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Book Review: “Martin Luther and the Rule of Faith” by Todd R. Hains

Martin Luther and the Rule of Faith by Todd R. Hains explores Martin Luther’s reading of scripture. It’s a topic that has occupied theologians for hundreds of years, but Hains presents it in a way that allows readers to see Luther’s reading of scripture contextually.

Hains notes Luther’s words against reason and notes how it has been misunderstood. Then, he turns to the questions that arose in reading scripture, including the question of when scripture might be read against itself. This led Luther, Hains argues, to reading scripture in much the same way as others in church history had–reading it as a book of faith that speaks with the power of the Spirit (11).

The rule of faith, however, is to be understood not abstractly but as reading through ancient catechesis- the use of the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. By understanding this as the foundation of Luther’s reading of scripture, the notion of sola scriptura as well as his reading in certain places becomes more evident. Not only does Luther follow the ancient catechesis in his own catechism (57ff), but it also helps illuminate how Luther read the Law (89ff especially). Here, Hains notes, that Luther argued that the Torah would be seen by reason as a “jumble of stories and random laws” while the rule of faith leads to seeing the Torah as books that “teach faith and its fruits” (93).

Martin Luther and the Rule of Faith is an intriguing look at Luther’s reading of scripture. Readers interested in what Luther may have meant by sola scriptura and how he practiced it will find it insightful.

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