Friday, October 21, 2016

Lutheran Book Review: Books of Substance and Significance



Luther, Martin. Edited by Timothy J. Wengert. The Annotated Luther, Volume 1: The Roots of Reform. Fortress: Minneapolis, 2015. 592 Pages. eARC. $39.00.

Luther, Martin. Edited by Kirsi I. Stjerna. The Annotated Luther, Volume 2: Word and Faith. Fortress: Minneapolis, 2015. 528 Pages. eARC. $39.00.

Birkholz, Mark W., Jacob Corzine, and Jonathan Mumme, Editors. Foreword by Jonathan Fisk. Feasting in a Famine of the Word: Lutheran Preaching in the Twenty-First Century. Eugene: Wipf and Stock/Pickwick, 2016. 299 Pages. Paper. $36.00.

Masius, H. G. Translated and annotated by John Warwick Montgomery. A Defense of the Lutheran Faith: On the Eve of Modern Times. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2016. 214 Pages. Paper. (digital review copy received.) $18.99. (LBR)

Kieker, James G. Martin Luther and the Long Reformation: Response and Reform in the Church. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2016. 214 Pages. Paper. (digital review copy received.) $18.99. (LBR)

Sutton, A. Trevor. Being Lutheran. St. Louis: Concordia, 2016. 291 Pages. Paper. (Kindle also available. pdf review copy received.) $14.99. (LBR)
Issues, Etc. Book of the Month for May, 2016 Interview:

Wolfmueller, C. Bryan. Has American Christianity Failed? St. Louis: Concordia, 2016. 250 Pages. Kindle review copy received. $9.99. Paperback available.

For the purposes of this review, we received pdf or kindle digital copies of all of these titles with one exception, the title on preaching.

For some titles, that did not affect ease of readability for the purposes of review. For other titles, it did.

Honestly, I cannot afford to buy physical copies of review books that I receive as digital-only-review-copies for the purposes of properly reviewing them. Sometimes, a physical review copy is still the best thing a publisher can send to a reviewer for good publicity.

We begin with two volumes in a set of new annotated editions of the writings of Martin Luther:


The Annotated Luther series


Fortress Press is excited to announce The Annotated Luther series, featuring seventy-five of Luther's most essential writings in six volumes. Some new translations will be included along with updated translations based on Luther's Works, American Edition. Each Luther selection will be accompanied by the following:

  • A new updated introduction
  • Annotations designed to provide key contextual background for people, events, and theological issues and controversies; interpretive notes; and Scripture references to which Luther alludes but which he does not include in the text
  • Translation notes and references to sources cited

In each volume the written annotations will be supplemented and enhanced by the use of maps, illustrations, timelines, art, and photos. The pages are designed for maximal visual interest and to help the reader navigate the content easily. The volumes in the series will feature the collaborative work of over forty scholars of Luther, the Reformation, and other related disciplines, all under the direction of a team of leading scholars. These volumes will be an essential reference tool for students at all levels, as well as an engaging and accessible resource for pastors and interested lay readers who want to explore and teach Luther and his writings with greater depth and clarity.

(Publisher's website)

Reading these volumes in kindle format made looking at the references, annotations, and indices much more challenging, largely defeating the purpose of a specific annotated edition. That was disappointing, but not entirely impossible. Over half of each volume is made up of reference material to the texts drawn from the previously-mentioned American Edition of Luther's Works. Translations were noticeably updated, but not to the same extent that the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works translations differed from the the ones English-language readers initially read.

Volume 1: The Roots of Reform

Timothy J. Wengert, General Editor and Volume Editor

Volume 1 of The Annotated Luther series contains writings that defined the roots of reform set in motion by Martin Luther, beginning with the Ninety-Five Theses (1517) through The Freedom of a Christian (1520). Included are treatises, letters, and sermons written from 1517 to 1520, which set the framework for key themes in all of Luther's later works. Also included are documents that reveal Luther's earliest confrontations with Rome and his defense of views and perspectives that led to his excommunication by Leo X in 1520.

These documents display a Luther grounded in late medieval theology and its peculiar issues, trained in the latest humanist methods of the Renaissance, and, most especially, showing sensitivity toward the pastoral consequences of theological positions and church practice.

(Publisher's website)

I did not find individual introductions to these Luther writings to be universally helpful. I really appreciated the illustrations throughout and the end indicies, particularly the Index of Names. That index alone is an improvement missing from some volumes of Luther's Works.

Preferred to the version of The Freedom of a Christian is the Christian Freedom hardcover published in recent years by Concordia.

Advocates of 2KR should review Luther's clear sermon on the topic here.

Volume 2: Word and Faith

Kirsi I. Stjerna, General Editor and Volume Editor

Volume 2 of The Annotated Luther series contains a number of the writings categorized under the theme Word and Faith. Luther was particularly focused on what the word "does" in order to create and sustain faith. Writings in the volume range from the large core documents Bondage of the Will, Against the Heavenly Prophets, The Smalcald Articles, and Large Catechism to Luther's own Confession of Faith and treatments of Moses, the Gospels, and Two Kinds of Righteousness.

In the treatises in this volume, we hear Luther's understanding of Scripture and theology as he continues his growth as teaching theologian, pastor, biblical exegete, and apologist for the faith.

(Publisher's website)

For an LCMS Lutheran, I find this annotated edition of the Large Catechism to be problematic.  Why? Simply put, the annotator could have confessed salvation in Christ alone while annotating what I know as "paragraph 66" and clearly avoid universalism (Note 190; cf: The strength or weakness of these volumes is dependent on the confession and contribution of each individual volume and writing editor. Note 7 on catechetical preaching on Ember Days was helpful and insightful, as was note 32 on the Divine Office. Notes 11 and 12 on Luther and Zwingli's interaction on the Lord's Supper could be clearer. (My numbering is based on the kindle review copy version.)

We did request digital review copies of volumes 3 and 4, but have yet to hear any answer. I'm not optimistic.

Personally, I'm looking forward to Volume 3: Church and Sacraments because of volume editor Paul W. Robinson, a seminary instructor I had at Concordia, St. Louis. Based on what I've seen so far, I am concerned about how the Small Catechism will be annotated in Volume 4.

So, do you need to buy these? If you own the equivalent volumes of the American Edition of Luther's Works, no. If you own the LOGOS Bible Software edition of the AELW, no. I bought the offprint edition of The Bondage of the Will 1525 from Volume 2 with my own funds. I still see the need for Concordia Publishing House to produce an edition of our own.

Next up, preaching:


The Lord warns of a "famine . . . of hearing the word of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). Has this warning come to pass in our day? There is no shortage of preachers, but how often do they miss the mark in actually delivering the word of God to their hearers, leaving them hungry?

The authors of these essays seek to equip preachers with resources to offer their hearers a rich feast from the word of the Lord. Writing from a Lutheran perspective, contributors from across the globe provide a fresh approach to preaching. These authors represent seasoned pastors and professors as well as young scholars. All are actively preaching and teaching God's word on a regular basis.


This book covers a wide range of topics relating to preaching--from the scriptural background and hermeneutical issues to historical examples of notable preachers, and also practical guides to crafting and delivering a sermon. These essays will assist preachers in proclaiming God's word in a manner that provides a feast for those living in a famine-stricken world.


Mark W. Birkholz
Jacob Corzine
Jonathan Mumme
Jonathan Fisk

(Publisher's Website)

This is a unique volume with seventeen essays by German, Swedish, Finnish, Australian, and American contributors. Among the Americans, most are LCMS. One, Paulson, is ELCA. 

Essays provide diagnoses and treatment plans for spiritual malnourishment.


  • Bombaro demonstrates the consequences of consumerism (5), 
  • Elliot helps the preacher connect Old Testament sermons to Christian congregations (45ff) while giving a Christological interpretation of Song of Songs (57), 
  • Coats connects Johann Gerhard's theological commonplaces to his pulpit (78ff), 
  • Paulson expounds on Paul on the foolishness of preaching (140ff), 
  • Pless helps preachers preach liturgically with specific insight on resources (167, 169), not neglecting Sasse and One-Year lectionary books, 
  • Kleinig concurs with Pless, centering our preaching on Christ (190), 
  • Petersen helps the pastor wrestle with special preaching situations (not neglecting special situations: 193, note 2), 
  • Johnson re-examines lament with the help of a notable hymnal study (228, note 3) and the psalms (239),  
  • Martens helps with sermon preparation (278) and introduces us to Gerhard Aho (292), a preacher and professor whose class notes are still for sale at the CTSFW bookstore.

My goal today is to pique your interest in this title. It is substantial, faithful, and practical. Later, I will have the opportunity to reexamine this title after a second reading in a review of 900 words. Look for that.

In the meantime, buy this book. I'll call it essential.

I must confess prior ignorance of the existence of the next title. I am quite thankful is now available in a language I understand.

Originally written in French, this is the first English translation of H. G. Masius' influential work defending Lutheranism against the Catholic Church. This translation features annotations from renowned Lutheran scholar John Warwick Montgomery. The encouraging words within not only serve as a reminder to be on guard against anything that departs from Holy Scripture but will also keep you firm in your faith and steadfast in the Lord's teachings. In the back of this edition you will find 91 scanned pages of a printing of the original French. Softcover, 245 Pages. 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Published 2016.

(Publisher's website)

This is a book from 1699 published "for the use of Protestant Christians journeying in Roman Catholic Lands." A work of apologetics, the author freely uses words from "St. Peter, the alleged first Pope" in order to convince the reader of "their fundamental errors." In other words, using the Word of God from 1 Peter 3:15-16 and many other scripture passages, Masius defends the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith, showing that it "cannot justly be condemned" and secondly, he sets forth "the fundamental differences between us and the Roman Church" (7). These are the two parts of the book.

Thank you to NPH and translator John Warwick Montgomery for resurrecting this title, worthy of your attention.

In preparation for 2017, Northwestern Publishing House has also republished this title by James Kiecker.


Have you ever wondered what struggles Martin Luther experienced during the Reformation or how much opposition he faced? What challenges attempted to pull him from his path of teaching the Word to the people? Examine the full history of the Reformation: from early attempts at reform, to the scope of Luther's reform, to today's challenges in the church. You'll learn about Luther and the Reformation within the wider historical context, both the history that preceded the 16th century, and the centuries that followed the Reformation, all the way to the present. Softcover, 214 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Republished 2016.

(Publisher's website)

Originally published in 1992, this is a masterful work of historical theology. Author Kiecker ably demonstrates the need for reform in the Church, attempts at reform, focuses on Luther's time and opportunity, what the Lord accomplished through Dr. Luther, other reformers and their approaches, and challenges since Luther.

Pastors and laity alike will profit from reading this title, especially as 2017 approaches.

I was asked to endorse the next title after publication. My review copy was electronic. I have since personally purchased a copy. Pressing congregational needs remain my priority, so this is my first published review.


Throw out all those notions you might have about what it means to be Lutheran.

When it comes down to it, being Lutheran is really very simple. It's about following Jesus. We go where Jesus goes, we listen when Jesus speaks, we trust when Jesus promises. And we live because Jesus lives.

From the Foreword
"Pastor Sutton treats not only Lutheran beliefs, but he also treats the attitudes and mindsets that those beliefs inform. Thus, he divides his book into two parts: what Lutherans challenge (being closed, lukewarm, confused, lazy, and 'pastel'), followed by what Lutherans cherish (the new, the ordinary, the unresolved, purpose, and the local). This helps explain the quirks of Lutherans—why they are so doctrinally rigorous, yet so fond of paradoxes and unresolved doctrinal tensions; why they seem both conservative and radical; how their theological strictness manifests itself in a spirit of freedom; how they can make such strong supernatural claims, while also focusing on the much-neglected spiritual significance of what is ordinary—while also accounting for what we could describe as the Lutheran theological culture.

"American Christianity teaches the centrality of the individual, my will, my experiences, my decision, my heart, my work and dedication, Yet we couldn't be more unaware that Christ and His saving and comforting work are being lost."
—Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Provost and Professor of Literature, Patrick Henry College
(Publisher's Website)

Honestly, I haven't resonated with all publicity related to this title. I understand where "Throw out all those notions..." was going, but my members read that and were more suspicious about this book.

I became very interested in the author's approach to presenting his material. Chapter intros and illustrations throughout will communicate with younger, tech-savvy readers, likely the intended audience. I've had to explain such things to older readers who are never online. Still, this is the author's way of connecting with folks who want to know more about the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith. It is enlightening to life-long under-informed Lutherans and those who don't know a Lutheran from a lutherian or a Luthern.

And Dr. Veith's foreword was very impressive!

Rev. A. Trevor Sutton is associate pastor at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Haslett, Michigan. A frequent speaker and writer, Sutton has been published by various Christian publishers, and his work has appeared in Faith & Leadership (Duke Divinity School), The Cresset (Valparaiso University), and Concordia Journal (Concordia Seminary). Sutton has a BA from Concordia University in Ann Arbor and an MDiv from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and is currently a graduate student in Writing and Rhetoric at Michigan State University. (Publisher's website)

One question came up in my mind early in the book. There was a reference to Schmucker (15) and his seminary. I would welcome more of a warning against S. S. S. and his revision of the Augsburg Confession.

Perhaps what the author writes near the conclusion of Chapter One (21) answers my concern in part:

False Openness: Watch out for false openness claiming to be true open access to the Gospel. Many denominations raise the banner of open and affirming inclusivity. This means that they openly affirm all lifestyles. This is wrong dressed up as right. The Holy Spirit is open to all sinners turning from sin. God openly invites all people to turn from sin. Yet nowhere in Scripture does God affirm ungodly behavior. Whether it is speeding in a school zone or sleeping with your girlfriend, God calls sin by name. We close the Gospel when we brush sins aside. Open access to Christ's forgiveness ceases when sins are withheld from His mercy.

Open communion is also a false openness. Dressed up as a nice way to welcome outsiders, open communion says that anyone can commune regardless of belief or confession. Atheist, agnostic, and any other confession are welcomed. This dilutes the Gospel into an unrecognizable soupy mess. Open proclamation of the Gospel closes by trying to make everyone happy. Rather than stopping to explain the gift of forgiveness given in the Lord's Supper, it is easier to just welcome anyone with a pulse. Opening a sham gospel closes the true Gospel: "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

Overall, I read a book that demonstrates that Being Lutheran is really about being a faithful and Biblical Christian. Consider:

Pastor Sutton treats not only Lutheran beliefs, but he also treats the attitudes and mind-sets that those beliefs inform. Thus, he divides his book into two parts: what Lutherans challenge (being closed, lukewarm, confused, lazy, and "pastel"), followed by what Lutherans cherish (the new, the ordinary, the unresolved, purpose, and the local). This helps explain the quirks of Lutherans—why they are so doctrinally rigorous, yet so fond of paradoxes and unresolved doctrinal tensions; why they seem both conservative and radical; how their theological strictness manifests itself in a spirit of freedom; how they can make such strong supernatural claims, while also focusing on the much-neglected spiritual significance of what is ordinary—while also accounting for what we could describe as the Lutheran theological culture.

(Gene Edward Veith, from the Foreword)

A book, album, or other resource received for review should be considered as both a stand-alone item as well as in context with the confession, practice, and previous works of the author, composer, or artist.

This title has been criticized online (often by those who had yet to read it) because of the practice of the large congregation of which the author is an Assistant Pastor. This book, if actually read by his brother pastors and congregation members, would call them to repentance with regard to Open Communion and toward a more faithful practice consistent with the LCMS. Pr. Sutton should be thanked for his brave confession.

I was so thrilled with the content of the digital review copy of the next volume, I purchased a paperback of it!


American Christianity teaches the centrality of the individual—my will, my experiences, my decision, my heart, my work, and my dedication. Yet we couldn't be more unaware that Christ and His saving and comforting work are being lost. Our minds and hearts are captivated in some way by those who often preach the Christian instead of Christ.

Wolfmueller sounds the alarm against the false teaching and dangerous practices of Christianity in America. He offers a beautiful alternative: the sweet savor of the Gospel, which brings us to the real comfort, joy, peace, freedom, and sure hope of Christ.

And it's for you.

Read Chapter One for Free >
(Publisher's Website)

Has American Christianity Failed?


Yet, the gates of hell shall never prevail against Christ's Church.

To arm yourself for the battle as part of the Church Militant, check out this title.

The First chapter, available at the link above, hooked me. In his own pithy conversational style, Wolfmueller eviscerates revivalism, pietism, mysticism, enthusiasm, and other "isms" that are falsely considered by Americans and others as Christianity. He introduces the reader to a faithful, understandable, and comforting Lutheran confession of the Christian faith, including a concluding introduction to the Book of Concord.

The three major Lutheran publishing houses should have best sellers on their hands with these titles, truly books of substance and significance. There is always room for repentance, reform, and revision to more closely adhere to God's Word.

I read a lot. You probably are not surprised by that, for you probably do, too.

Several of the above books are attempts to explain and or confess Lutheranism in a fresh, engaging way. I've appreciated a number of books in this vein: The Spirituality of the Cross, Dying to Live, The Fire and the Staff, Why I Am a Lutheran, Lutheranism 101, and The Lutheran Difference. Along with Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and Law and Gospel, I regularly re-read all of the above titles. A good edition of The Bondage of the Will will be added to this list. Wolfmueller's book will join my favorites list. Consider it for yours.

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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