Saturday, February 6, 2016

Lutheran Book Review Quick Summaries for Early February 2016

Flint, Eric, Walter H. Hunt. 1636: The Cardinal Virtues (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2015. Kindle e-book. $9.99.  

Flint, Eric and Andrew Dennis. 1635: A Parcel of Rogues (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2015. 381 Pages. Kindle e-book. $9.99.  

Smith, Gordon T. Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation. Downers Grove: IVP Books/InterVarsity Press, 2015. 128 Pages. Paper. $16.00. (UN)

Macchia, Stephen A. Broken and Whole: A Leader's Path to Spiritual Transformation. Downers Grove: IVP Books/InterVarsity Press, 2015. 220 Pages. Paper. $16.00. (UN)

Quick Summaries are pithy paragraph-long reviews
of releases that cross our desk.
These are reviews for when you don't have all day 
to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.

The kindle is the ideal reading companion for post 9/11 airline travel. I had two new 1632-universe titles loaded for my trip this week that were quickly and enjoyably completed. Since we recently reviewed titles in this series (, we'll send you to our recent post for background and just pick up where we left off.

+ History has changed as a result of the Americans, their technology, and their ideas.  For the first time in a major 1632-universe novel, we turn to focus on France with 1636: The Cardinal Virtues. You know King Louis XIII and the infamous Cardinal Richelieu from our history. Trying to be spoiler-free, history is turning out quite differently. The cardinal is missing. Watch for a mention of Elvis. The major question asked by this novel is, "Who is the King of France?" We are given one answer in anticipation of another. I must admit that I had not been that interested in the French storyline that is a usually only a sidestory in so many 1632-series novels. I'm now fully interested and believe you will be, too. Students of the liturgy of the Church will rejoice in Holy Baptism being administered among other rites. Recommended.

+ To get back up-to-speed on what's going on in 1635: A Parcel of Rogues, consider re-reading 1632, 1633, and 1634: The Baltic War. The last title mentioned came out back in 2007. This plot line has waited a while to be resumed. Note that I didn't say "resolved." we're back to England. Watch for Scotsmen, especially the one married to an American sniper. Cromwell is on the run. Yes, THAT Cromwell. Entertaining adventures ensue. More is yet to happen with Cromwell, his family, and characters we first loved in 1632. Lutheran theology, particularly the Magdeburg Confession, had great influence on Scotland and Presbyterianism in our history. LCMS President and theologian Walther gets a mention in this novel because of the influence of his theology in this new timeline. Review "The Rudolstadt Colloquy" for the reference to his theses on The Proper Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Congregation Independent of the State, a document these characters are learning to know well. Recommended. 

We recently reestablished a relationship with IVP. The last two titles are our first from that respected publisher in some time. Our reviews will therefore be a little less brief.

/+ Vocation. Sometimes described as a Lutheran approach to sanctification, teaching on vocation is spreading. For that, I am thankful. Luther himself is very prolific on vocation. That said, Gordon Smith's approachably-sized volume, Consider Your Calling: Six Questions for Discerning Your Vocation, would be strengthened by a more clear focus on the basics of vocation from a paragraph that I will never take for granted from Luther's Small Catechism:
Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?
The author does speak about parents (49) as guides, community as guides, and the change in vocations that come through changes in time of life or circumstances (cf. 85ff). I would argue that the quote above would give more clarity to the book as a whole as well as providing a better context for the summary quote of page 14: "Vocation is not merely doing a good thing, but rather about doing the right thing." FWIW, Lutherans approach the Sabbath differently than the author (cf. 17ff). The section speaking of obedience (118ff), because of its law nature, should have been followed by the comforting Gospel section on Baptism (99ff). This is a necessary book that should find a wide audience. My favorite entry-level volume on the topic of vocation remains the one by my friend Gene Edward Veith.

/ I appreciate personal stories about personal spiritual journeys. The most valuable of those stories are valuable because of their truth value in comparison to the Scriptures and their universal applicability. Pastors and church leaders will see themselves at times as they read Stephen A. Macchia's Broken and Whole: A Leader's Path to Spiritual Transformation. After the table of contents demonstrated an obvious structure and focus on 1 Corinthians 13, and an adaptation of that text by the author (9), I needed to hear Luther's "'Simul iustus et peccator'--at the same time righteous and sinner" (11). More on page nine later. 

This book can help people. If they follow the plan of the love chapter of 1 Corinthians and practice confession and absolution, pastors and other leaders will benefit from a more humble, servant-like perspective on life and their vocations within the Church. That said, several parts gave me pause. First, I was uncomfortable with the reference to dreams (36). Perhaps this could be clarified in a Sola Scriptura way in a future edition. Second, the illustration leading the book's Chapter 12 would benefit from reflection on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in the context of 1 Corinthians 11. Third, I found it unpleasant, even tacky, to turn the Conclusion into an advertisement for another product (201).

Finally, author's paraphrase/adaptation of 1 Corinthians 13 (9) really struck me as odd. When asked to preach on this text for a wedding, I adapted the text in this Christ-centered, Gospel-focused way:
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on its own way, because He followed His Father's way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. He is truth. Jesus bears all things, including your sin and that of the whole world, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, even the cross and grave. Jesus never ends. He is the eternal Son of God begotten of His Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, who died and was raised for you and for your salvation. All because of God's love. God's love for you in Jesus never ends.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Why is love the greatest? That is a great question. Faith and hope are never just isolated concepts. Faith and hope must be connected to something concrete. Faith and hope are always "in" something, or rather Someone, a capital S Someone named Jesus. Faith and hope both trust in what is not seen. They look toward the future, as we do today. Love is greatest, because of faith and hope in Christ Jesus. His love and His Word endure forever and are the only things we have in this life that we will be able to take with us to heaven. Love is the greatest because of Jesus' love for you.
We look forward to more titles from Baen and InterVarsity Press. 

Longtime readers of Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit Quarterly Book Review, now known as Lutheran Book Review may appreciate that we have "caught up" on our backlist of titles received for review. For now at least, we will be able to read titles immediately upon receipt and post reviews very soon after!

Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Education Chairman and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. He is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.

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