Thursday, July 12, 2012

LHP Review: Giertz





Andrae, Eric R., Editor. A Hammer For God: Bo Giertz (Lectures from the Centennial Symposia and Selected Essays by the Bishop). Fort Wayne, IN: Lutheran Legacy, 2010. 342 Pages. Paper. $19.95. (Hardback also available.) (LHP)

Giertz, Bo. Translated by Bror Erickson. The Knights of Rhodes. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2010. 228 Pages. Paper. $27.00. (N)


Giertz, Bo. Christ's Church: Her Biblical Roots, Her Dramatic History, Her Saving Presence, Her Glorious Future. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2010. 186 Pages. Paper. $23.00. (LHP)

In honor of today's anniversary of the heavenly birthday of Bo Giertz, we at LHP QBR offer the following review of books by and/or about Bishop Giertz for your edification.

The first volume for your consideration is A Hammer for God: Bo Giertz, available from the Concordia Theological Seminary Bookstore at (260) 452-2160 or from the publisher's online store.


This "Giertz reader" is the most comprehensive volume ever published on Bo Giertz (1905-1998) in the world's language. The American Giertz revolution which began shortly before his centennial, continues with an increasing number of works by and about Giertz being made available in English. Indeed, had he written and worked primarily in English, and not in Swedish, the bishop would have long ago taken his rightful place alongside such 20th century luminaries as C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Through essays by such scholars as Robert Kolb, Gene Veith, Hans Andræ, Eric Andræ, Bror Erickson, Alex Klages, Charles Henrickson, Naomichi Masaki, and John Pless, as well as original translations from Giertz's work, this volume is the leading U.S. contribution in giving his life and theology the hearing it demands. This book is an indispensable aid to those who wish to dig deeper into his confession and understand the faith of the author of the acclaimed and beloved The Hammer of God, which this year and with this anthology celebrates the 50th anniversary of the novel's first English edition.

Bo Giertz (1905-1998) served as a rural parish pastor, occasional preacher to the royal court, bishop of the Gothenburg diocese in the Church of Sweden, Vice President of the Lutheran World Federation, and prolific Christian author on every subject imaginable. His books include The Hammer of God, Preaching from the Whole Bible, To Live with Christ, and Christ's Church.

Eric R. Andræ
, a native of Sweden, is the general editor of this volume, as well as the founder and president of the International Giertz Society (English Language Section). Having spent a semester as a research scholar at Uppsala University, he received his S.T.M. [Lic.] from Concordia Seminary-St. Louis in 2003 with his thesis on Giertz's use of the Order of Grace. He has translated many articles by Giertz and is now working on his Kyrkofromhet [Church Piety].


(Publisher's website)

The first book I read for a class other than Greek at the seminary was Giertz's Hammer of God. This volume deserves your attention because it introduces you to the life and other writings of an influential Lutheran Christian, pastor, theologian, Bishop, and author.

This "Giertz reader" includes essays about Giertz, his writings, and his theology, and also a sampling of assorted essays, mediations, sermons, et al, by Giertz himself. If you loved Hammer of God, you will appreciate the richness of A Hammer for God.

Our previous volume alerts our readers of the availability of Giertz's works in English translation. Among them is one of his four major theological works, Christ's Church.


"The Church, who is she?" asks Bo Giertz in this book, which, he adds, "is first of all for those who have some notion of the life which is present within the church walls and also have some desire to understand that life better and know more about it." If you're among the tens of thousands who've read Giertz's bestselling novel The Hammer of God about ordinary people in their relation to the Church and her message, then you know his ability to engage you in the dramatic events of everyday life. Giertz shows the same engaging ability, when he in Christ's Church takes you on a walk from her biblical roots toward her glorious future.

(Publisher's website)

Pastoral, readable, and informative, Christ's Church is a comprehensive treatment of historical, doctrinal, practical, and exegetical theology. I could imagine it being a blessing to seminarians and at Winkel, a worthy work that should be read by laypeople as well.

Giertz confesses what the Scripture itself says about the Church, directing the Christian reader to his own Lutheran home congregation, to the Word of God, and to the Sacraments of Christ. 

The Knights of Rhodes is a novel for our time. 

Like the other books reviewed above, it also is well worth your time, money, and shelfspace!

1521 has arrived. A new year in a new world with new nations, new continents, new knowledge, and new rulers. Never before had so much power been gathered in such young hands. The tenth Sultan, the twenty-six-year-old Suleiman, ascends to his father's throne in one of the world's most powerful empires. The rest of the world hopes that the eastern threat has faded. Rhodes is Christendom's closest and most defiant outpost against the East. There the Knights of St. John's Grand Master has died. Strife and treachery await his successor. Some hundred knights have the task to defend the outpost. Their Grand Master's motto is "Victory or Death." 

(Publisher's website)

Giertz provides the reader a very different work than the now-familiar Hammer of God. Where his more famous novel is a masterclass on the proper distinction between law and Gospel, Rhodes is a literary classic on the theology of the cross. It has a far better story, theology, and Christian worldview than the comparable movie, Kingdom of Heaven.

Unlike the aforementioned epic film, readers will note frequent references to Holy Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. Characters in the novel, all historical persons, go to Mass, Vespers, and Compline. One will note a liturgical worldview with regular mention of liturgical dates and festivals, quotations of Scripture, and a canticle (the Te Deum) used as a comparative reference point. 

Historically accurate, the novel does mention the false teachings (from a Lutheran perspective) of relics, the sacrifice of the Mass, and the idolatry of praying to saints and angels, yet does so in an edifying and thought-provoking way (e.g., 205):

That evening Brother Giovanni went on the evening rounds. He talked about the great festival in the church and about the Grand Master's votive promise. André asked unsuspectingly:
"But why don't we go directly to Christ?"
The priest looked at him with wide eyes. But there was no heretical criticism in the nineteen year old's look, only a childlike wonder and a confident trust in the Lord Christ. Brother Giovanni nodded indiscernibly and said almost with a sigh.
"We might should have done that."

Over the course of this historical novel, readers will confront the realities of war with the Muslim Turks, consider the consequence of living under Christ-less Islam, overhear interfaith theological conversations (though not as in-depth as the sermons in the three novellas of Hammer of God), and encounter the grace of Christ (163ff, et al) in Word and Sacrament. 

To continue the comparison with the movie noted earlier, Balian (Kingdom of Heaven) didn't need a crusade. He needed a pastor who would preach Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sin and administer Christ to him in the Sacraments.


Giertz scholars wrestle with his ecumenism and continue to study how he argued against the ordination of women to the pastoral office (even after it was a sad reality in Sweden). 

The fullness of his theological legacy is yet to come to fruition in English translation.

We wish to remind our readers of our previous review of a Giertz resource for the Historic One-Year Lectionary ( and of the availability of daily devotions by Giertz from Concordia Publishing House.

I pray for more translations of Bo Giertz in English. I hope you will join me in encouraging Giertz scholars, translators, and the members and leaders of the International Giertz Society (English Language Section) in this regard.

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

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