Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Martin Luther: In His Own Words, by Martin Luther


A short collection of Luther's works, including the 95 Theses, Luther's Small Catechism, excerpts from Luther's 'Tower Experience', three sermons ('On Faith and Coming to Christ', 'On Confession and the Lord's Supper', and 'On the Office of Preaching'), and Luther's last written words.

I particularly appreciated the opportunity to ingest in full the 95 Theses, which I confess  I had never read. (I know, I know. I'm a terrible Protestant.) They were surprisingly uncontroversial. Which I think I knew, but it was still interesting to hear them and to reflect on how such a mundane non-event morphed into the Reformation. I also really enjoyed Luther's sermon 'On the Office of Preaching', which essentially boiled down to 'once you stop preaching the gospel, you are no longer a preacher, no matter what the Pope says your job title is.'

The Catechism included some helpful recommendations to fathers trying to teach and explain the catechism to their kids. While the Catechism itself was fine, I was struck by Luther's assumption that responsibility for the spiritual instruction of the children would fall on the father rather than the mother or the parents generally. In America today, I suspect the bulk of spiritual instruction in Christian homes is performed by mothers (or grandmothers, or aunts) rather than fathers. It's unfortunate that so many fathers default to spiritual apathy rather than taking responsibility for teaching their kids about God and the gospel. Not that all men do this, of course--there are still lots of dads who are very involved with their kids' spiritual education--or that women have no role. But for many families, women assume sole responsibility for bringing their kids up in the Lord. Even among men who provide spiritual leadership in other respects, the practical instruction is often effected by women. It's definitely something to think about.

The collection exists only in audiobook form, released as a free download by ChristianAudio in honor of Reformation Day. It's less than three hours long, too, so if you're looking for an audiobook but fight shy of the day-long ones, this might be a good one to try.

The recording is narrated by David Cochran Heath, who appears to be one of the go-to narrators for Christian audiobooks--he's narrated works by John Piper, Matt Chandler, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Alastair Begg, and R.C. Sproul, as well as Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Watson, and Thomas à Kempis. He is also responsible for the underwhelming recording of MacIntyre's The Hidden Life of Prayer, though the real issue there was the publisher's failure to employ a Scot (or at least a Brit) to do the narration. My experience with his reading of MacIntyre makes me a bit skeptical that I'd enjoy his reading of Watson, à Kempis, or even Edwards, since I tend to expect all 'old-timey' writers to sound British and can be distracted when they don't. (I'm not saying this is a reasonable expectation, but it's one I definitely have. all the same.) Then again, I wasn't terrible distracted by the rendering of Luther's works in a standard American accent, so maybe it would be ok. Or maybe they just used a more modern translation. Either way, Heath's narration was fine--neither a distraction from nor a beneficial contribution to the substance of the text.

If you're looking for something to get you in the mood for Reformation Day, or just want a shortish introduction to some of Luther's works, this is a decent place to start. Plus it's free (at least until the end of the month).

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