How do you proclaim the forgiveness of sins to someone who doesn’t think he has done anything wrong? How can you apply the Law to someone who feels no guilt and the Gospel to someone who feels no need for Christ? Trying to evangelize today’s relativists seems like a futile project. How can we get through to them?
The Australian pastor and theologian Michael Lockwood has just published a stimulating, paradigm-shifting book entitled The Unholy Trinity: Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I.
On one level, it is a study of Luther’s view of idolatry. For Luther, idolatry is not just worshipping graven images, as with Christians who think tangible objects used in worship, such as crucifixes, are idols. Rather, idolatry is worshipping false gods created by the self. In his explanation of the First Commandment in the the Large Catechism, Luther asks, “what is it to have a God?” His answer: What do you put put your faith in? That’s your God. Ultimately, idolatry is the opposite of saving faith in Christ. It means putting your faith in yourself.
Dr. Lockwood then applies the insights from Luther to today’s spiritual landscape, from “Moralistic-therapeutic-Deism,” through the whole array of false spiritualities, to the pure secularism that sees no need for God at all. All of these, at their root, are idolaters of the self. But the self will let you down every time.
Drawing on his experience as a missionary, Dr. Lockwood says that non-believers first need to be “disenchanted” with their idols. He shows how the Law brings a message not only of guilt but of disenchantment. In times of suffering, failure, and the prospect of death, even the idolaters of the self can find redemption in Christ.
This is a ground-breaking book that brings a distinctly Lutheran perspective on the task of apologetics, evangelism, and pastoral care. But all Christians will benefit from its fresh approach to cultural criticism and from learning from Dr. Lockwood the art of “spiritual diagnosis.”
Read my review after the jump. Then buy this book.