Quite rightly, in view of the historical and spiritual importance of the Reformation, there have been a spate of books about Martin Luther; this year, and indeed last week, being the five hundredth anniversary of the event that sparked the movement into flame — the nailing of Luther’s 95 theses onto the church door at Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517.
The author of the present book, Herman Selderhuis, has distinguished himself with his work on John Calvin, including a study of Calvin’s Theology of the Psalms and The Calvin Handbook. He has also written a similar biography to this on John Calvin.
The first thing I want to say about this biography of Luther is that it is very well written. Selderhuis has a plain, pithy and subtly tongue-in-cheek style that really makes the material flow. The second thing I would say is that this is not biography lurching into hagiography. The book presents the Reformer as a very flawed but endlessly fascinating individual. Luther was, for example, proud (179) and stubborn (181).
By William D. Barrick. Reposted with permission from Dispensational Publishing House.
Dr. Robert L. Thomas modeled this truth in his own life and ministry in the Word of God. Throughout his teaching ministry (1959-2008) he applied his brilliant, God-given mind to Bible study, research, writing, and teaching. That career culminated in December 2014 with Dr. John MacArthur announcing the awarding of professor emeritus status to Dr. Thomas in honor of his 49 years of full-time teaching on the graduate level (1959-2008).
As a member of the Evangelical Theological Society from 1961 until the present, Dr. Thomas gathered with his peers and helped to guide the society. He served as secretary-treasurer, Far West Section (1969-1970); vice-chairman, Far West Section (1970-1972); chairman, Far West Section (1972-1973); led in the formation of a new section for the Pacific Northwest (named the Northwest Section); National Membership Committee member (1979-1982; 1984-1988); vice-president, president-elect and president (1988-1990); and executive committee member (1990-1994). Throughout the history of the Dispensational Study Group in ETS, Dr. Thomas attended the meetings, presented papers and engaged his peers in the ongoing discussions of hot-button topics.
Warren Wiersbe, born in 1929 and still with us here in the land of the living, is quite likely the most prolific living Christian author, with more than 150 titles to his credit. From his famous “Be” series of commentaries on the entire NT and most of the OT, to various practical and expositional books, he has shared the wisdom and knowledge he has accumulated in many decades of ministry. I consider some of his works—Walking with the Giants, Listening to the Giants, Why Us? When Bad Things Happen to God’s People, and Confident Pastoral Leadership, to name those than come immediately to mind—among the most valued books in my library.
Wiersbe was born and grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, and received all of his formal education there and in nearby Chicago, where a significant portion of his ministry was also conducted.
One of my favorite evangelical jokes showed up in a Christianity Today a number of years ago. It was an ad for a (fake) new book called The Collected Blurbs of J. I. Packer. The joke, if you don’t already get it, is funny on two counts: Packer is always blurbing books, and he’s always having his occasional works collected by editors.
Because Packer is so ubiquitous in evangelical literature, he’s one of those figures you think you know. But as I listened to his biography I put together the narrative which made much better sense of the pieces I’d gathered.
But not perfect sense. While the picture of a humble, godly, gifted, diligent Christian is quite clear, and fills me with genuine gratitude, there are these “paradoxes” (Ryken’s word): a man who helped bring the Puritans back and yet became one of the major architects of Evangelicals and Catholics Together, a man who never separated from the Anglican church until it finally separated from him (he then joined another Anglican group). I was disappointed to hear Ryken at the beginning of the book disclaiming any necessity to explain these paradoxes, but I’ll come back to this.
Samuel Rutherford is perhaps the best known Scottish Puritan. But his life and history seem not to be as widely remembered as other Puritan ministers. Rutherford’s legacy lays chiefly in collections of his profound and moving personal letters.
Richard Hannula brings renewed attention to Samuel Rutherford in his contribution to the “Bitesize Biographies” series from Evangelical Press (2014).
Rutherford had humble beginnings and even a possibly scandalous start to his ministry. He ended up resigning his post at the University of Edinburgh after some possible impropriety with his fiance. This may have been just an ill rumor, and Hannula doesn’t take pains to sort out the facts too closely, but moves on in his simple and straightforward account of Rutherford’s life.
The next chapter of Rutherford’s life finds him as a humble pastor in Anworth. And there he labored in preaching and declaring the loveliness of Christ. His life was caught up in the perils of Scotland’s church, and his Reformed stance eventually landed him in exile 200 miles to the north. And it was this exile that may have birthed his precious letters. He wrote to his flock at Anworth and encouraged them to remain true to the Reformed faith.