“Rescuing The Gospel” by Erwin Lutzer is a book about the Reformation. Lutzer was the senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago for 36 years until retiring in 2016. The book focuses on Martin Luther who 500 years ago nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany which challenged the false doctrines of the Catholic Church. Luther, through a reading of the Scriptures which were only available in Latin in Germany and thus not available to the average person, came to believe that salvation was only obtained by faith in Christ through grace. This was as opposed to the Catholic Church teaching that while faith in Christ was involved one needed to perform a certain level of good works thereafter to complete their salvation. Also, the Catholic Church had become corrupt selling indulgences to minimize the penalty faced for sins. Luther translated the New Testament from the original language to German so the common person would be able to read it for themselves. He contributed to the translation of the Old Testament as well but others helped in completing it.
The book also introduces other principal players in the Reformation both before and after Luther. It also discussed the warts of each Reformation leader including Luther, although it strained to minimize their impact as the author was clearly a fan of Luther and the others he introduced. For examples as to warts, late in life Luther turned on the Jews, because they were not coming to Christ in sufficient numbers, and slandered them with anti-Semitic writings that were used later by Hitler to justify his persecution of them. Luther also continued to support infant baptism although he struggled to reconcile this to his views on faith alone for salvation. He theorized that perhaps the infant baptism would presage the infant’s salvation by faith as an adult, among other theories he developed.
One interesting section of the book was the discussion of John Calvin who came into prominence toward the end of Luther’s life. He built on Luther’s work but is particularly known for his advocacy and writings on the doctrine of predestination, a view which Luther also held. Calvin felt that the fall of humanity into sin was so pervasive and affected people’s minds and wills so much that they couldn’t believe the truths of the gospel unless God were to perform a miracle of regeneration in their hearts. This was the miracle God performed in the hearts of His elect, those predestination to salvation. According to Calvin, the elect exercise faith but only because God enables them to believe. Millions adopted this predestined view of salvation through his teaching and his teachings have great influence in the Church still today.
Lutzer concludes the book with a discussion of whether or not the reformation is , today. There is a great push among certain church leaders to attempt to reconcile Protestant and Catholic doctrines and unite them once more. Lutzer discusses how Catholic doctrines are still unreconcilable with Reformed Protestant doctrine and we should be wary of these reunification efforts.
This book is a companion to the tour of Reformation sites in Germany that Pastor Lutzer leads every year or two. The book is an excellent broad overview of the Reformation but someone who wants a detailed study of the Reformation should look elsewhere. I thoroughly enjoyed the book as it gave me an excellent overview of a subject that I did not know much about but as a Christian needed to know. I highly recommend it.