Martin Luther

Eric Metaxas

Martin Luther was a troubled soul as a monk and God used this trouble to birth freedom – freedom not just for himself but for those across the globe and down through history.   For out of his pain, Luther was driven to the Scriptures and grasped the truth of grace in Christ.

He boldly spoke out against the corruption of the church, and in the process set in motion a chain of events leading to the Reformation – and a new era for the kingdom of God, an era that saw a return to biblical teachings of grace in Christ through faith alone.  Indeed, the return to sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia.

Once it began, the avalanche picked up steam and took much of Europe with it.  Many today, including me, live in the wake of Luther’s bold leadership.

He had a personality bigger than life – a brilliant biblical scholar in the original languages, a gifted preacher, a writer of many books, a fearless leader in the face of opposition from both Emperor and Pope, an indefatigable servant of Christ, a candid, transparent and witty friend.

What impact he had!

He unleashed the gospel of grace!

He translated the Bible into German, giving Germany its Bible, and in the process, its language!

He created the atmosphere for religious freedom, for the dignity of every vocation.  He gave a voice to the people, gave congregational singing to the church, the Scriptures to the people.  He introduced reforms that would eventually be adopted by the Catholic Church.  His ideas of pluralism would indirectly foster democracy, liberty and government by the people.

What a titan on the world stage!  One of the handful of great characters in history.

Flawed?  Of course.  Who but Jesus is not?  Certainly he was wrong in the way he attacked the Jews in his later years.  He naively believed false accusations.  But if he had been alive 400 years later, he would have died with Bonhoeffer in opposing Hitler.

Moreover, he could be intemperate in his criticisms of people, though perhaps the desperate times called for strong men.

Metaxas has done it again.  After superb biographies of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, he has now given us a superb biography of Luther.  I’ve read a number of them and this is easily the best I’ve read.

Born Wrong, Made Right

Greg Stoughton

This is Greg Stoughton’s story of his life.  He was born without a full set of fingers and toes, and that caused a lot of challenges in his earlier years.  This is the story of his journey to faith in Jesus Christ and the difference God has made in his life.  It is a candid, entertaining and God-glorifying account of God’s faithfulness in one life.

The Inklings

Humphrey Carpenter

C.S. Lewis had a group of friends who met twice a week to discuss books, poems and other matters.  On Tuesday mornings they would meet at a local tavern, which they referred to as “The Bird and the Baby.”    And then on Thursday evenings they would meet in C.S. Lewis’ rooms at Magdalen College in Oxford.

The group consisted of Jack Lewis, as he was commonly known by his friends, his brother Warnie Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and various other people.  Most of these other folks were professors at Oxford, or at least literary figures.  People might come intermittently.  They referred to themselves as “The Inklings.”  They would often read to the group whatever it was they were working on.  For example, Tolkien first read The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings to this group.

This book is the story of their friendship.  In some ways it is a brief biography of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams especially.  Charles Williams was another writer who was particularly close to Lewis.

For fans of C.S. Lewis, the book is fascinating, but I might warn you that some of the guys, especially Charles Williams and Tolkien, were quite eccentric.  Fascinating insights into these men and their friendships.

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela

One of the fascinating stories of the 20th century is the story of Nelson Mandela and the fight for freedom by blacks in South Africa.

This is Mandela’s autobiography.  He was born in a rural village with a poor, but happy childhood.  He was able to get an education and then pursued a law degree in Johannesburg.  He practices law for a number of years, but his primary passion and engagement is in the struggle against apartheid.  Apartheid was the systematic government policy which denied blacks in South Africa of many basic freedoms, including the right to vote.  Mandela joins the African National Congress, or ANC, which led the fight against racial injustice in South Africa over an 80 year period.  Mandela not only becomes involved with ANC, but he has increasing influence and becomes one of the central figures in the ANC.

At one point Mandela faces arrest because of his involvement in the fight, and he flees from the police.  He lives as a fugitive in his own country, and then in exile outside South Africa.  Shortly after his return he is captured and arrested.

Mandela would serve 27 years in prison, from age 44 to age 71!  Most of this time was spent on an island prison off the coast of Cape Town.

Eventually, because of internal opposition and international pressure, the South African government agrees to negotiate with the ANC for a new government.  Mandela leads this negotiation process for the ANC, first while he is in prison and then after his release.

In 1993 blacks in South Africa were allowed to vote for the first time.  Not only did the ANC win a majority of the seats in parliament, but Nelson Mandela was elected as president.  By this time Mandela was famous throughout the world and had met with many world leaders, including the U.S. president.

How did Mandela achieve this extraordinary accomplishment?  First of all, he did not do it by himself, he was part of a team, a team that led a large movement.  He was the consensus leader.

Moreover, Mandela and others were indefatigable in their struggle against racial injustice.  They simply would not give up and they were willing to pay any price and make any sacrifice.

Mandela was a man of character, of principle, of honor.  He was courageous in the battle.

Interestingly, Mandela has a surprising amount of humility.  Throughout the book, he understates his role in the struggle and magnifies the role of others.  I think he truly saw himself as a servant of the people and not the hero of the people.

Certainly, he and his family paid a high price for this fight.  He never lived a normal family life, as he was always engaged in the fight against injustice.  He would spend most of his life away from his family – either working in the cause, living in hiding or exile, or his 27 years in prison.

I might note that Mandela did consider himself to be a Christian – specifically a Methodist.  However, there is no evidence in the book of him pursuing the Lord.

For a long time I’ve wanted to read this book because Mandela has made such a profound impact upon our world.  I would say the book is good, perhaps even quite good, but not a great book.  He was a great man, though, and it was fascinating to learn his story.