An unfortunate circumstance in our age of media and information overload is that students are more informed on modern trends and popular culture than they are of history. This lack of exposure to history can be a real handicap to students as they labor through the writings of theological giants like Calvin, Luther, and others. In order to bridge this gap, publishers are producing many reader's and study editions of important works in order to make these writings accessible to a whole new generation. Hats off to Fortress Press for doing just that, with this updated edition of Martin Luther's The Freedom of a Christian: Luther Study Edition.
Mark D. Tranvik puts twenty plus years of teaching Martin Luther's The Freedom of a Christian to work in bringing us this most excellent Luther study edition. This volume offers an updated translation as well as very thorough footnotes and commentary. With these helps as their guide, readers with minimal exposure to Luther's writings and their historical context will be able to follow along with relative ease. I particularly enjoyed the introductory chapter titled Martin Luther's Road to Freedom. It gives the reader a good idea of the extent to which the fear of death and the devil dominated the culture of the sixteenth century. This chapter also offers a brief biographical sketch of the life of Martin Luther and as the title of the chapter suggests, his road to freedom.
The remainder of the book is comprised of two parts. First is Luther's letter to Pope Leo X in which he notes that he has dedicated his short essay on the entire Christian life (i.e. The Freedom of a Christian) to Pope Leo. Second is Luther's essay titled The Freedom of a Christian. Here Luther explains his course of history altering understanding of the justification of sinners by faith and the good works that follow. Readers will also want to make use of the short glossary at the end of the book, which defines some of the important people, places, and concepts relevant to the essay.
All things considered, I must give this new edition of The Freedom of a Christian a rating of five stars. This updated edition will be useful for both a classroom setting and personal study. Those long acquainted with Luther and those discovering Luther for the first time will both benefit greatly from this new volume. Readers who enjoy this work will also want to consider Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings, 2nd Edition (Fortress Press, 2005).
Mark D. Tranvik is Associate Professor of Religion at Augsburg Fortress College, Minneapolis, and director of the Lilly Endowment Program on vocation there.