This concise and lucid book on Luther is designed to use the opportunities afforded by the 500th anniversary of the famous nailing of the 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Andy Johnston describes how the Bible gradually illuminated this incredibly important, influential Reformer.
Luther had been strictly raised in a religious, superstitious and biblically ignorant society. Church services were unintelligible, being conducted in Latin.
The author outlines the often dramatic events leading up to Luther’s famous defence of his views before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521. At this conference, Luther was treated as a heretic. Immediately afterwards, he was declared an outlaw and worthy of death. However, in his defence he boldly proclaimed (hence the title of the book under review): ‘Unless I am convinced by the Holy Scriptures or evident reason … I cannot and will not recant … God help me. Amen’ (p.53).
Luther created a European religious, social and political earthquake, which he attributed to the power of the preached Word only. One of his greatest achievements was the translation of the Bible into German.
The author also argues that Europe is as spiritually dark now as it was at the beginning of the 16th century. The answer to the present darkness is the same biblical, cross-centred preaching as was pioneered in Luther’s day.
Luther’s theological adversaries were not only Roman Catholics, but also non-Catholics who argued for direct spiritual revelation to their leaders. Andy Johnston also shows that the great Reformer had definite and serious failings. Probably the most serious issue was the divisive relationship with the Swiss Reformers over the nature of the Lord’s Supper.
The book is essential reading for Christians unaware of the importance of the Reformation and for those who elevate Christian leaders above the Word of God.