Basic Advice on How to Interpret Luther
Before addressing a particular element of Rob Bell's new book, I want to make sure that anyone reading this understands exactly what I am and am not doing.
First, to avoid the usual indignant reactions from the guardians of conscience in the evangelical world, I want to stress that I am writing at this point solely as an individual historian. I am not here speaking as a representative of my church, my seminary, nor of some nebulous movement known as 'evangelicalism'
Second, life is, as Hobbes said, nasty, brutish and short. Too short, indeed, to waste on controversies that do not immediately affect one's own little world. Rob Bell has, as far as I know, no impact on my tiny world, whether conceived of as that of Westminster Theological Seminary, or as that of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Thus, my interest in engaging him here is not theological; rather, it is historical and concerns a specific claim he makes relative to the thought of Martin Luther. This claim, while only a brief passing comment in the book, might yet prove rather mischievous in terms of its wider impact.