Liturgy, Hymnody, and Pulpit Quarterly Book Review
Critical reviews by Lutheran pastors and church musicians of books and other resources for Christian worship, preaching, and church music from a perspective rooted in Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and good common sense.
Thompson, John L., Editor. General Editor Timothy George. Associate General Editor Scott M. Manetsch. Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament I). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012. 389 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. https://www.ivpress.com/genesis-1-11-rcs
Cooper, Derek and Martin J. Lohrmann, Editors. General Editor Timothy George. Associate General Editor Scott M. Manetsch. 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament V). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016. 745 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. https://www.ivpress.com/1-2-samuel-1-2-kings-1-2-chronicles-rcs
Selderhuis, Herman, Editor. General Editor Timothy George. Associate General Editor Scott M. Manetsch. Psalms 1-72 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament VII). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 561 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. https://www.ivpress.com/psalms-1-72-rcs
Paavola, Daniel E. Grace, Faith, Scripture: Portrait of a Lutheran. St. Louis: Concordia, 2019. 113 Pages. pdf ARC received. www.cph.org
Keating, Ray. Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel (Second Edition. New Epilogue and Author Introduction). Manorville, NY: Keating Reports, 2019. 447 Pages. Paper. Kindle available. http://www.pastorstephengrant.blogspot.com/
Burgess, John P., Jerry Andrews, and Joseph D. Small. A Pastoral Rule for Today: Reviving and Ancient Practice. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019. 200 Pages. Advance Reader's Copy. Paper expected to be published at $20.00. https://www.ivpress.com/
Beitler, James E. Seasoned Speech: Rhetoric in the Life of the Church. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019. Advance Reader's Copy. Paper expected to be published at $20.00. https://www.ivpress.com/
Mattes, Mark. Edited by Rick Ritchie. Foreword by John T. Pless. Law and Gospel in Action: Foundations Ethics Church. Irvine: 1517 Publishing. 396 Pages. Paper. $22.95. https://1517.org/publishing/
Luther, Martin. Translated by Haroldo Camacho. Foreword by Michael Horton. Martin Luther's Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (1535): Lecture Notes Transcribed by Students and Presented in Today's English. Irvine: 1517 Publishing. 558 Pages. Paper. $22.95. https://1517.org/publishing/
Posset, Franz. The Two-Fold Knowledge: Readings on the Knowledge of Self and the Knowledge of God, Selected and Translated from the Works of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (Collected Works Volume 1). Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2018. 152 Pages. Paper. $17.00 (Discounts available.) https://wipfandstock.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=posset
Designed for a need in his own life, The Realistic Optimist TO DO List & Calendar 2019, is the latest release from author Ray Keating.
Get organized; make things happen; and get inspired throughout the year with "The Realistic Optimist TO DO List & Calendar 2019." It's a tool that makes sense for career, business, education, family, fun and pretty much everything else in life.
"The Realistic Optimist TO DO List & Calendar 2019" offers a simple, systematic combination of long run, weekly and daily TO DO lists that make a real difference in getting things done. For good measure, each page includes a quote from a leader or thinker that in some way reflects being a realistic optimist - providing inspiration, giving pause to think, helping you move ahead, generating a laugh, or eliciting agreement or a roll of the eyes.
Ray Keating, who is an author, economist, columnist, website publisher/editor, podcaster, marketer and more, refers to himself as a "realistic optimist." What is that all about? Keating sums it up: "The realistic optimist basically learns from life's ups and downs, while maintaining a hope and confidence in successfully setting out and achieving goals."
The use of "to do" lists have made a big difference in helping to organize all aspects of Keating's life - as is the case with countless others. He notes, "I've become far better organized - though far from perfect - with the 'to do' list becoming my main planning, organizing and execution tool. The act of putting together the 'to do' list requires reflection on goals; forces prioritization; allows for being more realistic about time management; and generates serious thought on how to best get things done." But using the "to do" list led him to think about a more effective "to do" list. Keating declares, "My creating 'The Realistic Optimist TO DO List & Calendar' was driven by meeting a need in my own life, and it followed with the realization that if I benefit from this, others might as well. I hope this becomes a handy tool in your efforts to set and achieve all sorts of goals."
Keating concludes, "The fact that you set goals, think about how to achieve those goals, and choose to seek out and use tools like The Realistic Optimist TO DO List & Calendar mean that you are a realistic optimist. Forge ahead!"
This is a desk reference and encourager. Mine is the thickness of the LCMS Annual phonebook and directory with pages in Letter size.
Each page has a 2019 date, a quote, and spaces for your daily TO DO list.
After the author's introduction of encouragement, there is an Annual TO DO Goal page. Special monthly pages help you keep on task toward your goals.
Special weekly pages help you keep track of priorities for each week.
I, too, am a realistic optimist. Want encouragement to keep on task in 2019? Get organized and make things happen with Ray Keating's The Realistic Optimist TO DO List and Calendar.
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.
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.
Locklair, Valerie. Called to Defend: An Apologetics Handbook for the Middle School Student. New Reformation Press. Cloth. 249 Pages. www.newreformationpress.com
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!
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 (http://www.apologeticsacademy.edu), 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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).
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).
We have reviewed volumes of IVP's Ancient Commentary on Scripture for years. Our second book debuts a new IVP commentary series.
Learn More About the Reformation Commentary on Scripture
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.
Abbreviations General Introduction A Guide to Using This Commentary Introduction to Galatians and Ephesians Commentary on Galatians Commentary on Ephesians Appendix Map of the Reformation Timeline of the Reformation Biographical Sketches of Reformation Era Figures Bibliography Author Index Scripture Index
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:
(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..
Duguid, Iain M., James M. Hamilton, Jr., and Jay Sklar, Editors. ESV Expository Commentary (Volume VII, Daniel-Malachi). Wheaton: Crossway, 2018. 795 Pages. Cloth. $50.00. www.crossway.org
Duguid, Iain M., James M. Hamilton, Jr., and Jay Sklar, Editors. ESV Expository Commentary (Volume XI, Ephesians-Philemon). Wheaton: Crossway, 2018. 567 Pages. Cloth. $40.00. www.crossway.org
Duguid, Iain M., James M. Hamilton, Jr., and Jay Sklar, Editors. ESV Expository Commentary (Volume XII, Hebrews-Revelation). Wheaton: Crossway, 2018. 784 Pages. Cloth. $45.00. www.crossway.org
The resources presented in this review have in common a respect for the Word of God as the Word of God.
Three volumes of the new ESV Expository Commentary equip a preacher to explain the Word in preaching and teaching. Pater Bernhardus demonstrates the connection between the Reformer himself and one viewed by some as a forerunner of the Reformation. Luther appreciated Bernard's writings, especially his sermons, which clearly present Christ.
The publication of the Christian Book of Concord in the 1580 German edition included an appendix, the Catalog of Testimonies, which was not a formal part of the Lutheran Confessions. It is important to Lutherans and has been widely used because it provides additional evidence for the Lutheran position on the doctrine of the two natures in Christ. Scripture passages and quotations from church fathers on the person of Christ are cited, with a special focus on the fact that because of the Incarnation the human nature of Christ shares in the qualities of divinity. Why share quotations from church fathers? It showed that the Lutheran positions on the two natures in Christ and the Sacrament of the Altar were not newly-invented or ahistorical, but Biblical, having been confessed by fathers faithful to the Scriptures centuries before. (Condensed and restated from http://bookofconcord.org/testimonies.php)
Bernhard of Clairvaux is not quoted in the Catalog of Testimonies, but he was well known to Martin Luther through his writings. One notes that Luther was quite familiar with Pater Bernhardus, a theologian Luther respected as he did Augustine.
Franz Posset is a German-American independent church historian and lay theologian in the Catholic Church. He is an internationally recognized ecumenist, specializing in the history and theology of the Renaissance and early Lutheran Reformation. Franz was born in 1945 in Glockelberg in the Bohemian Forest (Sudetenland), and between 1965 and 1970 he was a student of Hans Kung, Josef Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI emeritus), and Walter Kasper (Cardinal). He earned a diploma in Catholic theology at University of Tubingen, and received a PhD in Religious Studies, with his dissertation directed by the late Kenneth Hagen, at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. He was the associate editor of Luther Digest (1993-2012) and is a member of the International Luther Society. Franz is the author of numerous articles and books in English and German including award-winning articles and books: - The first annual Natalie Zemon Davis Prize (Canada) in 2006 for his ""Polyglot Humanism in Germany circa 1520 as Luther's Milieu and Matrix."" - Davidias Prize of the Association of Croatian Writers in 2014 for the book, Marcus Marulus and the Biblia Latina of 1489. - Franz-Delitzsch-Forderpreis (Germany) in 2015 for his ""In Search of an Explanation for the Suffering of the Jews: Johann Reuchlin's Open Letter of 1505."" - The Koenig Prize in Biography of the American Catholic Historical Association in 2016 for the book, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522): A Theological Biography.(Publisher's Website)
This volume, now included as the second volume of the Collected Works of Franz Posset, was originally published in 1999 by Cistercian Publications. This 2018 Wipf & Stock edition features a new Introduction by the author and two pages of Corrigenda. Regarding the latter (4), perhaps the very first correction, "p. 6," should be corrected. It appears to refer to second page of the Table of Contents, giving the correct page numbers for 'On Consideration' (353) and 'Triple Feeding' (366) [not "Tripe"]. I do not wish one line in the book distract you from its overall importance. What is the connection between Bernard and Martin Luther? Consider this photo of my copy of the back cover of the 1999 edition:
The cover art of both editions features a photograph of a sculpture of Christ embracing both men.
This volume is significant in part because a lay Roman Catholic theologian was willing to fairly examine Martin Luther. Posset is also the author of The Real Luther: A Friar at Erfurt and Wittenberg, published by Concordia, a Lutheran publishing house, that of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. His work has always reminded me of that of Fr. Frank Olivier, an Assumptionist Father, who was Professor of Lutheran studies at the Institut Superior d'Etudes Oecumeniques at Paris when his book The Trial of Luther (Concordia, translated by John Tonkin) was published in 1978 and Professor of Theology at the Catholic University in Paris when Luther's Faith: The Cause of the Gospel in the Church (Concordia, translated by John Tonkin) was published in 1982. The latter was a seminary textbook for me. Finding the former was a quest. Both authors are fair-minded and scholarly. All these volumes deserve to share a shelf.
Posset notes that Martin Luther read and quoted Bernard of Clairvaux throughout his life. The "Cistercian Cicero" was a part of Luther's theological formation, homiletical formation, and pastoral formation. This is a book that deserves time to digest, ponder, and absorb as he makes his case that Bernard informed Luther's view of monasticism, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and what C. F. W. Walther would describe as a theology where the Gospel (in its narrow sense) predominates.
Luther will disagree with Father Bernard on "monastic stuff" (to borrow a phrase from Posset), the interpretation of Psalm 90, aspects of Bernard's teaching of Christ as Judge, and when he emphasizes the mother of our Lord more than our Lord.
This volume will introduce Lutherans to Bernard through Luther and Catholics to Luther via Bernard. Readers may be intrigued enough to read more, whether Luther's Works (American Edition), Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Sermons for Lent and the Easter Season, or Lane's Bernard of Clairvaux: Theologian of the Cross.
Recommended? Yes. We are also interested in the first and third volumes of the works of Franz Posset as published by Wipf & Stock, The Two-Fold Knowledge: Readings on the Knowledge of Self and the Knowledge of God Selected and Translated from the Works of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (Collected Works Volume 1) and Luther's Catholic Christology According to His Johannine Lectures of 1527 (Collected Works Volume 3).
Luther is the Bible commentator par excellence, largely because of his pastoral and homiletical approach. He wishes to present Christ. I appreciate good Bible commentaries, in part, because there are so many unhelpful ones from a confessional Lutheran perspective. Far too many push an agenda, practicing eisegesis rather than exegeting the Bible text. The ESV Expository Commentary is new. There are currently only three of the projected twelve volumes in print. They are our other subject in this review.
Designed to strengthen the global church with a widely accessible, theologically sound, and pastorally wise resource for understanding and applying the overarching storyline of the Bible, this commentary series features the full text of the ESV Bible passage by passage, with crisp and theologically rich exposition and application. Editors Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton, and Jay A. Sklar have gathered a team of experienced pastor-theologians to provide a new generation of pastors and other teachers of the Bible around the world with a globally minded commentary series rich in biblical theology and broadly Reformed doctrine, making the message of redemption found in all of Scripture clear and available to all.
Honestly, I cringed a little at the phrase "broadly Reformed doctrine" being a Lutheran, but I find the volumes I've seen so far to be fair and "rich in biblical theology." (Perhaps a small "r"? Either way, the word is preferable to how "protestant" is now (mis)used generally. My concern is more in the realm of future marketing than actual offense.) These three volumes are practical tools for preaching while also being substantive. I want to see the whole set!
Thirteen contributors explain the shorter Prophetic Books of the Old Testament—Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—with biblical insight and pastoral wisdom, showing readers the hope that is offered even amidst judgment.
Contributors include: Mitchell L. Chase George Schwab Allan M. Harman Michael G. McKelvey Max Rogland Jay Sklar Stephen J. Dempster Daniel Timmer David G. Firth Jason S. DeRouchie Michael Stead Anthony R. Petterson Eric Ortlund
A Major Prophet joins the Twelve so-called Minor Prophets in Volume VII. It features an abundance of tables, a helpful teaching tool for Daniel primarily, but also for Hosea and Jonah. Daniel 12:1-3 was a recent Series B lectionary text. It is here helpfully combined with Daniel 11:2ff. The text is daunting to a preacher. The commentary is quite comprehensive, yet focused and helpful.
The end of the commentary on Jonah is pointed law: "if we are in any way selective in terms of the people to whom we show God's grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness, then we still do not get it. We remain disciples of Jonah, not disciples of Jesus" (421).
Commentary on Habakkuk 2:2-4 highlights "by faith" as "a life lived in dependence on God" and "faithfulness," "a recognition of God's trustworthiness, even when circumstances are challenging" (545, cf. Hebrews).
Commentary on Zechariah 6:13 highlights the "conceptual background" of Psalm 110 for interpretation of the Branch, Christ, as Priest.
Commentary on Malachi 3:6-12 fairly shows the "stewardship" sermon of the prophet here, yet places it in the context of no "exact amount" for the NT church.
The goal I hope to see in any Old Testament commentary is that of preaching Christ. I was not disappointed.
With contributions from a team of pastors and scholars, this commentary through 9 of Paul's letters helps students of the Bible to understand how each epistle fits in with the storyline of Scripture and applies today.
Contributors include: Benjamin L. Merkle Jason C. Meyer Alistair I. Wilson David W. Chapman Denny Burk Alistair I. Wilson
Highlights in this volume include exposition of Ephesians 2:8-10. It notes that the antecedent of "this" is the whole phrase before. "God not only saves us from our sin; he also saves us for good works. Paul is absolutely clear that good works do not save a person. However, he does maintaining that God calls all believers to a virtuous life" (47, italics original).
I would urge reading Colossians 2:12 in conjunction with Romans 6. The commentator's reference to "mode of baptism" notes his bias, yet in saying as much has he does connecting circumcision to baptism as Paul does is more than I have heard from many of his confession.
Regarding 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the commentator notes: "There are difficulties in 1 Thessalonians for the rapture theory" (301). Yes. This is a polite yet clear theological smackdown of a false idea originating in an 1830's Scottish fringe group.
Commentators support morality and ministry as presented in the pastoral epistles.
Six experienced Bible teachers walk through some of the richest but more challenging books of the New Testament, helping Bible readers understand what they say about Christians' hope for the future.
Contributors include: Dennis E. Johnson Robert L. Plummer C. Samuel Storms Ray Van Neste Matthew S. Harmon Thomas R. Schreiner
I received these three volumes in October. As expository commentaries, they are designed to prepare a pastor for preaching. And so they did. Given the readings in Series B of the Three-Year Lectionary from Lutheran Service Book, the bulk of my attention was given to volume XIII, covering Hebrews through Revelation.
I then read through the commentary focusing on pericopes past and present:
Hebrews 2:1-13 (14-18)
Hebrews 4:1-13 (14-16)
Revelation 7: (2-8) 9-17
Hebrews 9: 24-28
I had the opportunity to evaluate recent sermons on the first texts on the list on the basis of the scholarship and homiletical insights of volume XIII. I then was able use the volume to better prepare for preaching on the rest.
When you serve in one congregation for multiple cycles through the lectionary (whether Three-Year or Historic One Year), preachers can feel stagnant or unappreciated. We don't preach for the sake of feedback or praise (Galatians 1), though genuine encouragement for the right reasons and authentic constructive criticism in the right spirit is helpful (Galatians 6:6). That said, since I've been preparing for sermons by reading these commentaries, I've received more positive feedback on my preaching, both those with manuscripts and those without. You're mileage may vary, but I am encouraged.
Historic One-Year Lectionary preachers and Three-Year Lectionary preachers will benefit from all projected volumes every year. Three-Year Lectionary preachers may also note the following:
VII, Daniel-Malachi: particularly helpful for Holy Week and the Easter Season
XI, Ephesians-Philemon: particularly helpful in Series C (Advent 2018, 2021, etc)
XII, Hebrews-Revelation: particularly helpful for feasts, festivals, and occasions
Individual authors do occasionally show their biases and those of their specific theological tradition. I find respectful presentation of views throughout, in a way that is an improvement upon the commentary of the original ESV Study Bible. (I have yet to see volumes covering Matthew 16 and 1 Corinthians 11, but call me optimistic for now.) The discussion of the Thousand Years (Revelation 20:1-6; pp. 723ff) is illustrative. The author, as do I, has the amillennial view, yet he fairly explains postmillenial and premillenial views. Such an approach allows all sides to deal with 1) the actual text, 2) actual theological positions instead of caricatures, and 3) be confronted with Biblical evidence explained honestly, clearly, and pastorally. Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and minds. This approach helps get preference, opinion, and ego out of the way.
References include Concordia Commentary in volume XIII. That is positive for me and our readers. There are no known Lutheran contributors to the series that we are aware of (yet).
Six Old Testament volumes (I through VI) covering Genesis-Ezekiel will join VII, Daniel-Malachi. VIII, IX, and X will cover the New Testament, Matthew-Galatians.
Keep up your Greek and Hebrew work, read Pieper and the Book of Concord, and your most reliable commentaries as you usually do. And then read about the pericope at hand in the ESV Expository Commentary.
Yes, this set would be worth the money to buy, the time to read and study, the shelf space to store, and would be very helpful in preaching and teaching. Recommended!
Arbo, Matthew. Foreword by Karen Swallow Prior. Walking through Infertility: Biblical, Theological, and Moral Counsel for Those Who Are Struggling. Wheaton: Crossway, 2018. 116 Pages. Paper. $15.99. www.crossway.org
I'm no snowflake. A faithful pastor cannot afford to be. Pastors and Christians face life and death issues frequently. We dare not hide our heads in the sand. We should face the difficult head-on, informed by Scripture, with faith in Christ, supporting one another with prayer and encouragement during cross-bearing.
The books in this review are different. The first books mentioned are fiction. The final titles are non-fiction. All deal with serious issues deftly thanks to the writing talents of their authors.
Our first novel visits the near-future of tomorrow's headlines.
Reagan Country is the most-recent full-length novel in Ray Keating's Pastor Stephen Grant series.
Please note the new cover style by the Rev. Tyrel Bramwell.
Could President Ronald Reagan's influence reach into the former "evil empire"? The media refers to a businessman on the rise as "Russia's Reagan." Unfortunately, others seek a return to the old ways, longing for Russia's former "greatness." The dispute becomes deadly. Conflict stretches from the Reagan Presidential Library in California to the White House to a Russian Orthodox monastery to the Kremlin. Stephen Grant, pastor at St. Mary's Lutheran Church on Long Island, a former Navy SEAL and onetime CIA operative, stands at the center of the tumult. He is strengthened by his faith, wife, friends, and former CIA colleagues, and is armed with a Glock and Holy Scripture. Grant is the kind of guy that Reagan would have appreciated. (Back cover)
Those who appreciate President Reagan may see this title and cover while browsing the many new books about our 40th President. Interest in the presidency is high given the contentious 2016 campaign, the recent death of President George H. W. Bush, and our nation's divided politics.
Reagan Country is a story of unexpected adventure. I have come to expect adventure for Rev. Stephen Grant in and beyond St. Mary's Lutheran Church (LCMS), but I did not expect this kind of plot. In an America where a large percentage of college students naiively prefer and/or promote socialism over capitalism, "Russia's Reagan" shows the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for the people who had been oppressed by socialism and communism. If only!
My favorite part of this novel is the worldview of this eight-novel extended universe. We see everything in the context of pastors (don't forget St. Mary's Assistant) who confess Luther's Small Catechism and theLutheran Confessions, active in Word and Sacrament ministry to real people, regular reference to Scripture, properly distinguished Law and Gospel, and glimpses into occasions of pastoral care and weekly liturgy (using Lutheran Service Book). Pastor Grant and the whole cast of Keating characters have to live with the consequences of their actions under the forgiveness of Christ. I know of no other author of thrillers that does this.
Reflecting on the series to date, one strength is the knowledge and research of the author. He becomes, if he is not already, a subject matter expert on the topic at hand. Reagan. Comic books. Wine. Baseball. Everything comes off as authentic, accurate, and well-informed.
Keating's creativity also avoids the formula of so much fiction in that we are not merely back to the "status quo" at the end of each installment. He develops characters, relationships, and situations in believable, realistic, human ways. We are primed, wanting more.
And so I rejoice to share with you the coming of Stephen Grant short stories in addition to all the novels to date.
Heroes and Villains is the first (of hopefully many) Pastor Stephen Grant short stories.
As a onetime Navy SEAL, a former CIA operative and a pastor, many people call Stephen Grant a hero. At various times defending the Christian Church and the United States over the years, he has journeyed across the nation and around the world. But now Grant finds himself in an entirely unfamiliar setting – a comic book, science fiction and fantasy convention. But he still joins forces with a unique set of heroes in an attempt to foil a villainous plot against one of the all-time great comic book writers and artists.
Most pastors that I know have extensive libraries. I had the bug early. My comic book library has 10,000 volumes at last count. That covered my main period of collecting from 1986-1996, largely Superman and Batman plus the West Coast Avengers and Silver Surfer. Before superheroes, I read G. I. Joe. Before that, I apparently learned how to read with the help of Bugs Bunny and Uncle Scrooge, Scrooge McDuck, that is.
Heroes and Villains takes you inside all the drama of a comic convention, including that which only Stephen Grant can help with. It's an enjoyable romp complete with the gritty realism of the Burton Batman films, the camp of the Adam West adventures of the 60's, and the modern humor of LEGO Batman.
If you know the adventures of the Avengers from the movies or the pages, dream of the day of decent DC films, or love the experience of Comic-Con, Heroes and Villains is the read for you!
Gun-toting clergymen aren't only found in Wyoming. Keating's novels and short stories prove it with Pastor Stephen Grant and his adventures. May they continue! DC and Marvel are famous for telling stories of worlds like ours, yet different. This is the "multiverse." Somewhere, there is a world like ours where these stories have their own screen adaptations. How I'd love to see Pastor Grant on Netflix!
I love reading about a fictional Sheriff, Walt Longmire, while living in the region of Wyoming that inspired the fictional town and county in the novels of Craig Johnson.
There is also a second series set in Wyoming, in another fictional town in another fictional county, about a fictional Game Warden, Joe Pickett, in the novels of C. J. Box. I am also a Lutheran pastor. It is an example of the embarrassment of riches that I also get to read about a fictional Lutheran pastor, Rev. Stephen Grant,
through the keyboard and creative mind of Ray Keating.
The cover designer of Keating's recent Stephen Grant titles of LCMS Pastor Tyrel Bramwell. His novel on the historic, Biblical, faithful, and apostolic practice of close(d) communion is called Come In, We Are Closed.
Many evangelicals are unfamiliar with it, don't understand it, and are often offended when they encounter it, but when it comes to the Lord's Supper the Scriptures clearly teach that Holy Communion is not for anybody and everybody. In this short work of fiction Rev. Tyrel Bramwell recalls the questions he had when he first encountered closed Communion as a young evangelical and the conversations he has had as a pastor, in order to dispel false assumptions and provide the Biblical answers to real misunderstandings.
It is a challenge to convey theological truth and faithful practice in fiction. The Rev. Tyrel Bramwell does so with theological deftness, pastoral winsomeness, and confessional faithfulness with regard to the challenging topic of Closed Communion. Engaging, humorous, and authentic, Come in, We Are Closed is the helpful tool laypeople and pastors have been praying for to reach those used to Open Communion. This book creatively and conversationally expands the limited number of Bible texts used to explain this faithful biblical practice within a fuller Lutheran confession of a Christian worldview and additional teaching on many other aspects of the Sacrament of the Altar. Come in, We Are Closeddeals with Jesus' own words and how many react to them with unbelief instead of faith.
Another of our LCMS friends is Vanessa Rasanen, author of the first book in the Hearts on Guard series, Soldier On.
He's fighting for his country. She's praying for his safety. When tragedy strikes, can their marriage and faith survive?
Charlie and Meg Winters are no strangers to the military life and the challenges it brings. But when an IED rips through his convoy killing his friends, the loss proves almost too much to bear.
Meg finds her trust in Christ wavering, and secrets she's been keeping for years drive a wedge between her and her husband.
What if everything Meg believes is a lie?
What if Charlie finds out what she's done?
Can Meg and Charlie save their marriage or will the horrors of war and the ghosts of their past tear them apart and forever shipwreck her faith?
Soldier On is a gripping contemporary women's fiction novel. If you like inspirational stories of faith tested under pressure, then you'll love Vanessa Rasanen's true-to-life novel.
Like the books by Keating and Bramwell above, Rasanen's debut novel is realistic, grounded, and authentic, and delivers true comfort in Christ because it deals with difficult topics in all of their gritty agony. This is Law and Gospel, properly distinguished, applied to life. A military couple deals with their vocations as Lutheran Christians, sinners and saints, complete with Scripture, prayer, Luther's Small Catechism, and church services with Lutheran Service Book.
I recommend all the fiction titles above because they help the reader deal with difficult topics, like the following nonfiction title, Walking Through Infertility.
Walking through Infertility: Biblical, Theological, and Moral Counsel for Those Who Are Struggling
By Matthew Arbo, Foreword by Karen Swallow Prior
"This book was written to help you see and understand that God is the Giver of life. You are his child. He cares deeply about you. When you hurt, he hurts with you." —from the Introduction
Infertility is the profoundly wounding experience of many couples, often leading to feelings of despair and shame as they grapple with shattered dreams and unanswered questions. But God does not leave them alone in their pain. The Creator and Redeemer of life has not forsaken the infertile, but has called and equipped them to participate in his church, kingdom, and mission.
Overflowing with warmth and sensitivity, this book explores what the Bible says about infertility, helping the church walk alongside couples struggling with infertility and assessing the ethical issues surrounding common fertility treatments and reproductive technologies.
Among the practical helps of this volume are moral assessments of therapies and treatments recommended to couples (20), the comforting truth that childlessness is not a punitive judgment (41), encouragement toward contentment as a child of God (59), comfort in Christ in the Church, a family (73).
I found this title to be of good Christological comfort, by an informed, compassionate author.
Even so, I found the following two titles to be more specifically theologically and practically helpful for Lutheran Christians.
He Remembers the Barren is a tender conversation with women in the church who wrestle with the issue of barrenness in marriage. Addressing questions frequently asked by those struggling with infertility, Schuermann examines the source of conception, control of our bodies, family planning, and adoption through the lens of the theology of the cross, always pointing the reader to her identity in Christ.
This revised and expanded second edition boldly confesses the author's growing understanding of barrenness and related life issues. With Psalm readings, beloved hymn texts, and prayers at the conclusion of each chapter, He Remembers the Barren resonates on a devotional level that offers comfort not only to those who ache under the cross of barrenness, but to anyone who knows the grief and shame of suffering. It is a valuable resource for family members, friends, pastors, and anyone seeking to better understand and empathize with the childless experience of a loved one. Schuermann gives voice to those who are barren but not broken, drawing the reader away from the temptation to despair and always bringing the focus back to the Gospel and the peace that only Christ can give. (Back cover)
Many women don't talk about miscarriages. They feel a heavy weight of sadness, shame, and fear. And yet, many women close to them - sisters, mothers, friends, coworkers, neighbors - experience the same silent grief. Author Kathryn Ziegler Weber wants to break the silence about miscarriage. Through vignettes from real women, she and the brave women who shared their stories bring God's Word into reader's unspoken story of grief, providing comfort and reassurance.
Answering questions like "What if my baby wasn't baptized?" and "Why doesn't my husband understand?", Never Forsaken wiill give comfort to grieving mothers and understanding to those who haven't experienced miscarriage themselves. (Publisher summary)
Even though we've been using LSB for long enough that it is old enough for confirmation classes, I still remember the Janzow translation of Gerhardt's hymn of cross and comfort from LW 423:2, where the Christian is speaking and praying to the Lord:
Under burdens of cross-bearing, Though the weight May be great, Yet I'm not despairing. You designed the cross you gave me; Thus you know All my woe And how best to save me.
This review (and others published near it in time) was delayed because of family and congregational vocational responsibilities. I apologize for the delay.