Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LHP Review: Modern Lutheran Essental Reading




Sasse, Hermann. Edited by Matthew C. Harrison. Foreword by Ronald R. Feuerhahn. Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Volume 1, 1948-1951. St. Louis: Concordia, 2012. 480 Pages. Cloth. $32.99.   https://www.cph.org/p-21568-letters-to-lutheran-pastors-volume-1.aspx (LHP)


Bennett, Robert H. I Am Not Afraid: Demon Possession and Spiritual Warfare: True Accounts from the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. St. Louis: Concordia, 2013. 216 Pages. Paper. $24.99. https://www.cph.org/p-22685-i-am-not-afraid-demon-possession-and-spiritual-warfare.aspx (LHP)

Preus, Klemet I. What  They Need to Hear: Sharing Christ with Family and Friends. St. Louis: Concordia, 2013. 204 Pages. Paper. $15.99. https://www.cph.org/p-22275-what-they-need-to-hear.aspx (P)

Bayer, Oswald. Translated by Thomas H. Trapp. Martin Luther's Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. 374 Pages. Paper. $32.00. www.eerdmans.com (LHP


Based on what I've seen online and in the unofficial Lutheran press, this review (and others like it in the near future) might not get positive reviews.


I have this strange idea that one can learn from the mistakes of others.

It is possible to learn something from someone with whom you don't fully agree.
It is also possible for many to avoid thinking and doing theology by avoiding difficult subjects.

Because of seeming differences of opinion on those topics, I have seen others therefore disregard the works of C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Hermann Sasse, and Berthold von Schenk out of hand.

Their loss, I suppose. I pray you would be edified, challenged, and comforted by the following titles.

In this remarkable collection of letters . . .  we meet . . . a historian with a breadth of learning, a theologian of thorough biblical knowledge, a churchman of wisdom, and a pastor of caring words.—from the Foreword by Ronald R. Feuerhahn

Hermann Sasse begins nearly thirty years of correspondence with Lutheran pastors in Australia, the United States, and around the world on topics as varied as the nature of the Sacraments or of the Church, as well as ecumenical issues. Each letter reflects Sasse's passionate commitment to the building up of the Church of Christ on earth and to the Lutheran Confessions.


Hermann Sasse (1895–1976) was trained at the University of Berlin under such well-known theologians as Harnack and Deissmann. During a study year in the United States, Sasse discovered the writings of Wilhelm Löhe and returned to Europe a convinced confessional Lutheran. In this faith he persisted, despite great difficulties, as a professor of theology at the University of Erlangen and at Immanuel Seminary (later renamed Luther Seminary), North Adelaide, Australia.

(Publisher's Website)

Some pit Sasse against noted Lutheran theologians. Why must we persist in false dichotomies?

I have been richly blessed by my reading of him thanks to Dr. Nagel, Dr. Feuerhahn, Dr. Pless, Dr. Kloha, Rev. Paul McCain and the late Rev. Dr. Barry, and Rev. Dr. Harrison, current President of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.

Yes, we in the LCMS should (and did) rightly take issue with Dr. Sasse's writings on Holy Scripture (239ff, et al). He publicly retracted Letter 14. Harrison's notes are important (243, 245, 246) to refute faulty claims, inaccuracy, and other error. Should we not learn from the mistakes of others to avoid them ourselves? Can we not more fully rejoice in the Australian Theses of Agreement (288ff) knowing the history that led to them?

Sasse's detractors seem to have little appreciation for his journey out of a state church under the thumb of Nazism (and later false ecumenism) to a more faithful independent church and then to an opportunity to create a united Lutheran church in Australia. We are not the first generation to be challenged by Sasse. They had the opportunity to theologically interact with him for the good of all!

We benefit from the continued reading of Sasse. Unlike Bonhoeffer, Sasse was a Lutheran by confession, not a Union pastor. Sasse took a stronger Lutheran position at Barmen. Sasse was not arrested and executed as Bonhoeffer was. His longer life gave him more time to theologically relect on the then-current state of Lutheranism and the dangers it still faces today. Sasse writes as a pastor to pastors. He is a sinner and a saint. He is a theologian that deserves your time in studying. 

I eagerly await Volume 2!

Dr. Pless wrote the foreword to our next title, Dr. Robert H. Bennett's book on exorcism in Madagascar.


FREE study guide


While Africa and Madagascar seem like strange and faraway places, the world in which we now live has become much smaller than many of us could ever have imagined. Moreover, even our neighbors visit the local fortuneteller, read the horoscope page in the newspaper, and attend séances that seek to reach departed friends, lovers, and family members. Consequently, as we begin a journey into faraway places, we may soon find they are not as far away as we may have expected.
— from Chapter 3

I Am Not Afraid is Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett's fascinating first-hand account of the spiritual warfare found within the Lutheran Church of Madagascar. Is spiritual warfare something new to the Church? Bennett reviews what the Bible, Church Fathers, and contemporary Lutheran leaders have to say.

Part One includes recent conversations dealing with spiritual warfare, an introduction into the Malagasy Lutheran Church, and the traditional Malagasy worldview. These are the stories of those who have been rescued from the darkness of sin and brought into the light of the Gospel.

Part Two looks to the Bible and the Church for explanation and historical perspective on the spiritual warfare found in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Is it something only found in the time of Jesus and the apostles? What has the Church said in the past about such activities? Bennett explores the views of Martin Luther and other Lutheran leaders, and finally provides some helpful contemporary material and resources for dealing with spiritual warfare in today's context.

Includes a glossary of key terms, transcripts of personal interviews, bibliography, Scripture index, and subject index.

About the Author

Rev. Dr. Robert Bennett is dedicated to studying Malagasy culture and the evangelism methods employed by the Malagasy Lutheran Church. He is Administrative Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Reese, Michigan, and Adjunct Professor of Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
(Publisher's Website)

Since the publication of this Peer-reviewed CPH title, it has been announced that the church body featured in this book seeks fellowship with the LCMS. That is a good thing. The Malagasy Lutheran Church has many cultural and religious challenges. Still, the Church is growing on this island. The old evil foe isn't going down without a fight. Evangelists and Pastors there use a simple Luther-like exorcism on the order of: "Depart, unclean spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit." "In the Name of Jesus, leave!"

How is it then that a pastor there can say this: "Yes, there are Christians who are really possessed and oppressed by demons" (22)? Read on: 

However, when I say Christians, I am speaking about those who do not live the faith they claim to possess. These are usually those who are Christian by only birth, or name. They belong to the Christian culture, but not the Faith.

Syncretism and ancestor worship don't help Christians weak in faith or those we might consider "Christmas and Easter" Christians. 

This review has assumed, like the Scriptures, that hell and demons are real and that possession and an eternity in hell are both possible. If you want sensationalism and a theology of glory, look elsewhere. If you are seeking an authentic book on spiritual warfare, demon possession, and exorcism, I Am Not Afraid is for you. It is a very evangelistic book. My Bible Class participants have been fascinated and comforted in Christ when I have retold them accounts from this book. Don't neglect the free study guide. And fear not to read this book even just before bedtime.

Also on the theme of spreading the Reign of God in Christ, consider this new title from Klemet Preus.


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250 or more = 40% discount


Most everyone knows a family member or friend that is not a Christian.  How to reach out to these loved ones and share Christ can be a struggle. Many people don't know how to share their faith and are unsure if they are saying the right words.

In What They Need to Hear author Klemet I Preus shares the ninety letters he wrote to his dying father-in-law, Lloyd, who was not a Christian.  Thankfully the Lord worked through these letters and Lloyd became a Christian before his death. The short devotional in nature letters in this book can be used as a template for you to follow with your own Lloyd – that person in your life who is questioning God and the Church. Includes a topical index.

What They Need to Hear also includes:

  • two inspirational postcards to send out to people in your life that need to hear God's word

I know that I will see Lloyd again someday.  When Christ comes in His glory, we will both bow before this throne. We will both eat with joy the fruit from the tree of life, which is our Lord.
Excerpt from What They Need to Hear
Klement I. Preus (Publisher's Website)

This book could have been called Letters to Lloyd. We all know a Lloyd, a non-Christian, or perhaps someone who is mad at the church or sad at the church. Pastor Preus took the time to write ninety letters to his father-in-law covering the major doctrines of the Christian faith, answers to common objections to the faith once delivered to the saints, and demonstrating the love of Christ (and a son-in-law) over the course of two years.

What they Need to Hear is Christ. Better than a "how to" manual, Pastor Preus demonstrates the personal long-term kind of pastoral care many are unaware of. When a pastor does an evangelism visit, a hospital call, or takes the Lord's Gifts to a shut-in, what does he say and why? I saw the depth of the author's love of the Lord Jesus, love for people, and knowledge of the faith woven together in an unique book. Learn from Pastor Preus to share the love of Christ. 

I pray CPH would invite Pastor Preus to submit another manuscipt soon!

I was taught that theology was practical. I was taught that theology was for proclamation. Here is an Eerdman's title I had longed to read and review!


Forty years of in-depth research on Martin Luther's theology uniquely qualifies Oswald Bayer to present this comprehensive introduction to Luther's thought, written for those lacking an academic background in theology.

Bayer's noteworthy study explores the basics of Luther's understanding of theology, discussing his response to the "philosophy of science" tradition, the formula by which he studied theology, and the basic philosophy that informed him. Bayer then takes Luther's stance on Christian dogmatics and ethics and applies it to our own theological understanding in the modern age. With such a complete Lutheran dogmatic concept -- the first of its kind offered -- the stunning inner consistency of Luther's theology and its ease of application to contemporary studies become unmistakably clear.

(Publisher's Website)

First published in German in 2003 (and translated into English from the 2007 Third edition), Oswald Bayer's presentation of Martin Luther's Theology seems to be the source (or at least an encouragement of) a modern re-emphasis of Luther's Two Kinds of Righteousness (xii, 47-53, et al) in some LCMS circles. 

Bayer then proceeds into an extended discussion of Law and Gospel and Scripture before cover twelve other significant themes in Luther.

Bayer re-presents Luther's theological themes in a very systematic way, giving us a contemporary dogmatics of Luther, if you will. I am pleased that an English translation appeared so soon after the publication of the monumental work in German!

Martin Luther's Theology deserves a place among Pieper and the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series at our seminaries and would be a very appropriate book for a doctrinal Winkel Conference study. 

I was personally encouraged by this title to read more Luther. In fact, I had even given thought as to how a congregational Bible Class might do a group study of The Bondage of the Will.

All four titles in this review come highlly recommended!


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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