Wednesday, November 18, 2009

LHP Review: On Those Lutherans

Braun, John A. Positively Lutheran: A Simple Statement of What Lutherans Believe. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2009. 32 Pages. Staple-bound. $5.00. (LHP)

Brug, John F. WELS & Other Lutherans (Second Edition). Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2009. 279 Pages. Paper. $17.99. (LHP)

There are dozens of Lutheran church bodies in America, but only a handful get any attention, let alone are household names even in most Lutheran households. After the landmark unbiblical decisions voted upon at the August Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, these two resources from Northwestern Publishing House couldn't be more timely.

First, we'll consider Positively Lutheran, a modern restatement of Christian faith and practice from a Lutheran perspective.

"This small book helps you answer the question, 'What does your Lutheran church believe?' In simple language, it explains what Lutheran Christians believe - our faith, worship, and mission - Jesus Christ, our only Savior. It's a book to pass along to others so they can learn what it means to believe and live as a Lutheran Christian - living in the love of Christ. The author has organized the material according to the outline provided by the early Christian fish symbol IXTHUS (Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior).

"Buy 10 or more and get 25% off!

"A free 5-lesson Bible study (PDF/RTF) to accompany Positively Lutheran is available at" (publisher's website).
The Christian fish symbol is practically ubiquitous on the back of Christian automobiles. In addition to being "a simple statement of what Lutherans believe," this booklet serves to fill those often misunderstood chrome fish with meaning for those who drive around with them on their cars.
Beginning with page 16, the book begins making a transition to part two. When Christians encountered error, they confessed the Biblical truth using creeds which drew truth and language from Scripture itself. Occasionally, new words were invented as shorthand for solid Bible concepts. Lutheran Christians found in the creeds a pattern they followed in their Lutheran Confessions.
Part Two of the booklet affirms the ancient Christian faith. Reformation concepts are explained in fresh language that should be accessible for both new Lutherans and those new to Christianity as a whole. Jesus is indeed at the center of Christianity (21). We live lives abiding in Him where He abides in us through Word and Sacrament. And by faith, we hold on to Him for dear life.
Order copies in bulk for your tract display, Christmas visitors, and for distribution through your congregation.

In a newly-updated Second Edition, John F. Brug faces his readers up to the constellation of confusing acronymns that make up the Lutheran Church Bodies in the United States, North America, and worldwide Lutheranism.
I confess that I was so engrossed in this book that I read it in one sitting. Does that make it a short story, or does that say something about how good this book is?
"An updated and expanded answer to the question: What are the differences among the Lutheran church bodies? In this new edition, John F. Brug describes what has been happening doctrinally in recent years in major Lutheran church bodies in the USA, as well as in the proliferating number of much smaller Lutheran groups around the world.

"This book is set up in four parts:

"Part One: WELS and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

"Part Two: WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

"Part Three: WELS and Other Lutheran Church Bodies in the USA

"Part Four: WELS and Lutherans in other lands

"Followed by an Appendix--Where Are the Lutherans?" (publisher's website). Sample pages are available online.

ELCA or LCMS readers of this book may be best prepared to read the chapter on their own church body's relationship to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod by getting a feel for how the author frames the relationship and issues separating the WELS from other Lutheran groups. Start with Part Three, Part Four, and the Appendix. Then, once the author has earned your trust, read Part One on the WELS and the LCMS or Part Two on the WELS and the ELCA.
LCMS and WELS have common cause in their joint, legitimate critique of the ELCA. With regard to the current LCMS administration's proposals on revising the structure and governance of Missouri, pastors and laypeople (and convention delegates) would benefit in the reading of this book. Issues that tore apart the Synodical Conference nearly half a century ago continue to separate synods that once cooperated in the production of The Lutheran Hymnal. We can better understand our future as Lutheran Christians only after we comprehend and appreciate our past. 
The book is well-documented, but not swimming in footnotes. The tone is truthful, yet reader-friendly. The author has done his research in print where possible, quoting and digesting both official and semi-official documents, and showing evidence of extensive research online.
No fewer than forty-nine Lutheran church bodies can be found in the US. This essential reference will give you something to say about how your brand of Lutheranism measures up to Luther, the Scriptures, and the other groups here in America.  
This is a compact and affordable treasure trove of information. And it is a challenge for Lutherans to return to the teaching of Martin Luther, the Scriptures, and ultimately Christ Himself.   
Thank you to NPH for these two great contributions to Lutheran theology, history, and practice. 
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.