Online Articles

Review of Critical Issues in Ecclesiology: Essays in Honor of Carl Braaten

Carl Braaten is one of today’s Lutheran theological giants. Here is a Festschrift, a fitting tribute to his contributions from his peers and the students nurtured by his distinguished and skillful teaching. His bibliography of his published work included in this volume is 17 pages long!…

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Review of “As Christ Submits to the Church” by Alan Padgett

A reader’s first question in response to Alan Padgett’s title might run something along the lines of, “Shouldn’t that be the other way around?” Certainly the phrase “as Christ submits to the church” has a biblical cadence to it, imbuing it with authority, and yet it jars against other phrases and concepts that echo about in the Scripture-steeped mind. A reader’s next question, then, might be so bold and accusatory as, “Did he take the phrasing of some particular New Testament verse and flip it around? Is the rephrasing some clever, attention-snaring ploy to advance his (possibly nefarious, certainly liberal) purposes? Or worse” —for our uncertainty gives way inevitably to self-doubt— “is it possible that he is actually quoting the New Testament? Have I missed something? Does Christ submit to the church?”…

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Review of “Worship as Repentance” by Walter Sundberg

Challenges, both antiquated and modern, to the traditionally penitential posture of Lutheran worship are the subject of Walter Sundberg’s most recent monograph. In light of the mainline’s imminent collapse, this book represents a very needed corrective to the cheap grace and valueless absolution offered by contemporary Protestant liberalism. By interpreting the liturgical tradition, with special attention paid to the practice of penance in the early church, the development of confession and absolution in Lutheranism, and the influence of the liturgical movement, Sundberg offers a compelling alternative to the “grace sold on the market” (20) that is peddled by so many these days. Sundberg advances the radical proposition that to be a Christian is challenging; to follow Christ is costly; to worship is to repent…

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Review of “The Lutheran Confessions: History and Theology of the Book of Concord”

I rarely prescribe a book as necessary but The Lutheran Confessions: History and Theology of The Book of Concord is an exception. Here is a book that I am willing to say is “A must have book!” That is, if you are a Lutheran pastor. It is a necessary companion to The Book of Concord (2000, Kolb & Wengert, ed.) just like Sources and Contexts of The Book of Concord (2001, Kolb & Nestingen, ed.). This book is the completion of the intended three volume project.

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Review of “Changing Churches: an Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran Theological Conversation” and “Essential Lutheranism: Theological Perspectives on Christian Faith and Doctrine”

These two books landed on my desk at the same time. It was fortuitous: the two (one with three authors) are closely related. Mattox and Roeber document their departure from Lutheranism; Hinlicky and Braaten document their determination to remain with Lutheranism in spite of its serious failures. It is no coincidence that the two appear at this time. We are at a time of discernment as Lutherans and our identity is being tested

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Review of “Preaching from Home” by Gracia Grindal

This book intrigued me in the first place because of my interest in Lutheran hagiography: I figured it might direct me to some givers-of-Christ I hadn’t known before. And it certainly did that—but learning about some remarkable Lutheran women is only a piece of the whole book’s project, which is packed with far more than the title would lead you to believe…

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Review of “Justification Is for Preaching”

Justification is for Preaching is either not a preaching manual, or it is the most Lutheran preaching manual ever written. It is not a typical preaching manual because it lacks recommended outlines and tips for poise and diction. It is the most Lutheran preaching manual ever written because it repeatedly hammers the point that preaching justification is not a method but a means…

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Review of “Luther and the Beloved Community” by Paul R. Hinlicky

I am writing in the hope of persuading pastors to read Paul R. Hinlicky’s recent books. They meet a crying need for the sort of books that were published in previous generations by authors like Gustaf Wingren, William Lazareth, Gerhard Forde, David Scaer, and Robert Jenson. Their books have helped pastors to orient themselves and their flocks, and Hinlicky’s books do, too. I recommend that you begin with Luther and the Beloved Community…

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Review of “The Deliverance of God” by Douglas A. Campbell

Salvation has been understood in terms of “justification by faith” for a long time. While the phrase itself is important in a few of Paul’s letters, what is “justification by faith” in all of its complexity? And is it the best or even most Biblically accurate construal of salvation? According to Douglas Campbell “justification by faith” has taken on a particular yet very complex form—one that cannot be pinned to one tradition, but touches all in some way. It has developed over time and influences the very bedrock of commonplace Christian thought and practice. It is married to a particular reading of Romans 1-4, yet it is fundamentally not Pauline. For Douglas Campbell, this understanding of salvation which shapes Christian existence has several problems as it has come to be understood and needs to go. This is the burden of Campbell’s book, The Deliverance of God, which contains 936 pages of text and 241 pages of endnotes—both full of complex argumentation—toward this end…

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Review of “New Book of Festivals and Commemorations” by Philip H. Pfatteicher

Though published five years ago already, I only just came across this revision of Pfatteicher’s Festivals and Commemorations: Handbook to the Calendar in Lutheran Book of Worship, which was published in 1980, two years after the LBW itself. That older hymnal had done much to introduce a renewed if still modest form of the observance of saint days among American Lutherans—a practice that has precedent in modern European Lutheran churches—and the companion volume was to give further context and information about the saints to be commemorated. The 2008 book has a more ambitious goal: it is a proposal for a common, ecumenical calendar of saints, analogous to the Revised Common Lectionary…

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