Online Articles

Learning Luther: The Creed in the Large Catechism

Editors’ Note: The Virginia Synod is encouraging pastors and laity to read Luther’s writings through the year 2015/16 via these reading guides by Paul R. Hinlicky. The synod has kindly agreed to let us reproduce them here month by month. This month we turn to the Creed in the Large Catechism, in the Kolb & […]

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Review of “The Great and Holy War” by Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (San Francisco: Harper One, 2014), 448 pp. Page references are inserted in parentheses. Philip Jenkins is a rare scholar in the current American scene.  A theologian, a historian and a excellent communicator, this academic is able to make comprehensible, huge […]

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Review of N. T. Wright’s “Surprised by Scripture,”

A former Anglican bishop of Durham, England, and the current New Testament chair at the University of St. Andrews, N. T. Wright is undoubtedly the most popular and well respected biblical scholar alive today. Continuing his popular series begun with his bestselling 2008 book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Wright now takes on the task of understanding Scripture in light of issues confronting the church today. Using a style that is simultaneously academic and conversational, and easily accessible to the laity, Wright seeks to debunk many biblical misconceptions held by atheists and fundamentalists alike…

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Review of “The Self-Donation of God” by Jack D. Kilcrease

Jack Kilcrease has accomplished the near impossible, drawing on his dissertation research and revising it so thoroughly as to produce a book that normal people might actually want to read. (“Normal people” is here understood to indicate a self-selecting and highly nerdy Lutheran laity—and “laity” here is understood to indicate “non-academic” rather than “non-ordained.”) His Self-Donation of God (2013) borrows the title and builds on the searching analysis from his doctoral thesis (2009), which treated the doctrine of the atonement within the Lutheran tradition, and presents an account of Christ’s person and work that is driven by Scripture and Lutheran theological discourse. Rather than drawing on the last hundred years of Lutheran academic theology, however, as his dissertation demanded (look, if you’re that nerdy, read it there), Kilcrease focuses on Scripture and interacts with Lutheran theology to the precise extent of “[standing] firmly with one of the foundational documents of the Lutheran Reformation, the Formula of Concord.” That said, the author does bring in the occasional reference to historical Lutheran lore as it relates to the subject matter at hand: see the Excursus into 17th-century Swabian and Saxon Lutheran churches on kenosis (225-38). And, really, who could blame him?…

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Review of “What Was the World of Jesus?” by Carl E. Roemer

“What Was the World of Jesus?” by Lutheran theologian Carl E. Roemer promises to have current appeal for at least two reasons. In the first place, it follows on the heels of a 2014 New York Times #1 bestseller by Reza Aslan, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus.” While Roemer covers much of the same ground as Aslan does, in keeping with more traditional scholarship he reaches a totally different conclusion…

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Review of “Pastrix” by Nadia Bolz-Weber

It is not often that a book explicitly and self-proclaimedly Lutheran makes the New York Times bestseller list. But then Nadia Bolz-Weber prefers to stand in unusual places, so the fact that her memoir does so as well is perhaps appropriate. Bolz-Weber herself is, as she unashamedly portrays in the book, not one to conform to stereotypes. A recovering alcoholic and Lutheran pastor, Bolz-Weber is much in demand as a speaker who talks in unconventional ways about the power of the resurrection in the midst of the brokenness and beauty of life, and of God’s knack for choosing the unexpected places to manifest grace…

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Review of “The Spirit of Adoption”

When my husband and I were preparing to adopt our son about ten years ago, we responded as graduate students do—we read a lot of books. Why talk to real live human beings when you can get it all boiled down, analyzed, and abundantly footnoted in a bound set of pages? Well, we did talk to real people too, but a not insignificant chunk of time was spent perusing the literature out there, from psychological perspectives on the phenomenon of being an adoptee to the process of becoming an interracial family to theological explorations of the motif of adoption…

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Review of “Teach Us to Want” by Jen Pollock Michel

Although I’m not generally a fan of devotional books or meditations on the Christian life, this one caught my attention for its prominently Augustinian theme: desire. As we have inherited from the church father through Luther, desire—the orientation of the will quite apart from any rational calculus or free decision—is the great challenge, the great mystery, the great inexplicable something in us that necessarily attaches itself to a good and will cause us untold misery until it attaches itself to the right good. Being utterly unattached is not an option, and it is not a good. As Michel rightly asserts, “Desire is primal: to be human is to want”…

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Review of “Theology and Economic Ethics: Martin Luther and Arthur Rich in Dialogue” by Sean Doherty

Sean Doherty seeks to compare the pre-industrial age thinking in Martin Luther’s 1520 Sermon von dem Wucher (Sermon on Usury) with that of the modern era’s Arthur Rich, a Swiss systematic theologian and social ethicist whose two-volume magnum opus, Business and Economic Ethics: The Ethics of Economic Systems, was completed in 1990. Doherty’s aim is to present not so much a study in economic ethics but an understanding of the methods of these particular thinkers. The quick takeaway is that the reformer comes off with far more direct and real-world guidance to business practitioners than the ever circumspect Rich…

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Review of “Johannes Bugenhagen: Selected Writings”

Bugenhagen is one of those delightfully German names that Reformation enthusiasts know and love: he was the town pastor, in fact Luther’s own pastor, in Wittenberg, where a bust near the City Church honors his memory. He was a close friend of all the key players in the town and wrote some church orders for newly reformed evangelical communities. But beyond these few facts and warm regard, Bugenhagen—“the Pomeranian”—has remained hidden behind a cloud of unknowing in the English-speaking world. That is, until now…

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