Did Luther get Christian freedom right? In this volume, author Brett James Muhlhan seeks to find the answer to this question by examination of two elements: What is Luther’s understanding of Christian freedom? How did his understanding stand up under the pressure of reformation? Muhlhan explores both of these elements and contends that the sublime beauty of Luther’s early understanding of Christian freedom—an understanding that empowered the German reformation—is consistently the same understanding he used to undermine papal heteronomy and refute radical legalism. Throughout this text, Muhlhan shares insight on how the relational character, cruciform substance, and complex structure of Luther’s concept of freedom enabled him to speak both polemically and catechetically with a clear and authoritative clarity that reinvoked the magnificence of Christ and him crucified for sinners.
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“the experience of faith goes well beyond the acknowledgment of it as a historical virtue.36” (Page 22)
“That presupposition is the declarative and efficacious nature of Christian baptism” (Page 17)
“It is the receptive posture or passive life (vita passiva) before the God that creates. It stands against works piety, for the life lived in the Spirit against the flesh-nature is the conforming to the presence of Christ by Spirit in us. The wealth of this exchange compels one to serve the neighbor with complete disregard for oneself—over against papal greed—because in this new relationship we have all good things, for all good things are Christ’s.” (Page 59)
“A misconstrual of this understanding is also, for Luther, a giving up of the sublime gift of freedom that Christ has won and given to humanity.” (Page 11)
“We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian.” (Page 121)
This well-researched and well-written book is a unique contribution to Luther studies. No other work so clearly and creatively demonstrates how Luther’s concept of inner freedom works out in the early, difficult social situations the reformer faced. Being Shaped by Freedom is a courageous attempt to argue for and to elucidate the consistency between the reformer’s practice and the indicative of reforming doctrine.
—Michael Parsons, Spurgeon’s College
With clarity, precision, and insightful sensitivity, Muhlhan . . . examines how Luther’s understanding of justification and freedom produces the faithful life of the believer. This refreshing analysis contributes significantly to our understanding of the holistic view of Christian righteousness fashioned by Luther’s distinctions of law and gospel and of two kinds of human righteousness. This book shows how Luther’s insights actually functioned in his proclamation aimed at shaping Christian consciousness and performance of God’s will.
—Robert Kolb, Concordia Seminary
Brett Muhlhan displays a comprehensive knowledge of the principles and materials treated, lucidity in communicating that knowledge, and originality and independence in applying them . . . Throughout, he shows a talent for sound theological exposition, and an analytic gift to unearth the complex structure and substance of Luther’s thinking . . . This monograph, a substantial study of high quality, deserves an ecumenical reception.
—From the foreword by Dennis Ngien, Tyndale Seminary
Brett James Muhlhan is postgraduate coordinator and lecturer in historical theology, systematics, and New Testament at the Perth Bible College, western Australia.