Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Freedom of a Christian

Today is a bit different. Rather than reviewing a book, I just wanted to reflect on a shorter piece that I read recently.

"The Freedom of a Christian" (1517) by Martin Luther reflects on the place of works and of faith in the Christian life. He begins by outlining why we can never earn our salvation--we are too sinful, and God is too good. Luther then argues for the importance of works, not as a way to earn salvation, but as a way to show our obedience to God and to discipline our more sinful nature.

Luther was a powerful writer. Of course I am familiar with the idea of justification by faith (that we can never earn our salvation; rather, it is a free gift from God) which Luther expounds here, but rarely has it been so comforting and condemning at the same time. I can stop trying to be perfect, because God loves me no matter what; I can stop trying to be perfect, because I cannot earn God's love or salvation.

Luther goes on to discuss the role of good works in a Christian's life. He sees several reasons to pursue good works and virtue, and he speaks firmly of the need for works in a Christian's life. I was struck by the strength of his statements about works for others: "Individuals do not live for themselves alone in this mortal body to work for it alone, but they live also for all people on earth; rather, they live only for others and not for themselves" (49). Have I ever viewed my self only as a way to help others? I somehow doubt it. It's challenging. Didn't Jesus do it? If so, we should be inspired to strive for a similar level of dedication and love to others.


I read an abridged version of "The Freedom of a Christian" that is in The Protestant Reformation, a collection of Reformation documents edited by Hans J. Hillerbrand.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Book: Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent, Book 3)

Description: The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered--fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature--and of herself--while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. (book jacket)

My Thoughts: I'll just come right out and say it: I LOVED Allegiant! Yes, there were some aspects of it that I disliked, but overall it felt like a very intense novel that stayed true to its story (more on that later).

Both Tobias and Tris struggle with their own brokenness and inner demons throughout Allegiant. They struggled so hard for what was right and struggled to figure out what that meant and made mistakes. That is probably what made me love Allegiant the most. I loved that both characters really struggled, and struggled realistically with themselves as well as with outside forces. It really focused on the day-to-day nature of all choices and of choosing who you want to be (in that you have to make choices every day and those are truly the choices that define you), which I also loved. I hate books that end with, "Well, the main character made one good choice. Everything will be okay and s/he'll be a great person now!", because that's so not how life works.

Allegiant was the first novel in the series where we get to hear from Tobias's perspective as well as from Tris's. I enjoyed seeing beneath his calm exterior and being able to see his inner demons more and how they affected his everyday life. I really enjoyed getting to see events from both Tris's perspective and Tobias's; it was very interesting. Stylistically, however, it was one of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed least. The switch between the two of them almost always happened every chapter, so that it felt almost mechanical and made it hard to keep track of who was speaking at the moment (how the two of them thought about things was sometimes different, but their style of talking/thinking wasn't at all different).

I will admit, it took me a while to get into the story. Part of that was because I hadn't read Insurgent in a while, and Allegiant jumps right back into the story where Insurgent left off--including the high energy and emotion levels, which I wasn't hyped up to when I started reading. And what they found outside Chicago wasn't at all what I was expecting, which was jarring for a while.

*The next paragraph is about the ending. It contains only minor spoilers, but it's only fair to warn you*

And the ending! It felt very true to all the characters and to the story, I thought. It was such a natural extension of what happened beforehand, and so much more realistic than most other endings.

*end of spoilers*

A great book, and a great conclusion to the Divergent trilogy. I can't wait to see what Veronica Roth will do next!