is a piece that will take up this in a systematic way. And the discussion, just to give you a little foretaste, the discussion that took place in the 16th century between Luther and Erasmus, you'll find, is a very different kind of discussion than what happened between Wesley and Whitfield in the 18th century and what you might run into around the table in the 21st century.

[00:04:15] So we'll want to have this in our background so that we as leaders in the church can engage people meaningfully on that topic and not have that discussion spin out of control. So those are the three textbooks, the recommended book. It's a it's a fine piece written by Bernard Loza, really a preeminent Luther interpreter entitled Martin Luther's Theology, its historical and systematic development. If you're interested in Luther studies or you're interested in having another piece in your library that's comprehensive on Luther and really gives you theological insight, I would recommend this. It's new. It supersedes the classic text of Paul Althouse, and I would say it's well worth the investment in terms of textbooks on Luther.