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Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom

By Carl R. Trueman, Series edited by Stephen J. Nichols, Justin Taylor, Foreword by Robert Kolb

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Martin Luther’s historical significance can hardly be overstated. Known as the father of the Protestant Reformation, Luther has had an enormous impact on Western Christianity and culture. In Luther on the Christian Life, historian Carl Trueman introduces readers to the lively Reformer, taking them on a tour of his historical context, theological system, and approach to the Christian life. Whether exploring Luther’s theology of protest, ever-present sense of humor, or misunderstood view of sanctification, this book will help modern readers go deeper in their spiritual walk by learning from one of the great teachers of the faith.

Part of the Theologians on the Christian Life series. 

Read Chapter 1


Carl R. Trueman

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College. He is a contributing editor at First Things, an esteemed church historian, and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Trueman has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including Strange New WorldThe Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self; and Histories and Fallacies. He is a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Product Details

Category: Christian Living
History & Biography
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 224
Size: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Weight: 11.15 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-2502-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-2502-5
ISBN-UPC: 9781433525025
Case Quantity: 48
Published: February 28, 2015

Table of Contents

Introduction: What Has Geneva to Do with Wittenberg?

  1. Martin Luther’s Christian Life
  2. Theologians, Priests, and Kings
  3. The Theology of the Word Preached
  4. The Liturgy of the Christian Life
  5. Living by the Word
  6. Freed from Babylon: Baptism and the Mass
  7. Luther and Christian Righteousness
  8. Life and Death in This Earthly Realm: Government, Calling,and Family

Conclusion: Life as Tragedy, Life as Comedy


“If you think you know Luther, read this book. It is a remarkably edifying and illuminating piece of work. Displaying the interests of a pastor and the rigor of a historian, Carl Trueman provides us with an analysis of Luther on the Christian life that is as ‘human’ as the German Reformer himself. Yet it’s far more than Luther on the Christian life. It’s one of the very best summaries of Luther in context.”
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“Carl Trueman has pulled off a tremendous feat: he’s not only given us a volume that is scholarly and historically nuanced while still accessible and refreshingly contemporary; he’s also managed to capture the brilliance and boldness of Martin Luther in a relatively short space. Trueman is to be commended for presenting a Luther who is unlike us in so many ways, and yet a Luther from whom we can learn so much.”
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina; Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte

“This book illustrates again why Martin Luther remains a nearly inexhaustible resource. Trueman explains why Luther can be such a perceptive, encouraging, human, and even humorous guide to the Christian life. Especially important is Trueman’s clear communication of why the cross of Christ grounded Luther’s approach to almost everything and why a ‘theology of the cross’ might powerfully motivate believers today as well.”
Mark Noll, Research Professor of History, Regent College; author, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911

“Trueman gives us not only Luther’s theology, but Luther as a theologian, which in turn connects with us as theologians. We learn from Trueman’s insight into Luther that theology isn’t just what we know about God, or even how we know it, but is intimately connected to who we are. Trueman gives us Luther—constipation, wit, contradictions, and all. We also finally get a theological apologetic for a robust sense of humor.”
Aimee Byrd, author, Theological Fitness and No Little Women

“It is no easy task to write a small volume summing up the theology and significance for the Christian life of Martin Luther. Yet Trueman has done it superbly with aplomb and verve. Highly recommended as an excellent introduction to a remarkable Christian and human being.”
Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This book takes us on an engaging, enjoyable tour of the thought of one of Christianity’s most influential theologians. Writing with wisdom and accessible style, Trueman gets to the heart of Luther’s theology, showing how his teachings in areas like law and gospel, justification by grace through faith, and the means of grace connect with the everyday Christian life of believers. Trueman’s insightful scholarship and clear writing give us a wonderful introduction to Luther’s thought. I highly recommend it.”
Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal Priest; Adjunct Professor of Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace and God Made All of Me; editor, Christian Theologies of Scripture

“In this compelling book, we encounter an arresting portrait of Luther the pastor, a full-blooded man who knew the spiritual and physical joys and pains of life and the formidable daily challenges of being a Christian in a fallen world. In elegant, bracing prose full of pastoral and theological insight and leavened with his characteristic humor, Trueman both keeps Luther in his time and engages us in conversation about how the German doctor speaks to ours. Trueman’s profound exploration of one of the great writers on the Christian life challenges all of us to cancel our tickets for journeys of self-exploration and self-expression to pursue something more authentic. From a distance of five hundred years, Luther tells us that the story is not about us; it’s about what God has done for us.”
Bruce Gordon, Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale Divinity School

“This book deftly combines deep historical learning with sage pastoral wisdom to present us with an unaccommodated Luther—one who is sure to surprise as well as offend those only familiar with sanitized portraits of the Wittenberg Reformer. But this is the Luther that we need, for it is the real Luther—not the fictions of hagiographers—who has the most to teach us about the Christian life. Both new and longtime readers of Luther will derive much benefit from Trueman’s book.”
Scott R. Swain, President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

“Eminently readable, humorous, and always with an eye to the church today, Trueman brings us into Luther’s world, devils and all, and shows us the centrality of the cross and the objective power of God’s Word for Luther’s understanding of the Christian life. Most importantly, we meet Luther on Luther’s terms. His high view of the liturgy and sacraments stands alongside his more familiar views on the authority of Scripture and justification by faith alone. All those interested in Luther or the Reformation need to read this excellent book.”
Carl Beckwith, Professor of Historical Theology, Concordia Theological Seminary