Friday, February 24, 2012

Liturgy Review: The Early Church

Johnson, Lawrence J. Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Volume 1: First through Third Centuries; Volume 2: Fourth Century; Volume 3: Fifth Century; Volume 4: Sixth Century). Collegeville: Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2009. CD-ROM of pdf files. $189.95. (LHP)

Johnson, Lawrence J. Worship in the Early Church: An Anthology of Historical Sources (Volume 1: First through Third Centuries). Collegeville: Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2009. 282 Pages. Cloth. $74.95. (LHP)

Bradshaw, Paul F. Early Christian Worship: A Basic Introduction to Ideas and Practice (Second Edition). Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2010. 104 Pages. Paper. $16.95. (LHP)

Bradshaw, Paul F. Reconstructing Early Christian Worship. Collegeville: Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2010. 151 Pages. Paper. $19.95. (LHP)

Bradshaw, Paul F and Maxwell E. Johnson. The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity. Collegeville: Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2011. 222 Pages. Paper. $29.95. (LHP)

We don't know everything we would like to know about worship in the early Church, but we know a lot. Liturgical Press proves it.

These volumes are significant because they show Christians today why we worship the way we do. No, Lutheran worship is not merely German. It has a long history. If anything, it is very Jewish in structure. Take the Synagogue Liturgy + the Passover Liturgy as remodeled by Jesus + the once-for-all atoning sacrifice of Jesus replacing the temple, and Sunday morning's Divine Service, Gottesdienst, looks a lot like it.

First up, a monumental four-volume series.

Worship in the Early Church is a four-volume collection of excerpts from early Christian writings illustrating the Church’s liturgical practice in both East and West, from its Jewish beginnings through the end of the sixth century. Source material includes doctrinal and historical treatises, scriptural commentaries, sermons, letters, synodal legislation, early church orders, monastic rules, baptismal and funeral epigrams. Each author or major selection is preceded by a short introduction containing such information as dates, country of origin, and various other background details. A bibliography of pertinent periodical and liturgical literature is given as well as a bibliography referencing standard encyclopedias of religion and manuals of patrology.

Lawrence J. Johnson is the former executive secretary of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions and the former editor/director of The Pastoral Press. He has written several books on the liturgy and its music, including The Mystery of Faith: A Study of the Structural Elements of the Order of the Mass.
(publisher's website)
The amount of material included in these volumes is simply stunning. Much is unavailable elsewhere. Add the convenience of a digital version, and you can study on the go with your laptop, tablet, or even Kindle. The CD-Rom is worth "the price of admission." A searchable pdf is an incredible research tool.

We were also blessed with the opportunity to get a hardcover version of Volume One. 

It features...

Jewish prayers from table and synagogue; Subapostolic Era: the Didache, Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Pastor Hermas; Second Century: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Melito of Sardis; Third Century: Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage, Hippolytus of Rome, the Didascalia of the Apostles, Origen, the Apostolic Church Order; and others.
(publisher's website)
Johnson's masterwork features an unbelievable number of references, including citations of scholarly articles on each writing, multiple sources of the original text, extensive footnotes, and his own alternate translations.

Save up for the whole set in print, CD-Rom, or both. At the very least, spend the money to own Volume one.

I've read most of what Paul Bradshaw has in print over the last twelve years. Our next book is a revision of one published in 1996.

Early Christian Worship is a straightforward, readable introduction to worship in the first four centuries of the church’s existence. How did early Christians see and understand their own worship? How did this interact with early Christian beliefs? The book has been brought up-to-date and revised, with some chapters rewritten and an updated bibliography.

Paul F. Bradshaw is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, and priest-vicar of Westminster Abbey and a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission. He is the author or editor of several major books (The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, Eucharistic Origins, Reconstructing Early Christian Worship, The Study of Liturgy, A Companion to Common Worship, volumes 1 and 2).
(publisher's website)

The author has revisited every chapter in the previous edition, incorporating the latest reliable scholarship and newly found ancient manuscripts.

We are again reminded by the (counter)example of Tertullian, that ancient does not always mean correct (19).

Chrystostom notes a [Divine?] passive form for the baptismal wording (29ff). 

Infants were baptized. From ancient times, someone from their family spoke for them, as was the case for those too ill to answer for themselves (34). 

The Sacrifice of the Mass, sadly, has ancient roots (68ff), as does transubstantiation (74). Still, the Word trumps tradition.

Monasticism fused the desert and cathedral prayer traditions (82).

"Eighth Day" theology predates the Christian Easter and has Jewish Psalm 90:4 origins (86).

I commend the author particularly for revising his assessment of what the ancient data says about December 25 (94). He at least presents two competing theories, rather than the one of the previous edition that made Christians the ones who co-opted a Roman holiday.

Affordable and informative, Early Christian Worship is essential reading. 

Our fourth resource is another by Bradshaw.

Building on the approach set out in his Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, Paul Bradshaw attempts to drill down at several key points beneath the surface impression of early Christian worship that has been accepted in most studies of the primary sources. His aim is to see whether a somewhat different picture emerges when one examines the material with altered presuppositions and a questioning attitude.

Thus, each chapter in Reconstructing Early Christian Worship begins from the conventional depiction of its topic. The author then subjects the sources to an assessment from the perspective of the methodology set out in his earlier work, which then leads to new conclusions. Important aspects of the Eucharist, baptism, and daily prayer are each explored in turn and new understandings of those rites opened up. The resulting change in perception not only affects how we reconstruct our vision of the past but also how we use the past as precedent for worship practice today. Each chapter ends with a comment on the possible modern application of these new discoveries.

Paul F. Bradshaw is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, and priest-vicar of Westminster Abbey and a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission. He is the author or editor of several major books (The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, Eucharistic Origins, Reconstructing Early Christian Worship, The Study of Liturgy, A Companion to Common Worship, volumes 1 and 2).
(publisher's website)
I appreciate much about Bradshaw's scholarship and readable writing, but I have doubts about his orthodoxy based on the questions he raises. They sound like doubts rather than faith. "Did Jesus Institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper?" was a bit much to take (Chapter 1), but it prepared me for when he later questioned whether Paul was the one who associated the two events (19). 

This volume has an appalling amount of historical criticism. I had my fill of that in studying the 1970's history of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod! 

Why will I still recommend this volume to you? Bradshaw has great sources. You can read them for yourself and make your own better conclusions. Besides, his paperback studies of early Christian worship theology and practice are very affordable. I trust my Lutheran readers to be discerning, appropriately skeptical, willing to double-check sources, and properly define their terms.


In our final book of this review, Bradshaw teams up with Maxwell E. Johnson.

The liturgical year is a relatively modern invention. The term itself only came into use in the late sixteenth century. In antiquity, Christians did not view the various festivals and fasts that they experienced as a unified whole. Instead, the different seasons formed a number of completely unrelated cycles and tended to overlap and conflict with one another. In early Christianity, the fundamental cycle was that of the seven-day week. Taken over from Judaism by the first Christians, this was centered on Sunday rather than the sabbath. As the early Church established its identity, the days of the week set aside for fasting came to be different from those customary among the Jews. There also existed an annual cycle related to Easter.

Drawing upon the latest research, the authors track the development of the Church’s feasts, fasts, and seasons, including the sabbath and Sunday, Holy Week and Easter, Christmas and Epiphany, and the feasts of the Virgin Mary, the martyrs, and other saints.

Paul F. Bradshaw is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, USA, an honorary canon of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, and a priest-vicar of Westminster Abbey. He has written or edited more than twenty books on the subject of Christian worship, together with over ninety essays or articles in periodicals. A former president of both the North American Academy of Liturgy and the international Societas Liturgica, he was also editor-in-chief of the journal Studia Liturgica from 1987 to 2005.

Maxwell E. Johnson is professor of liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, USA, and a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His numerous publications are on the origins and development of early Christian liturgy as well as on current ecumenical theological questions, especially among Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. He is the author and/or editor of over fifteen books and seventy essays and articles in books and journals. He is also a member of the North American Academy of Liturgy, Societas Liturgica, and the Society of Oriental Liturgy.
(publisher's website)
Bradshaw's co-author is an ELCA Lutheran. The two make a good pair as they strengthen one another. There is appropriate skepticism of Roman evidence of Baptism at Easter (83). Discussion of the history of Christian celebrations on January 6 and December 25 are expanded (146ff). The authors give extensive new data on the development of Saints' Days (e.g., 190, 191).

This volume is an improvement and a successor to a similar volume by Thomas Talley. It succeeds in presenting the extensive and often contradictory data and practice of ancient Christian communities throughout the Mediterranean and beyond in a systematic and readable way. 

Bradshaw and Johnson will provide a layman with a readable introduction to the earliest celebrations of Christianity. Pastors will have ample ammunition for extended historical discussions of Christian feasts for Bible Study and pulpit.


The modern Church has largely lost a sense of history, and that means a loss of identity. The Roman revisions to the English Mass have been somewhat controversial. The controversy was unnecessary, for the Roman Church has had a long view of history. The pastoral provisions that led to an Anglican Ordinariate are a long-term process of bringing the heirs of the Church of England to Rome. I expect similar offers to other Christian traditions as Rome's ecumenical plan unfolds over the decades and centuries. The English Mass after Vatican II was just a rough draft, what Lutherans have called "hymnal supplements" or experimental liturgies. The long view of the Church at worship takes forty years to come up with the best translation of the traditional texts. Lutherans and other Americans (like the Evangelicals) can learn at least that from the Bishop of Rome and those loyal to him. The "Top 40" approach to church music will never work in the long term.

Thanks, Liturgical Press!

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.

LHP Review: Lutheranism

Green, Lowell C. The Erlangen School of Theology: Its History, Teaching, and Practice. Fort Wayne, IN: Lutheran Legacy, 2010. 376 Pages. Paper. $ 19.95. (Hardcover available for $29.95.) (LHP)

Preuss, Eduard. Introduction by Roland Ziegler. The Justification of the Sinner Before God. Fort Wayne, IN: Lutheran Legacy, 2011. 184 Pages. Paper. $14.95. (Hardback also available.) (LHP)

Burkee, James C. Foreword by Martin E. Marty. Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011. 256 Pages. Cloth. $29.00. (LHP)

Heiser, James. Stewards of the Mysteries of God: Essays on the Office of the Holy Ministry. Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2011. 188 Pages. Paper. $13.95. (LHP)

Braaten, Carl E., Editor. Preface by Paull E. Spring. Seeking New Directions for Lutheranism: Biblical, Theological, and Churchly Perspectives. Delhi, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2010. 228 Pages. Paper. $18.00 plus postage. (LHP)

I promise to be blunt.

I want your attention.

It sometimes takes generations for theology and practice to fall into disarray. It usually takes generations to recover even part of what has been lost.

I am thankful for my theological training at seminary. I intentionally prayed for discernment. And I am thankful that the Lord is faithful even when his servants are not.

I pray for Lutheranism because I pray for the Church. I pray for faithfulness AND bold witness.

Like that of the Erlangen School...

This book fills a vacuum in English-speaking scholarship as it narrates the story of the confessional Lutheran renaissance associated with the University of Erlangen beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and reaching well into the twentieth century. Here one can read the fascinating stories of Hofmann, Harless, Loehe, Delitzsch, Seeberg, Zahn and others at the headwaters of the Erlangen School in the nineteenth century. Even more interesting are the accounts of the twentieth century theologians Elert, Althaus, Procksch, Sasse, Preuss, Maurer, von Loewenich, and Kuenneth as Green studied with many of these scholars from 1952-1955. Green’s telling of their stories is delightfully punctuated with personal remembrances of his own as well as pointed and provocative applications to contemporary Lutheran theology, liturgy, and church life. It is a welcome introduction to an important part of recent Lutheran history and a wonderful supplement to his earlier book, Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story.
John T. Pless
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary

  • Introduction
  • 1. A Sketch of the Bavarian Lutheran Church in the Nineteenth Century
  • 2. The Theological Faculty at Erlangen and the Emergence of the "Erlangen School of Theology"
  • 3. An Overview of the Erlangen Theological Faculty from 1743 until 1923
  • 4. The Liturgics of Erlangen and Bavaria: Development of a Confessional Lutheran Theory and Practice of Liturgics
  • 5. Johann Wilhelm Friedrich Hoefling (1802-1853)
  • 6. Gottlieb Christoph Adolf von Harless (1806-1879)
  • 7. Johann Christian Konrad von Hofmann (1810-1877)
  • 8. Gottfried Thomasius (1802-1871)
  • 9. Franz Julius Delitzsch (1813-1890)
  • 10. Theodosius Harnack (1816-1889)
  • 11. Karl Adolf Gerhard von Zezschwitz (1825-1886)
  • 12. Franz Hermann Reinhold von Frank (1827-1894)
  • 13. Theodor Zahn (1838-1933)
  • 14. Other Scholars of "The Erlangen School"
  • 15. Werner Elert: The Passionate Scholar and Long-Term Dean
  • 16. Paul Althaus: The Mediator
  • 17. Herman Sasse: The Prophet
  • 18. Walter Keunneth: The Scholarly Fighter
  • A Report by Lowell C. Green of His Experiences as an American Student at Erlangen from 1952 until 1955
  • Bibliography
  • A Selected List of English Translations of Erlangen Authors
  • Indexes
(publisher's website)
A vacuum indeed! I first heard of most of these men while at seminary. As I reviewed the names while skimming this book when it first arrived, it clicked: they were all associated with Erlangen! I sometimes amaze myself with my former ignorance. As a friend once said, "The more I hear about the Lutheran Church, the more I want to find one..."

Liturgics is near and dear to my heart.

I have commentaries by Delitzsch and Zahn.

I have read Elert.

And Sasse is one of my favorite theologians because of Eucharist and Church Fellowship.

I am very thankful to Dr. Green for helping Lutherans across the world learn and appreciate the history, teaching, and practice of a positively significant theological faculty.

Our next volume for consideration came to me as quite a surprise. Why hadn't I heard of this book and author before?

I, a poor sinful man, confess to Almighty God, my Creator and Savior, that I have sinned not only in thought, word, and deed, but also have been conceived and born in sin, so that my whole nature and all my being is guilty and is condemned before his righteousness.

Why does our Divine Service begin thus? Because no one who has not recognized his sin can receive grace, and certainly not even understand justification by faith. For the heart of man is by nature either Pharasaical or drowned in lust for sin. Either it depends upon his good works, and on that account finds the imputation of a foreign righteousness useless, or it cheers, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” and assures itself that it needs neither its own nor a foreign righteousness. To preach justification by faith to such people is known as casting pearls before the swine. He, on the other hand, who lies in water is glad when a foreign (alien) hand is lowered from a foreign (alien) ship to hoist him onto dry land. He who recognizes the walls around himself as prison walls thanks God when He breaks open its door and says to him, “You are free!”
—Eduard Preuss

Preuss’ treatise shows his great exegetical knowledge and his wide reading in the Lutheran fathers. This extends not only to the classics like Chemnitz and Gerhard, but also to minor figures like Höpfner. He draws prodigiously from the age of Lutheran orthodoxy, but is also conversant with the discussion of his time, including the Roman neo-scholastic tradition of Perrone. He is a master dialectician, but his book is more than an academic treatment of the subject. It is written passionately, sometimes crossing the boundary into the sermonic, and makes ample use of the hymnody of the church. As such, it combines the scholarly and the edifying in a paradigmatic way. C.F.W. Walther called it the best book written on justification in the 19th century. As such, it is well worth reading today, and this edition makes it accessible to a new generation.
Roland F. Ziegler
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary

(publisher's website)
Why hadn't I heard of this book and author before? Eduard Preuss resigned his professorship in 1871 and went to the Roman Catholic Church!

Preuss, as a Lutheran...
  • extols the hymnody of the Church (55)
  • defends infant baptism (73)
  • commends the means of grace
  • points the reader to the person and work of Christ.
He is still worth reading, as Walther claimed, because what Preuss writes here is right and comforting. It may always remain a mystery of why true comfort loses its appeal for some.

On the other hand, Burkee is not worth reading.

Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod follows the rise of two Lutheran clergymen—Herman Otten and J. A. O. Preus—who led different wings of a conservative movement that seized control of a theologically conservative but socially and politically moderate church denomination and drove "moderates" from the church in the 1970s. The schism within what was then one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States ultimately reshaped the landscape of American Lutheranism and fostered the polarization that characterizes today's Lutheran churches.

Burkee's story, supported by personal interviews with key players and church archives sealed for over twenty years, is about more than Lutheranism. The remaking of this one Lutheran denomination reflects a broader movement toward theological and political conservatism in American churches—a movement that began in the 1970s and culminated in the formation of the "Religious Right."
(publisher's website)

I wish I could be kind. I've read Zimmerman, Tietjen, Otten, the Faculty publications of the time, and the booklets and broadsides leading up to the Rivergate. James C. Burkee adds nothing new but partisan revisionism that makes the Seminex folks and AELC leaders the heroes.

Consider what the author has to say:

I couldn't disagree with the author more. This began much more than fifteen years before the events at the heart of his narrative. It began in the Garden of Eden when a voice said, "Did God really say?" That is what was at state at 801 DeMun then and in Lutheranism to this day.

The shrinkage of the LCMS could be attributed to smaller families compared to generations ago as well as challenges that face all church bodies. And if the author (and publisher) truly wish to admit "decline," the ELCA and mainline groups in fellowship with ELCA are prime examples.

The shrinkage of the mainline groups is undoubtedly due to their involvement with progressive politics and truly radical causes, the disenchantment of many Biblical Christians with the very ideas of Seminex rejected by Scripture, and the very simple fact that a "Christian" theology that rejects the inspiration of Scripture, the Creation of all things by a loving and intentional God, the Deity and virgin birth of Christ, and the physical Resurrection of Christ doesn't sell very well. I'm very happy to cling to my Bible, thank you. The "religious left" was won the mainline. Good luck with that for the long term.

Burkee's book is hack journalism, a wannabe attempt at turning Seminex into Watergate. Those that still have sour grapes after what happened in the LCMS in the 1970's have other options even today. If their congregations didn't want to leave then, would they really want to leave now with eyes opened on what the so-called Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become? Thank the Lord the LCMS didn't get caught up in the 1988 merger!

Don't waste your time, money, aggravation, or antacids on this sad piece of work.

ELDoNA Bishop, the Rt. Rev. James D. Heiser is much more optimistic about the future of Lutheranism.

Six essays are included in this volume:
• The Office of the Ministry in Nicolaus Hunnius' Epitome Credendorum
(A detailed study of the teaching of one of the Lutheran fathers from the Age of Lutheran Orthodoxy as pertains to the office of the ministry)
• The Office of the Keys in the Ecclesiology of C.F.W. Walther and the Lutheran Confessions
(A comparison of the central tenets of Walther's doctrine of the Church and that which is confessed in the Book of Concord)
• Ministry and the Ordained Diaconate in the 16th and 17th Century Lutheran Church
(The historic Lutheran understanding of the diaconate is substantially different from that of the Reformed and many modern Lutherans)
• Pastoral Responsibility and the Office of the Keys in the Book of Concord
(An examination of that aspect of the office referred to as "jurisdiction" in the Augsburg Confession)
• Bishops, Councils and Authority in the Church in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
(The Treatise was written in the context of an invitation to attend an Ecumenical Council and it was written as a Lutheran response to the claims of Papalists and Conciliarists regarding authority in the Church)
• The Future of Ecclesiastical Oversight among Confessional Lutherans
(The modern neglect of Visitation and Ecclesiastical Oversight is examined in light of the Reformation-era practices)
(publisher's website)
The six essays give a background in the personal journey of James Heiser from The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod to the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America. 

He makes his frustrations with the LCMS known in a gap between theology and practice in his former body. "Lay Ministry," DELTO, SMP, and District training programs are not what AC XIV had in mind, so say the least.

Reading this book gives me hope for a recovery of traditional and confessional understanding of the Office of the Holy Ministry and its oversight in American Lutheranism. And, this volume makes me all the more appreciative of our Wyoming District of the LCMS. We don't have Circuit Counselors. We have Circuit Visitors. Pray for me, as I am the CV nominee to serve our Yellowstone Circuit beginning this June. Pray for the circuit's congregations, too. :)

The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau is to be commended for sharing the story of Lutheran CORE and the NALC as the ELCA disintegrates over the issue of homosexuality (among others). 

Papers Delivered at a Theological Conference Sponsored by Lutheran CORE

August 24-26, 2010 Upper Arlington Lutheran Church Columbus, Ohio


Sermon: Can anything Good Come out of Columbus?
Frank C. Senn
Lutheranism at a Crossroads
Carl E. Braaten

Holy Scripture and Word of God: Biblical Authority in the Church
Stephen J. Hultgren
Speech to, for and about the Triune God
Robert W. Jenson
Authority in the Church; A Plea for Critical Dogmatics
Paul R. Hinlicky
Renewing the Moral Vision for Lutheranism
Robert Benne
No Church of Christ without Christ
Steven D. Paulson
Mission: Gospel Roots with Global Reach
Paul V. Martinson
(The unabridged texts of these papers are about twenty percent longer than the lectures as presented in Columbus.)
I appreciate the courage and significant action it takes for clergy, laity, and congregations to leave the ELCA. Property and pensions may have to be left behind. Either is a significant sacrifice. 

At long last, voices ignored at the formation of the ELCA are being heard. Quotas are bad. Ecumenism goes too far when the Gospel and the Bible are compromised. Bigger is not always better. Don't you miss the ALC?

I see progress here and have prayed for leaders like Senn, Braaten, and Paulson to be confessing Lutheran confessors.

Yet, I still weep and pray, for I see the same thing happening all over again.

CORE and the NALC have the same "rot" at the core of their founding. I have optimism for the North American Lutheran Church. If these folks can be that creative in the name of a new Lutheran church body, why can't they see that the same arguments recently used to scandalously promote gay and lesbian clergy are the same ones recycled from the unbiblical promotion and passage of the ordination of women? At best, I see a halfway house for some pastors and congregations out of the ELCA. 

I would compare my concern to being on a train. 

The AELC folks left the LCMS and became even more liberal on their own. Words can hardly describe my experiences with former Missouri folks. It seemed as if they were trying to outdo the founders of St. Olaf College, famous for its Christmas concerts. St. Olaf was founded by the anti-Missouri Brotherhood. How's that for the name of a church body? 

The AELC helped link up the ALC and the LCA in the same train, for those former LCMS types had been pursuing ALC fellowship (and LCA by extension, since they were in fellowship with ALC). ELS, SELC, and WELS wouldn't move fast enough. 

The ELCA left the station in 1988 and left much of what Luther actually did and confessed behind. "Lutheranism" is not merely challenging the next "Pope" or "Prince" or championing the next cause of the supposedly downtrodden. That's liberation theology, so-called. 

Now, instead of decoupling their "cars" from the ELCA train, I see LCMC and NALC folks just moving back a few cars, say ELCA circa 1988, before the gay clergy issue, before the ecumenical agreements. No, that will only delay another conflict 20-30 years at most.

I commend this volume to your reading pile so that you may know what truly faces our brothers and sisters in Christ post-ELCA. And I will pray for good LCMS-LCMC and LCMS-NALC interactions.

Lutheranism in the United States of America faces challenging days ahead.

There will be further fragmentation and consolidation. Both have always been part of our history in America.

Mainline pseudo-Lutheranism will wilt, merge with other wilting mainline groups into a universalist formerly-protestant "Church," send some refugees to the Confessional camp, and have other clergy, laity, and entire congregations that will be absorbed by Rome by some new "pastoral provision."

Confessional Lutherans will re-form the Evangelical Synodical Conference in North America. There will be no formal merger, but solid, Biblical, Confessional, and liturgical Lutherans in fellowship and common doctrine and practice will be part of a national super Synod.

Not all in the WELS or LCMS will like the new ESCNA. A significant minority will finally admit to what they have been for decades, revivalistic American Evangelicals. Some have long since dropped the name Lutheran. They will finally free themselves of the strictures of Lutheran doctrine and practice and embrace "eucharistic hospitality" and throw the Lord's pearls before swine.

Confessional Lutherans worldwide will take the lead in confessing the Lutheran Confessions, finishing translations of Scripture and the Book of Concord into major world languages. Indigenous missionaries will reach out to their own people, develop orthodox Lutheran hymnals and catechetical materials, and will help encourage the remaining Confessional Lutherans in North America and Europe. Expect passionate Lutheran voices from what we call the developing world. And someday, they'll send missionaries to us.

Congregations will come and go. So will church bodies--even nominally or formerly Lutheran ones. Yet, we have our Lord's promises that The Word of the Lord Endures Forever and that not even the gates of hell itself will triumph against the Church.

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.

From Zondervan...

Third Wave of Zondervan Titles Releasing with Logos Bible Software;
Priced at a Pre-Pub Discount

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Feb. 17, 2012—Zondervan and Logos Bible Software today announced 63 titles to be released later this spring. Unlike past releases, this collection will be significantly discounted for Logos users that purchase through the Pre-Pub program.

The 63-volume Zondervan Bible Reference Bundle 3 will be priced in the Pre-Pub program at $899, which represents significant savings from the everyday sale price of $1,199. Logos customers will have a limited period of time to purchase at the Pre-Pub discount. Smaller subsets of the bundle are also available in the Pre-Pub program at a discount:
• Zondervan Theology Collection (7 vols.)
• Biblical Theology for Life (2 vols.)
• Zondervan Counterpoints Collection Upgrade (3 vols.)
• Zondervan Biblical Studies Collection (9 vols.)
• Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (2 vols.)
• NIV Application Commentary: Old Testament (12 vols.)
• Ancient Context, Ancient Faith Series (3 vols.)
• Zondervan Reference Collection Upgrade (6 vols.)
• Zondervan Church History Collection (7 vols.)
• Zondervan World Religions Collection Upgrade (2 vols.)
• Zondervan Ethics and Apologetics Collection (6 vols.)
• Zondervan Practical Theology Collection (4 vols.)

Like past releases, this third wave of titles includes works that have been highly anticipated by hundreds of thousands of Logos users. Twelve titles in the NIV Application Commentary series (NIVAC) will be available for the first time ever in a software format. These volumes cover much of the Old Testament and include works by scholars such as Peter Enns, Karen H. Jobes, and John H. Walton, among others.
“Being a long-term Logos user myself, I’m thrilled to see that so many new reference volumes will be available on the Logos platform so that students, pastors, and church leaders can better study the Bible,” commented Paul Engle, Senior Vice President and Publisher of Zondervan’s academic and reference division. “Especially useful, I think, will be Michael Horton’s magisterial The Christian Faith, a 2011 Christianity Today Book Award Winner, and new volumes by Thomas Schreiner and Clinton E. Arnold in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series.”

Other recently published works in this collection include Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel (2011), A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters by Andreas Köstenberger (2010), Carl Rasmussen’s recently updated Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (2010), and Gregg Allison’s Historical Theology (2011). Other authors represented in this collection include D. A. Carson, Wayne Grudem, and Christopher J. H. Wright. A listing of all releases is available at

“We’re thrilled to strengthen our partnership with Zondervan to make these books available in high-quality digital editions to our hundreds of thousands of users worldwide,” said Dan Pritchett, Executive Vice President.

Logos will create high-quality digital editions of Zondervan books, designed specifically for pastors and scholars of the Bible. The Logos editions include the following features:
• All Scripture references are linked to English translations, like the NIV, and Greek and Hebrew texts.
• All cross-references are also linked, which means clicking the citation takes the user to the source.
• When a user copies and pastes a reference into a sermon handout or an academic paper, citations are automatically generated using the user’s preferred style guide.
• When commentaries are lined up side-by-side with the text of the Bible, everything scrolls together in-sync.
• Logos also provides advanced search functionality with the Passage Guide, which acts as a digital research assistant, finding and organizing content from commentaries and reference books on the text a user is studying.

About Logos Bible Software
Logos Bible Software is the leading publisher of multilingual Bible software on Mac, Windows, and mobile platforms. Logos partners with more than 130 publishers to make more than 21,000 electronic books available to customers in more than 180 countries. The company serves church, academic, and lay markets, bringing the best in software innovation to Christians worldwide.
About Zondervan

Zondervan, a HarperCollins company, is a world leader in Christian communications and the leading Christian publishing brand. For more than 75 years, Zondervan has delivered transformational Christian experiences through general and academic resources by influential leaders and emerging voices, and been honored with more Christian Book Awards than any other publisher. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., with offices in San Diego and Miami, Zondervan conducts events and publishes its bestselling Bibles, books, audio, video, curriculum, software, and digital products through its Zondervan, eZondervan, Zonderkidz, Youth Specialties, Editorial Vida, and National Pastors Convention brands. Zondervan resources are sold worldwide through retail stores, online, and by Zondervan ChurchSource, and are translated into nearly 200 languages in more than 60 countries. Visit Zondervan on the Internet at (mobile site:

LHP Review: Worshiping Christ, the Visible Image of the Invisible God

Boesenecker, Andy and Jim Graeser. A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship: How to Begin and Lead Band-Based Worship. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011. 220 Pages. Paper $24.99. (LH)

Yazykova, Irina. Translated by Paul Griener. Foreword by Wendy R. Salmond. Hidden and Triumphant: The Underground Struggle to Save Russian Iconography. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2010. 196 Pages. Cloth. $26.99. (LHP)

Chapell, Bryan. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009. 320 Pages. Cloth. $24.99. (LHP)

Stapert, Calvin, R. Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010. 187 Pages. Paper. $14.99.  (LH)

Worship is controversial in our day.

But not only in our day. The four books reviewed below will give you a better perspective on what should be the eternal focus of our worship: Jesus Christ and Him only!

I am not a proponent of so-called Contemporary Worship. I experienced it and participated it for four years at a campus ministry of my church body. I was blind to the human-centered theology and practice that it embodied: of the world, but not in the world. We had created for ourselves a Christian ghetto. Our preferences dominated. 

Instrumentation that differed from typical worship in our tradition was a red herring. The real difference was the way instruments were played, the near-total abandonment of ancient forms and historic canticles, hymns, and songs, and the adoption of song and worship structures foreign to Lutheranism and new to Christian worship.

That said, I would like to share with you what is still useful in a A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship.

This book arrived unsolicited from the publisher. Most review journals consider such submissions as optional to review. We want to show how this resource recently helped a liturgical Lutheran congregation. As a pastor, I am far more interested in liturgical Augsburg Fortress releases and would welcome review copies of them.

This is a must-have guide for anyone thinking about starting a contemporary worship service and an essential reference work for those wondering about the nuts and bolts of instrumentation, arranging, working with microphones and speakers, and much more!

Written by a church musician and a pastor who have experienced the joys and challenges of this popular form of worship, A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship provides field-tested ideas and hints and a wealth of illustrations.
In this book you will learn:
  • How to form a worship team
  • How to build a repertoire
  • How to lead effective rehearsals
  • How to arrange music for your ensemble
  • How a PA system works
  • How to arrange microphones and speakers
Check out the authors' website for additional resources. (publisher's website)
As I mentioned before, I am not interested in forming a pop/rock band for charismatic American Evangelical revival-based "worship" entertainment. The advice of the authors will help you in leading a group of musicians and singers. Organists, pianists, and other players and singers need a substantial repertoire and should have efficient and regular rehearsals. Read the first half of the book with your actual congregation, hymnal, and musicians in mind. You will find some good advice here.

One of the many things we can learn from practitioners of a more modern idiom of music is what our historic Lutheran composers knew and did: composition and arrangement. As our pianist recently reminded me, cooks modify recipes all the time. Why not make personal adaptations of preludes, postludes, offertories, and other incidental music? Such practice may help you "tone paint" phrases or stanzas of hymns and better play our liturgical canticles.

I have a personal background in radio, computers, and technology. I learned enough about PA and sound systems to help a local vendor upgrade our congregational sound systems (fellowship hall and nave) last week.

I am encouraged that practitioners of so-called contemporary worship are recognizing that many early efforts went too far away from historic norms, in regard to both theology and practice. The pendulum is swinging back. My point is that it should not have swung so far in the first place.

Boesenecker and Graeser will help you incorporate brass, strings, guitar, piano, and individual voices into historic, liturgical Lutheran worship. Don't let the title cause you to reject this volume. Just ignore what I ignored and you'll be fine.

Curious about icons in the Eastern Church? Consider this compact and fascinating volume from Paraclete.

During the darkest years of Soviet power, iconographers kept alive one of Russia's brightest lights—the icon

"The 1920s and 1930s were a time of mass arrests and executions. With churches demolished and defiled and monasteries disbanded, there was every reason to fear for the continued existence of the Church itself. Meanwhile, revisionist propaganda was decimating the clergy; the authorities were waging a campaign of anti-religious sentiment in every corner of the country. Not the best time, one would think, to be painting icons…" —from the book

Skillfully translated from the Russian by Paul Grenier, this dramatic history recounts how the very heartbeat of Russian Orthodox art and spirituality – the icon – survived throughout the 20th century. Adopted from Byzantine tradition, Russian iconography continued to keep faith alive in Soviet Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. As monasteries and churches were ruined, icons destroyed, thousands of believers killed or sent to Soviet prisons and labor camps, a few courageous iconographers continued to paint holy images secretly, despite the ever-present threat of arrest. Others were forced to leave Russia altogether, and while living abroad, struggled to preserve their Orthodox traditions. Today we are witness to a renaissance of the Russian icon, made possible by the sacrifices of this previous generation of heroes.

A blinding flash of theological illumination has come out of Russia. The subject of Hidden and Triumphant is the history of icon painting in Russia. How did this ancient tradition, at the center of Russian spirituality, survive seventy years of persecution in the 20th century? It almost didn't, but the renewal of the tradition in the last twenty years is a remarkable story, beautifully told by Irina Yazykova. The introduction contains the best theology of the icon I have ever read.
Canon Michael Bordeaux, founder, Oxford Keston Institute, UK
(publisher's website)
Icons are not drawn or painted. They are written. I consider them beautiful stylized devotional art, not something to "pray through." My theology of the icon is different as a Lutheran from that of the Orthodox. Even so, I see how this ancient tradition of a "visible" Gospel helped keep Christianity alive in Russia and many of the satellite nations of the former USSR during the age of godless Communism. What in American Christianity could do the same for us? Food for thought.

Icons may be found in an Orthodox church on an iconostasis, a wall with a door way to the chancel/sanctuary where the altar is visible. Roman, Anglican, or Lutheran Christians may be used to having an altar rail at a similar place, but in Lutheran circles, it is there primarily to help a communicant while kneeling and it is not intended as a barrier to the "most holy place." It seems to have just that function for Eastern Christians, with the benefit of the faithful being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. See some of them after page 84 in color!

See page 9 for information on the symbolism of icons, similar to that of illuminated manuscripts of the West. Lutherans will note similar important liturgical symbolism on pages 18-19. Russian emigres are given a former Lutheran church building on page 70. Lutheran readers will occasionally cringe at law trumping Gospel in theology and practice and tradition being raised to the level of the Scripture.

Readers will benefit by better understanding persecution of Christians in general and the Russian Orthodox under the USSR in particular, have an appreciation for the process and prayer of writing an icon, and gain a longer-term view of the Church than most Americans:
To be a living organism, the Church can never simply live off an inheritance of the past--it must in every age, strive to say something new and bear witness in its own way. And the turning point for modern Russia came in 1988, when the Russian nation celebrated the millennium of the baptism of Russia. Although officially the Soviet regime came to an end only in 1991, it was 1988 that demonstrated that the regime was already dead. The Communist Party, to be sure, still held the reigns of power. And yet despite this fact, the Christian baptism of Russia was celebrated across the entire nation. Soviet officials strove to impart a purely cultural meaning on the event, but the nation's leaders were obliged to acknowledge that Russian culture had itself been formed, to a great extent, by Eastern Christianity (121).
LHP QBR plans to offer a second review of this volume by itself in the near future.

Bryan Chapell builds bridges between Christians with regard to worship with this 2009 book.

The author explains the motivation and need behind this book for himself:

Chapell meets the goals he sets for the book. Lutherans and Reformed Christians will disagree about obvious and well-known historical theological and practical differences, but this president of a PCA seminary provides common ground for Lutherans, Calvinists, and others.

The church's worship has always been shaped by its understanding of the gospel. Here Bryan Chapell, author of the well-regarded text Christ-Centered Preaching, provides churches with a Christ-centered understanding of worship to enable them to transcend the traditional/contemporary worship debate and unite in ministry and mission priorities. Churches will learn how to shape their worship based on Christ's ministry to and through them and will be challenged to let the gospel shape every element of their corporate worship.
Christ-Centered Worship brings historical and biblical perspective to discussions about worship, demonstrating that the gospel has shaped key liturgical traditions and should also shape contemporary worship. It then addresses practical issues; looks outward to the church's mission; and provides resources for worship planning, encouraging readers to identify their church's specific gospel calling as the basis for making decisions about worship. The book will be useful to worship and ministry professors and students at the seminary level, pastors, worship leaders, worship planning committees, and missionaries.
Bryan Chapell (PhD, Southern Illinois University) is the president of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, a former pastor, and a widely traveled speaker. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Christ-Centered Preaching and Holiness by Grace.

(publisher's website)
I particularly appreciated both the historic and modern examples of worship structures and elements provided by the author in an engaging, intentional, and Christ-centered way. He largely resists the temptation to call Luther's Reformation and liturgies inferior to those of John Calvin. Lutherans won't go to Chapell for their Eucharistic theology, either. 

Historical liturgical Lutheran resources are extolled and promoted in modern volumes (Lutheran Service Book) throughout the book. 

I also am thankful Chapell is aware of and recommends the new texts and compositions of Keith and Kristyn Getty, Stuart Townend, and Red Mountain Music. Providing new texts for historic tunes and new tunes for historic texts are great ways for each generation to gain appreciation for the song the saints now in heaven sang on earth and yet add something constructively new.
Bryan Chapell provides constructive help to ending the so-called worship wars by letting the Gospel shape our practice (as Luther did) in Christ-Centered Worship.

Controversy reigned about worship in the days of Handel. Calvin Stapert's volume, Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People is enlightening essential reading and is by far the best book by Eerdmans I have personally read in years!

If you want to enjoy and appreciate Handel's beloved Messiah more deeply, this informed yet accessible guide is the book to read.

Here you will find fascinating historical background to Messiah, including its unlikely inception, and learn about its reception and impact from Handel's day to our own. Calvin Stapert devotes most of his book to scene-by-scene musical and theological commentary on the entire score, demonstrating how the music of Messiah beautifully intertwines with and illuminates its biblical text. Through these pages Handel's popular and much-loved masterpiece will be greatly enhanced for listeners old and new alike. (publisher's website)
Handel is an eighteenth-century German Lutheran composer that invented an oratorio tradition in protestant England, because of the influence of a devotional movement in sixteenth-century Roman Catholic Italy. Is Messiah worshipful or entertainment? See the preface (xiii) for more on this controversy that sounds like something from our modern worship wars. Handel allegedly said: 
I should be sorry if I only entertained them, I wish to make them better (67).
Similarly, Jennens, haunted by his brother's suicide, worked on the Messiah libretto in hopes of converting "Atheists, Deists, Jews, and Mohametans [Muslims]" and anyone else who did not believe Christ to be the Messiah...(78). 

There is a centuries-long history behind the development of the oratorio. Germans knew of historiae, liturgically functioning as sung Scripture readings (9). How often have you heard your pastor sing a reading (or the shock when a Lutheran pastor first sang his liturgical parts). What "worship" is, is unfortunately tied to one's limited understanding and experience of worship in practice. These four books were grouped together in this review to broaden our readers' understanding of worship theology and practice.

The latter half of the volume is a commentary on Messiah itself, best suited to be read while listening to the recording. See page 135 for the famous Hallelujah Chorus and subsequent pages for references to numerous Lutheran chorale tunes.

This book also will help readers understand the stages of what is typically muddled together as "classical" music:
Modernized orchestrations of Messiah were common. Mozart was the first and certainly the most distinguished re-orchestrator of Messiah. He turned Handel's Baroque orchestra into a Classical one. In Messiah, in addition to the strings, Handel only called for two oboes, to trumpets, and tympani. Mozart added pairs of flutes (and a piccolo in the pifa), clarinets, horns, bassoons, and three trombones.
Subsequent orchestrators added more anachronistic instruments--including harb, tuba, cymbals, and other percussion--making the orchestra into a Romantic one...(59)
People are interested in Handel's Messiah because of its timeless musical power. Calvin Stapert and Eerdmans are putting that interest to good use as a means to the end of more widely educating the reading public about the Christian and musical history, theology, and practice involved in one of the world's most beloved compositions.

Sinful human beings are by nature enemies of God. They would rather worship themselves and be gods than worship the one true God. All worship begins with the Lord who speaks and then opens our lips to repeat His Word back to Him. Too many books on worship focus primarily or only on the human response to God. Let us extol the Lord's gifts to us by regularly and joyfully receiving the fruits of Jesus' sacrificial death and victorious resurrection, the Service rendered for us and to us by the Divine Savior, Christ. I pray you enjoy these books as much as I did.

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.

LHP Review: Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Fiction from Tegel Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works Volume 7). Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000. 287 Pages. Cloth. $39.00. (LHP)

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 8). Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010. 750 Pages. Cloth. $60.00. (LHP)

I read volume eight before tackling volume seven. And I'm glad I did. 

Volume 8 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works gets to the heart of the controversy that still surrounds him.

Imprisoned for participating in a plot to assassinate Hitler, Bonhoeffer is a surprisingly prolific writer. Many volumes in the series are thick. The $60 price tag for the hardcover of this volume is deserved.

Despite Dietrich Bonhoeffer's earlier theological achievements and writings, it was his correspondence and notes from prison that electrified the postwar world six years after his death in 1945. The materials gathered and selected by his friend Eberhard Bethge in Letters and Papers from Prison not only brought Bonhoeffer to a wide and appreciative readership, especially in North America, they also introduced to a broad readership his novel and exciting ideas of religionless Christianity, his open and honest theological appraisal of Christian doctrines, and his sturdy, if sorely tried, faith in face of uncertainty and doubt.

This splendid volume, in many ways the capstone of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, is the first unabridged collection of Bonhoeffer's 1943–1945 prison letters and theological writings. Here are over 200 documents that include extensive correspondence with his family and Eberhard Bethge (much of it in English for the first time), as well as his theological notes, and his prison poems. The volume offers an illuminating introduction by editor John de Gruchy and an historical Afterword by the editors of the original German volume: Christian Gremmels, Eberhard Bethge, and Renate Bethge. (publisher's website)

The Publisher draws attention to the posthumous controversy about Bonhoeffer's "religionless Christianity," deemed "exciting" in one of the paragraphs on the AF site. I must disagree with that assessment and the interpretation of Bonhoeffer's words that fuels it.

Most of the confusion about this term "religionless Christianity" must lay at the feet of those who would claim Bonhoeffer as their own whose words would be repurposed for their purposes. I do not believe the author was pushing for an end to Christian theology as we know it from Scripture. I believe his concern is more clearly expressed elsewhere. The term "cheap grace" comes to mind. I am becoming convinced that he was concerned more with the actions and practice of Christians than the doctrines themselves.

Yes, the lack of clarity of his ideas could and should be attributed to the fact that we do not have a final, author-approved published manuscript of the book Bonhoeffer planned to write. We have the writings, scribbles, and drafts of an imprisoned, death-row author and theologian partially cut off from the world outside.

I must admit surprise in how much contact he did have through letters, other correspondence, and reading material he was allowed by the Nazis. He was not as cut off from the outside world as much as I had previously assumed. It is good for books like the DBW series to correct my faulty assumptions and replace them with facts.

Allow me to return the favor.

Reference to "religionless Christianity" is found throughout the volume, in introductions, conclusions, and Bonhoeffer's actual text (20, 25, 26, 362-4, 367, 372, 429, 444, 475, 490, 577, 586, 588, 602, et al). The chief reference begins on 362:
What keeps gnawing at me is the question, what is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today?
His concerns?
We are approaching a completely religionless age; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as "religious" aren't really practicing that at all...
Europe today is increasingly secular. Churches are empty. Yet, Europe is full of religion. Mosques are growing.

One can define the term "religion" as repeated actions, say, merely going through the motions "religiously," or as actual religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

His next sentences continue his earlier thought about what I could call "hyprocrites," who, like the poor, we will always have with us. Footnote 11 seems to provide a definition for an obscure theological term that deems sinful humans capable of reaching out to God, a fact denied by Scripture as a whole. It is the Lord who must act in conversion and salvation as well as sanctification!

Later he says,
How can Christ become Lord of the religionless as well? Is there such a thing as a religionless Christian? If religion is only the garb in which Christianity is clothed--an this garb looked very different in different ages--what then is religionless Christianity?
 And there we have the source of the controversy. I assert that his words are an attack on hypocritical Christianity, "going through the motions" religiosity, pietism without piety, "Church" without Christ. At the same time Bonhoeffer is struggling with how to communicate Christ without the trappings of what people have done and said without their true meaning, of baptizing without catechizing, of doing weddings without premartial preparation, of being what some have called "a burying Sam" of a preacher.

I will always be troubled by Bonhoeffer's fondness for Gandhi as a source of theology and practice. I will always be curious about Bonhoeffer's theology and practice of Baptism. I will never be at peace with the fact that he served both Reformed and Lutheran congregations, groups with theological positions that cannot both be true.

Yet, I will not lay the total blame for the confusion and misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the phrase "religionless Christianity" at his feet alone. They are not words designed to find theological truth everywhere. They are not an excuse to dissolve traditional, Biblical, and apostolic theological truths about Jesus, God, and salvation in favor of the flavor of the age.

His words are occasion for repentance, renewal, faith, and an intention to "walk the talk" of the Christian faith.

Writing fiction, letters to his family, fiancée, and friends and contending with his interrogator occupied Bonhoeffer during his first year in Tegel Prison. Of the incomplete drama, the novel fragment, and the short story, Bonhoeffer admitted to his friend and later biographer, Eberhard Bethge, "There is a good deal of autobiography mixed with it." This book discloses a great deal of Bonhoeffer's family context, social world, and cultural milieu. Events from his life are recounted in a way that embodies and illuminates his theology. Characters and situations that represent Nazi types and attitudes are a form of social criticism and help to explain Bonhoeffer's participation in the resistance movement and the plot to kill Adolf Hitler, for which he was hanged.

This important volume, now in paperback, is complete and authoritative and contains much material not found in the previous edition. The German edition of this volume was edited by Bonhoeffer's niece, Renate Bethge—who brings personal knowledge of the Bonhoeffer family to her observations—and Ilse Tödt, who contributed much of the commentary. The English edition is edited by Clifford Green, who also edited the earlier version of the book, titled Fiction from Prison.
Honestly, I found much of Bonhoeffer's fiction to be unremarkable. That is not to claim that my fiction (if I had any) would be as or more remarkable, but simply that Bonhoeffer's gifts are elsewhere, such as his famous wedding sermon from Volume 8 (82-87). I regularly quote it in my premarital preparation classes.

What I found to be truly helpful for all of the controversy about Bonhoeffer and those who have tried to reinterpret "religionless Christianity" is the simple fact that one more than one occasion, he uses his fiction to get across the same point in a more clear way. Let's interpret unclear passages of Bonhoeffer using clearer passages.

In Scene 3 of his Drama, the character Heinrich says:
Don't think that it is the new ideas that are important to us. They may be important to the writers, who profit from them. What do we care about new ideas? I can assure you that we have neither the desire nor the time to chase after originality at any price. We want something much simpler, ground under our feet so we can live. That's what I call the foundation. Can't you feel the difference? People like you have a foundation, you have ground under your feet, you have a place in the world. there are things you take for granted, that you stand up for, and for which you are willing to put your head on the line, because you know your roots go so deep that they'll sprout new growth again. The only think that counts for you is to keep your feet on the ground (68).

Consider this conversation in the novel:
"You know, Grandma, we've outgrown this kind of preacher wisdom just like we've outgrown our Latin teachers rattling of Ostermann's exercises. I really can't understand how you can bear to listen to it Sunday after Sunday.
 At the time she had replied, "Dear boy, what's important is not that something is new, but that it's right. And we need to hear what's right again and again, because unfortunately we keep forgetting it."
"I don't understand," he had replied, "I don't get it at all. On the contrary, I can recite all those sanctimonious cliches backwards and forwards."
"Yes, you know them in your head and your lips can rattle them off, my dear, but the heart and the hand learn more slowly" (74).  
There is, Bonhoeffer declares, a difference between "Christianity" and "its pathetic representatives," himself included.

Don't let scholars from fifty years ago color your impression of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Read him for yourself. AF has hardcover, paperback, and Kindle versions of DBW volumes. Test my assertions by reading Bonhoeffer yourself. 

Bonhoeffer is worth reading.

Even if you disagree with him.

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.