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Luther's Faith: The Cause of the Gospel in the Church [Hardcover]

By Daniel Olivier (Author)
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Item description for Luther's Faith: The Cause of the Gospel in the Church by Daniel Olivier...

Luther's Faith presents a fresh, provocative assessment of Luther's theology from an ecumenical perspective. The author explores the various nuances of the Reformer's thought from the vantage point of the central evangelical affirmation of justification by grace. In so doing, he wrestles with such pressing and difficult issues as the contemporary role of the papacy, the Roman sacramental system in the light of Luther's strictures, and the prospects for meaningful Roman Catholic-Protestant dialog. The major thesis of this book is that Luther's chief contribution to the religious life of the Reformation was his rediscovery of the Gospel with its liberating message that faith or trust in Jesus Christ as Savior is the all-sufficient means for salvation. Foreword by Lewis W. Spitz.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Concordia College
Pages   192
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.66" Width: 5.26" Height: 0.47"
Weight:   0.57 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 1997
Publisher   Concordia Publishing House
ISBN  0570038685  
ISBN13  9780570038689  

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > People, A-Z > ( L ) > Luther, Martin
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Lutheran

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Luther's Faith: The Cause of the Gospel in the Church?

Olivier is a true Luther Scholar  Feb 14, 2005
Born in 1927, Daniel Olivier is a professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Paris, an Augustinian, and a Reformation Scholar. He is part of a second-generation of Luther scholars who have followed in the footsteps of Joseph Lortz. Lortz, also Roman Catholic, understood well the condition of the late-medieval church and saw Luther as a theologian who was still part of the catholic faith tradition. However, Olivier (including Albert Brandenburg, Peter Manns, Harry McSorley, Otto Hermann Pesch, and Jared Wicks!) has gone one step further: he does not so much compare Luther to find out where he has remained or departed from the tradition of Roman Catholicism. Instead, Olivier seeks to understand Luther by studying specific aspects of his theology, relate him to other leading theologians like Aquinas, and advocates receiving Luther's theological insights that are still relevant. Such a Luther-friendly, Roman Catholic theologian now sees Luther as part of a common Christian tradition--and is even willing to call him a "father in the faith"!

A translation of La Foi de Luther, Olivier has organized Luther's Faith into seven chapters, the first five of which focus on Luther, how he developed his theology, and what the core of that theology is. Chapter 6, "What Kind of Reformation," is exactly that: what kind of Reformation did develop in the theological, cultural, and sociological milieu of the 16th Century. The book's final chapter, Olivier then looks into the Roman Catholic response to the Reformation and, thus, its continuing repercussions.

The book's main thesis is that Luther was not some wild heretic outside the catholic faith, but operated well within the tradition of the Church catholic and fought many corruptions that needed correcting. While operating within such traditions and norms, Luther brought to the fore the true Gospel: the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins because of what Jesus has done, which is grasped by God-given faith.

Then why has it taken so long, well into the late 20th century, for some Roman Catholic theologians to speak so forthrightly? Olivier implies the bureaucracy of the Roman Catholic Church did not look at the theology of Luther on its own merits but more from the context of organizational preservation. Thus, in her Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church defined herself dogmatically in a way that further contributed to the split within Christendom. Thus, the Church focused her energies on trying to maintain authority and outward unity, and in the process, refused to see the good in many of Luther's theology and reforms.

Although I cannot concur with all of Olivier's views, I was taken aback by how favorably he views Luther! I believe he goes awry in a couple of areas, but such foibles are minor in the broad scope of the book. For example, concerning the theology of the cross, Olivier writes: "His [Luther's] theology of the cross was really discovered only in the 20th century" (Pg. 120). Such a statement is simply wrong. Luther's theology of the cross has had a renaissance among some theologians as of late, such as Alister McGrath and Gerhard Forde, but to say is it was "discovered" is incorrect. In addition, Olivier's definition hardly does the concept justice: "At stake was a theology other than the current one, a new way of speaking about faith, which Luther called the theology of the cross: `of the cross' because it was on the very fact of the cross, of the Crucified, that his thought was fastened" (Pg. 118).

Olivier's copious quotations also benefit his book. If I have one complaint in this area, it is that I wish he included more from Luther's commentary of Galatians and less from his commentary of Romans, which is less theologically developed. Last, the book is slightly dated in two areas. Olivier's mentioning of Europe being fascinated with Marxism fell the way of the Berlin Wall. Also, I think hindsight has shown that the hope Olivier has put into reforms like Vatican II for Roman Catholicism have not borne the fruit that he would have wanted concerning Luther.

Yet the few minor quibbles I have with Olivier do not ruin the splendid work that he has written. The book is full of Luther quotations, but not simply to fill up space; no, they support the statements that Olivier makes. Other areas show that Olivier truly tries to take in Luther in contrast to the traditional Roman Catholic view of him as a "heretic": "Luther's errors have been exploited [by Roman Catholics] to the point of absurdity. . . . Rome is not always up to acknowledging that the Reformation is its Damascus Road: `I am he who you are persecuting.' Luther, indeed, was not a heretic like the other." (pg 73) Olivier even sounds Lutheran (or should I say "evangelical catholic") when he opines, "The church has no other `power' than the Word of the Gospel." (pg 167)

Of all the chapters in the book, I found the last chapter, "The Faith of the Papal Church" the least likable. Olivier has a big-tent, agree-to-disagree theological worldview. I think that Olivier would even welcome Lutheranism back into Catholicism without ironing out the theological differences between us; Lutheranism would simply be a wing of Roman Catholicism like the Augustinian or Dominican orders. Nonetheless, I cannot recommend his book highly enough. I do not recommend the book simply because it casts Luther in a good light--but that it takes a more-objective view of Luther within the context of the Church catholic. Olivier brings out why the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century was unable to respond to Luther's Gospel rediscovery as she should have. Such historical insight can only help others (and Lutherans) to understand Luther better and remove centuries old biases built on falsehoods and distortions. Such honest, historical-theological works like Olivier can only benefit true ecumenism and help a divided Christendom understand herself better in this vale of tears.

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