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LHP Review: Lutheran Church Fathers

Luther, Martin. Christopher Boyd Brown, Editor. Luther's Works: Prefaces I (Volume 59). St. Louis: Concordia, 2012. 388 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (LHP)

Luther, Martin. Christopher Boyd Brown, Editor. Luther's Works: Prefaces II (Volume 60). St. Louis: Concordia, 2011. 385 Pages. Cloth. $49.99. (LHP)

Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Edited with Annotations by Benjamin T. G. Mayes.  On the Ministry Part One (Theological Commonplaces XXVI/1). St. Louis: Concordia, 2011. 346 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. (LHP)

Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Edited by Benjamin T. G. Mayes and Heath R. Curtis.  On the Ministry Part Two (Theological Commonplaces XXVI/2). St. Louis: Concordia, 2012. 363 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. (LHP)

Luther. Chemnitz. Gerhard. Walther. 

These are among the Fathers of the Lutheran Church. Our attention in this review is given to two new volumes each for Luther and Gerhard.

Never before in English, this volume presents Luther’s prefaces from 1520–32 for the writings of both colleagues and opponents. In Luther’s day, the preface was sometimes the most important part of the book. The preface used the most beautiful of language to praise the author, his work, and his arguments—and to decry his opponents. Publishers knew that having Luther’s preface brought instant fame to any book.

Some of Luther’s prefaces are short, witty, and incisive; others are as long as treatises, with thorough discussions of important theology. Satirical, earnest, tender, combative—in his prefaces Luther is all these things. Over and over, Luther calls his readers to remember why the Reformation was needed, and not to take it for granted.

About the Series:

The twenty planned new volumes are intended to reflect both modern and sixteenth-century interests and to expand the coverage of genres underrepresented in the existing volumes, such as Luther's sermons and disputations. The primary basis for the translation is the comprehensive Weimar edition.

Become a subscriber:
Become a subscriber and save! Each volume is currently priced at $49.99 each, but as a subscriber you pay only $34.99 plus shipping, a 30% saving. Volumes will release once a year and will be shipped to you automatically.
To become a subscriber, view prospectus, view table of contents, or read testimonials visit
View all of Luther's Works - Click Here
(Publisher's website)
I was reminded reading through the Large Catechism with our congregation's Eighth Graders how sarcastic Luther is. He is a perfect writer for our day and age. He is pithy and grounded. He takes the Lord seriously but not himself. He was prolific indeed. Although he wished only a few writings of his to survive, including the catechisms, I rejoice at volumes 59 and 60 of Luther's Works.

A writer of book reviews has a very similar vocation to that of Preface writers like Luther. Readers want to know if a book is really worth it. While Luther was humble about his own works, he had no problem extolling the works of others, even writing Prefaces for his opponents (e.g., 134ff). Book reviewers can identifiy with than when we try to find something good in a book we can't stand.

Our philosophy has been simple, writing as seminary-educated parish pastors or well-catechized musicians and laymen:   
Critical reviews (by Lutheran pastors and church musicians) of books and other resources for Christian worship, preaching, and church music from a perspective rooted in Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and good common sense. LHP Quarterly Book Review asks, "Is it worth the money to buy, the time to read, the shelf space to store, and the effort to teach?"
When Luther in his day in his prefaces answers our question, God bless you in heeding his counsel.

Luther writes on the concerns of his day and of Lutheranism in particular, including the marriage of priests (e.g., 1, 70), his own Latin sermons (172), the Christian household (244), and numerous Lutheran Church Orders (e.g., 35, 316). His language can be harsh (69, 80) and hagiographic (101, 194), addressing timeless concerns (231), as well as the Turk's Islam (231).

Volume one takes us to 1532.
This [second] volume contains Luther’s prefaces to the works of others from 1532 to 1545. Amid the outpouring of print in the wake of the Reformation, Luther—especially in the prefaces to his own works—sometimes expressed the wish that his own books might disappear and give place to the Bible alone. In his prefaces to the works of others, however, Luther developed the opposite rhetorical strategy, hailing their books as faithful guides to the Scriptures or as edifices that, because of their confession of Christ, would “surely stand secure on the Rock upon which they are built.” Although he complained of the many “useless, harmful books” with which the Gospel’s opponents flooded the world, the multiplication of “good books” in print—of which there could never be too many—was a sign of God’s present blessing on the church in restoring the light of the Gospel, and Luther was pleased to encourage the works of faithful colleagues and friends. Many of the works for which he wrote prefaces he declared superior to his own for their insights, style, and more refined approach. Luther was grateful for help in the shared work of Evangelical literary production in all its genres, in constructive work as well as in polemics, and his prefaces give a broad survey of the Reformation’s literature. (Publisher's website)
When a book reviewer likes a resource, a review may sound not unlike an advertisement. This is to be expected. Sadly, we've had to add the following to our main QBR site:

FTC Regulations Compliance

Disclosure of Material Connection: LHP QBR received these books or other resources free from the publisher. We were not required to write a positive review. The opinions we have expressed are our own.> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

No, we are not required to write a positive review. As a reviewer and the editor, I do not require this of our reviewers. I could, however, give you a list of publishers who do not like what we have to say as confessional Lutherans. I could also expose publishers who no longer send us materials to review because we have not given positive reviews.

Luther felt no such pressure to positively "review" the works of his friends or theological foes. He didn't beat around the bush. He told the truth as He saw it and proclaimed the Lord's own Truth in Christ Jesus.

As in Prefaces I (101), in Prefaces II, Luther again writes concerning Jan Hus and his followers (20, 214). He honors the memory and work of Lutheran martyr Robert Barnes (111, 228), memorably destroys the so-called Donation of Constantine (158), revisits catechesis of the young and ill (220), and introduces Christians to the Muslim Koran (286, 251). These prefaces alone are worth the cost of owning this second volume of prefaces. He wrote a preface to a set of 22 sermons on the Turkish invasion threat (1) and showed concern for mission (147).

I will return again and again to these two new volumes of Luther's Works to improve my critical writing, learning at the feet of a master preface author and 16th Century book reviewer, Martin Luther.

Also never before in English, we can now read the fullness of Johann Gerhard On the Ministry:

This volume, the first part of Johann Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry deals especially with ministers of the church: their necessity, call, ordination, transfer, removal, and the like. With detailed and penetrating examination and analysis, Gerhard first proves that there is an ecclesiastical ministry instituted by God, an affirmation disputed by contemporary Anabaptists and Unitarians. Next, Gerhard demonstrates from Scripture the necessity of a specific call to the ministry, a call given by God through the church, before one may carry out the pastoral functions and duties. Besides the qualifications for holding this office in the church, Gerhard discusses the call of Martin Luther, the degree of Doctor of Theology, and ordination through prayer and the imposition of hands, among many other topics that are of importance to the church still today.
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)
Dr. Walther made extensive use of Gerhard in his theological writings, particularly The Church and the Office of the Ministry. Not only is that Lutheran Church Father's work soon to be available in a much-improved translation, but in these two volumes English readers will have a great translation of Walther's source material in Gerhard's magnum opus for the LCMS official doctrine and practice of the Office of the Public Ministry.

Both volumes need to be taken together (purchased, studied, and embraced). 
This volume, the second part of Johann Gerhard’s commonplace On the Ecclesiastical Ministry deals especially with grades of ministers, marriage of the clergy, and duties including preaching, administering the Sacraments, church discipline, care of the poor, and visitation of the sick.
What power do pastors have? What are their duties? Against anticlericalism on one side and Roman Catholic views of hierarchy on the other, Gerhard teaches the New Testament doctrine of the ministry. Gerhard sets forth the true, Evangelical Lutheran view of bishops, explains what spiritual power ministers of the Word have, and describes not only the holy duties of preachers and hearers, but also their common vices. On the basis of Scripture, Gerhard defines the ecclesiastical ministry as “a sacred and public office, divinely instituted and committed to certain men through a legitimate calling, so that they, being equipped with a peculiar power, may teach the Word of God, administer the sacraments, and preserve ecclesiastical discipline, in order to bring about the conversion and salvation of people and to spread the glory of God.”
Call 1-800-325-3040 or become a subscriber to the series and save 30% off the retail price!
(publisher's website)
Books of this sort are not to be lumped together with periodical subscriptions. They are of more importance than paperbacks that wear out. Books of this heft of substance deserve hardcovers. They are an investment, a set worthy to assemble over one's life, an heirloom series.

What are the gems of the first volume? What are pastors given to do? Consult p. 100ff. How is church discipline to be properly conducted (132ff)? What is the local pastor's role in preserving the rites of the church (as opposed to innovating)? See 137ff. As Luther did, Gerhard still had to argue for and defend marriage for ministers of the church (190-270). He does so extensively and definitively. What about second marriages? Gerhard clears the air (256ff, especially 264). Pastors, understand yourself and your hearers by understanding your vices and common temptations (272ff).

Volume two will help you better understand "liturgy" (15ff), titles given to the holy ministry in the new testament like "bishop" (35ff) and "president" (41), learn the names of the Chief Priests from Aaron to Caiaphas (57), benefit from Apocryha advice (81), better understand the immediate Call (106) and mediate Call (111), as well as what should be avoided when calling (168ff). Gerhard specifically addresses members of other congregations (174), the selection of the Pope (201), ordination without Call (223), and the ceremonies of ordination (234). Gerhard gives us plenty to ponder and ample reason to intentionally reexamine LCMS policies and procedures. Theology is practical, after all.

For more books by Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, and Walther, as well as the Fathers of the Lutheran Church, visit Support future translation and publication work by subscribing or gifting a subscription.

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.

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