There’s nothing quite like Martin Luther, one of the Magisterial Reformers, to harken near 500 years after first penning this and show how faulty and insufficient your gospel has been. Yes, nothing quite like it.
In less than 100-pages, Mark D. Tranvik offers a new and lucid introduction and translation to one of Luther’s earliest works: “The Freedom of a Christian.” The brief introduction is not meant to be comprehensive but just enough to whet one’s appetite and senses to feel the force of Luther’s ardent words.
Despite the bad rep Luther might have (too vulgar, too long-winded, too paradoxical, too vehement, too anti-semitic, too chaotic, etc, all of which need to come under scrutiny), he is first and foremost pastoral. He’s not concerned with an abstract gospel for the Christian to affirm; no, he’s much more concerned about Christians interacting with the living and dynamic God — who is full of love and grace.
This particular work was the first Luther writing I’ve ever read, a few years back. Having been able to re-read it for a research paper, it was so very refreshing. His dialectical imagination, theologia crucis (“theology of the cross”), pushes and pulls the reader in and out of the seemingly incomprehensible paradox of grace: simul justus et peccator (“simultaneously justified and sinner”). In “Freedom of a Christian,” Luther once again employs his dialectical imagination to offer yet another simul: “simultaneously freed from works and works from freedom.” On the one hand, we are freed from works — none of that ‘works righteousness.’ On the other hand, we work from freedom — very much of that “righteous works” in Christ to be repeated in today’s real time-space.
Quite refreshing, eh?