Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Edited with Annotations by Benjamin T. G. Mayes. On the Church (Theological Commonplaces: XXV). St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 870 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. https://www.cph.org/p-12935-on-the-church-theological-commonplaces.aspx?SearchTerm=gerhard%20church (LHP)
For far too long, the encyclopediac dogmatic masterpiece of Johann Gerhard was not available in English translation. We rejoice to present to you Gerhard's massive volume on the Church.
The doctrine of the church was contentious as Lutherans argued for the scriptural catholicity of their churches, which embraced the Reformation, over against Roman Catholic claims to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church confessed in the creeds. Distinguishing between visibility and invisibility as aspects of the same church, Gerhard discusses whether the church can err and defines the true marks of the church. Yet this volume covers much more than just the doctrine of the church. It deals with mission, miracles, prophecy, the curious case of “Pope Joan,” and the corruptions of the papacy in the centuries leading up to Gerhard’s time.The Theological Commonplaces series is the first-ever English translation of Johann Gerhard's monumental Loci Theologici. Gerhard was the premier Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century. Combining his profound understanding of evangelical Lutheran theology with a broad interest in ethics and culture, he produced significant works on biblical, doctrinal, pastoral, and devotional theology. Gerhard interacts with the writings of the church fathers, Luther and his contemporaries, and the Catholic and Calvinist theologians of his day. His 17-volume Loci is regarded as the standard compendium of Lutheran orthodoxy, with topics ranging from the proper understanding and interpretation of Scripture to eschatology.Useful for research on Lutheran doctrine, Gerhard's accessible style makes this a must-have on the bookshelf of pastors and professional church workers.Each embossed hardback volume includes
•the translation of Gerhard's Loci (originally published from 1610 to 1625)
•a glossary of key theological, rhetorical, and philosophical terms
•a name index
•a Scripture index
•a carefully researched works cited list that presents guidance for deciphering the numerous abbreviations of the other titles from which Gerhard quotes.
(Publisher's website)Now more timely than ever, Gerhard's volume On the Church will help Lutherans and Christians better understand the claims of the Roman Office of the Papacy.
I shared the following with my congregation in our March Newsletter:
There are really only two seasons in Wyoming. Winter and Road Construction. Both are seasons for Caution.
You can tell that “Spring” is here when it snows on your way in to church on Sunday and it has melted by the time we get out of church.
Everybody knows when it is Road Construction Season. We see orange cones, orange signs, and orange vests on workers. And we have to slow down and switch lanes.
Since the Pope announced his resignation, and the Roman church is preparing for a conclave to select a new Pope, I’d like to offer some evangelical words of caution.
The media is excited. Roman Catholics are excited. We, as Lutherans especially, have reason for caution.
In 1537, Lutherans laid out our basic concerns with the Roman Church and the office of the papacy. The document is called the Treatise, short for the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, part of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions and is also available to read for free online (http://bookofconcord.org/treatise.php).
The first four lines read like this:
1] The Roman Pontiff claims for himself [in the first place] that by divine right he is [supreme] above all bishops and pastors [in all Christendom].
2] Secondly, he adds also that by divine right he has both swords, i.e., the authority also of bestowing kingdoms [enthroning and deposing kings, regulating secular dominions etc.].
3] And thirdly, he says that to believe this is necessary for salvation. And for these reasons the Roman bishop calls himself [and boasts that he is] the vicar of Christ on earth.
4] These three articles we hold to be false, godless, tyrannical, and [quite] pernicious to the Church.
The Treatise is a quick read. It is only 82 paragraphs long. Lutherans should read it any time there is a vacancy in the office of pope. It answers head-on the false Roman claim that Jesus made Peter the first pope in Matthew 16:18.
If you don’t own a copy of the Book of Concord and do not have access to a computer, please contact the office and we can arrange to print a copy of the Treatise for you.
The announcement of the new pope will be made soon, before Palm Sunday, with white smoke, ceremony, an announcement of the new pope’s new name, and a post on Twitter. There will also be the Latin announcement: Habemus Papam! (We have a Pope!) As Christians we rejoice in what we have in common with other Christians from Scripture alone. Our announcement will remain: Habent papa. Habemus Christum! (They have a pope. We have Christ!)
I had recently finished reading this volume of Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces. Can you tell?
- The Editor's Preface reminds us that "catholic" is really a synonymn of "universal" (xii, cf. 279ff.).
- Gerhard shows the theological freight of "Church" flowing through the Old Testament and Septuagint into New Testament Greek (7).
- Gerhard proves that "the pure preaching of the Word and the legitimate administration of the Sacraments are th emarks of the church" (241).
- He writes of Jesuits (362) in connection with churches in the New World. Gerhard demolishes so-called apostolic succession (372ff), proves papal indulgences to be a novelty (419) while defending justification (passim), gives examples of divisions within "monolithic" Rome (506ff) and sins that flourish in the papacy (535, etc.).
- Gerhard shares fascinating "prophecies about Luther from the histories" (670ff).
- Finally, he provides Chaper XIII, guidance "On the Use of This Commonplace."
Read together with Gerhard's volumes on the Ministry, On the Church will help the modern Christian respond Biblically to modern and ancient errors in understanding Church and Ministry.
A new study edition of Walther's book on the topics will be reviewed very soon.
The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.