Critical reviews (by Lutheran pastors and church musicians) of books and other resources for Christian worship, preaching, and church music from a perspective rooted in Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and good common sense. LHP Quarterly Book Review asks, "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?"
Feed: Concordia Academic Posted on: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:57 AM Author: steinersj Subject: Multi-volume translation project comes to completion
Now available in English for the first time!
The German edition of Albrecht Peters' Commentary on Luther's Catechisms has long been the gold standard of research on the catechetical texts of the great reformer. Now English-speaking researchers and catechists can read the fifth and final volume of the series, Confession and Christian Life. This volume, translated by Dr. Thomas H. Trapp, explores Martin Luther's catechetical writings on Confession and Absolution, Household Responsibilities, Marriage, and Baptism, as well as his Household Prayers, within a biblical, historical, and systematic context.
CPH would like to extend a special note of thanks to Dr. Trapp as well as to the other two translators who worked on these volumes, Dr. Holger Sonntag and Dr. Daniel Thies, for their excellent work on the series.
Dr. Trapp answered the following questions so that readers can find out more about the series and this last volume in particular:
In what ways is Peters' commentary on Luther's catechism useful to researchers, pastors, and all Christians? Peters' five-volume commentary stands alone today in terms of its breadth and depth. Each volume starts with a history of the development and use of the topic in Church history. So, for example, Peters looks at the history of the development of the Creed and each of the parts. He notes what is particularly accented in terms of its teaching. He develops a thesis about how each part was interpreted at the time of Luther. Luther's unique contribution in this regard is that he accentuates the pro me, the pro nobis, that Jesus died for me personally, for us. Peters shows how alternate viewpoints skew the understanding of the Gospel and salvation, leading away from the complete peace that is ours in Christ. It was not enough to be "just" a member of the Church at large. Salvation was personal for Luther.
Someone might think, "Luther's catechism is pretty simple. How much more can really be said about it?" Now that you have translated several volumes of Peters' great commentary, how would you respond? Luther remarked that he himself could never comprehend everything taught in the catechism. I have been captivated by how much is there and how my own understanding and perception has grown. The reasoning provided in the commentaries provides a backdrop for Luther's insights. I personally recommend these volumes for pastors and teachers who want deeper background for teaching young people, but also to enrich the teaching of adults, whether in instruction classes or for ongoing growth in the faith. It may be that such an observer is unaware of how the "simple" is a distillation of revelation that may be anything but simple. Luther has been accused of being simplistic, maybe even advocating a tritheism (Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier). Peters addresses the issue by pointing out that the catechism was fashioned as a starting point for teaching the faith. He notes that in his other sermons and writings, Luther fleshes out the complexities of the relationships among the persons of the Trinity and what that means for salvation.
Volume 5 of Peters' commentary deals with several different topics. What are the strengths of this volume?
The original edition of Luther's Small Catechism did not deal with confession and absolution under a separate heading. The List of Household Responsibilities was also a later addendum. Luther's prayers for the beginning and end of the day and for mealtime are provided. All confirmands are used to seeing these elements. But it is a surprise to many to find liturgical pieces for marriage and baptism included in the Book of Concord. These do not appear in our "Small Catechism."
I was intrigued throughout. I was struck by the emphasis on absolution in "Confession and Absolution." Christians are deeply puzzled about what to confess and how, even though Luther limits confession before a pastor to those sins that trouble the believer. A greater emphasis on absolution and the declaration of grace in public and private confession and absolution leads away from wondering "if we are confessing correctly." It is obviously important to consider sin in all its seriousness. But to worry about whether we have confessed "enough" leads away from the comfort of the Gospel. Sins confessed before the pastor will deal with issues from the Second Table of the Law, as can be seen in how Luther constructs the List of Household Responsibilities. The Little Baptismal Booklet was composed earlier, coming from two editions of that liturgical piece (1523, 1526), as Luther distanced himself from medieval practices that obscured the focus on the gracious action of God. The Little Marriage Booklet delves into the aspects of marriage that involve both the world and the church. Discussion of various medieval views of marriage and Luther's own marriage are delightful additions to the study of the liturgical elements, though it took much research for me to discover the terminology for different concepts of marriage for "love" or for "money."
Does this volume challenge contemporary views on these topics?
It is most important that the issue of absolution, as a means of grace, is accentuated as central throughout. In each of the topics discussed, peace with God that results in peace with the brother links the two together. For those who would see worship as time for praise and fellowship, this grounds both in the gracious action of the triune God to reconcile us to Himself, which leads to a relationship with others that is based on grace and not just on common interests. The Church provides the place where the Christian faith can be lived out in the specifically Christian life. It will certainly challenge anyone who believes that absolution comes as a result of acts on the part of the believer to satisfy God's expectations. I found myself less "challenged" and more "deepened" in my appreciation of what is discussed by our Lord in the Book of John already in His first interaction with the disciples on the evening of the first Easter. Of course, for those who seek to relate to God apart from Christ, the entire topic will seem foreign. For Christians who seek peace with God and the neighbor, the sense of release from sin and guidance in the new life comes front and center.
Feed: Concordia Academic Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2013 12:12 PM Author: mayesbtg Subject: Tools in Luther's Homiletical Toolbox
Luther's Works, vol. 75 (Church Postil I)
The first volume of Luther's Church Postil (LW 75, sermons for the church year) is out, and I hope you've been enjoying it. Recently, I've had the pleasure of reviewing the next volume of the Church Postil, and as I did so, I became very aware of Luther's preaching style. Luther's preaching was popular at his time, but why? I think readers of these sermons and all preachers can benefit by understanding the basic structure of how Luther preaches.
Summary of the text. Luther begins with a brief summary of the text, never with a story, analogy, or statistic. He goes straight to the Bible text and summarizes it in a sentence or two before moving to a more in-depth study.
Luther either explains the text verse by verse or section by section. It appears that he has considered the rhetorical outline of the pericope, because Luther often gives an enumeration of parts of the text. After citing the Bible verse or section, Luther explains the following:
What this passage says and means. Luther explains what the important words mean or restates the passage in his own words. This is usually quite short.
Application to himself and his hearers in faith and love. Here Luther directly applies the text to his people at his time. If the Bible text is Law, he explains what the people are to do or avoid, in plain words. If the Bible text is Gospel, he explains the forgiveness and mercy of God in Christ, again in plain words. The important point is that this is not just something that happened back in Bible times; it applies to the hearers right now. This means that Luther is deriving the doctrine from the text and setting it forth for the people to believe, or he is deriving the moral teaching from the text and setting it forth for the people to do.
The next few points are not always present for each Bible verse or section. Luther uses them like tools to communicate the verse or section under consideration.
Illustrations. Luther gives illustrations of the moral teaching or the doctrine being discussed in the Bible passage. These illustrations are often biblical.
Antithesis. The rhetorical device of antithesis is the practice of setting forth the opposite, so that what God's Word teaches is understood by the contrast. For Luther, antithesis takes the form of negative illustrations of sin and false doctrine. Luther can be quite vehement here. His goal is to show how shameful sin and false doctrine are and to make the people loathe sin and false doctrine. This is where Luther often attacks the monks, pope, fanatics, popular false beliefs, vices, and superstitions.
Apparent contradictions. Sometimes Scripture seems to contradict itself. In such cases, Luther spends some time resolving the apparent conflict and explaining the possible ways in which the text should be understood so that one part of Scripture is not read in a way that conflicts with other parts of Scripture. This helps his hearers to understand Scripture in its canonical context and to let Scripture interpret Scripture.
Allegories. As the final part of the sermon in the Church Postil, Luther often adds the "hidden meaning" or allegories. Allegories are used only with histories, and Luther does not use them to prove doctrine, but rather to illustrate what he has already taught from the literal sense of Scripture. He usually applies these allegories to the conflict of Satan against Christ, of human teachings against the preaching of the Gospel, or of salvation by works against salvation by faith. These allegories seem sometimes to be influenced by traditional, patristic readings of the text (such as the interpretation of the gifts of the Magi in the Epiphany Gospel). But at other times they could be Luther's own inventions and can be just as fanciful as any allegory one reads in the early church fathers. That said, Luther's allegories always are in harmony with the broader message of Scripture (the "analogy of faith"), and so his allegories are effective in illustrating doctrines that are found clearly stated in the literal sense of Scripture.
Admonition. As an appendix, many of Luther's sermons outside of the Church Postil also include an admonition. The admonition was essentially moral teaching, ethical encouragement, or even rebuke of sin, given as the last word of the sermon. This admonition often was related to the text for the sermon, though sometimes it was unrelated. It was a point that Luther felt had to be addressed for the common good of the parish and community and could not be put off until a later time. Modern Lutherans, having learned from C. F. W. Walther to end their sermons with a word of Gospel and grace, will likely find this disturbing. Luther did not hesitate to leave his hearers with the Law—as moral teaching, encouragement, or rebuke. Rather than focusing on ending each sermon with Gospel, Luther was more interested in following the shape of the text at hand. If the text was mostly Law, Luther preached mostly Law. If the text was mostly Gospel, Luther preached mostly Gospel. And Luther also had no problem with concluding a sermon by telling people what God wanted them to do. In Luther's mind, at least, this did not entail a confusion of Law and Gospel. Rather than dismissing Luther as one who was unable to preach the Law-Gospel distinction that he taught elsewhere, we would do well to see why Luther preached this way and consider whether we have not misunderstood what the distinction of Law and Gospel is all about.
A final thought about Luther's preaching: The reformer studied and prepared for his preaching, but he did not preach from a manuscript. Instead, he usually preached from a brief outline or notes. Stenographers recorded his sermons, and then sometimes these shorthand, Latin-German notes were filled out and put into print. For an excellent example of how Luther's preaching went from an outline to stenographer's notes to print, see LW 69:373–401.
Become a subscriber to Luther's Works and save! The new volumes of Luther's Works American Edition are currently priced at $49.99 each, but as a subscriber you pay only $34.99, a 30% savings. To become a subscriber or for additional information, go to cph.org/luthersworks .
Feed: Cyberbrethren Lutheran Blog Feed Posted on: Monday, July 29, 2013 8:36 AM Author: Paul T. McCain Subject: Concordia Commentary Update: What's Next?
I thought you would appreciate an update on the status of the Concordia Commentary series. As it turns out, the Concordia Commentary series is, at this point, the largest ongoing commentary being published in the Protestant community, and has earned high regard and respect from scholars from across all Christian denominations and students of Biblical literature (Christian or not). We have been publishing two volumes a year, for well over ten years now.
We have quite a line up. We also make all these commentaries available via the LOGOS software platform. I'm able to take an advanced look at the materials as it comes in and … thanks be to God! What a blessing these commentaries will be to the Church.
Please remember that the best possible prices for the print volumes is available via subscription. I urge any laypersons reading this to make it possible for your pastor to receive these volumes. They will be of enormous benefit to him for his preaching and his teaching of God's Word. Read more about the Concordia Commentary subscription program, by clicking this link. To view all volumes presently available, click this link.
Here is what's coming next. I have no further details to share at this time beyond what I'm posting here.
Feed: Pastoral Meanderings Posted on: Friday, July 12, 2013 5:00 AM Author:firstname.lastname@example.org (Pastor Peters) Subject: Classical education. . .
Check it out!
A visit with a shut in ended up talking about education (the person had been involved in education for most of the adult life). It ended up with a lament that too much emphasis is placed on vocational education -- simple training to do a job. Now this person understands the fact that education, especially secondary, has become expensive and often peripheral to job openings and employment possibilities, but this person also insists that a liberal arts education (could we call it "classical" education) should not be allowed to disappear.
The person spent a life in literature and sadly reflected upon the fact that you can hardly find a book in his kids homes -- even though they are well educated and economically successful. They do not read -- not paper or digital. The shut in found this tragic for the adult children and the grandchildren (some of whom graduated from ivy league schools). They seem oblivious to the great body of literature which has become the hallmark of learning (at least in the past).
I related a conversation about the movie "Gatsby" in which a twenty something young woman suggested that the movie was so great she wished that it had come out in book form. Duhhhhhh. As a child growing up in pre-politically correct times, even the cartoons were replete with references to great literature, opera, music, and history (cannot forget Bugs Bunny massaging Elmer Fudd's scalp while Rossini's Barber of Seville played in the background). Today it is much more likely that children's videos and programming has little to draw them into the tremendous body of classical literature and music, much less history!
That led me to a new book by Cheryl Swope called A Beautiful Education for Any Child. According to one reviewer: Classical education is best-known for its powerful academic chops, for its cultural richness, and for its compatibility with the Christian view of the world. You can Google her and the book or buy it here on Amazon. It is a wonderful book -- accessible for the general public, born from a home schooling experience, and addressing the whole way we view education at large.
Cheryl Swope ostensibly writes about special education, but she also makes one of the clearest and most compelling cases for classical education in print. The first argument of the book is that academically-challenged students are human beings too, and they deserve an education commensurate with that fact. While current special education doctrine favors compromising on content, Cheryl proposes only to moderate its measure. If a child cannot accommodate the amount or depth of knowledge of most children, it is not less, but more important that what they learn be of the highest quality. She implicitly understands St. Thomas Aquinas' principle that the slightest knowledge of the greatest things is greater than the greatest knowledge of the slightest things. Her second argument is that it has been done and can be done. How many people know that Helen Keller had a classical education? And if a person who was blind and deaf could achieve what she achieved, how much more can a student do who faces less severe challenges? Cheryl shows how, in an important sense, classical education can open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.
Feed: HYMNOGLYPT Posted on: Wednesday, July 03, 2013 1:54 PM Author: Matt Carver (Matthaeus Glyptes) Subject: Ach Gott! wie herzlich liebst du doch
Here is my translation of a hymn on the Preaching Office "Ach Gott, wie herzlich liebst du doch" (G. Österreicher, ca. 1700). More properly, it is a hymn on what hearers owe their pastor, as Luther puts it. Appointed tune, variously "Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein," "Allein, Gott in der Höh sei Ehr," or "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her." It is included, among other places, in Lehre und Wehre vol. 55, p. 491, by the Commission for the revision of the German hymnal, as a proposal for the expansion. Italics indicate major interpolations not in the original text.
O GOD, what love Thou showest us Thy poor, on earth abiding, From heaven high to open thus Thy will for our confiding! The Preaching Office Thou hast sent To speak Thy Word, that we repent, And trust in Christ our Savior.
2. We pray Thee, God, our Refuge high, Unfailingly and surely Thy faithful servants to supply, To teach Thy Scripture purely! Give us Thy Spirit's pow'r devout, To hearken well and have no doubt And live thereby as holy.
3. Help us to honor and to love Thy faithful preachers truly, And heed their teaching good, and prove In life Thy doctrine daily. Since they Thy high command dispose And o'er our soul keep watch as those That must account give for it.
4. Lord, grant therefore that we may share With them all good and blessing, That they with joy their work may bear, And not with groans distressing, For that would be to us no gain, As we are taught in Scripture plain; Oh, keep us from all error!
1. Ach Gott! wie herzlich liebst du doch uns arme Leut auf Erden! Daß du uns von dem Himmel hoch dein Willen kund läßt werden durchs Predigamt in deinem Wort, welchs jetzund schallt an unserm Ort, daß wir Buß tun und glauben.
2. Wir bitten dich, o höchster Hort! du wollst allzeit bescheren getreue Diener, die dein Wort rein, unverfälscht uns lehren; gieb uns deins Geistes Kraft und Macht, daß wir es hören mit Andacht, und heilig darnach leben.
3. Hilf, daß wir treue Prediger von Herzen ehrn und lieben, und folgen ihrer guten Lehr, darin uns täglich üben, weil sie verrichten dein Befehl, und wachen über unsre Seel auch Rechnschaft dafür geben.
4. Herr, gib Du, daß wir ihnen nun erzeigen Guts und Ehre, daß sie ihr Amt mit Freuden tun, und nicht mit Seufzen schwere, dann solches ist uns ja nicht gut, wie uns dein Wort selbst lehren tut; davor wollst uns behüten.
Chute, Anthony L., Christopher W. Morgan, and Robert A. Peterson, Editors. Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 251 Pages. Paper. $18.99. www.crossway.org (LHP)