The Theology and Life of Robert David Preus: Papers Presented at the Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, Itasca, Illinois, April 8-10, 1999. St. Louis: The Luther Academy, 2009. 142 Pages. Paper. $15.95. http://www.lutheracademy.com/ http://theacl.org/TheACL/Home.html http://www.logia.org/ (LHP)
The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours (Impact Series). Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2008. 283 Pages. Paper. $17.99. http://www.nph.net/ (LHP).
Wright, N. T. Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. 279 Pages. Cloth. $25.00. http://academic.ivpress.com/ (LHP)
Nichols, Stephen J. What Is Vocation? (Basics of the Faith series). Phillipsburg, NJ: PandR, 2010. 31 Pages. Paper/Staple-bound. $3.99. http://www.prpbooks.com/ (LHP)
Having recently reviewed two books that systematically presented Christian Doctrine, it only made sense to group these books together as ones that reflect on the heart of Christian Doctrine: Christ, Justification, and the Gospel.
A collection of essays presented at the 1999 Congress on the Lutheran Confessions has the substance of a theological tome. That's a high compliment!
Michael Horton's presentation is to be especially noted as a tribute to the strong, consistent, Biblical confession Robert Preus made as a Lutheran while appropriately working together with other Reformation Christians to provide a clear witness to American Evangelicalism. Horton calls for "fair-mindedness" (78) and for a confessional Lutheranism without aberrations. Such is the challenge for Lutherans. We need to get our own house in order while making a fresh confession of the faith once delivered to the saints.
Why "testament" rather than "covenant"? See Oliver Olson's essay on how "covenant" may open the way for "a Reformed brand of synergism, especially by means of the American Puritan tradition" (120).
The real problem, then, is not what we officially list as 'confessions,' old or new, but what we actually do with our confessions. Do we dare implement them--even if it means numerical losses? Confessions are simply not meant to be constitutional 'paragraphs' or decorative church-political documents on patient paper. They are meant to govern the life of the church. When we confess in the New Testament sense, we at once unite and divide. 'Confession' by majority vote is no confession at all, if mutual communion, church fellowship, continues undisturbed between those who confess and those who deny. Obviously such 'confessing' is not meant seriously. Real confession has real consequences at the altar and in the pulpit. It either affirms or else violates the marks of the church, the purely preached gospel and the rightly administered sacraments, which alone determine church fellowship (134-5).
The volume is worth purchasing merely because it is about Robert Preus. It is also worth adding to your library for the Marquardt presentation alone. And it supports the work of the Luther Academy, too!
Daniel Deutschlander's recent Northwestern Publishing House book focuses on The Theology of the Cross.
There's a comforting kind of radical and a concerning kind of radical. It is comforting to have someone rediscover the reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. That was comforting to hear from Wright. It concerns me that the bulk of Justification restates, reevaluates, or rewords traditional ways of confessing, teaching, and believing what Jesus accomplished. I had a visceral reaction to the book in a negative way.
What is at stake in this debate over justification? If one were to adopt Piper's view instead of yours, what would they be missing?
Scripture, yes! Wright's answers in the interview were much clearer and acceptable than his muddled, overly-complicated, and controversial book. I'll stick with my Greek, Hebrew, and Luther, and will monitor further discussions. I assert that not only do Wright and his critics speak past one another, Wright also has need to more closely examine Luther (and not merely in translation) and Lutheranism (of the LCMS variety) before critiquing us too harshly.
Vocation comes from the Latin word for "to call." God calls us to faith in Christ. We live our lives of faith serving God by serving our neighbor. "Works help our neighbor and supply the proof that faith is living," we sing.
These brief books from PandR Publishing on the basics of the faith have been helpful to me in explaining less-familiar Christian concepts in preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. Martin Luther is respected as a reformer, applying the word vocation to all aspects of a godly life lived in faith (8). Noted Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach makes an appearance as his "Soli Deo Gloria," to God alone be the glory, is added to the other solas of the Reformation (9).
No, vocation is not Gospel, but I especially appreciated the artful way Nichols shows us Jesus' vocation as Savior, and that is Gospel (25).
Call me crazy, but newsletter articles should say something worth the reader's time. Russ Saltzman does that. His articles are memorable and worth learning from.
I have questions and concerns about the apple juice story (44), yet I appreciate the author's bold stand in the ELCA (71 et al) and the challenges being a Lutheran in a time of troubling questionaire results (39ff)! Pastors and other readers will smile and respect the challenges all pastoral care brings (74ff), including weevils (20ff).
What Is the Gospel? I remember many segments that Issues, Etc. has done over the years exposing the sad ignorance and lack of clarity of many Christian authors and publishers on that very question. How does Greg Gilbert fare?
Carson's forward calls for evangelicals to actually focus on the Gospel, the evangel. This is a good start (13ff).
Gilbert knows the Gospel and articulates it well (21, 31, Chapter 4, et al). The response to the Gospel is repentance and faith (Chapter 5). I would prefer that the Biblical order be maintained rather than "faith and repentance). He holds readers' feet to the fire in calling for repentance (80), yet lets expressions of decision theology go (also 80). I commend the author for maintaining a theology of the cross (Chapter 7), especially by exposing several false substitute "gospels," including moralism (109). God works through means, especially through the servants He has called into His service. The author explains the role of the holy ministry in comparison to the ministry of angels (119). Overall, the focus is on the person and work of Christ and the gifts He gifts and the Gift He is.
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.