Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reading for the Christmas Season

OK, I'll confess. I'm one of those people who thinks fondly of a time when Advent was Advent, and Christmas didn't begin to intrude about the time of All Saints Day.

But the other reality is that we live in America in 2006, and I don't expect that we'll stop hearing "Jingle Bells" on the radio in late November any time soon. So what to do?

One way, perhaps, to re-capture some church year grounding is to do some special reading during Advent. Some reading that we wouldn't do some other time of the year. Some reading to prepare us for Christmas, which is after all what Advent is for.

So I'm reading Johann Gerhard's 'Seven Christmas Sermons.' I'm not a big fan of reading sermons: sermons are for preaching, not for silent reading, but like all man-made rules, this is a rule that can be broken when the right occasion arises. And Gerhard is a good reason for breaking this rule.

Johann Gerhard is one of those treasures of Lutheran theology. Like most such treasures, Gerhard is ignored by most Lutherans of the early 21st century. We ignore him at our peril. I encourage reading his deeply theological and sweetly devotional works. Repristination Press is to be thanked for re-publishing much of Gerhard's works.

(Don't confuse Johann Gerhard -- theologian -- with Paul Gerhardt, hymnist. Gerhardt's hymnody is rich and wonderful, and many of his hymns can be found in most Lutheran hymnals and service books. Encourage the use of those hymns, but that's for another post. Read a bit about Paul Gerhardt here ).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another Review: 'The Lord's Supper,' by Martin Chemnitz

"Like every one of Chemnitz's books I've read, this is a masterful work about a specialized area of Christian theology that's central to our faith: the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. And while Chemnitz works through the dogmatics of the topic, his approach is at the same time pastoral, showing obvious concern that all Christians (not just pastors or theologians) understand what they are receiving when partaking of the Supper.

This book ties in closely with another of Chemnitz's books, 'The Two Natures in Christ,' as the two topics are closely related.

Also helpful: the English translation in this book is well done, not wordy, but smooth-flowing and easy to read. Highly recommended."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Review: Martin Chemnitz's 'Two Natures in Christ'

(This is an online review I did for of Martin Chemnitz's 'The Two Natures in Christ.' As you will see from the review, this one gets high praise from me, as it should.

My taste in books is, well, eclectic, as anyone can tell by looking at my library, or reading my reviews. Because I have somewhat unusual taste, I usually don't recommend everything I read, even books that were helpful to me, because you might have different tastes.

This book is different. Because a thousand years from now, this book will still be relevant: both to Christians on earth, and to those of us who will be gathered with the saints. I know of no one who would not benefit from this book. Read it, and marvel at the Savior who took on your nature, became one of us (except without sin) and who gives us His own human nature in His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar).

"This book was recommended to me in 1989. I bought it in 1990, and have read it a number of times since then, with greater insights coming from it with each read.

If I had to grab a handful of books because a flood was coming, this is one I'd take. This is the finest Christology book I've ever read, and there is no competition. I would argue that in a real sense, it is one of the top 5 theology books I've ever read at all.

A couple of suggestions:

1. Get a good copy. I'm all for buying used books from Amazon, but this might be one where you'd want to get it new, just because you will -- I hope -- be reading it over and over. And you'll very likely never sell it, because this book is so good that you'll feel like hogging it to yourself.

2. Read it slowly. I'm not a fan of devotional books (they're often junk) but this book teaches you about theology, while nurturing your spiritual life. When I'm reading it, I read 2-4 pages a day. Of course, that means it might take a year to get through, but what's the problem with that? When you're finished, you'll feel like starting over.

3. Most errors in Christian theology stem from one of 2 areas. People get messed up on either the PERSON of Christ (who He is) or the WORK of Christ (what He does). This book will inoculate you against both errors.

4. This is NOT a book "just for pastors." Any thoughtful layperson can read and learn from this. A few terms are in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew; most of those terms are translated.

Martin Chemnitz is a master. Get this book (and anything by him) and learn from it. You will be a better Christian for it, and your church will benefit, too."