Book Notices -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 08:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: Book Notices
Author: Anonymous

Book Notices

Union With Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation Of Luther, Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1998). 192 pages, paper, $21.00

It is the nature of historical/theological studies in the life and thought of the Reformer Martin Luther to undergo regular change. Some of this seems to be the result of an over ambitious ecumenism, a flawed psychological interpretation (cf. Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther) or even questionable historiography. This important book introduces to the English-speaking world the new Finnish interpretation of the theology of Luther, initiated by the writings of Tuomo Mannermaa of Helsinki University.

This new interpretation offers hopeful insights, if for no other reason, precisely because it locates the central thought of Luther in his view of salvation, especially in the justifying work of Christ alone received through faith alone. But here the agreement among Luther scholars will surely break down since Mannermaa’s key idea is that for Luther “Christ is really present in faith itself” as set in contrast to a strictly forensic concept of justification that often tends to separate “Christ in us” from “Christ for us.” Put simply, this interpretation, which will not go down well with traditional Lutheran hermeneutics, suggests that

Luther’s doctrine of justification is more ontological and mystical than ethical and juridical. This insight challenges the German traditions from Ritschl to Ebeling.

Theologian Ted Peters has written about this book: “The indwelling presence of Christ is the heart of ‘justification by faith.’ The Finns have their hand on this heart. Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson have made it possible for the English-speaking world to share in this heartbeat.”

Ultimately the issue is not what Luther understood about justification but rather what Paul actually taught. For some time I have been convinced that the Reformation insights on justification needed to be balanced properly by the larger Pauline theme of “union with Christ.” This book offers some interesting historical/theological insights that may aid the necessary recovery of biblical balance for what is truly important to serious evangelicalism.

Either/Or: The Gospel Or Neopaganism, Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, eds. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans (1995). 131 pages, paper, $10.00

Mainline churches have become major mission fields, according to Braaten and Jenson. Many who identify with the church of Christ in these traditions no longer understand what Christianity really is or why they even call themselv...

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