Creed, Confessor, Commentary, and Contending for the Faith
Keith, Scott. Meeting Melanchthon: A Brief Biographical Sketch of Phillip Melanchthon and a Few Examples of His Writing. New Reformation Press. 87 Pages. Paper. www.newreformationpress.com www.1517legacy.com
Giertz, Bo. Translated by Bror Erickson. Romans: A Devotional Commentary (Excerpted from the New Testament Devotional Commentaries Series). New Reformation Press. 97 Pages. Paper. www.newreformationpress.com www.1517legacy.com
Controversy abounds online. We at LBR have little desire to wade into the weeds or unnecessarily offend. We have no desire to ignore what is going on, either.
Allow me to provide some background. An endorsement or "like" of a resource by an author or a publisher does not necessarily "like" or endorse everything by that author or publisher. That's not how book reviews work. Similarly, critique or review that "cannot recommend" a resource by a publisher or an author does not necessarily disapprove or "not recommend" resources by the same author or publisher. Again, that's not how book reviews work.
As a classical Lutheran educator, I teach logic and rhetoric in addition to grammar. We teach people to avoid logical fallacies. Two are worth mentioning here.
An association fallacy is an informal inductive fallacy of the hasty-generalization or red-herring type and which asserts, by irrelevant association and often by appeal to emotion, that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another. Two types of association fallacies are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association. (wikipedia) Above: An Euler diagram illustrating the association fallacy. Although A is within B and is also within C, not all of B is within C.While it is appropriate to note connections between persons and groups, connections are not always as solid as they may initially seem. We owe it to ourselves, those who listen to us, and those we speak about to honor the Eighth Commandment and also be honest and truthful. That does include pointing out public error.
Consider Luther in the Large Catechism on the Eighth Commandment:
When a sin is public, especially when a position is "publicly set for in books and proclaimed in all the world," "the rebuke must be public, that everyone may learn to guard against it."
If something is truly wrong, we won't need to exaggerate, commit a sin, or commit a logical fallacy to point it out to others, either guilt by association or the slippery slope.
A slippery slope argument (SSA), in logic, critical thinking, political rhetoric, and caselaw, is a consequentialist logical device in which a party asserts that a relatively small first step leads to a chain of related events culminating in some significant (usually negative) effect. The core of the slippery slope argument is that a specific decision under debate is likely to result in unintended consequences. The strength of such an argument depends on the warrant, i.e. whether or not one can demonstrate a process that leads to the significant effect. This type of argument is sometimes used as a form of fear mongering, in which the probable consequences of a given action are exaggerated in an attempt to scare the audience. The fallacious sense of "slippery slope" is often used synonymously with continuum fallacy, in that it ignores the possibility of middle ground and assumes a discrete transition from category A to category B. In a non-fallacious sense, including use as a legal principle, a middle-ground possibility is acknowledged, and reasoning is provided for the likelihood of the predicted outcome. (wikipedia)Instead of falling off a slippery slope, consider the practice of C. F. W. Walther in taking something to its logical conclusion.
I wrote the following two years ago in a similar review article:
A book, album, or other resource received for review should be considered as both a stand-alone item as well as in context with the confession, practice, and previous works of the author, composer, or artist.That said, let's get down to business.
This title [name] has been criticized online (often by those who had yet to read it) because of the practice of the large congregation of which the author is an Assistant Pastor. This book, if actually read by his brother pastors and congregation members, would call them to repentance with regard to [topic] and toward a more faithful practice consistent with the LCMS. Pr. [name] should be thanked for his brave confession.
What if there were an Explanation to the Athanasian Creed and Nicene Creed like Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation provides for The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod? This pamphlet is a start for such a project for the Nicene Creed.
A creed is a statement of belief. With regard to the Christian church, one of its primary uses is to maintain and communicate consistent Biblical teachings and understandings. Though not God-inspired, the Nicene Creed was created directly from Scripture itself. It is the direct connection to God's word that gives the creed the clarity that it does and is why it has stood the test of time, acting as a 'north star' regarding what we understand from Scripture, as well as a defense against heresy.Our congregation studied a version of this document from another source before we knew it was available from this publisher. Unfortunately that version (not this one) was missing "God of God," "Light of Light," and "very God of very God." Even so, using an otherwise identical outline, it was one of our most-appreciated Bible studies of the year. It took us about three Sunday morning sessions to cover the Bible verses and all of the questions.
The Nicene Creed is the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. (The Apostles’ and Athanasian creeds are accepted by some but not all of these churches.)
This pamphlet is a simple one which breaks down the references from Scripture from which the Nicene Creed is derived, line by line. It is an excellent resource for individuals and churches and study groups to use to discover exactly where the strength of the creed originates, and that it is trusted because it is anchored directly in the word of God.
We presently offer these pamphlets only in packs and as single free inserts with each of our physical shipments. Pick some up now for yourself, your friends and family, or your church or study group!
I urge the author, a Fellow in Christian Apologetics (http://www.apologeticsacademy.edu), to take this pamphlet and turn it into a "Synodical-style Catechism Explanation" of the Nicene Creed. Recruit others to help with the task. Examine the various versions and translations of this creed from Nicaea to Constantinople (and a little help from the real Saint Nicholas, perhaps).
Melanchthon remains a confusing figure to many Lutherans. Some have no idea who he is. Some have no idea what the Augsburg Confession is, much less its Apology (Defense). If I had to summarize the two Lutheran Confessions courses I had at the seminary, they could be described as:
- Confessions I: Melanchthon good.
- Confessions II: Melanchthon bad.
Dr. Keith provides the Church an accessible mini-biography of the Teacher of the Germans, Philip Schwartzerde, known to us as Melanchthon.Most scholars consider Melanchthon to be a Reformation enigma. He, the developer of the Reformation doctrine of forensic justification, is contrarily condemned as a synergist. Known well as the Protestant preceptor of Germany, he was Martin Luther’s lifelong friend, colleague, teacher of Greek, and fellow reformer. Upon arriving at Wittenberg, Melanchthon was a theologian neither by trade nor by training. He was a classically trained expert in classical languages, neo-Latin poet, textbook author, Greek scholar, humanist, and above all, an educator.
Though he was offered a doctorate on several occasions, he was not a doctor of theology. Yet his influence on the protestant reformation of the 16th century is profound, both through the Loci Communes (the first Lutheran systematic theology) and the Augsburg Confession both of which came from his pen.
Dr. Scott Keith, who has spent much time studying and translating this great reformer, has written this short biography by way of introduction. Also, Melanchthon speaks for himself in fresh translations of his work.
Our Circuit Winkel recently began a study of the Formula of Concord with a review of Bente's Introduction to Concordia Triglotta. By way of introduction, we considered the following:
The road to the Formula of Concord is complicated. The need for Lutheran unity under the Word of God predates the death of Luther in 1546. Phillip Melanchthon published his first edition of Loci Communes Theologici in 1521. By the 1543 edition, Melanchthon states, “good works are necessary for salvation” and counts three “causes” in salvation, including the human will. Scott Keith notes something that many Lutherans have questioned in the intervening centuries:
Please note the quote from pages 16-17 of Keith's biography of Melanchthon above.Q: What else was Luther doing in 1543?Q: Why would Luther have not challenged what we may anachronistically describe as “Decision Theology” in Melanchthon’s 1543 Loci?What follows here are excerpts from, questions about, and comments on the last section of Bente’s Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as originally found in Concordia Triglotta.
Phillip Melanchthon's followers in the controversies after Luther's death were known as Phillipists. The self-described "authentic" Lutherans were known as the Gnesio Lutherans.
The same Winkel study document (as quoted above) has two later questions:
Q: Why does the LSB [Lutheran Service Book] Calendar of Commemorations (xii) mark Melanchthon’s birth (16 February) rather than his death?Q: “Guilt by Association” is considered a “bad argument,” but is still used today in some online LCMS controversies. Attempting to discredit a position by attempting to discredit a person or group is notable in ancient and modern politics... Do we as confessional Lutherans demonstrate that “Guilt by Association” is still a “bad argument” by subscribing to the Augsburg Confession despite the Variata and Melanchthon’s later compromises and outright errors?
LSB does something similar for John the Baptist. His Nativity on 24 June is on the calendar, but not his death/heavenly birthday.
The second question is thought-provoking, and intentionally so, but it was designed to help the brothers see that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (as it became known by retronym) was presented as a joint confession (and not a private opinion or confession) at a specific point in time. The Confessors could not predict the adjustments that Melanchthon was willing to make in the Variata that were "misused," shall we say, by non-Lutheran protestants after the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. Charles V allowed "Cuius regio, eius religio" Latin for "Whose realm, his religion", meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled.
Until we get reliable, fuller biographies of Melanchthon, this will serve the church well.
We turn now to Romans: A Devotional Commentary by Bo Giertz.
This volume is what it says it is, a devotional commentary, not a full-blown exegetical treatment of this letter by St. Paul and the Holy Spirit. It is a foretaste of a feast to come, a commentary "excerpted from the New Testament Devotional Commentaries Series" that deserves to see its day in print in English. Bror Erickson is to be commended for all of his translation of Giertz. One will hear Christ in this devotional commentary, Justification its theme.Fans of The Hammer of God and With My Own Eyes will enjoy this devotional commentary on Romans from Pastor, Bo Giertz. The beloved 20th-century bishop takes readers through Paul’s letter to the Romans; pointing to God’s grace in Christ and forgiveness for the sinner at every turn.
Known as the “C.S. Lewis of Sweden,” Bo Giertz, unerringly reveals the fountain of good news in every Romans passage. Giertz delivers part commentary by thoroughly dissecting each passage, and part devotional as he keenly directs readers to comforts won for them by Christ crucified in all His saving glory.
Also Highly Recommended is a new apologetics handbook by Valerie Locklair.
What you want to know is whether this title is, "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read and study, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?" The answer is yes. I would love to add it to the reading list of our accredited classical Lutheran academy when we again have students in grades 6 and up.Why do you believe what you believe? Aren't you arrogant for thinking that you're right and everyone else is wrong? Isn't Christianity just a bunch of mythology?(Publisher's Website)
These questions won't wait until high school. They won't wait until college, and they definitely won't wait until you decide you're ready to answer them. The world into which you were born is a world at war. The Enemy won't wait until you're ready before he attacks, but thankfully, neither did your Savior. The battle for your soul is complete, and now the Spirit calls you to be a vessel through which He touches a bleeding world.
Called to Defend provides middle school students with an interdisciplinary introduction to defending the faith. Using subjects of mathematics, computer science, history, and creative writing, students will be taught to defend the faith courageously, humbly, and respectfully. Is it possible to be unapologetically Lutheran and a staunch apologist, even at a young age? In Christ, the answer is a resounding yes, as the Holy Spirit calls, sanctifies, and enlightens us to believe, confess, and defend the faith to a world at war.
The author writes about what she knows. She has been well-educated and it shows. She is doing her part in helping us give the new generation before us a better education than we had. That education is classical, Christian, Lutheran, and devoid of elements that would encourage the crystallization of future snowflakes.
One of my college majors was mathematics. I fell in love with the square root of negative one. No, I'm not kidding. See page 103 for the picture of my favorite fractal, the Mandelbrot set. Imagine commandeering the only IBM-compatible computer in a small-town Nebraska high school in about 1989. Now, imagine that machine taking DAYS to draw HALF of that image.
How is this relevant to math in general and classical Lutheran education in particular? "It's possible to be extremely creative in the application and manipulation of numbers-but the numbers were already there. We didn't invent them. We discovered them. Mathematics cannot explain its own existence. Mathematics can raise interesting questions and pose fascinating thought problems, but it can't enlighten us about its mysterious nature. We wouldn't expect general revelation to reveal this to us-that's the real of special revelation (and, consequently, why all apologetics mus be wholly centered on Christ, the Word incarnate)" (106).
Well-written by an author passionate about her subject matter and using an outline of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, this book will be a blessing to Lutheran pastors, students, and school and home educators.
We promised to give these offerings of 1517 a fair hearing. I believe that we have done that.
This review (and others published near it in time) was delayed because of family and congregational vocational responsibilities. I apologize for the delay.