Welcome to the Luther Reading Challenge!

More than 2200 people have already joined our community to read and discuss Luther's theology in preparation for the Reformation jubilee in October 2017.

Luther's Top Five—So Far

Written by Sarah Wilson on 2/10/16, 4:41 PM.

A warm Ash Wednesday greeting to all LRC participants, from those who have been with us from the beginning of our almost-year-long existence to the most recent arrivals. We’re especially excited to have members of the Global Young Reformers Network in our midst!

If you’re new to the Luther Reading Challenge and overwhelmed at the list under the Read button, or even if you’ve been with us awhile but have fallen behind, don’t despair! Much as we love Luther, the truth is, you really don’t have to read everything. To get you started or re-started, wherever you happen to be, here’s a list of our favorites from Luther so far. If you haven’t signed up yet, you’ll need to do so to access the readings, but never fear, everything is free!

  1. The 1518 Theses on the Remission of Sins: luckily, this does not mean that there are one thousand five hundred and eighteen theses! In fact, there aren’t even ninety-five in this set from the year 1518, but a mere fifty. Although the 95 Theses are a lot more famous, this set is much more representative of the real turn in Luther’s theology: from an emphasis on personal contrition or priestly power to the ability of the Word of God to give what it promises.

  2. Letter to George Spenlein: George Spenlein was an Augustinian friar like Luther, and that’s pretty much all we know of him. But this lucky fellow was the recipient of a beautiful reflection on life in Christ and the struggle against sin—and it even pre-dates the outbreak of the Reformation controversy.

  3. The Freedom of a Christian: Long enough that we’ve split it up into four parts, but well worth the read. This can be take as the positive programmatic vision Luther has for the Christian life, almost (though not quite) polemic-free! You’ll never think the same way about faith again.

  4. Preface to the New Testament: It’s pretty common to bandy about the distinction between “law and gospel,” but what did it really mean? Old Testament vs. New Testament? Jews vs. Christians? Bad vs. Good? Unconverted life vs. Christian life? Not God vs. God? Read this and you’ll know that Luther meant none of these things—and had a much better explanation to put in their place.

  5. On Temporal Authority: The foundations of our modern political systems, especially the distinction between church and state, have their origin right here. Luther does defend the right of public officials to use violence when necessary to restrain further violence—but he is also vehement in his condemnation of excessive uses of political violence, and argues that as private persons Christians are called to abject pacificism. Sound confusing? All the more reason to work your way through all four sections of this treatise! Luther never fails to surprise.

Have questions? Shoot us a line at lutherreadingchallenge AT gmail DOT com.

More news

500 Years

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 2017, Martin Luther is going to be a hot topic of conversation and debate among Lutherans, other Christians, and the media. Will the conversation shed more heat than light? Or it will be an occasion to reappropriate a powerful witness to the Christian faith?


The reading part is just the beginning. By registering for a free account, readers can participate in online discussions. Luther’s writings will give rise to a broad conversation about what they meant then, and what they mean for us now. And the scope will be truly global: while all the texts will be offered in English, international partners will also be making parts of Luther available in Hungarian, Chinese, and Portuguese, to name a few.

Behind the scenes

The Luther Reading Challenge is a project of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, an affiliate of the Lutheran World Federation that has been devoted to Lutheran churches’ ecumenical commitments since 1965. The Challenge is a direct outgrowth of the inspiring experience of Institute staff in teaching an annual two-week course called Studying Luther in Wittenberg, which has gathered Lutheran pastors from around the world for intensive study since 2009, and the Theological Reading Challenge sponsored by the journal Lutheran Forum.