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The Unholy Trinity: Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I

by Michael A. Lockwood

Item #: 124506 / 2016 / Paperback / 260 Pages


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We are all too familiar with the same old human pitfall: we rush after the desires of our hearts and worship ourselves instead of Jesus Christ. And yet, the dangers of inward idolatry are a neglected topic in Western theology.

Without God’s First-Commandment-focused Law, we would never truly know the depth of our spiritual disease. Anything we fear, love, or trust more than the true God is, plain and simple, our god.

Drawing upon Martin Luther’s key insights on the theology of idolatry, The Unholy Trinity unmasks contemporary idol worship and its futility. Luther’s unparalleled ability to get to the heart of human sin helps us see through the lie of self-sufficiency. Only when walls of man-made security are broken down can we hear the Gospel as good news—by grace, God gives us every good thing we vainly try to provide for ourselves.

About the Author
Rev. Dr. Michael Lockwood is a parish pastor in the Lutheran Church of Australia. He is also a member of the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations of the Lutheran Church of Australia.


“Michael Lockwood shows that God’s use of the Law—for Christians as well as for non-Christians—includes the sufferings of life that destroy our self-sufficiency, which is the root of all idolatry. His book is full of practical suggestions for pastoral care and evangelistic outreach and will be an enormously helpful resource for pastors.”

—Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Emeritus Professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College

“How does a preacher best commend the Christian faith to people who have no need for the Gospel, let alone any desire to participate in the Divine Service? Dr. Lockwood provides us with a diagnostic tool for effective proclamation by his excellent analysis of Luther’s teaching on human idolatry and the impact of its delusive claims. . . . This thoroughly biblical, culturally relevant study is a joy to read.”

—Rev. Dr. John W. Kleinig, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Theology, Australian Lutheran College

“Saint Augustine spoke of idolatry as worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshiped. John Calvin spoke of the human mind as a perpetual forge of idols, daring to imagine a god suited to its own capacity. And now we have mighty Luther, who shares the stance of Augustine and Calvin, but whose many statements on idolatry have never before been gathered together or considered in such a substantial, accessible, and pastorally fruitful manner.”

—Mark P. Ryan, Adjunct Professor of Religion and Culture, Covenant Theological Seminary; Director, Francis A. Schaeffer Institute

“In two ways, Michael Lockwood has done us all a great service: he has rendered a fundamentally important theme in Luther’s theology accessible, and he’s shown us why it matters. In nine, deeply researched and highly readable chapters, Dr. Lockwood not only describes Luther’s analysis of idolatry, but he also explains how idolatry functions. For Luther, idolatry is false faith. It’s a lethal trust in the wrong thing in the wrong way. Luther didn’t regard idolatry as misplaced philosophy, with merely academic consequences, but as a deadly peril because of what it actually does. . . . Michael Lockwood’s writing is saturated with Luther in the best possible way. He shows not only what Luther said in the past, but why it’s important to keep hearing it in the present. This volume is not just an important contribution to Luther studies, it’s a seminal book for understanding the distinctive work of Christian ministry and the uniqueness of the Christian Gospel.”

—Rev. Dr. Noel Due, Ministry and Mission Support Pastor, Lutheran Church of Australia, SA/NT District

“Today, secularism is seen as social policy, agnosticism and atheism appear to be respectable, and the ranks of the 'nones' are swelling, while indifference to religious views and affiliations grows. So at first glance, idolatry is an unpromising topic for the church’s life and witness. But, as Michael Lockwood shows, a deeper look at idolatry, especially through the eyes of Martin Luther, is revealing and compelling. Tying together many strands and uncovering varied connections in Luther’s thought on false gods, Lockwood presents a rich trinitarian account of idolatry and uses it to uncover and overcome the idols hiding in plain sight today.”

—Dr. Joel P. Okamoto, Waldemar and Mary Griesbach Professor of Systematic Theology Chairman, Department of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary


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Customer Reviews

The Unholy Trinity: Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I

by Michael A. Lockwood

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Highly Recommend

If I had to select one CPH book to read over and over, it would be The Unholy Trinity. It's quite the mind-shifter, well-researched, and readable while being packed with info. My understanding of idolatry was transformed. Lockwood provides a clear lens for unmasking the idols of our modern age.

2 people found this comment helpful, 0 did not
The Heart of the Issue

Lockwood's book is a bit heavy going in places but the gift is his unpacking of the heart of the problem for the Western Church and indeed the world. We have lost our first love and replaced God with the idols of the age, the creator for the created.

2 people found this comment helpful, 0 did not
Excellent presentation on Luther and idolatry

Lockwood’s book is impressive on a number of fronts. First and foremost, he offers a thoroughly researched account of Luther’s theology of idolatry. Then, drawing on relevant studies, Lockwood applies Luther’s teachings to contemporary contexts, concluding each section with discussion about how Luther’s theology can be used to proclaim the Gospel today. This makes the book out to be much more than an overview of Luther’s assessment of the human condition. It also serves as a systematic yet highly accessible apologetic for the Lutheran faith. It is also wonderful on a personal level, helping to expose the reader’s own idols and leading them to repentance, healing and renewal.

5 people found this comment helpful, 0 did not

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