Saturday, December 8, 2018

On Christ the Solid Rock



Keating, Ray. Shifting Sands (A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story). Manorville, NY: Keating Reports, 2018. 106 Pages. Paper. Kindle available.

As I write this, our #7 Nebraska Cornhuskers are preparing to play the Oregon Ducks (later today) for a chance to be in the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. We usually watch the team all season on BTN or BTN+, helping us feel less homesick for family in Nebraska.

Ray Keating's latest Pastor Stephen Grant adventure is a second short story, Shifting Sands.

SHIFTING SANDS is the second page-turning short story by award-winning novelist Ray Keating, and the tenth thriller/mystery featuring Pastor Stephen Grant. 


Beach volleyball is about fun, sun and sand. But when a big-time tournament arrives on a pier in New York City, danger and international intrigue are added to the mix. Stephen Grant, a former Navy SEAL, onetime CIA operative, and current pastor, is on the scene with his wife, friends and former CIA colleagues. While battles on the volleyball court play out, deadly struggles between good and evil are engaged on and off the sand. 


Keating weaves together a fascinating tale of action, faith, humor, terrorism, duty, friendship, conflict, and beach volleyball. 


(Back Cover)

This short story was a quick read, especially since I was in a volleyball mood following Nebraska's defeat of Kentucky yesterday. Follow all of the action here.

Like Pastor Grant, I've been blessed with a brother pastor in my congregation, and like Pastor Grant (88), I'll serve him as liturgical assistant tomorrow at Morning Prayer since it is his Sunday to preach. Our joy is to be at church (86) and bring the Good News through Word and Sacrament (89; We have Divine Service this Wednesday and the next Sunday).

Plausible international intrigue is a hallmark of the Grant stories. Another is that there are consequences for the actions of our hero and his supporting cast. Grant is a second-career pastor, as one can easily discern from the book blurb. He has a history, forgiven in Christ, including past relationships. He still has to deal with those, yet this is our "Warrior Monk," an honorable man who has the trust of his wife and remains accountable.

This adventure has much to do with pro sand volleyball and a certain daughter of a Saudi Prince. I don't like giving book spoilers in reviews, so let me merely advise you to to pay attention to the action and "kills" off the court in addition to the aces in the sand.

Lutheran Book Review began as Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit Book Review (Inaugural Issue, Advent 2004), itself an offshoot of our Wyoming District worship newsletter, Liturgy and Hymnody. The latter included reviews and recommendations, but began as a way to fulfill the request of our then-District President to ease the transition from The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship, and Hymnal Supplement 98 to the fruit of The Lutheran Hymnal Project, what we now call Lutheran Service Book. In-District we had much success. All but two congregations adopted LSB within two years. 

This review marks a milestone. For the first time in many years, I have no books waiting on my book review reading list. There are plenty of books waiting to read for fun, and for my vocations as Christian, pastor, headmaster, District Secretary, et al. 

Reviews are cross-posted at (including archives of our pre-blog pdf years) as well as (and occasionally elsewhere).

Thanks for reading. Watch this space for future reviews!


Rev. Paul J Cain is Senior 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, Secretary of the Wyoming District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a member of its Board of Directors, Wyoming District Education Chairman/NLSA Commissioner, and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. He has served as an LCMS Circuit Visitor, District Worship Chairman and District Evangelism Chairman. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion volumes, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He is an occasional guest on KFUO radio. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. Rev. Cain is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.  

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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Creed, Confessor, Commentary, and Contending for the Faith



Gilbert, Richard, F.C.A. The Nicene Creed According to the Scriptures. New Reformation Press. Trifold Pamphlet.

Keith, Scott. Meeting Melanchthon: A Brief Biographical Sketch of Phillip Melanchthon and a Few Examples of His Writing.  New Reformation Press. 87 Pages. Paper.

Giertz, Bo. Translated by Bror Erickson. Romans: A Devotional Commentary (Excerpted from the New Testament Devotional Commentaries Series). New Reformation Press. 97 Pages. Paper.


Locklair, Valerie. Called to Defend: An Apologetics Handbook for the Middle School Student. New Reformation Press. Cloth. 249 Pages.

Controversy abounds online. We at LBR have little desire to wade into the weeds or unnecessarily offend. We have no desire to ignore what is going on, either.

Allow me to provide some background. An endorsement or "like" of a resource by an author or a publisher does not necessarily "like" or endorse everything by that author or publisher. That's not how book reviews work. Similarly, critique or review that "cannot recommend" a resource by a publisher or an author does not necessarily disapprove or "not recommend" resources by the same author or publisher. Again, that's not how book reviews work.

As a classical Lutheran educator, I teach logic and rhetoric in addition to grammar. We teach people to avoid logical fallacies. Two are worth mentioning here.


An association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalization or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Two types of association fallacies are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association. (wikipedia) Above: An Euler diagram illustrating the association fallacy. Although A is within B and is also within C, not all of B is within C.

While it is appropriate to note connections between persons and groups, connections are not always as solid as they may initially seem. We owe it to ourselves, those who listen to us, and those we speak about to honor the Eighth Commandment and also be honest and truthful. That does include pointing out public error.

Consider Luther in the Large Catechism on the Eighth Commandment:

When a sin is public, especially when a position is "publicly set for in books and proclaimed in all the world," "the rebuke must be public, that everyone may learn to guard against it."

If something is truly wrong, we won't need to exaggerate, commit a sin, or commit a logical fallacy to point it out to others, either guilt by association or the slippery slope.

A slippery slope argument (SSA), in logic, critical thinking, political rhetoric, and caselaw, is a consequentialist logical device in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect. The core of the slippery slope argument is that a specific decision under debate is likely to result in unintended consequences. The strength of such an argument depends on the warrant, i.e. whether or not one can demonstrate a process that leads to the significant effect. This type of argument is sometimes used as a form of fear mongering, in which the probable consequences of a given action are exaggerated in an attempt to scare the audience. The fallacious sense of "slippery slope" is often used synonymously with continuum fallacy, in that it ignores the possibility of middle ground and assumes a discrete transition from category A to category B. In a non-fallacious sense, including use as a legal principle, a middle-ground possibility is acknowledged, and reasoning is provided for the likelihood of the predicted outcome. (wikipedia)

Instead of falling off a slippery slope, consider the practice of C. F. W. Walther in taking something to its logical conclusion.

I wrote the following two years ago in a similar review article:

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 [name] 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 [topic] and toward a more faithful practice consistent with the LCMS. Pr. [name] should be thanked for his brave confession.

That said, let's get down to business.

What if there were an Explanation to the Athanasian Creed and Nicene Creed like Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation provides for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod? This pamphlet is a start for such a project for the Nicene Creed.


 A creed is a statement of belief. With regard to the Christian church, one of its primary uses is to maintain and communicate consistent Biblical teachings and understandings. Though not God-inspired, the Nicene Creed was created directly from Scripture itself. It is the direct connection to God's word that gives the creed the clarity that it does and is why it has stood the test of time, acting as a 'north star' regarding what we understand from Scripture, as well as a defense against heresy.

The Nicene Creed is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. (The Apostles' and Athanasian creeds are accepted by some but not all of these churches.)

This pamphlet is a simple one which breaks down the references from Scripture from which the Nicene Creed is derived, line by line. It is an excellent resource for individuals and churches and study groups to use to discover exactly where the strength of the creed originates, and that it is trusted because it is anchored directly in the word of God.

We presently offer these pamphlets only in packs and as single free inserts with each of our physical shipments. Pick some up now for yourself, your friends and family, or your church or study group!

(Publisher's Website)

Our congregation studied a version of this document from another source before we knew it was available from this publisher. Unfortunately that version (not this one) was missing "God of God," "Light of Light," and "very God of very God." Even so, using an otherwise identical outline, it was one of our most-appreciated Bible studies of the year. It took us about three Sunday morning sessions to cover the Bible verses and all of the questions.

I urge the author, a Fellow in Christian Apologetics (, to take this pamphlet and turn it into a "Synodical-style Catechism Explanation" of the Nicene Creed. Recruit others to help with the task. Examine the various versions and translations of this creed from Nicaea to Constantinople (and a little help from the real Saint Nicholas, perhaps).


Melanchthon remains a confusing figure to many Lutherans. Some have no idea who he is. Some have no idea what the Augsburg Confession is, much less its Apology (Defense). If I had to summarize the two Lutheran Confessions courses I had at the seminary, they could be described as:

  • Confessions I: Melanchthon good.
  • Confessions II: Melanchthon bad.

Most scholars consider Melanchthon to be a Reformation enigma. He, the developer of the Reformation doctrine of forensic justification, is contrarily condemned as a synergist. Known well as the Protestant preceptor of Germany, he was Martin Luther's lifelong friend, colleague, teacher of Greek, and fellow reformer. Upon arriving at Wittenberg, Melanchthon was a theologian neither by trade nor by training. He was a classically trained expert in classical languages, neo-Latin poet, textbook author, Greek scholar, humanist, and above all, an educator.

Though he was offered a doctorate on several occasions, he was not a doctor of theology. Yet his influence on the protestant reformation of the 16th century is profound, both through the Loci Communes (the first Lutheran systematic theology) and the Augsburg Confession both of which came from his pen.

Dr. Scott Keith, who has spent much time studying and translating this great reformer, has written this short biography by way of introduction. Also, Melanchthon speaks for himself in fresh translations of his work.

(Publisher's Website)

Dr. Keith provides the Church an accessible mini-biography of the Teacher of the Germans, Philip Schwartzerde, known to us as Melanchthon.

Our Circuit Winkel recently began a study of the Formula of Concord with a review of Bente's Introduction to Concordia Triglotta. By way of introduction, we considered the following:


The road to the Formula of Concord is complicated. The need for Lutheran unity under the Word of God predates the death of Luther in 1546. Phillip Melanchthon published his first edition of Loci Communes Theologici in 1521. By the 1543 edition, Melanchthon states, "good works are necessary for salvation" and counts three "causes" in salvation, including the human will. Scott Keith notes something that many Lutherans have questioned in the intervening centuries:

While Luther was still alive when the 1543 editions were published, he again did not condemn Melanchthon's formulation on conversion but praised the work (16-17).


I find no definitive answer why Luther did not call out Melanchthon on this point. The LCMS Lutheran Reformation website[1] notes no distinctive activities of Luther in 1543. On the Jews and Their Lies was published that year.


Q: What else was Luther doing in 1543?

Q: Why would Luther have not challenged what we may anachronistically describe as "Decision Theology" in Melanchthon's 1543 Loci?


What follows here are excerpts from, questions about, and comments on the last section of Bente's Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as originally found in Concordia Triglotta.

Please note the quote from pages 16-17 of Keith's biography of Melanchthon above.

Phillip Melanchthon's followers in the controversies after Luther's death were known as Phillipists. The self-described "authentic" Lutherans were known as the Gnesio Lutherans.

The same Winkel study document (as quoted above) has two later questions:

Q: Why does the LSB [Lutheran Service Book] Calendar of Commemorations (xii) mark Melanchthon's birth (16 February) rather than his death?


Q: "Guilt by Association" is considered a "bad argument," but is still used today in some online LCMS controversies. Attempting to discredit a position by attempting to discredit a person or group is notable in ancient and modern politics... Do we as confessional Lutherans demonstrate that "Guilt by Association" is still a "bad argument" by subscribing to the Augsburg Confession despite the Variata and Melanchthon's later compromises and outright errors?


LSB does something similar for John the Baptist. His Nativity on 24 June is on the calendar, but not his death/heavenly birthday.

The second question is thought-provoking, and intentionally so, but it was designed to help the brothers see that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (as it became known by retronym) was presented as a joint confession (and not a private opinion or confession) at a specific point in time. The Confessors could not predict the adjustments that Melanchthon was willing to make in the Variata that were "misused," shall we say, by non-Lutheran protestants after the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. Charles V allowed "Cuius regio, eius religio" Latin for "Whose realm, his religion", meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled.

Until we get reliable, fuller biographies of Melanchthon, this will serve the church well.

We turn now to Romans: A Devotional Commentary by Bo Giertz.


Fans of The Hammer of God and With My Own Eyes will enjoy this devotional commentary on Romans from Pastor, Bo Giertz. The beloved 20th-century bishop takes readers through Paul's letter to the Romans; pointing to God's grace in Christ and forgiveness for the sinner at every turn.

Known as the "C.S. Lewis of Sweden," Bo Giertz, unerringly reveals the fountain of good news in every Romans passage. Giertz delivers part commentary by thoroughly dissecting each passage, and part devotional as he keenly directs readers to comforts won for them by Christ crucified in all His saving glory.

(Publisher's Website)

This volume is what it says it is, a devotional commentary, not a full-blown exegetical treatment of this letter by St. Paul and the Holy Spirit. It is a foretaste of a feast to come, a commentary "excerpted from the New Testament Devotional Commentaries Series" that deserves to see its day in print in English. Bror Erickson is to be commended for all of his translation of Giertz. One will hear Christ in this devotional commentary, Justification its theme. 

Highly Recommended! 

Also Highly Recommended is a new apologetics handbook by Valerie Locklair.


Why do you believe what you believe? Aren't you arrogant for thinking that you're right and everyone else is wrong? Isn't Christianity just a bunch of mythology?

These questions won't wait until high school. They won't wait until college, and they definitely won't wait until you decide you're ready to answer them. The world into which you were born is a world at war. The Enemy won't wait until you're ready before he attacks, but thankfully, neither did your Savior. The battle for your soul is complete, and now the Spirit calls you to be a vessel through which He touches a bleeding world.

Called to Defend provides middle school students with an interdisciplinary introduction to defending the faith. Using subjects of mathematics, computer science, history, and creative writing, students will be taught to defend the faith courageously, humbly, and respectfully. Is it possible to be unapologetically Lutheran and a staunch apologist, even at a young age? In Christ, the answer is a resounding yes, as the Holy Spirit calls, sanctifies, and enlightens us to believe, confess, and defend the faith to a world at war.

(Publisher's Website)

What you want to know is whether this title is, "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read and study, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?" The answer is yes. I would love to add it to the reading list of our accredited classical Lutheran academy when we again have students in grades 6 and up.

The author writes about what she knows. She has been well-educated and it shows. She is doing her part in helping us give the new generation before us a better education than we had. That education is classical, Christian, Lutheran, and devoid of elements that would encourage the crystallization of future snowflakes.

One of my college majors was mathematics. I fell in love with the square root of negative one. No, I'm not kidding. See page 103 for the picture of my favorite fractal, the Mandelbrot set. Imagine commandeering the only IBM-compatible computer in a small-town Nebraska high school in about 1989. Now, imagine that machine taking DAYS to draw HALF of that image. 

How is this relevant to math in general and classical Lutheran education in particular? "It's possible to be extremely creative in the application and manipulation of numbers-but the numbers were already there. We didn't invent them. We discovered them. Mathematics cannot explain its own existence. Mathematics can raise interesting questions and pose fascinating thought problems, but it can't enlighten us about its mysterious nature. We wouldn't expect general revelation to reveal this to us-that's the real of special revelation (and, consequently, why all apologetics mus be wholly centered on Christ, the Word incarnate)" (106).

Well-written by an author passionate about her subject matter and using an outline of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, this book will be a blessing to Lutheran pastors, students, and school and home educators.


We promised to give these offerings of 1517 a fair hearing. I believe that we have done that.


This review (and others published near it in time) was delayed because of family and congregational vocational responsibilities. I apologize for the delay.

Rev. Paul J Cain is Senior 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, Secretary of the Wyoming District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a member of its Board of Directors, Wyoming District Education Chairman/NLSA Commissioner, and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. He has served as an LCMS Circuit Visitor, District Worship Chairman and District Evangelism Chairman. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion volumes, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He is an occasional guest on KFUO radio. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. Rev. Cain is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music. 

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Ancient and Reformation Church Fathers: Commentary, Devotions, and Relections




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. (P)


George, Timothy. Reading Scripture with the Reformers. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011. 270 Pages. Paper. $18.00. (P)


Hall, Christopher A. Living Wisely with the Church Fathers. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017. 274 Pages. Paper. $24.00.


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. 


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. 


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.

Volumes like the following help modern pastors and Christians avoid the error of temporal ignorance. Consider C. S. Lewis:

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones (Introduction to Athanasius' On the Incarnation).

Hear Chesterton: 

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about (Orthodoxy).

Since it has been some time since we reviewed a volume of of Reformation Commentary on Scripture, please review what we said back in 2012 about the Galatians/Ephesians volume (

We have reviewed volumes of IVP's Ancient Commentary on Scripture for years. Our second book debuts a new IVP commentary series.

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture follows the ancient practice of biblical commentary in catena, in which the scriptural texts are elucidated by chains of passages collected from the authoritative insights of the church's great exegetes. Each volume will consist of the collected comments and wisdom of the reformers collated around the text of the Bible. Thus, this series will be a unique tool for the spiritual and theological reading of scripture and a vital help for teaching and preaching.

This series, as Timothy George notes, "is committed to the renewal of the church today through careful study and meditative reflection on the Old and New Testaments, the charter documents of Christianity, read in the context of the worshipping, believing community of faith across the centuries."

A Crucial Link for the Contemporary Church

With the Reformation Commentary on Scripture you have centralized access to treasure that very few can gather for themselves. The series will introduce you to the great diversity that constituted the Reformation, with commentary from Lutherans, Reformed, Anglican, Anabaptists and even reform-minded Catholics, who all shared a commitment to the faithful exposition of Scripture.

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture provides a crucial link between the contemporary church and the great cloud of witnesses that is the historical church. The biblical insights and rhetorical power of the tradition of the Reformation are here made available as a powerful tool for the church of the twenty-first century. Like never before, believers can feel they are a part of a genuine tradition of renewal as they faithfully approach the Scriptures.

A Vital Resource for Teaching and Preaching

In each volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture the reader will find the biblical text in English, from the English Standard Version (ESV), alongside the insights of the leaders of the Reformation, from the landmark figures such as Luther and Calvin to lesser-known commentators, such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Johannes Oecompampadius, Martin Bucer, Johannes Brenz, Kaspar Cruciger, Jean Diodati and Kaspar Olevianus. Many of these texts are published in English for the first time.

We have been aided in the production of this series by the digitalization of original source material. Through use of the Digital Library of Classic Protestant Texts, a database managed by Alexander Street Press and comprised of digitized copies of original Reformation era texts, the scholars involved in this project have been able to comb through texts in their original sixteenth century format, in their original languages, and perform digital searches of the documents, facilitating the process of translation, abridgement, annotation and compilation.

Each volume is designed to facilitate a rich research experience for preachers and teachers. Each volume contains a unique introduction written by the volume editor, providing a reliable guide to the history of the period, the unique reception of the canon of the scripture and an orientation to the thinkers featured in the volume. Volumes also contain biographies of figures from the Reformation era, adding an essential reference for students of church history.

A Team of Scholars Committed to Biblical Renewal

The editorial team for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture consists of an expert panel of ecumenical and international Reformation scholars. With their specialized expertise, they have judiciously selected biblical commentary from the Latin, German, Dutch, French and English language sources of the Reformation period—being vigilant to include the authoritative comments of many lesser-known figures whose witness has never before been available in English.

While the principal period for the commentary is the sixteenth century, the volume editors have carefully consulted the writings of some later figures, such as the early Puritans of the seventeenth century. They have also selected from appropriate earlier authors in the pre-Reformation era who displayed a careful concern for the text of scripture and chartered an exegetical course that fed into the Reformation (such as Jean Colet, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and Desiderius Erasmus).

This series is guided by twin commitments to church renewal and scholarly integrity. To that end, under the guidance of Timothy George, series general editor, and Scott M. Manetsch, series associate editor, we have assembled an advisory board and team of volume editors who are actively involved in the life of the church and whose work has been recognized by peers as exhibiting diligence and credibility. 
(Series website)

The first volume covers both Galatians and Ephesians and is edited by Gerald L. Bray.

The gospel of justification by faith alone was discovered afresh by the Reformers in the epistolary turrets of the New Testament: the letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians.

At the epicenter of the exegetical revolution that rocked the Reformation era was Paul's letter to the Galatians. There Luther, Calvin, Bullinger and scores of others perceived the true gospel of Paul enlightening a situation parallel to their own times--the encroachment of false teachers and apostates upon the true teaching of salvation by grace through faith.

In Ephesians, the Reformers gravitated to what they understood to be the summit of Paul's vision of salvation in Christ. Finding its source, beyond time, in the electing love of God, the Reformers disseminated the letter's message of temporal hope for Christians living under the duress of persecution.

For the Reformers, these epistles were living, capsule versions of Paul's letter to the Romans, briefs on the theological vision of the celebrated apostle. Probed and expounded in the commentaries and sermons found in this volume, these letters became the very breath in the lungs of the Reformation movements.

The range of comment on Galatians and Ephesians here spans Latin, German, French, Dutch and English authors from a variety of streams within the Protestant movement. Especially helpful in this volume is Gerald Bray's editorial presentation of the development of tensions among the Reformers.

The epistles of Galatians and Ephesians open up a treasure house of ancient wisdom, allowing these faithful Reformation witnesses to speak with eloquence and intellectual acumen to the church today.


General Introduction
A Guide to Using This Commentary
Introduction to Galatians and Ephesians
Commentary on Galatians
Commentary on Ephesians
Map of the Reformation
Timeline of the Reformation
Biographical Sketches of Reformation Era Figures
Author Index
Scripture Index

(Publisher's website)

This new series will focus on the Protestant reformers. I do like the idea. Although this Lutheran is not eager to read more Calvin or Zwingli, I am eager for English-readers who are inclined to reference this series to learn more about the Lutheran Reformation through our contributing commentators.

Let's let Scripture itself be the judge of who teaches correctly. Over the last year, I've read and reviewed a half dozen study Bibles. They take forever to examine and judge--longer than a trilogy of novels. My pet peeve is when the study Bible notes unapologetically and bold-facedly contradict the clearly and accurately translated Bible text.

So, let's have at it. Read the ESV translation at the head of each section of Galatians and Ephesians. Then, read all of the commentaries. Read even the ones by names you know and names you don't know. Read the comments by those from your tradition and outside your tradition. Third, honestly say who best said what the Bible said. You may surprise yourself (in a good way). Finally, consult the back of each volume to learn about the commentator (who, when, where, and what they believed about Christ).


My goal in this review is to get you interested in this series. I pray you would even pick up this first volume. Those behind the project picked a volume on Galatians and Ephesians to go first for a reason. These are great Epistles! Luther's commentary on Galatians is a classic. Galatians is a great introduction to the Gospel and how to avoid getting it wrong. Ephesians is a great blessing when it comes to correctly teaching about election and predestination, grace, worship and music, marriage, parenting, and spiritual warfare.


Any Lutheran who has read the Small Catechism has encountered the Twenty Questions. I am thankful that Lutheran Service Book places them in the hymnal right before the first hymn so that we may more properly and reverently prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the very forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of the Altar. Well, I think Luther is quite sarcastic in his last question, and his use of humor wakes some out of their unrepentant, unserious (or too serious) slumber. We are given to always take the Lord, His Word, and our sin seriously. I also think we take ourselves far too seriously.

I prefer Luther's antidote to Calvin's:

Ephesians 5:4 Avoid Sinful Talk
Sarcasm Is Ungodly. John Calvin: Paul goes on to add three more things to his list of evils. It is possible to joke in a good way, but it is very difficult to be witty without becoming sarcastic, and as wit itself carries a sort of affectation that is not at all in keeping with godliness, Paul quite rightly warns us against it. None of these things is consistent with being a Christian. Commentary on Ephesians.

We report. You decide. Sin boldly.

As always, we thank the publishers for their generosity in providing complimentary copies of these books for our review. We think they are worth your time and shelf space.

Welcome back to 2018.

What's different this time? 

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul writes, "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4 ESV).

Reflecting on Paul's summary of the gospel, sixteenth-century biblical commentator, theologian, and Lutheran pastor Tilemann Hesshus wrote, "The central tenet and foundation of our entire religion is that our Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification. All of our comfort, salvation and hope rest upon this foundation. From this is derived that greatest comfort concerning the resurrection of the dead and the future life of eternal glory."

Throughout the church's history, Christians have turned to the epistles of the Apostle Paul in order to understand the essentials of the Christian faith, learn from the challenges faced by early Christians, and discern how to navigate the complexities of following Christ. Among those who gained wisdom from Paul were the Protestant Reformers, who found inspiration and instruction about how to lead the church of their day during a time of significant theological debate, ecclesiastical reform, and spiritual renewal.

In this volume of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Scott Manetsch guides readers through a diversity of Reformation-era commentary on the first of Paul's letters to the Corinthians. Within this volume, readers will encounter familiar voices and discover lesser-known figures from a variety of theological traditions, including Lutherans, Reformed, Radicals, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics. Drawing on a variety of resources—including commentaries, sermons, treatises, and confessions—much of which appears here for the first time in English, it provides resources for contemporary preachers, enables scholars to better understand the depth and breadth of Reformation commentary, and helps all Christians cling to the things of first importance.

Scott M. Manetsch (PhD, University of Arizona) is professor of church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the associate general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture and the author of Calvin's Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609. (Publisher's Website)

As a Lutheran reader, my first question was, "Who was Tilemann Hesshus?" It took some digging to find the answer. Delays in writing this review also helped answer the question. I began with Concordia Cyclopedia, now online, complete with all of its historic abbreviations:

Hesshus, Tilemann

(Hesshusius; Heshusius; Hesshusen; 1527–88). Ev. theol.; educ. Wittenberg, Oxford, and Paris; supt. Goslar 1553; prof. Rostock 1556, expelled for opposing worldliness 1557; prof. Heidelberg 1557, deposed 1559 for refusing to subscribe to the Variata (see Lutheran Confessions, B 1); pastor Magdeburg 1560; deposed 1562 for opposing edict forbidding polemics; active in Wesel, Frankfurt am Main, and Strasbourg; court preacher Neuburg 1565; prof. Jena 1569; exiled 1573 by Elector August* of Saxony; bp. Samland (peninsula of former E Prussia) 1573; deposed 1577 on charges of false doctrine in Christology; prof. Helmstedt 1577; helped to deter Brunswick from accepting FC. Works include Vom Ampt und gewalt der Pfarrherr; Adsertio sacrosancti Testamenti Iesu Christi: contra blasphemam Calvinistarum exegesin [Exegesis perspicua et ferme integra controversiae de Sacra Coena]; commentaries See also Propst, Jakob.

This volume states:

Tilemann Hesshus (1527-1588). German Lutheran theologican and pastor. Hesshus studied under Philipp Melanchthon but was a staunch Gnesio-Lutheran. With great hestitation--and later regret--he affirmed the Formula of Concord (465).

I had to pause there. A man who regrets affirming the Formula of Concord? This is not what a confessional Lutheran like me wants to see. We resume...

Heshuss ardently advocated for church discipline, considering obedience a mark of the church. Unwilling to compromise his strong convictions, especially regarding matters of discipline, Hesshus was regularly embroiled in controversy. He was expelled or pressed to leave Goslar, Rostock, Heidelberg, Bremen, Magdeburg, Wesel, Königsberg and Samland before settling in Helmstedt, where he remained until his death. He wrote numerous polemical tracts concerning ecclesiology, justification, the sacraments and original sin, as well as commentaries on Psalms, Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, and 1-2 Timothy, and a postil collection (465).

This fellow may have some interesting things to say in his commentaries, but he doesn't sound like the kind of pastor a Lutheran seminary or church body would set up as a role model. Hesshus is the find of person we all get frustrated with on Facebook.
Volume 10 of Chemnitz's Works also mentions the man. He was supposed to meet with the authors of the Apology of the Book of Concord (a document defending the whole Book of Concord and not included in the Lutheran Confessions), but was a no-show in May 1582. He did appear for an extended meeting in Quedlinburg from December 1582 to January 1583.
Consider in particular Heshuss on Justification by Faith Alone (300-301).

Notable sections of the book include the commentaries on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 through 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Why? It is your opportunity as reader to read what the Scriptures say, and just Reformation teachers on the basis of their own words. Do they agree with the Word? Do they contradict, deny, or attempt to spin the Word? As I'll share later, this is what makes this volume and this set so valuable!

Since our first review of a volume in this series, I've had much more time to think about the purpose of these Reformation Commentary volumes and use by confessional Lutherans like me and our readers.

Before we get to that, let's spend some time with some ancient church fathers thanks to Cindy Crosby and Christopher A. Hall.

"To search the sacred Scripture is very good and most profitable for the soul. For, 'like a tree which is planted near the running waters,' so does the soul watered by sacred Scripture also grow hearty and bear fruit in due season," writes John of Damascus in Orthodox Faith (4.17).

By helping you to read holy writings with ancient eyes, the church fathers offer you a deep drink from the only water that can give true life. These three guides to prayer and reflection combine excerpts from the writings of the church fathers as found in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture with a simple structure for daily or weekly reading and prayer.

There are fifty-two weeks of readings in each volume, following the weekly lectionary cycles A, B or C. You can read through them in order or by thematic interest. Each day you will also find a simple opening and closing prayer drawn from the prayers and hymns of the ancient church.

Come and find the deep nourishment God offers through the insights of this "cloud of witnesses"--the ancient church fathers. (Publisher's Website)

Volume A appeared in 2007, followed by C in 2009, and B 2011. C has begun with Advent 2018 (and most of 2019).

Lutheran Service Book's Three-Year Lectionary is a modified version of the Revised Common Lectionary. Some readings will be different, yet the set will be quite useful for Lutherans! I appreciate it very much personally, beyond my role as reviewer. 

Each week has an explanation of the Theme, an opening prayer (an historic collect), Bible Readings, Psalm of response, reflections (commentary selections), and a concluding collect. 

I have some suggestions for the publisher.


  • Ancient Christian Devotional is a three volume set.  There is room for one more volume. I recommend that IVP would add a volume for the Historic One-Year Lectionary (See, used in one version or another in western Christendom for a thousand years. 
  • The content of these volumes would be absolutely perfect for an IVP devotional app for smartphones and tablets.
  • Consider using this set as a supplement your CPH PrayNow app/Treasury of Daily Prayer readings.

  • Yes. There should be a Reformation Devotional in four volumes. 

We'll encounter more from the IVP Reformation series shortly.

Living Wisely with the Church Fathers completes the set begun with Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, and Worshiping with the Church Fathers.


The first centuries of Christianity are like a far country. But despite their foreignness, they hold a treasury of wisdom for living. Early Christians struggled and flourished in a culture that was in love with empire and military power, infatuated with sex and entertainment, tolerant of all gods but hostile to the One. And from this crucible of discipleship they extracted lessons of virtue, faithfulness, and joy in Christ.

Christopher Hall takes us to this distant time, where he interviews Christian leaders around the ancient Mediterranean world, inquiring how to live a good life as a Christ follower. The menu of topics wends its way through wealth and poverty, war and violence, marriage and sexuality, theater and the arena, as well as the harsh realities of persecution and martyrdom. 

Gathering around Basil or Chrysostom or Augustine, we are instructed anew in the way of discipleship. And as they grapple with issues surprisingly resonant with our own, this cloud of ancient witnesses both surprises and challenges us in the life of faith.

Christopher A. Hall (PhD, Drew University) is the president of Renovaré. He is associate editor of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, and his books include Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, and Worshiping with the Church Fathers.

Hall previously served at Eastern University for over twenty years in several roles, including chancellor, provost, dean of Palmer Seminary, dean of the Templeton Honors College, distinguished professor of theology, and director of academic spiritual formation. He and his wife, Debbie, live in Pennsylvania and have three grown children. (Publisher's Website)

Chapters cover martyrdom, wealth and poverty, war and military sevice, sex and the dynamics of desire, life as male and female (and the goodness and beauty of marriage), life and death, entertainment, and the well-ordered heart.

Given the prevalence of divorce today, it is instructive that the fathers didn't speak about it much at all in this volume. Since there was no such thing as "no fault divorce" until the 20th Century, a consistent (often unspoken) teaching that "divorce is not an option" is shocking to modern ears. The fathers speak about love, the Word on holy matrimony, forgiveness, self-discipline, and sacrifice. Such are an antidote to divorce. Encouragement toward holiness and not indulging in sinful desires are needed in every time and place. The author's account of a Christian man who struggles with same-sex attraction is a necessary inclusion to help people today understand better the Christian life (172ff).

The Fathers disagreed. At times they disagreed with one another. And some clearly depart from the Word at times. Each of their words must be normed against the "Word." They are the best examples to us when they reflect the Word, the whole Word, and nothing but the Word. That is when they are truly Christians, little Christs.

IVP would do well to consider similar volumes to Hall's four for the Reformers. The project may well need more than four volumes. The first in a presumed series, Reading Scripture with the Reformers, is our next subject.



In Reading Scripture with the Reformers, Timothy George takes readers through the exciting events of the sixteenth century, showing how this dynamic period was instigated by a fresh return to the Scriptures. George immerses us in the world of the Reformation, its continuities with the ancient and medieval church, and its dramatic upheavals and controversies. Most of all, he uncovers the significant way that the Bible shaped the minds and hearts of the reformers.

This book shows how the key figures of the Reformation read and interpreted Scripture, and how their thought was shaped by what they read. We are invited to see what the church today can learn from the fathers of the Reformation, and how these figures offer a model of reading, praying and living out the Scriptures.

Timothy George is the founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and serves as an executive editor at Christianity Today. He is a member of the Southern Baptist-Roman Catholic Conversation Team and has participated in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together initiative. He is the series editor for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture.

(Publisher's Website)

I find the author fair in his treatment of the "reformers" as a whole. I rather like this volume of history.

There's something about every volume of this kind that rubs me the wrong way. Few see Luther the way Lutherans do. (To be fair, it is probably true that few see Calvin the way Calvinists do, etc.) This was brought up by a paragraph on page 18 that highlighted contributions of each of several reformers and their approach. Not each of the specifically-mentioned contributes are the sole property of the reformer mentioned. Still, it seemed to me that Luther didn't get enough credit there. It was likely the intent of the author to include the reformers to get buy-in from readers so early in the book. He was not trying to offend, but I read the paragraph in a way that another, likely unintended meaning appeared.

What George includes is certainly good, right, and salutary for the understanding of how the various reformers read Scripture, yet it seems that this volume really would serve best as a volume of introduction to another volume in the series more specifically treating the "how" of how the reformers read Scripture. See the approach of Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers for what I mean. I love history. A volume with this title needs more exegetical theology rather than historical theology. IVP could re-issue this volume with a different title that focuses on its historical approach: Understanding the Context of the Reformers: an Introduction to Reading Scripture with the Reformers.

Do I expect to see Reading Scripture with the Reformers joined by future volumes theoretically titled Learning Theology with the Reformers, Worshiping with the Reformers, and Living Wisely with the Reformers

Yes. And IVP should publish them. More on that later.

I do over a caveat. The Reformation church fathers had significant disagreements. Yes, so did the Ancient church fathers, yet the Reformation differences seem more poignant because they are still with us. I am not one who wants to ignore differences, papering over them and "agreeing to disagree."

There is, I suppose, a time and a place for what C. S. Lewis called "mere Christianity." Yet he did not propose that that is all there is. Consider this except from early in his book of that same title:

We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to "the disciples," to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were "far closer to the spirit of Christ" than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological, or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian.

I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.

It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at. I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait. When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise. But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping. You must keep on praying for light: and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house. And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and paneling.

In plain language, the question should never be: "Do I like that kind of service?" but "Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door-keeper?"

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those Who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.

If Christianity is the one true faith, and Scripture confesses that it is, and if the Bible is the very Word of God (and not merely a container for a Word of God) and it is, then there will be a point where Christians will disagree with the Bible itself and therefore disagree with one another.

I do not wish to play a game with the word "interpretation." Either the text means what it says or one simply disagrees with what the text says. That some say the Constitution of the United States is a "living document" is different than what Christians mean by Scripture being living, active, and the Word of God. Both say something specific because the author(s) behind each meant to say something specific. Let's limit that illustration simply to the point at hand.

Where a Church Father of the Reformation or Ancient variety ignores, disagrees with, deletes, adds to, or contradicts the clear Word of God, the Biblical text, Christians should ignore, mark, and avoid what that person says. The same goes for any modern pastor, professor, hierarch, or layman.

One could use a set like Reformation Commentary on Scripture and only follow the comments from one's favorite reformer(s). That would be a mistake. 

If Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Walther, Pieper, Sasse, or any Lutheran living or dead disagrees with the Word, I must hold to the Word. The Lutherans of the first generation quoted from the ancient fathers to show that their "Lutheran" ideas were not new, but historic, found in the mouths and pens of those claimed as fathers by Rome, but most importantly, found in Scripture!

I love that volumes of this commentary set print the Bible verses to be commented upon before the commentary. Read it. Don't skip this step. That is our standard, our measure, our "norm." 

As you read the commentaries, read each commentary without noticing the name of the author. How does the comment measure up to the original, the source, the Word?  You may be surprised. When you do notice the author's name, don't let up your guard. Don't give "your guy" slack just because he is a theological ancestor. Give your tradition's historic opponents a fair hearing, yet always give the Word the final say. 

As I said years ago, 

So, let's have at it. Read the ESV translation at the head of each section of Galatians and Ephesians. Then, read all of the commentaries. Read even the ones by names you know and names you don't know. Read the comments by those from your tradition and outside your tradition. Third, honestly say who best said what the Bible said. You may surprise yourself (in a good way). Finally, consult the back of each volume to learn about the commentator (who, when, where, and what they believed about Christ).

If our consciences, like Luther's, are to be captive to the Word of God, then they are captive not merely to emotion, experience, personal preference, a false private "revelation", or the whims of a culture. They would and need to be captive to the Word of God. So that is where I still stand. 

Let's go two steps further.  IVP has also published two other series related to Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Ancient Christian Doctrine (5 volumes), and Ancient Christian Texts (ongoing). My pastoral library is the richer having all or nearly all extant volumes in these companion sets.

A theoretical Reformation Doctrine set may well need more than five volumes. There would be some risk in publishing it because modern confessional differences are felt more than ancient ones. Still, the set should be attempted. Now may or may not be the time.

Volumes by individual Reformation church fathers in a theoretical Reformation Texts series should also be published. Here, I counsel IVP to co-publish volumes with denominational publishers so the benefit of having previously untranslated works (and new translations of other significant works) available would be balanced with the risk shared by those who share the confession of the author to be published.

Or, IVP could go with something like Reformation Readings of Paul that provide longer selections from a variety of reformers, showing competing interpretations side by side like Luther and Erasmus on the human will.

Does either of these proposed projects have to be done in hardcover or even in print at all? That would be ideal, yet the rules of traditional publishing need not apply. Digital versions for Faithlife/Logos and Amazon/kindle would be sufficient for many. Print-on-demand is another attractive option. The purchaser could choose paperback or hardcover.

The future is bright for IVP with so much potential for Reformation Commentary on Scripture and related volumes!

This review (and others published near it in time) was delayed because of family and congregational vocational responsibilities. I apologize for the delay. 

Rev. Paul J Cain is Senior 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, Secretary of the Wyoming District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a member of its Board of Directors, Wyoming District Education Chairman/NLSA Commissioner, and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. He has served as an LCMS Circuit Visitor, District Worship Chairman and District Evangelism Chairman. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion volumes, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He is an occasional guest on KFUO radio. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. Rev. Cain is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music. 

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