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Book Reviews
by Eric Metaxas

If you want to know more about Martin Luther, what excited him, disappointed him, his dreams and ambitions, then this is a book for you. Or if you’re looking for a thorough and somewhat academic book then this challenging book is also ideal.

Luther is most renowned for his 95 theses which he tacked to the door of the church at Wittenberg in 1517 and which sparked what has become known as the Reformation. In this astounding and very well-researched book Metaxas sets us right on many scores of Luther’s life, not least of all the results he expected from the 95 theses. “They had never been intended for public consumption” he was to write, but the printing press and zeal of many of his fellow-scholars over-rode this notion. Luther’s original modest endeavor at this stage of his life was to help the pope and the church to see that many of their practices were contrary to the Bible.

As a man Luther was prepared for martyrdom and even felt in some ways that he had failed because he wasn’t martyred! Although he looked on as many were martyred for the cause which he believed in, he never deviated from the belief that his actions were inspired by truth and freedom. His inspiration was from the Bible itself and as such he felt his actions God-ordained.

I knew what the story was dealing with, but when the narrative mentioned the martyrs being burnt at the stake I was devastated. The depth of faith and dedication these men and women showed dumb-founded me. What would my personal response have been? Would I have revoked Luther’s theses or would I have stood by them and chosen death?
In the face of such violence it is noteworthy and significant that throughout his ‘battles’ Luther is nevertheless quoted as saying: ‘… that the Gospel must never proceed through force or violence.’ From his side Luther would never adopt any kind of physical violence. That realm belonged to the Pope and those who opposed Luther.
What truth then did Luther seek? What was it that made him so opposed to the Pope’s ruling? His heart’s desire was to change the belief that we are saved by ‘good’ works and that instead he argued we are saved by faith only and not by our own efforts. Good deeds are a natural progression from faith – we strive to do what is right out of a desire to worship the God of our faith.

Towards the end of his life Luther was to present many dark issues and ‘vile writings’ that baffle historians today and prevent us idolizing him. He wrote some strongly anti-Semitic articles and he went through a profound spiritual darkness preceding his death. Frequently throughout his life he was plagued by spiritual darkness.
But he accomplished so much that changed history and quoted in the text of Metaxas’s book are Luther’s views that:‘… in all (he) did if his efforts could save a single person from hell then all his work was worth it.’
A well-written book, well researched, riveting - this book gripped me from the start (Eric Metaxas is my favorite biographer). Although I must add that it is a long read. It incorporates many of Luther’s own letters and those who worked alongside him and this lends authenticity. Sometimes I wondered if it was really necessary to include so much of this detail but the reader can always gloss over it.

Don’t be put off by judging the book by the introduction which I personally found problematic to get through – I thought the language was sometimes too complicated. But I can honestly say that I have read few books as interesting as this one. It is high on my list of good books to read.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Reviewed by Theresa Keay

by Pete Portal

This 'is the gripping account of Pete Portal's move from London to Manenberg, of addicts and gangsters meeting Jesus and being transformed, and how he went from living with a heroin addict to helping establish a church community – and all the heartbreak and failure along the way' (Strickland).

Pete Portal draws alongside the Manenberg community in a way that is admirable. He is never condescending towards his neighbours, always accepting, as he views himself as a resident of Manenberg and not as someone from a church who is doing mission work.

'It would be easy to read some of the stories in this book and feel discouraged because our own lives look so different ... but he says that all Christian service should be viewed as being on the frontline for God' (Lloyd).

To bring the book closer to home I quote from the book a paragraph mentioning our much-loved late CCK member who attended the evening service, James Thomas:
'The far-reaching legacy left by James Thomas lives on – in the continent of Africa where local entrepreneurs he trained up are transforming communities – and lives on in Manenberg through the memory of a jauntily named coffee shop (Jou Ma Se Kombuis) ... Yet James never lived to see the fulfilment of this dream. In September 2013 he was killed ... while visiting Kenya to train up more nation-changing entrepreneurs.'

A riveting, fascinating and challenging book with words to ponder in the last chapter: 'Ultimately we pray because Jesus is beautiful'.
Reviewed by Theresa Keay
The Resource Centre library contains books available for borrowing as well as a selection of teaching Videos and DVDs are also available to hire.

Membership of the Resource Centre is R50 per year and is open to everyone,
not just Christ Church members.


Stephen Hofmeyr, 20/12/2010


Christ Church Kenilworth  |  Cnr Summerley & Richmond Road  |  Tel: +27 (021) 797 6332  | E-mail:
Service Times: Sunday Worship  8.00am, 10.00am & 6.30pm  |  Wednesday Service: 10am   | Tuesday Quiet Service: 6.30pm (fortnightly)

Taryn Galloway, 06/05/2015