Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings
Edited by John Dillenberger
I’ve owned this book for quite some time, and find myself returning to it often if nothing else for its accessibility. I have many different versions of Many of Luther’s works, including several in German and Latin, and in Electronic format the “American Edition” put out by Fortress and CPH. But this volume is just more convenient when I’m being lazy. I do think that for the English Speaking Lutheran Laity, there isn’t anything better that I have seen. It’s a good little volume that introduces a person to the more essential writings of Luther. Those writings that have been most influential, these include “”The Pagan Servitude of the Church” “Secular Authority: To what Extent It Should be Obeyed” “The Freedom of a Christian (absolutely essential reading for Lutherans) and “Two Kinds of Righteousness”
I would include here “The Bondage of the Will” except that it is truncated by a man who does not understand Luther, same for “A Commentary on St. Paul’s epistle To the Galatians.’ Concerning thse two volumes it is better to pick up the more complete versions, even if translated by reformed translators, and read them in total, rather than allow them to be butchered by men who don’t share Luther’s theology, but actually reject it.
That is the weakness of this volume. The editor is reformed and lets his biases show. Perhaps he is just ignorant and not malicious when he doesn’t see that the “Heidleberg Disputation” presents “Luther’s Theology of the Cross” that was the heart of the his reformation activities forming it from beginning to end. But it does illustrate the problem, and makes one very suspicious, and rightfully so, of what he left out in his truncation of the Bondage of the Will. One who does not understand “The Heidleberg Disputation” will not begin to understand “The Bondage of the Will”, which Calvinists like only because they refuse to understand it, or take it with the seriousness it deserves.
I suspect that if a Lutheran had selected the writings for a book like this there would be some overlap, but perhaps there would be a little more concerning the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps they would even include the Small Catechism. Furthermore, probably needed in an accessible form for laity is Luther’s Treatise “On Whether Soldiers too can be Saved.” But it is to the shame of Lutheran Publishers that they haven’t put a reader like this together, at least not one that I have seen, which is as remotely accessible as this one.