I finished Steven Lawson’s The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther a few days ago. I had the opportunity to grab the book while it was on a free Kindle offer. I cannot say much about the books physical elements as I read an electronic copy, but I can comment briefly on the content therein.
Lawson is a preacher. Please do not read this with a negative connotation. I simply state this as a fact. He is the pastor of a church down in Mobile, AL, and he can preach. I’d say he is a gifted preacher. While I was a student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, Dr. Lawson came and was our preaching conference speaker. He preached the entire conference on from Ezra-Nehemiah and how biblical preaching is demonstrated as Ezra reads the law. Not only was the conference informative on preaching, but watching a preacher preach with passion and knowledge was a great encouragement to my soul.
Why such an introduction to Lawson in a book review? It is important to know this going into the book so that one does not mistake this book for a biography, or academic treatise on Luther, the man. This book is a passionate plea for preachers to boldly enter the pulpit with nothing but an open Bible and a humble, prayerful heart. Lawson’s book is not a biography, which is not a criticism, because his book never claims to be such. His book is a careful examination of Luther as a preacher. And, the portrait painted here is quite clear.
The amount of quotes from Luther’s work and Luther scholars made this an extremely informative read. Granted, everything quoted was centered on preaching. Yet, the quotes included helped give a picture into the preaching life of Martin Luther. I should be quick to add that when I say “preaching” I don’t simply mean preaching on Sundays. Luther did that a lot (as well as every other day of the week). I also mean the study that goes into preparing a sermon. I also mean the way one presents a sermon. I also mean the force one gives the sermon by the preacher’s own willingness to stand boldly on the truth. I mean “preaching” in the full sense of the word from study to delivery.
It was here this book was most helpful. There were parts of the book that could be skimmed as they seemed like fly-overs of orthodox Christianity (like the Luther’s understanding of Scripture’s authority and sufficiency). Other parts of the book, however, were deeply helpful. Luther, as a preacher, seemed emphatic on studying the text in its’ original languages. This is convicting because my job is to teach the Bible, daily. And, with each passing day my ability in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic dwindle. Should I take the time necessary to keep up the languages? Are they absolutely necessary for a high school Bible and World Religions teacher? I’ve asked myself these questions before, and Luther, by way of Lawson, would say, “Yes, it is essential.”
Another area dealt with Luther’s willingness to speak to the level of the people. As a “professional communicator” I appreciated Luther’s emphasis on speaking to the lowly and uneducated. Admittedly, this is hard. Sometimes the temptation there is to dive deeply into the subject matter, whether we are talking about ethics, philosophy or theology. Yet, Luther, a renowned scholar in his own right, preached for the children and uneducated. He called them to Christ and taught them Scripture. Where the world prizes sophistication, especially if you want to “be somebody”, Luther calls for simplicity and truthfulness.
Finally, Lawson demonstrates clearly how Luther, as a preacher, did not shy away from truth when truth worked like sandpaper to culture. Luther traveled Germany from town to town knowing he might be killed during his travels. Even knowing he could die traveling, he would go where he was needed to preach and teach. There was a fearlessness about him. Communicators of the gospel need this same fearlessness. The truth of Jesus will cause the world to react with hatred, slander and maybe even violence. Yet, we, like Luther, cannot be afraid. After all, Jesus said this would be the case (John 16). We should expect trouble and persecution. Luther expected it, and received it.
Lawson did have countless quotes and references which made this “preaching” book a rather “scholarly” work. What was great about this book was how Lawson wasn’t trying to write an academic tome, but a heartfelt plea for men to stand boldly, like Luther, and study diligently, prepare prayerfully, and preach boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not a long read (and, it’s well written too!), but for those who are wrestling with a call to pulpit ministry, this book might be quite helpful. It clearly demonstrates a giant in the Christian faith and his faithfulness to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.
When all is said and done, here is what people really want: the truth. Yes, even high school students just want the truth. So, with the boldness of Luther, may we give the world the Truth, Jesus Christ.