Interview with R.J. Grunewald about Reading Romans with Luther

I sent R.J. some questions about his new book, Reading Romans.  Book releases tomorrow and there is a link to purchase below. Here are his responses:

What is it about Martin Luther that intrigues you? Why focus on him?

Martin Luther is a theologian that changed the history of the Christian Church. In a day and age when people couldn’t read the Bible in their own language, they thought grace had to be earned, and certain work was considered more sacred than other work. Luther unlocked something that had been lost.
In our own day and age, grace is routinely overlooked as the message of the Church. Instead it gets replaced with a message of “do more, try harder.” God’s scandalous grace while not being earned by indulgences is often treated as though we earn it. 

If you had to list the top 3 things about God or faith that Luther helps you understand, what would they be?
The top 3 things that Luther has helped me understand have been the distinction between Law and Gospel, the doctrine of vocation, and "the simul" (simul justus et peccator). 

Why is Martin Luther so difficult to understand?
I think there are a few reasons that Luther can be difficult to understand. First, Luther’s writing was originally in a different language and written over 500 years ago. The language and cultural differences are vast and can easily become disconnected from the world that we live in. Second, much of Luther’s writing was never intended to be read and could have used the work of a good editor. 
With Luther’s commentary on Romans specifically, Luther’s lecture notes were turned into a commentary. It wasn’t ever meant to be a book. When you combine that reality with the 500 years of separation, it makes it incredibly difficult to read. 

How did you come up with format for Reading Romans?

As I started Reading Romans with Luther, I began by highlighting all of my favorite parts in Luther’s commentary on Romans. As I did so, I found that the book wouldn’t be readable if I went straight through Romans. I actually started to freak out and had to rethink my initial plan, which was to go straight through Romans. I ended up laying out all the highlighted portions of Romans out in my office and began to find common themes and put them into piles that would eventually lead to the chapters of the book.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I have seen a growing number of people who resonate with Luther and many of the theological distinctions that he teaches, yet they are unfamiliar with his works. There’s a lot of interest in Luther, but the moment any of those people open a book by Luther their eyes glaze over.

My goal with this book is to take something not accessible for the normal person—and Luther’s commentary on Romans is definitely out of reach for most people—and to bring it into the twenty-first century.

It’s still Luther. And it’s all rooted in his theology, yet it is designed and rearranged and has added commentary to make it accessible regardless of someone’s familiarity with Luther.

What do you hope people discover from Reading Romans?

My hope is that this book will bring people into the riches of the Gospel. If you’ve experienced a theology that has been nothing more than the burden of the Law, I hope this book will give you rest. If you’ve experienced a theology has allowed for you to appreciate the beauty and riches of the Gospel, I hope this book will help you further soak in the truth that your faith is in Christ alone. 

I have read the book and would highly recommend it.  You can order the book here 

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