Gilbert, Richard, F.C.A. The Nicene Creed According to the Scriptures. New Reformation Press. Trifold Pamphlet. www.newreformationpress.com
Locklair, Valerie. Called to Defend: An Apologetics Handbook for the Middle School Student. New Reformation Press. Cloth. 249 Pages. www.newreformationpress.com
Giertz, Bo. Translated by Bror Erickson. Romans: A Devotional Commentary (Excerpted from the New Testament Devotional Commentaries Series). New Reformation Press. 97 Pages. Paper. www.newreformationpress.com www.1517legacy.com
Keith, Scott. Meeting Melanchthon: A Brief Biographical Sketch of Phillip Melanchthon and a Few Examples of His Writing. New Reformation Press. 87 Pages. Paper. www.newreformationpress.com www.1517legacy.com
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Monday, May 14, 2018
Manetsch, Scott M., Editor. Timothy George, General Editor. Scott M. Manetsch, Associate General Editor. 1 Corinthians (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, New Testament IXa). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017. 508 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. https://www.ivpress.com/1-corinthians-rcs (P)
George, Timothy. Reading Scripture with the Reformers. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 270 Pages. Paper. $18.00. https://www.ivpress.com/reading-scripture-with-the-reformers (P)
Hall, Christopher A. Living Wisely with the Church Fathers. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017. 274 Pages. Paper. $24.00. https://www.ivpress.com/living-wisely-with-the-church-fathers
Crosby, Cindy, Editor. General Editor Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle A. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007. 294 Pages. Paper. $20.00. https://www.ivpress.com/ancient-christian-devotional-lectionary-cycle-a
Crosby, Cindy, Editor. General Editor Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle B. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 303 Pages. Paper. $20.00. https://www.ivpress.com/ancient-christian-devotional-lectionary-cycle-b
Crosby, Cindy, Editor. General Editor Thomas C. Oden, General Editor. Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle C. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009. 304 Pages. Paper. $20.00. https://www.ivpress.com/ancient-christian-devotional-lectionary-cycle-c
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Upon receiving Counseling Under the Cross, the author's name seemed familiar. I personally purchased Robert Kellemen's Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, a booklet that is part of P&R's The Gospel for Real Life Series. It was helpful to me in some recent pastoral counseling cases. New Growth Press gives us a title reminiscent of Tappert's Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, yet with more guidance for pastors and counselors.
I do disagree with the author's "Tweet-Size Summary" of Chapter 11: "Faith Active in Love: Luther's Methodology of Guiding >> Christian pilgrims progress in their sanctification journey by exercising their heart in the gospel victory narrative by trekking toward the gospel pole of faith active in love." Luther wouldn't speak that way. He would describe sanctification in the language of vocation as he does in Christian Freedom: A Christian is the freest lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is the most dutiful servant of all, subject to all. The "pilgrim" language is anachronistic to Luther. The author does mention The Freedom of a Christian in the main text of Chapter 11 (199ff), yet with a different emphasis than I would provide as a Lutheran.
Given the objection above, I recommend this title for seminarians and pastors. Consider: "As the title of this book suggests, Martin Luther's counseling is gospel-centered and cross-focused. It is grace-filled and gospel-rich…In a hundred different ways you will see what I saw—Luther richly, relevantly, robustly, relationally applying the gospel to suffering, sin, sanctification, and people's search for peace with God" (3). On pages 12-13 he introduces the helpful concept of Anfectungen, helpfully connecting the term to Luther's own concerns and pastoral care, especially with regard to justification and reconciliation (26). By pages 106 and 107, Anfectungen makes room for faith in Christ. The Gospel predominates in the chart on page 57. A Lutheran would connect the individual to the body of Christ as the author does (91), yet more so to Word and Sacrament of Christ rather than pietism's small groups (91ff).
Crossway provided us with both an Advance Reader Copy and final hardcover of Herman Selderhuis' Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography. We note no significant changes between the two. Endorsements adorn the front pages of the final edition as well as the intended General Index and Scripture Index.
What exactly is a spiritual biography? I understand the term to focus the subject's life in Christ, covering struggle, theology, practice, and consolation. A Calvinist, Selderhuis gives his own spin on the seventeenth century English non-fiction prose genre of an autobiographical narrative that "follows the believer from a state of damnation to a state of grace." Ten chapters follow Luther from child, student, and monk to exegete, theologian, and architect and finally reformer, father, professor, and prophet (9). "This book is translated from the original Dutch version" © 2016 (8).
"The fear of being lost forever, the fear of God, and his consciousness of sin and guilt led to a zealous study of Scripture in the hope that he [Luther] would find peace and rest" (54). This is well stated. Luther's visit to Rome disappointed him (71). Romans, however, became "the most important book in the new testament for him" (77).
I'm not surprised that it was a Roman Catholic that claimed that Luther didn't nail the 95 Theses to the Church door (100). I am surprised at how trendy it is to doubt this event. This author tends to be more fair and balanced in his assessment of the event in that he allows for 1) an actual "nailing" of Luther's Theses, 2) that the door was truly the public bulletin board, and 3) that a university "beadle" likely did the nailing rather than Luther. That said, I hold to the historicity of Luther nailing the theses himself. There appears to be a correlation (among self-described Lutheran theologians) between belief or doubt in the event's historicity and in belief or doubt in authority and sufficiency of Scripture (see the 2017 documentary film Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World).
For a personal assessment of Luther the man at the time of the Leipzig Disputation by Mosellanus, see 128-129. The initial sentence of Chapter 6 (135) struck me wrong. Yet, I concede that with regard to being and architect and leaving it "to others to build on what he established" I must concede as at least partially true. He wrote his catechisms (230) in part because others did not follow through on his request for them to do the work. Some took up the task of writing new hymns, yet Luther wrote several dozen himself 210).
That Luther did or did not say the words "Here I stand, I can do no other" (159ff) is less controversial to me than the posting of the 95 Theses. Rome had pushed Luther across a red line. They would not tell him where he erred. They would not allow him to distinguish between what he saw as three groups of books.
The author's account and assessment of Marburg (especially 238-240) is more fair than most from a Lutheran perspective. My favorite remains This Is My Body by Sasse. It all should come down to faith rather than doubt or speculation about what Christ said Himself.
Reform of the Sacrament of the Altar went hand-in-hand with a German translation of the New Testament (170ff). One of my favorite paintings depicts this time in his life, with Luther, his family, and Melanchthon gathered around Luther playing a lute (211).
Professor Luther knew Scripture and how to apply it to life. (251). "Prophet" Luther (Chapter 10) is a bit more jarring picture, even for Lutherans who have heard Walther interpret Revelation's Angel with an Eternal Gospel to proclaim. We Lutherans are far more familiar with the pattern set by Luther in ordaining the first Lutheran bishop: "Luther conducted this ordination but with a transformed ritual that reflected Luther's views of the bishop as a normal minister. Everything else remained the same, as if the bishop carried out his work of supervision, pastorate, and preaching" (297).
This is one of the best recent Luther biographies I've read. I'm still stuck in the middle of the Metaxas volume. It would be nearly impossible for one person to read them all!
The Lutheran Reformation lives on. Our intent was to complete and publish this review by the 500th Anniversary of the posting of the 95 Theses, but parish duties intervened. We had twelve deaths in the congregation between our reception of the ARC and the day I write. Reform of the Church, returning to the Word as sole authority for faith and life, and hearing Christ are not activities for merely one quincentennial day, but for our ongoing daily theology, teaching, practice, and pastoral care.
Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present is an unique volume. I have not seen anything like it except Volume 53 of the American Edition of Luther's Works (Liturgy and Hymns. J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.) or Robert Webber's Complete Library of Christian Worship, Volume II, Twenty Centuries of Christian Worship. Neither of those resources is as compact or comprehensive as that before us by editors Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey. Webber has fewer examples of Reformation liturgies and they are often outlines or excerpts. The translation of LW 53 is often at issue.
Martin Luther is the author featured in RW Chapter 4 (Form of the Mass, 1523; German Mass 1526). Luther's liturgical reform is conservative. He retains what may be done without sin. He highlights both the hearing and preaching of the Word (115-121) and the Sacrament of the Altar (e.g., 124-5). He removes the canon of the Mass and the invocation of the saints. His focus was Christ. Matthias Mangold (xxxivff) provides a new translation of Luther's German Mass and Michael Hunter freshly translates Luther's Form of the Mass (xxxvi). That this was done is commendable, and reminiscent of a proposed "new" edition of AELW 53 for which donations were solicited through the Good Shepherd Institute of Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne years ago. (I am told that this may still be in the works. While we Lutherans wait, we have RW as well as https://www.cph.org/p-6291-Martin-Luther-Hymns-Ballads-Chants-Truth-CD.aspx and https://www.cph.org/p-30634-the-hymns-of-martin-luther.aspx).
RW is a great service to Lutherans like me and our readers, a chance to double-check the 1965-published translations of the 1523 by Paul Zeller Strodach (revised by Ulrich S. Leupold) and the 1526 by Augustus Steimle (also revised by Ulrich S. Leupold). Additionally, musical notation for the 1526 German Mass was done by Joseph Waggoner (xxxvi).
LCMS Lutherans used to The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship, or Lutheran Service Book will immediately see the connection between what congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod have as liturgies in the hymnals in their pew racks and what Luther intended. If it were possible for Luther himself to visit us on a Sunday morning, he would note much that would be familiar to him.
Robert Kolb is thanked in the Acknowledgements (xxix) "for feedback on the historical introductions" to Luther's liturgies.
The other liturgies contained in the volume are more Calvinist/Reformed and therefore of less interested to Lutherans. One will note changes in the Book of Common Prayer (for a variety of reasons) between 1549 and 1552 (342) even before the more significant changes of 1559 (the infamous "black rubric," outside the scope of this book).
LBR asks "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?". Having Martin Luther's two main works of liturgical reform in a 2018 translation is alone reason for our readers (largely Lutheran pastors, musicians, and confessional laypeople) to purchase, use, and treasure this book.
The authors would have Christians today be more intentional about how they worship when they do. "Our greatest need is for worship in Spirit as well as in truth today. But the liturgies here should stimulate us to careful thought, and cause us to ask how we can apply their principles today in a way that echoes their Trinitarian, Christ-centered, biblically informed content, so that our worship, in our place and time, will echo the gospel content and rhythm they exhibit" (xix). Elsewhere they state, "The argument of this book on Reformation worship is irenic. The liturgies collated and presented here are a subtle encouragement for the modern church to reflect critically on how she worships today" (48).
Yes, purchase this book! Save up for it if you need to, but invest in Reformation Worship from New Growth Press.
In the nine months I've lived with Carl Beckwith's Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics volume on The Holy Trinity, my appreciation of the volume has grown. I am thankful that more volumes of this series are soon to be completed and available. I am thankful to have a dogmatics series that is "based on the outline and thought pattern of the Lutheran Confessions. I am also thankful for authors who take the Scriptures seriously as God's Word.
Modernity (1, passim) is a challenge to the confession of the Church. We begin not with a natural knowledge of God or human opinion, but with God's own Word. What Christians confess is grounded in that certainty. The national motto, "In God We Trust," deserves a follow-up question, "Which one?" Unionism and syncretism are grounded in uncertainty. Confessional Lutheran Christians emphasize "God's revelation of Himself in Christ—'All other ground is sinking sand' (TLH 370)" (40). Amen to that!
Quotable sermon fodder: "If you find that you cannot talk about the Trinity without also talking about baptism, then you will be at home in the thought world of the Fathers and the Lutheran reformers. If you find that you can talk about the Trinity without even mentioning your baptism, then you will be at home in the thought world of the schoolmen" (44 note 11).
Page 64 is rich in quotes. Sasse: " There is, thank God, no specific Lutheran doctrine on the Trinity." "Assigning positive value to a knowledge of God apart from Christ and His cross belongs to scholasticism, not Lutheranism." Schlink: "the doctrine of the Trinity is the basis for all statements of the Lutheran Confessions." Luther: "Therefore he who wants to ascend advantageously to the love and knowledge of God should abandon the human metaphysical rules concerning the knowledge of the divinity and apply himself first to the humanity of Christ. For it is exceedingly godless temerity that, where God has humiliated Himself in order to become recognizable, man seeks for himself another way by following the counsels of his own natural capacity."
What is the Lutheran approach to the Trinity? Beckwith asserts: Luther was not a systematic theologian. He did not order his theology according to the norms of his day. He offers no doctrine of God apart from the Trinity. He does not start with the natural knowledge and then proceed to revealed knowledge. It is of no use for a person a "to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he also recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross." Talk of God's power and glory requires talk of God's weakness on the cross. Such talk makes sense only to the person of faith, to the one justified by God and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. God and faith always belong together for Luther (71).
At Heidelberg, Luther identified two kinds of theologians, the theologian of the cross and the theologian of glory. "The theolgus crucis speaks according to God's self communication in Jesus Christ, which means that God's revelation sets the terms for the discussion—both its possibility and its limits" (90). To better understand why some blame Luther for the evils of modernity, read the Conclusion to Part One (110ff).
Part Two "demonstrates the scriptural identity of the Trinity" (113). "According to the Fathers and the reformers, if we wish to know God, to speak properly about Him and His work on our behalf, we must look to the Scriptures and faithfully expound them" (117). Scholarship and piety find common cause in citing Luther's Psalm 130 hymn: "Though great our sins and sore our woes, His grace much more aboundeth; His helping love no limit knows, Our utmost need it soundeth. Our Shepherd good and true is He, Who will at last His Israel free From all their sin and sorrow" (137, TLH 329:5).
A full discussion of the Trinity includes theophanies: The Angel of YHWH (143ff). How did the Magi know the Christ child? Read note 7 on page 173 for insights from Gerhard, Chemnitz, and Luther. None of the three allowed for natural knowledge alone. Similarly, the conclusion to Chapter 8 on Father and Son points us to the Word: In this chapter we focused on the more dogmatic and precise presentations of Christ's identity. These texts, like those in the previous chapter, place Christ at the center of our confession of God's scriptural identity. We know the Father only through the Son; we know the Son by the Holy Spirit, whom both the father and the Son send to us. Moreover, the texts in this chapter emphasize again the necessity of the Old Testament for our understanding of the person and work of Christ. God alone determines His identity, and this He providentially preserves for us in His Scriptures. Finally, the New Testament makes clear that God's identity is fully revealed at the cross. It is at this very point that we come to know the glory of God in the crucified Christ, seeing our reconciliation with the Father through the saving work of the Son. This we know, confess, sing, and pray by the power of the Holy Spirit" (216-7).
The baptismal formula is discussed (225ff) in the same chapter on The Holy Spirit that the author takes to task those who would deny the Trinity as biblical (see 241ff). The filioque gets its turn in chapter 11, particularly 248 within 245ff. Would Eastern Orthodoxy object to John 16:7 for the Son's "sending" of the Spirit?
Part three sets for a simple rule: "Scripture both warrants and determines the church's talk about God" (267). The filioque returns on page 297 as Lutheran dogmaticians conclude that distinguishing the persons of the Trinity has to do with the order of the persons and their eternal relationship to one another.
For a lengthy discussion of Augusitine's rule (323) and the Lutheran addendum (328), see the whole of chapters 14 and 15.
The author concludes his volume with this reflection on modernism and our confession: We live in a world that has a lot to say about God. We have shown throughout this book that whatever a person says about God bears directly on what that person thinks about himself and the world around him. This means at the very least that any discussion of the Trinity involves a whole lot more than a single article of faith. Scripture makes this clear by correlating right knowledge of God with both worship and ethics. Trinity, gospel, worship, and ethics all belong together. We are mistaken if we think that debates on worship and ethics have no bearing on the gospel and the Trinity. Gregory of Nyssa, like Basil, argued that our confession of the Trinity proceeds from our baptismal faith. This faith, Gregory further insisted, mirrors our worship. "It is not natural that worship make war against faith, but as we believe, so we give glory. Now since our faith is in Father and Son and Holy Spirit, faith, worship, and baptism accord with each other" (364, italics in original).
Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics does not order its theology according to the norms of today. The volumes of the set so far acknowledge the challenges of other confessions and those who doubt God's Word. The timeless outline and though pattern of the Lutheran Confessions provide a framework for confessing the faith anew. Seven volumes are in print. Only six more to go!
I've been editing a book review journal since December of 2004, served as Headmaster of a classical Lutheran school since April 2009, and yet, there is still something intimidating about Classics. Cicero? Yeah, I had heard "of" him. The way my education was shaped (unlike that of Carl P. E. Springer, cf. Preface; loss of Latin=loss of Cicero, xviii) deprived me of reading much of Cicero at all. This title, of interest to classicists, Lutheran pastors, classical Lutheran educators and home school families, will be of help in reclaiming this Roman rhetor.
Cicero in Heavenis less about the status of Marcus Tullius "Tully" Cicero within the Christian afterlife (though there is some reference to this on 83) and more about the use of Cicero's words, example, and techniques by Martin Luther (57, passim), Phillip Melanchthon (122ff), Johann Sturm (146ff), Johann Sebastian Bach (164ff), and others using existing English translations (Prolegomena, xviii, note 26). Did you know that "Cicero's works were among the first books to be printed, after the Bible" (41)?
Springer notes "a strong, historic tendency within Christianity to oppose the kind of careful, trained eloquence associated with Cicero's name" (1; ). Yet, "A prominent teacher of rhetoric, eventually appointed advisor to Constantine, Lactantius was called Cicero Christianus by Pico della Mirandola because of the graceful elegance of his style, although some of his theological positions were deemed unorthodox" (24). In contrast to an oration in the style of Cicero, the more common Christian practice was a more informal homily. Consider: "Augustine himself preached frequently, without extensive notes, and sometimes even without the biblical text before him" (28).
"The church, as Luther described it, is…(not a "pen-house," but a "mouth-house"), because it is through speaking to each other in 'psalms and hymns and spiritual songs', that the most important work of the church is done, whether it be in the form of praying, teaching, preaching, confession, or worship" (36). Luther knew and appreciated the five traditional categories of rhetoric (inventio, disposition, elocutio, memoria, and pronuntatio; 67). "Luther's style [in Freedom of a Christian] is certainly closer to the hypotactic, periodic style of Cicero's prose than to the clipped sentences and paratactic diction of the Vulgate with which he was so familiar" (72).
Cicero was an influence on the American founders (175ff; as well as Christianity, 247) and many Lutherans in America (181ff), especially C. F. W. Walther, Johann Michael Reu, and Wilhelm Loehe. The latter's book The Pastor mentions rhetoric as important in the essay lead-in to Part Two by a contemporary of Luther. This kind of rhetoric deserves to be restored to a place within seminary preaching courses.
I found the discussion of parrhesia fascinating (89ff), particularly the connection between the word meaning "speaking everything" (95) and how Springer traces it linguistically to the Latin words licentia and fiducia ("confidence," 99) to confession at the time of the Reformation and its connection to the Augsburg Confession (100).
Springer introduces his readers to other topics familiar to his likely readers, including the trivium (112) and the establishment of Christian academic institutions (117ff). Melanchton lectured on Cicero (131ff) and referenced him in his textbooks (134-5), including two books on rhetoric (available on Google Books). "Melanchthon divided the ideal sermon, like an oration, into familiar components: 'exordium, narration, proposition, division into parts, confirmation, refutation, and peroration'" (139 note 98).
Written and delivered from memory or delivered from an outline or notes? See Reu's answer on 186.
I ask the author and my fellow readers: Whether written down or delivered with minimal notes, why could preachers today not use the same outline for a Lutheran sermon?
Not all were fans, advocates, or practitioners of Cicero's rhetoric ("Cicero in Hell, 221ff). Why? "Latin began now often to be identified closely with Catholicism" (189) and Cicero with it. "Romantic disregard for imitation and the privileging of originality and poetic genius…" (222). Luther's own references to Cicero were not all positive, as the last chapter demonstrates again and again. Lutheran theology has much greater comfort (and delight) with paradox than Cicero (200-1). Matthias Flacius Illyricus was "one of the main contributors to the anti-Ciceronian movement" (209).
There is much history of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod here (e.g. 240-242).
After reading Cicero in Heaven, I am now convinced that I am the book's intended audience. That gives me much joy. I've been working my way through the Cicero volumes of the Loeb Classical Library while also reading the Cicero Trilogy by Robert Harris (250). Also, in a paragraph that "depends heavily on Korcok, Lutheran Education" we read:
The accreditation of my school was recently renewed by Visitors from the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education. I am a permanent member of that group's Board of Directors. The folks of Wittenberg Academy are among my friends.
I highly recommend this book, even understanding its significant cost.
As I write this review, there are no remaining books to read for review at the former location of my "review book pile." There is the possibility of some commentaries and books of Lutheran interest on the horizon. Our goal is to rapidly read, consider, and review any titles as they arrive.
Pace, R. Scott. Heath A. Thomas, Editor. Preaching By the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons (Hobbs College Library). Nashville: B&H Academic/Oklahoma Baptist University, 2018. 123 Pages. Cloth. $19.99. http://www.bhpublishinggroup.com/products/preaching-by-the-book
Quick Summaries are pithy reviews
These are reviews for when you don't have all day
to decide whether a resource is worth
+/When this Lutheran book review journal editor requested Preaching by the Book, we knew it would have a Baptist flavor. Chapter 7 on Invitations is as expected, though not overt. (What of John 15:16? What of Joshua 24 in context? How is "Decision Theology" consistent with Romans 2 or Psalm 51:5? Our human will is not strong enough to "decide." Does Scripture not say that we are dead in sin and enemies of God?).
What I wanted our readers to know is the state of training in preaching at a place like Oklahoma Baptist University through one volume of the Hobbs College Library (21-volume set, Commendation Page). One volume in a new series, Preaching by the Book focuses on Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis or Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne will be used to more theological rigor, more guidance, and a more solid Christological foundation than this book. For example, I have no doubt that the author of this book and its editor know the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It should be more clear and more central to the book.
All Christian preachers (and their hearers) could benefit from a proper distinction between Law and Gospel. Usually considered a Lutheran distinctive, it shouldn't be. Consider this brief new video summary: [https://youtu.be/GxVi5qKS3pM].
This title is concise, usually to the point, and well-written for its intended audience. Reading as an experienced preacher, I can hear specific advice and counsel in the book as helpful for the students it was written for. Reading as a Lutheran, I see different solutions for common problems. Use of an historic lectionary solves my problem of Selecting a Passage (10). Historic vestments solve my problem with how to dress for worship (15).
The seven-point Process of Sermon Development (18) would greatly benefit from the proper distinction of Law and Gospel. As is, it could lead to a textual and biblical sermon that would leave Jesus out. Such a sermon would not be Christian and would have earned me an F in my homiletics courses.
I appreciated the Investigation chapter's paragraph urging awareness of "historical lapse," both between the events and the record of them as well as that Bible time and today (25). Transitions are important. Don't Grind the Gears (76ff). The advice on visual aids is well taken (87). I would counsel against them as a crutch, would warn about the potential of overuse, and would agree that some could be too distracting, overwhelming, or unhelpful.
The Conclusion was my favorite part because the concluding passage from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 spoke so clearly about Christ, the true subject of our preaching. Yes, we should carefully discern what theological truth is taught in any passage. We should also look for Christ. Preachers, give your hearers Jesus!
+The Rev. Richard A. Bolland brings his decades of pastoral experience to his accessible, deep, and hopeful title, The Church Is One: Recapturing the Lost Unity Christ Intended for His Church on Earth. When we confess one holy Christian/catholic and apostolic Church, we do so as a confession of faith, not a description of what we see in fallen world, a valley of the shadow. Bolland points us to Christ and His Word, exemplified by the Foreword of the Rev. Daniel Preus and his reference to John 17:17, where Jesus says, "Your word is truth" (8).
I agree that our creedal confessions should include the word catholic (not Catholic). To his discussion (22) I would add what I was taught, that the pre-Luther German word "christlich" was an acceptable translation of the Latin "catholica" and that German-origin Lutherans ended up with "Christian" in English for historical reasons and not only anti-Roman reasons.
LBR readers know that we love clarity. Consider page 24: Permit Me To Make My Thesis Clear. Unity in doctrine and practice is divinely intended for the earthly, visible Christian Church. Division and disunity are marks of Satan's activity within the earthly gatherings of God's people. Therefore, any aspect of an institutional church body's activity or behavior that lends itself toward unity in doctrine and practice is Godly, and any aspect of a church body's activity or behavior that lends itself toward division and disunity is of the Devil and results in hindering and obfuscating the Gospel of Christ.
For the author's definitions of Church, Sect, and Cult, see 42ff. For his helpful description of the difference between fides qua creditor and fides quae creditor, zoom in on 51-52. An illustrative list of the errors of the Roman Church by date is found on pages 57-63. The Lord's Supper and its celebration in a local congregation is often a flash point of conflict and misunderstanding. I appreciate the author's bluntness: "Thus, the Lord's Supper is no place for any kind of division. It is no place for variance of views respecting what the Lord's Supper is and what it accomplishes. It is no place for multiple choice doctrine and it is certainly no place for contradictory practices…" (82)
Speaking of which, catechesis can be a medicine to differences in teaching and practice in our LCMS. Neglecting catechesis has disastrous consequences: "If people wish to join a Lutheran congregation, but retain non-Lutheran doctrine, practice, and worship forms; then this will be the end of the Lutheran character of that congregation" (108).
I agree with the author and Dr. Luther that the use of one translation is beneficial for the Church (128). If I were to re-word one sentence in the book it would be the last sentence of the first full paragraph on 128. Instead of "Officially adopted hymnals would be the sole source of liturgies and hymnody among us." I would say, "Doctrinally pure hymnals would be the sole source of liturgies and hymnody among us." The Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 does not have the same official "adoption" granted to Lutheran Worship (1982) and Lutheran Service Book (2004/2006).
Focusing on The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod yet of benefit to all Christians, The Church Is One points readers to Christ and His Word, faith in His Word instead of unbelief or human innovation, and unity in the Word of Christ.
Designed with the "youngest kids" in mind, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy and Illustrated by Trish Mahoney, will be appreciated by its intended audience and their parents. Art and design on cover and inside pages is inviting, creative, and edifying.
The Old Testament is introduced as "Promises Made" in 27 stories, with "Promises Kept" being the overall theme for the remaining New Testament Stories, 52 in all. The stories included are technically paraphrases, which means interpretation and hermeneutics come into play.
Issac's name is reinterpreted as happiness rather than doubt (compare 24 to Genesis 17:17 and 18:12-15).
Repentance is defined as a "turn away" or "TURN AROUND" (187).
Pages 245-27 introduce "communion" as a memorial meal. Lutheran parents would need to reaffirm Jesus' own words:
I understood the question "Have you ever asked Jesus to forgive you for your sins?" as interpretable in a good way by Lutherans, yet also in a "Decision Theology" way by others (253).
"Trust" can be a helpful age-appropriate synonym for faith, given further instruction as children grow (277, passim).
We've reviewed material from the author's congregation before (http://lhpqbr.blogspot.com/2012/03/hymnody-resurgent-kentucky.html). This story Bible would not be my first choice to recommend to Lutheran parents, yet they could certainly use it in an edifying way for their children.