Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pulpit Review: Christ!

Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Edited with Annotations by Benjamin T. G. Mayes. On the Person and Office of Christ (Theological Commonplaces: Exegesis IV). St. Louis: Concordia, 2009. 406 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. (P)

McGuckin, John Anthony, editor. Thomas C. Oden, series editor. We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Ancient Christian Doctrine 2). Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009. 191 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. (P)

Two new volumes on Jesus Christ were a natural pair to review and recommend together.

"The Theological Commonplaces series is an first-ever English translation of Johann Gerhard's monumental Loci Theologici. Gerhard was the premier Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century. Combining his profound understanding of evangelical Lutheran theology with a broad interest in ethics and culture, he produced significant works on biblical, doctrinal, pastoral, and devotional theology. Gerhard interacts with the writings of the church fathers, Luther and his contemporaries, and the Catholic and Calvinist theologians of his day. His 17-volume Loci is regarded as the standard compendium of Lutheran orthodoxy, with topics ranging from the proper understanding and interpretation of Scripture to eschatology.

"The central figure of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. In this volume, Gerhard addresses the etymology of Christ's name, the divine and human natures of Christ, the personal union and communication of the two natures, the communication of attributes, and the office (or work) of Christ.

"Useful for research on Lutheran doctrine, Gerhard's accessible style makes this a must-have on the bookshelf of pastors and professional church workers.

"Each embossed hardback volume includes
•the translation of Gerhard's Loci (originally published from 1610 to 1625)
•a glossary of key theological, rhetorical, and philosophical terms
•a name index
•a Scripture index
•a carefully researched works cited list that presents guidance for deciphering the numerous abbreviations of the other titles from which Gerhard quotes" (publisher's website).

As much as I've like the Gerhard volumes CPH has published to date, I eagerly anticipated this volume on Christ.

Each section follows a similar format: Thesis, Antithesis, Support from Scripture, Support from the Church Fathers, and ultimately, "Practical Use."

You will read of Christ's threefold office (318ff), find a clear and detailed discussion of the famous "three genera" of the "communication of properties" (180-317, called "attributes" in English Pieper), a massive section on the personal union (Chapter VII), and will rejoice at an extensive glossary (331), helpful Scripture Index (342), and an AMAZING list of Works Cited (354ff). The scholarship of Gerhard is matched by the able editor of this English edition.

If you have yet to invest in Gerhard, buy this volume first! I can't wait for the next one.

Our other featured work is volume two of the new IVP series, Ancient Christian Doctrine.

 "Who do you say that I am?"
"This question that Jesus asked of his disciples, so central to his mission, became equally central to the fledgling church. How would it respond to the Gnostics who answered by saying Jesus was less than fully human? How would it respond to the Arians who contended he was less than fully God? It was these challenges that ultimately provoked the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

"In this volume covering the first half of the article in the Nicene Creed on God the Son, John Anthony McGuckin shows how it countered these two errant poles by equally stressing Jesus' authentic humanity (that is, his fleshliness and real embodiment in space and time) and his spiritual glory or full divinity.

"One cottage industry among some historical theologians, he notes, has been to live in a fever of conspiracy theory where orthodox oppressors dealt heavy-handedly with poor heretics. Or the picture is painted of ancient grassroots inclusivists being suppressed by establishment elites. The reality was far from such romantic notions. It was in fact the reverse.

"The church who denounced these errors did so in the name of a greater inclusivity based on common sense and common education. The debate was conducted generations before Christian bishops could ever call on the assistance of secular power to enforce their views. Establishing the creeds was not a reactionary movement of censorship but rather one concerned with the deepest aspects of quality control.

"Ultimately, what was and is at stake is not fussy dogmatism but the central gospel message of God's stooping 'down in mercy to enter the life of his creatures and share their sorrows with them. He has lifted up the weak and the broken to himself, and he healed their pain by abolishing their alienation'. (publisher's website)

You may have missed volume one on the FirstArticle of the Nicene Creed. This is a great place to warm up to the ACD series.

Each section begins with the section of the Nicene Creed under consideration in the volume, reproduced in Greek, Latin, and English translation. The line in bold tells you the specific part under discussion. This is similar to the format of the predecessor Ancient Christian Commentary set. Those with ability in the ancient languages will benefit. The text is also quite accessible for those with only English. "True God from true God," (53) is shown to be an accurate translation of the Greek for true/truth. "Very God," familiar from some versions in English, copies the Latin "verum."

Page 68 introduces the famous Greek term invented by Christians to explain in shorthand a Biblical reality. Homoousioun = of one Being with the Father.

An "Outline of Contents" provides an unique three-page guide to the volume (182ff).

My only concern with this series thus far are the price of individual volumes. The set will be available at a discount. See IVP's website for individual volume discounts.

Christ is the message of the Christian church. These two books will equip pastors and laity alike to clearly and winsomely tell the Biblical Good News about Jesus!

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.