Luther Library

Luther Statue

05 June 2013
  A great novel of original sin- and hope
Forty-five years ago I came across a sci-fi novel in the bookstore of Concordia, River Forest called A Canticle for Leibowitz. It sounded intriguing: a post-nuclear apocalypse Catholic church considering the canonization of a man named- Leibowitz?- following the discovery of some distinctly secular documents associated with him. A comedy? A send-up of Catholicism, or even Christianity? I figured the latter was unlikely, even in the pre-Paul Zimmerman Concordia's bookstore. But somehow, I never got around to reading the book. Instead, I heard over and over from time to time that it was a classic, and well worth the reading. Well, I got around to it this week. And it was both. Though it has its humorous side, the book is anything but a send-up. It's an allegory of the role of the monasteries in helping preserve the spark of science and literature during the Dark Ages. And it's a gentle rebuttal of one of the more tired and ill-informed cliches of modern, historically and theologically ignorant Atheism: the notion that the Christianity is the opponent of free inquiry and intellectual and scientific innovation. I especially enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek incident in which the theory of evolution was suggested by a monk to a skeptical representative of resurgent- but still primitive- post-apocalyptic science. After all, it was put forward by St. Augustine of Hippo a millennium and a half before Darwin. What struck me the most, though, was the third of the three stories about the Albertan Order of St. Leibowitz (who turns out, as the story has it, an actual scientist, convert to Catholicism, and martyr to the fury of the Luddite masses eager to strike out against science following the "flame deluge" of World War III). It was set a few thousand years after the beginning of the novel, at a time when the world has clawed its way out of the ashes, rediscovered modern technology, and rebuilt an even mightier and more advanced civilization than ours, colonizing the moon and Mars and experimenting on a star drive which somehow defeats relativity and makes travel over the unimaginable distances between the stars actually feasible. And is on the precipice of destroying it all with a second nuclear holocaust. It's an age so much like our own it's eerie. The struggle between Abbot Zerchi and a clearly decent, well-intentioned and honorable government doctor over euthanasia reads eerily like a prophesy of today's America, in which masses of similarly decent and well-meaning people have similarly forgotten God, and been seduced by a utilitarian pragmatism which in effect deifies the social consensus into espousing the indecent and the downright evil. We're having the same debate today, over the same issues, and using the same arguments, not only about euthanasia but about abortion, gay "marriage," and a host of other matters which go to the heart of what it is to be human, but are dismissed by society as matters fit for decision only by the Almighty Individual. A character in The Brothers Karamazov concludes, as Sarte paraphrases him (the quotation was never actually written by Dostoyevsky), that "if there is no God, anything is permitted." Whether Dostoyevsky actually wrote those words or not, it's the bottom line: If God isn't God, than either the government, or society, or we are individually are god. And none of these are wise enough to fill those particular Shoes. Even a free-thinker like Jefferson saw that if "nature and nature's God" isn't the source of human rights, the government- or in any case, those with power- inevitably must be.  And the struggle between the abbot and the doctor is essentially the struggle between those wise enough and knowledgable enough about history and human nature to realize this, and those who- for all their good intentions- are simply not. Canticle is generally regarded as a literary classic. Sneered at by the self-impressed poseurs one would expect to snear at such a book, it's still regarded as probably the best candidate of the whole sci-fi genre for enshrinement among the great works of Western literature. Tragically, its author, Walter M. Miller, Jr, lost a long struggle with depression, taking his own life in 1996. Miller struggled with guilt feelings over his role in the mission which bombed the oldest monestary in the world, the Benedictine Abbey at Monte Cassino, in World War II. Fellow sci-fi author Joe Haldeman said that he "suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder before it had a name." It's a sad reminder of the very thing A Canticle for Leibowitz reminds us of: the perversity of human nature, and its desperate need for the light of God's face if it is to avoid self-destruction. Luther would question whether that fact necessarily means that Miller- or church musician Jan Bender, who was driven to suicide by Nazi persecution during World War II- are necessarily denied that light in eternity because they were momentarily overwhelmed by the darkness in this life. But Luther's God, and Miller's, and Bender's, is more powerful than the darkness. His Son, the Light of the World, has conquered it, and in its midst His will is always "Fiat lux!"
 
29 January 2010
  Logos Bible Software “Emergency” Update on Updating

Logos Bible SoftwareOwners of Logos Bible Software have until the end of the weekend to take advantage of steeply discounted upgrade costs to move to Version 4. They provide a handy Upgrade Discounter tool to help with your decision. If you’re wavering — or committed and wanting a chuckle — you should read Top Ten Reasons Not to Upgrade to Logos 4 while Mac users can also peruse 9 Reasons Mac Users Should Upgrade.

If you want to speak with a person rather than order online, you have less than 2 hours from the time this is posted, so call 800-875-6467 before today (Friday 29 January) at 5:00pm Pacific Standard Time (0100 Zulu on Saturday 30 January).

Cross posted from Happenings.
 
14 October 2009
  Even Death: A Novel
Not often do we find a novel that uses "A Novel" as its subtitle. Then again, not often do we find a Lutheran pastor who actually writes a novel — so maybe the signpost is needed.

Of course, when we discover that a pastor — or anyone with strong religious convictions — has written a work of fantasy or fiction, we do well to investigate. After all, for every engaging, well-written, piece of Christian fiction (e.g., The Year of the Warrior by Lars Walker) there are probably hundreds (thousands?) of moralistic, wooden, heavy-handed, or otherwise defective offerings (see William Young's The Shack for a prime bad example). And even if crafted artfully, many works espouse theologies that are barely (if at all) recognizable as Christian.

Even DeathConsidering all the potential pitfalls, first time novelist Wade R. Johnston more than meets the minimum requirements with Even Death. Johnston certainly allows his readers opportunity to anticipate his characters' actions and responses. Yet paired with a certain inevitability, we discover surprising nuances as the crucible into which he places his protagonists reveals their characters and their relationships with each other and the Lord.

I don't want to reveal too much, so here is a summary provided by author-publisher Johnston: As Isaac Heinrich and three fellow American Lutheran pastors embark on a tour of Reformation sights in Germany they are thrust onto a journey of faith far beyond anything they had imagined when they become unwilling participants in a jihadist ploy and are held captive by a painful decision between life and death, their faith and their future.

At first glance, you might wonder what "practical Christianity" you might glean from a novel that pits Arab terrorists against Lutheran pastors. Once you've finished Even Death, you'll likely have a keener perspective on the Theology of the Cross and greater appreciation for the strong faith God grants to His martyrs from Bible times to present day. In the triumphs and failings of the four pastors, their tormentors, and their would-be rescuers, Johnston illustrates both our need for the true God and the problems we cause when we try to accept Him according to our own terms rather than His.

I have only two small complaints. First, Even Death seemed to start a bit slowly, although I'll admit that my patience was rewarded. Second, as I was running out of pages, I wished that it could have been a bit longer, so I could better know the hearts and minds of each of the American pastors, their Arab persecutors, and the German special agents. That's because while the plot certainly propels the book, it's nothing without its characters.

I recommend Even Death to adults and mature teens. It's of particular value to those struggling to find relevance for faith in our secular age and for those confronted by evil happening to God's people.

Even Death: A Novel
Wade R. Johnston
Magdeburg Press, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780982158616 (What in the world is ISBN-13?)
Paperback, 256 pages

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11 September 2009
  New volume of Luther's Works
Pr. Kinnaman at Blog My Soul has announced the first new volume of Luther's Works (aka the American Edition and LW). The first volume of the original set was published 51 years ago and there hasn't been a new volume in over 20 years. This new volume is of Luther's sermons on St. John's Lent and Easter narrative in chapters 17–20 of his Gospel. The book is available from CPH.
 
05 November 2008
  The Shack
Guest Review by Jim Pierce of Confessional's Bytes

The ShackA few weeks ago, The Shack came to my attention in a discussion over how Christians should view books that use fiction to teach doctrine. I did some preliminary research and wasn't exactly thrilled by the reviews I read. Reluctantly, I decided to purchase the book and read it for myself to see what all the fuss is about. I am not disappointed that I did because I confirmed what the reviews had claimed; namely, The Shack contains deep, troubling, doctrinal errors.

I'm not going to get into much detail over the story line. It's obvious that the story is a vehicle to drive the theology and philosophy of its author. While fiction, the author intends The Shack to convey what he believes are universal truths about the reality of the world, humanity, God, and our relationship with Him. It is upon these beliefs presented in the book that I will turn our attention, as many others apparently have already.

In my reading of personal reviews at Amazon.com, I found many people crediting The Shack for changing their lives forever. In fact, some claim they are handing out the book by the case, because they believe it is so life-changing. When I went looking for the it at a local Christian book store, they told me they were sold out because they have a person on staff dedicated to selling the book to customers and he had been doing a "spectacular job." The Shack has certainly become the latest "Christian phenomena."

Before I get into the book I want to talk about author William P. Young. This is Young's first published book. As seen, sales are doing well. Some reviews suggest that Young is an "Emergent" — a member of the "Emerging Church Movement." An interview with World Magazine Online points out that Young is part of a "movement that rejects the institutional church." That is a common theme among Emergent, who are against doing what they often refer to as "brick and mortar church."

The same interview also tells us that Young "is no longer a member of a church, nor are his publishing partners, both former pastors." Wayne Jacobsen, one of these partners, is the editor of The Shack and a close friend of Young's. Jacobsen is a proponent of Emergent and very much into the idea that Christianity isn't about church, but about relationships, a hallmark teaching amongst Emergents. Both Young and Jacobsen don't see a need for church and neither formally attends one.

Since this review is not about the Emergent/Emerging movement I would like to recommend to those unfamiliar with the movement a series of articles published at Sound Witness titled, "The Emerging Church" for a good overview of what can be found in this movement. Suffice it to say, after reading the interviews mentioned and linked above, I am thoroughly convinced that Young is part of the Emergent/Emerging church movement. Knowing this should prompt us to approach The Shack with caution, even though it doesn't, in and of itself, guarantee that the book will contain false teachings. However, as we will see, some of the false doctrines of the Emergent/Emerging Church Movement are found throughout the book.

The story line of The Shack involves one Mackenzie Allen Phillips and his journey in dealing with deep pain and suffering over the kidnaping and murder of his six year old daughter Missy. Young powerfully recreates the circumstances leading up to the fateful day that causes so much inner turmoil for Mack, as Mackenzie is known by friends and family members. The resulting psychological trauma of the loss of his daughter is referred to as "The Great Sadness." His psychological trauma drives Mack into anger at God. Indeed, The Shack ventures into pop-psychology as Mack deals with his pain and as his unlikely therapist "The Trinity" guides him along the path of recovery.

Triune GodThis brings me to The Shack's "god." The god of The Shack is not the Holy Trinity revealed to us in Holy Scripture. More than anything else, Young's "trinity" resembles the deity of the heresy called modalism.

Modalism rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, claiming that God is not three persons but one person who "manifests" Himself in three modes of being, or "personas." That is, God plays the role of Father at times, Son at times, and Holy Spirit at times. Young develops his cast of three divine "personas" as Papa, a "large black woman" (p. 84) who also goes by the name "Elousia," Sarayu, revealed to Mack as a slim Asian Woman, represents the "holy spirit," and Jesus, who is depicted as a man of Middle Eastern descent.

Tertullian, who wrote against this heresy in the third century Christian church, remarked, "By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete, and he crucified the Father. (Against Praxeas; emphasis mine)"

That the Father was crucified is precisely what we find in The Shack. As the story unfolds Mack realizes Papa has scars on "her" wrists:

Papa didn't answer, only looked down at their hands. His gaze followed hers and for the first time Mack noticed the scars in her wrists, like those he now assumed Jesus also had on his. "Don't ever think that what my son chose to do didn't cost us dearly. Love always leaves a significant mark," she stated softly and gently. "We were there together." (p. 96; emphasis mine)

Interestingly enough, Young doesn't describe Sarayu as having scars on her wrists. However, he does write, "When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. we now became flesh and blood. (p. 99)" Later in the dialog Mack once again notices the scars on Papa's wrists and says, "I'm sorry that you, that Jesus, had to die." To this, Papa responds, "We aren't sorry at all. It was worth it. (p. 103)"

Unfortunately, Young continues to mangle the doctrine of the Trinity by forever limiting Jesus to his humanity. We see this where he quotes Papa:

"Jesus is fully human. Although he is also fully God, he has never drawn upon his nature as God to do anything. He has only lived out of his relationship with me, living in the very same manner that I desire to be in relationship with every human being."

Astonished by this revelation Mack asks, "So, when he healed the blind?" to which Papa responds, "He did so as a dependent, limited human being. (pp. 99, 100)" Here Young describes his Jesus as being "grounded" — and it is permanent; he never draws upon his divine nature. Mack is confused and continues his questioning to Papa (keep in mind the context). He asks her, "So does this mean that you were limited when Jesus was on earth? I mean, did you limit yourself only to Jesus?" The Papa persona responds, "Although I have only been limited in Jesus, I have never been limited in myself. (p. 100)"

TrinityTowards the end of the book, Young emphasizes his modalistic tendencies by having Papa change from a "large black woman" into a man with "silver white hair pulled back into a ponytail, matched by a gray splashed mustache and goatee. (p. 218)" The idea is that "god" can choose different masks through which "it" reveals itself to humanity. "God" can be a woman, a man, or whatever else "it" chooses (see p. 94). Why? In Young's theology God doesn't exist as three distinct and persistent persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"It is quite simple really. Being always transcends appearance — that which only seems to be. Once you begin to know the being behind the very pretty or very ugly face, as determined by your bias, the surface appearances fade away until they simply no longer matter. That is why Elousia is such a wonderful name. God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things — ultimately emerging as the real — and any appearances that mask that reality will fall away. (p. 112)"

Young's "trinity" is a simple personification of a being that dwells in all things. Indeed, he verges into pantheistic thought with the idea that it is "god" who emerges as "the real" and that the world of appearances mask its reality. This concept of "god" is one where the individual's perceptions of "god" determine how the deity is seen. So, "god" can be a "mother," or a "father," or anything else the religious adherent perceives, but they are all expressions of "the real," the One.

Young clearly rejects that Jesus ever acts out of his divine nature. Furthermore, he has the Father claiming that He has been limited in Christ! God the Father has never been limited in His power and He was not incarnate in flesh. The scriptures are clear the Father gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)"

Finally, Young's concept of God leans towards the pantheistic idea that God is the ground of what is "really real" and that the aspects of God, the "faces" of God, are a matter of what we need to perceive at the time. Young's deity does not persistently exist as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In the theology of The Shack, "god" personifies itself in such a way as the perceiver needs for the moment. Young's "god" is not the Christian God.

Much of the confusion over the nature of God in The Shack is likely a result of Young's view of reality as expressed in the book. In the above, we find that Papa essentially takes on varying forms to meet the needs of the perceiver (you and me). Papa mentions that "being always transcends appearance." In other words, the world we perceive is a construct. So, what is a view of reality beyond the construct in The Shack? Young answers this question through his character Sarayu, his representation of the Holy Spirit:

"If you had eyes to see the greater reality, here is what you would witness: As you continued your current conversation, a unique combination of color and light would leave you and wrap itself around the one who had just entered, representing you in another form of loving and greeting that one. (p.214)"

In The Shack, what turns out to be "really real" is that we are all beings of light with varying patterns of color defining our uniqueness. This is mysticism. The idea is that the real is an all-pervading light emanating from a single source, in this case, Young's deity. Mack wasn't able to see this "truth," being limited to the world of appearances. It took the power of Sarayu to heal Mack's eyes so he could see reality (p.208). Once his eyes were "opened," he could see that everything was comprised of light and that how we are expressed to each other through our senses is really a matter of changing patterns of unique colors.

ResurrectionIn Genesis chapter two we are told, "The Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.(v. 7)" Our bodies aren't merely "appearances." They are not "really" light. In fact, the resurrection of our physical bodies is an important part of Christian doctrine. Just as our Lord Jesus was raised from the dead in a glorious body (Phil. 3:21) so, too, our bodies will be transformed at our resurrection.

Depicting a "reality" where we are not in transformed physical bodies when we arrive to heaven denies not only our own bodily resurrection. More importantly, it also rejects the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ! (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19) Young inadvertently denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus when he moves off into Gnostic mysticism, relegating the physical world, including our bodies, into a world of mere appearances and the "real" world is one comprised of "bodies" of light.

Throughout The Shack there is a heavy anti-establishment and anti-institutional theme. Indeed, Young has Papa calling hierarchies in relationships, such as the order of relationship in a marriage, "Such a waste!" (p.122) Furthermore, his Jesus tells us,

"Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it.. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intend for you. (pp. 122, 123)"

"As well-intentioned as it might be, you know that religious machinery can chew up people!" Jesus said with a bite of his own. "You're not too fond of religion and institutions?" Mack said. Jesus paused, his voice steady and patient. "Like I said, I don't create institutions; that's an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I'm not too big on religion," Jesus said a little sarcastically, "and not very fond of politics or economics either." Jesus' visage darkened noticeably. "And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three?' (p. 179)"

Young's anti-establishment and anti-institutional ideologies allow him to embrace universalism. Mack asks Jesus, "Is that what it means to be a Christian?" Jesus responds, "Who said anything about being a Christian? I'm not a Christian." Young's Jesus continues:

"Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian. (p. 182)"

Here Young has clearly denied that God has established an earthly hierarchical system through which He works. The church is not one where Jesus is its "head"; there is no order to creation such as woman created for man. Indeed, throughout the dialogue between Mack and the "trinity" one gets the sense that man is an equal partner with God. More to the point, Young's thoughts about hierarchy implies a rejection of authority as being God pleasing, which clearly contradicts Holy Scripture:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1-2)

According to Young, it isn't the will of God that there is civil government or even marriage; these are institutions we create as we "play God." In The Shack, God is only concerned with relationships; in fact, he wants to set us free from systems altogether (p.123). What Young advocates in The Shack is not so much a denial that Christ is the only way; instead, it is more akin to the New Age philosophy that "Christ" is mystically found in all religions, or in no religion, per se. In fact, we see this with the words expressed through Young's "Jesus" who says, "I will travel any road to find you. (p. 182)" In other words, "Christ" will find you in Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, or anywhere else: Jesus isn't a Christian and neither are his followers, who are found in every human-made institution which the god of The Shack detests.

Way, Truth, LifeThe Jesus of the Holy Scriptures declares, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)" The teachings of our Lord and the Apostles found in the Holy Scripture unequivocally teach that there is no salvation outside receiving the saving faith In Christ. "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12 RSV)" Indeed, St. Peter warns the Church of false teachers and vividly explains that God Himself keeps the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. (2 Peter 2:1-10)

There is no meeting Jesus in other religions, or life philosophies, outside the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit delivers us from false religions and sets us on the one true road to salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It's little wonder that in The Shack we don't find Law and Gospel in Mack's story of "redemption." Instead, we find talk of having a "relationship" with God only in terms of a journey to restore us from our "brokenness" because of the fall, which seems more like psychological turmoil than anything else. In fact, Young's deity doesn't need to punish sin at all. Why?

"I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it. (p. 120)"

Indeed, not only does Young's deity not punish sin as a holy God, but he refuses to convict of sin through the Law:

"When Jesus forgave those who nailed him to the cross they were no longer in his debt, nor mine. In my relationship with those men, I will never bring up what they did, or shame them, or embarrass them. (p. 225)"

Contrast what Young writes with the Word of God:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

Then [Jesus] left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43)"

Cranach: ResurrectionThe Scriptures are clear that the Law brings knowledge of sin and convicts sinners. Furthermore, we know from the Bible that God is holy and must punish sin. If sin isn't punishable by God, then there is no need for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. In the above quotes from The Shack, we find the implicit rejection that Christ was punished on the cross for our sins. Why did Jesus have to go to the cross at all, if God doesn't punish sin, requiring redemption? Gone is the substitutionary atonement of Christ in Young's writing.

The above are just a smattering of examples of what is wrong with The Shack. Sadly, this book abounds in errors! I have read where some Lutherans are touting this book as teaching Lutheranism and that couldn't be further from the truth. This book is full of theological confusion and outright heresy. I can not recommend anyone read this book unless it is to uncover the errors in it. What The Shack might get right doesn't outweigh what it gets wrong.

I would like to end this review with a couple things I did like about The Shack. I found the book very entertaining as far as fiction goes. The story of Mack is very engaging. I am a father of two children and I can only imagine what a person who has lost a child to murder would feel. Young weaves a touching story of one father's loss into something to which I could relate. He does a very good job developing the character "Mack" into somebody with whom I could sympathize and in whom I could see some of myself. He masterfully put me in the passenger seat and drove me along Mack's arduous journey, ending in relief.

I also found the deity Young creates to be very affable. He establishes a resort setting for Mack with the trinity catering to his every need, while together they work through Mack's pain over the loss of his daughter Missy. Why go to "Club Med" when you can have "Club Shack"? At least at "Club Shack" the staff truly does know your every need even when you don't!

The preceding is a slightly edited version of a review written by Jim Pierce. Click here to read the original.

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24 August 2008
  A More Complete Logos Update

Logos Bible SoftwareThe Logos Blog shows a new, more complete way of Updating Your Resources. The standard updater deals only with major updates in programs and resources. This new web based option is much more complete. It has corrections for any typos and the like that may have crept into your resources. You don't need to have Logos running to initiate the download, just run the  Resource Auto Update . It needs Logos 3.0e to run, and will install the latest program version before updating resources.

Be warned, however — since it's more complete, the download size may range from large to gigantic. For example, tonight's the first time I ran it and since I have the Scholar's Library: Gold collection with additional resources, my download total is in the multi-gigabyte range. It's almost like starting from scratch! I began the download before starting this post and it's only 15% complete on my mid-speed cable connection. If you have a slower connection or a similarly large body of resources to update, you can use the check boxes to break it into smaller pieces. I think that I am going to run it weekly so I never again have such a large download.

ADDENDUM: After the download is installed, you may also need to sync your licenses. To do so, open Libronix and run Tools → Library Management → Synchronize Licenses. Otherwise, Logos could attempt to repeat the long download you just experienced.

Finally, if you discover additional typos, visit Updating Your Resources for information on reporting them. Maybe you'll see your own corrections on a future download.

Cross-posted from Ask the Pastor.

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23 August 2008
  More Reasons to Love Logos

First of all, as Paul McCain noted, Logos for Mac is in Alpha Release.

Logos Bible SoftwareOf wider immediate Lutheran import, I just booted Logos, checked for updates, and discovered that the promised Lutheran Service Book One- and Three-Year Lectionaries were waiting for me.

What do you need to access and use these newest items? Logos says, "The Lectionary Addin is included in all Logos 3 base packages except for Original Languages Library." The RCL has been a part of the package for some time while LSB was just added (along with The United Methodist Revised Common Lectionary). If you're using TLH, LW, or another pericope system, are comfortable coding XML (easy to learn if you know HTML), and have some time on your hands, Logos provides the handy tutorial Creating Your Own Lectionary.


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04 August 2008
  Gathering Thoughts on Collecting More Electronic Books
Opinions on Purchasing Logos E-books

Logos Bible SoftwareI usually keep a closer eye on upcoming releases but just realized that the Logos release of Lenski’s Commentary on the New Testament has less than two weeks on its pre-release price of $199.95. Therefore, although it’s somewhat dated and, IMO, has its own flaws, and since I already have it in hardcover, do I venture purchase at this price?

At earlier stages of development, we find a couple other titles that particularly interest me. First, the Northwestern Publishing House Electronic Library is on prepublication pricing for $399.95. How would you evaluate the dollar-worth of this set? The only component I currently own is the Triglotta.

Finally, I’m pondering the purchase of one of the greatest “graduates” of the Ivy League — the legendary Five Foot Shelf of Books coupled with noted works of fiction in the Harvard Classics and Fiction Collection, pre-pub priced at $99.95.

How would you prioritize these collections? I welcome comments on “necessity” and bang-for-buck. Also, do you have other suggestions or evaluations of the various works listed under either the prepublication or the community pricing programs?

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20 September 2007
  The Quest for Noah's Ark

Originally posted at Necessary Roughness on September 14, 2007.

Noted Christian apologist John Warwick Montgomery has been on KFUO's Issues, Etc. show ten times. I picked up one of his books, The Quest for Noah's Ark, from our library system.

Montgomery's book can be split into three: the physics behind an ark as described in Genesis 6:14-16, the writings of early explorers and church fathers, and the documentation of ascents made in the 1900s.

The author explains with a little bit of physics that not only an ark could be constructed, but that it could float and be stable, due to the ratios in its sizes and the resulting center of gravity. He uses this plausibility in the construction of the ark as evidence that the story in Genesis, not the story of Gilgamesh or other stories throughout the world that involve a flood, is the original story. The boat used in the story of Gilgamesh was a cube, and thus could not be a stable shape for a boat.

The writings of the early church fathers show that they really believed that Noah's Ark could still be seen on Mount Ararat. Since none of these people actually went, the section may be interesting for those people already interested in these writers.

Montgomery has made the ascent to Mount Ararat four times; two of which are mentioned in this book, published in 1972. During the first trip he took his son, David, who claimed the record of the highest ascent by someone of that age. The stories of the author and the modern explorers stand on their own as quality storytelling. They tell not only of the sweltering heat when sunny and frigid air when cloudy, but of interacting with the local Kurds and the Turkish government.

Montgomery at the time of this book did not find the ark, in part because another American expedition had soured foreign relations with the Turkish government, and the government forbid exploration near the mountain lake where the Ark was said to have been. Instead, the author does reach the top of Ararat and can see into Iran and Russia from the summit.

At the end of the book, Montgomery explains why the exploration of these types of relics are important. Christianity (and Judaism at the time) is an exclusive religion based in things that did happen. It subjects itself to be potentially and objectively verifiable. The finding of the Ark wouldn't save any souls, but it would improve the historical credibility of the Old Testament and cause people to take another look a religion they may have written off as impossible.

The book is quite an interesting read, even if one weren't Christian. It doesn't answer the question of whether the Ark, now petrified, truly stands on Ararat, but the stories of the explorers and the exploration of the Ark's physics is worth the read. It will arouse one's curiosity. It would be very cool if one day we are able to get up there with the latest satellite imaging, seismic imaging equipment, and other means to show conclusively if the Ark is up there.

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06 May 2007
  Another Round of Recommended Reading
The Current Lutheran Carnival of Blogs

Random Dan and Intolerant Elle's marital merger hosts its first carnival since their nuptials. Please visit Lutheran Carnival IL: The Day after Cinco de Mayo at Random Intolerance.

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22 April 2007
  Carnival Time

Lutheran Carnival XLVIII is up and running at Living Sermons. Thanks to the chaplain for a job well done and thanks to all who dropped by the Alley over the past fortnight to check out Carny 47.

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10 April 2007
  Recommended Reading: The 47th Lutheran Carnival

I'm hoping that now that Lent's workload is over, the Library's contributors can return to at least occasionally reviewing some books, computer tools, videos, and the like. Until then, you'll have to make due with the books already in your library and with whatever contributions you can find on the Net.

A ready source remains the Wittenberg Blogosphere. Lutheran bloggers are a busy bunch, and after receiving a fair number of submissions and suggestions for my fortnight's hosting of the Lutheran Carnival of Blogs at Aardvark Alley, I scoured my blogroll to add more to the mix. The finished product became Lutheran Carnival XLVII: The Fast Ends, The Carnival Begins Anew. I hope you enjoy reading the varied submissions as much as I did when pulling them all together.

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26 March 2007
  Springing Into Winters' Carnival

Thanks to seminarist Jay Winters, who presents Lutheran Carnival XLVI: Lutherade. Here you can not only read some of the best recent Lutheran blogging but also find out more about Gatorade inventor and Lutheran layman Robert Cade.

Also, this is your first threat warning reminder that the XLVIIth edition of the Lutheran Carnival of Blogs will be at Aardvark Alley. I know that many Lutheran bloggers, especially pastors, will be really busy over the next couple weeks. However, Holy Week and the celebration of our Lord's resurrection should also provide ample opportunity and incentive for some insightful writing.

Please be ready to submit your own work or suggest that of other confessional Lutherans, according the the general submission guidelines. Again, note that I encourage 3rd party submissions of good posts from those whose humility (or absent-mindedness) precludes self-submission.

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10 March 2007
  New Carnival Arrives

Meet the hostess with the mostess for the current Lutheran Carnival of Blogs: <bad carol!>Carol Rutz’s Annexe</bad carol!>

She pumps up the volume and delivers us Lutheran Carnival XLV: What the Frell Edition. It's quite a dandy overview of what's happening in the confessional Lutheran blogosphere. Drop by, read the submissions, and thank the nice lady for a job well done.

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05 March 2007
  Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness
Originally posted at Necessary Roughness. Please send any comments that way.

Most of the theology books I have read of late were fairly academic, requiring careful study to make sure the author's points were received. Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness, written by Dr. Harold L. Senkbeil, is refreshingly easy to read and a good first book for those who wish to start reading about Christian theology.

The book has three sections:
  1. The Incarnational Foundation of the Christian Life
  2. The Sacramental Focus of the Christian Life, and
  3. The Liturgical Shape of the Christian Life.
Each of these sections is further subdivided into three chapters. The chapters begin with a one-paragraph modern day story that ends in a Bible verse that answers the situation.

The Incarnational Foundation is broken down into "Our Dying World," "Our Living Lord," and "Our Death/His Cross." Senkbeil describes the world as plastic and lonely, leaving us to seek pleasure in sinful ways. The first chapter is ordinary (perhaps because we are ordinary) compared with some of the very cool things in the second chapter when he describes the living God. He calls us to see the "God in Diapers" and recalls Exodus 33:19-23 to show that God is protecting us when he hides from us. In our condition we would be obliterated if we saw God directly. In the last chapter, the author gives a summary of Christ's human life and death, stating that the death of God brings life into our dying world.

The Sacramental Focus focuses on baptism, absolution, and the Lord's Supper. Dr. Senkbeil uses Noah's flood to describe the extent that God washes sin away from us. Holy Absolution is the living word of God, and the author notes that "everything God demands of his children he first gives his children." Most approaches to the Christian life are "do-it-yourself," but only God can kill the "old Adam." Holy Communion is then detailed as forgiveness, life, and salvation. He notes that we eat and drink in the presence of God and yet are not destroyed; a benefit of the life Christ has given us.

In the Liturgical Shape, the author emphases a God that heals by wounding and makes alive by killing (Deuteronomy 32:39). The hymns, prayers, and readings are the Word of God and drown our sin. God operates on our terminal condition with surgical instruments of Word and Sacrament. The chapter on private prayer suggests starting off prayers in the 2nd person and describing God to give us confidence to ask for things in the first person. The last chapter on vocation is quite valuable. Senkbeil tells us that the motivation for the Christian life is not thankfulness but forgiveness. We live the life that Christ lives in us. "The bodily activity of Christians is the presence of Christ in the world," whether our occupation is preaching or making shoes.

This book starts off ordinary but finishes strong. Without counting uses of the Law Dr. Senkbiel shows us the Christian life in a way understandable to the reader in the first pass. Accessible to new Christians, the book is also a good refresher to "mature" Christians. It could also be used in small group study. After the 180 pages, Dr. Senkbeil provides a reading list with plenty of books that I haven't read yet. :) This one is worth putting on your list.

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25 February 2007
  Pitchers and Catchers and Lutherans Report

It's Lutheran Carnival XLIV: Spring Training Edition now posted by the Rebellious Pastor's Wife. In addition, she profiles a relatively little-known Lutheran who happens to have the CTS gymnasium named after himself. Perhaps someone should in a future carnival also introduce the gentleman for whom the other sem's gym is named.

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17 February 2007
  Der Struwwelpeter
He’s baaaaaack—that rumple-headed, slovenly, ill-kempt little boy known as Struwwelpeter. Dover Publications presents the German morality poems of a century and a half ago translated into English with the original delightful drawings by Heinrich Hoffman. The original German text by Hoffman is included in the appendix.

Der Struwwelpeter was one of my childhood books when I lived in housing like those above. Hoffman’s tale of Johnny Head-in-Air was one to take seriously if I wanted to dodge the gifts of the sheep after they’d been through the valley, our favorite playground. I didn’t care much for Conrad’s demise. I began reading Der Struwwelpeter when I was five, and the sight of a child with his thumbs whacked off was discomforting. Harriet’s final hours suited me no better.

I got over it, and I’m better for it. Der Struwwelpeter eventually became the dearest book of my childhood. When my mother returned to Germany several years ago she asked what she could find for me. One thing only: a copy of that beloved and long lost book. Eventually I even found it in Hebrew. Alas, it has been sadly “PC-ed”—cleansed of the story of Agrippa and his mighty ink pot teaching rude young hooligans

Boys, leave the black-a-moor alone!

For if he tries with all his might,

He cannot change from black to white.

Surely concession, if not understanding, can be made to Hoffman for his use of “black-a-moor,” for he means no insult to race by it. The young child referred to is simply a black Moor, and Hoffman’s era was not so very politically correct in language as our own. What is important is the lesson he teaches about teasing and verbal abuse.

One of these books from Dover Publications remains at home with me. The other is in my classroom where I introduced it to my students. At first they looked at the pictures and delighted in the gore. This is a generation hooked on Freddy and Jason, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and all manner of torture and mayhem without a reason even at a very young age. However, the purpose of fairy tale and morality stories is not gore and gruesome for its own sake, but to do the work of the Law in us. With very little coaxing, these well-catechized children were soon finding the Ten Commandments in the poetry of Dr. Hoffman. “Conrad should have listened to his mother. That’s Fourth Commandment.” “Harriet burned herself… Augustus won’t eat… that’s Fifth Commandment.” When the Law has its way with us, the Gospel can then have us by the ears. Morality stories have a place in Christian libraries for this reason.

Struwwelpeter

Available: Dover Publications

Grade Level: 4 - 7 (ages 9 - 12)

ISBN: 0486284697

Page Count: 32

Cross posted: Quicunque vult...

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12 February 2007
  A "Reading" Railroad

This being the Library, I appreciate the opportunity to pun off of Take a Ride on the Reading: Lutheran Carnival XLIII, which the host already used as a pun based on the Monopoly theme of his St. Charles Place blog. And whether or not you appreciate puns, I hope you enjoy the writing on display at the Carnival.

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07 February 2007
  Reasonable Ethics

Originally posted at Necessary Roughness. Please direct comments there.

Reasonable Ethics: A Christian Approach to Social, Economic, and Political Concerns was Issues Etc.'s Book of the Month for June 2006. It is a collection of essays by Dr. Robert Benne categorized by his personal story, basic Lutheran ethics, politics, economics, Christian higher education, sexual ethics, and culture/entertainment. His essays were written in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Benne grew up in an LCMS church but studied religion at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and has remained in the ELCA since college. He found himself a "liberal" early on but as the liberalism of the day moved leftward, he found himself sharing opinions with those calling themselves "conservative" today. As a result, I found most of what he had to say agreeable. Benne argues for a "Christian realist" attitude, where we use our reason within the context of sin and Christ's death and resurrection for us.

Dr. Benne's essay on Lutheran ethics is quite good. He describes Lutheran ethics as unique in four areas:
  1. a sharp distinction between salvation offered by God in Christ and all human efforts;
  2. a focused and austere doctrine of the church and its mission that follows from the first theme;
  3. the twofold rule of God through Law and Gospel; and
  4. a paradoxical view of human nature and history.
Our paradox is that we know that none of us is good, but we are redeemed by God as "exalted individuals." We have a capacity for freedom, love, and justice, but when we choose freedom to do ungodly things, we create a hell for ourselves and others around us. This framework fits for Lutherans of various political stripes.

The author in his political essays notes a difference between the direct action and the indirect action of the church in politics. He is critical of the ELCA taking stances on governmental issues such as the environment. He advises indirect action, the preaching of Law and Gospel in our churches, and then letting the laymen dictate what needs to be done in the legislatures. He notes that when the Roman Catholic church takes a stand on political and social issues, it does so infrequently and usually in a proscriptive rather than prescriptive manner, such as coming out against abortion and euthanasia. As a result the RC statements have more weight and are more effective among its people. A "No" from the church is more effective than a "this is the way God says something should be done."

In his economics chapter, the author uses Two Kingdoms theology (that God rules in the secular world and in the spiritual world, in different ways) to argue for state action in the economy. He does believe that we should not be so beholden to any ideology that we can admit it if a certain economic policy is failing. Economic policy and "justice" is not salvific. Capitalism rewards short-term goals more effectively, whereas some amount of moral and legislative action can make for long-term benefits, he posits. I wish this were the most left view of economics we deal with today! :)

Under Christian higher education he bemoans formerly Christian institutions that are now Christian in name only or less. Exclusive truth has been discarded for every opinion is right. Some institutions have still kept their Christian edge, and he gives Calvin College, Notre Dame, St. Olaf, and Valparaiso as examples. There may be some debates about Valpo, from what I've read in other sources. :) Other institutions are reclaiming what they have lost, and Dr. Benne gives his own Roanoke College an an example.

The ELCA and Bishop Hanson among others are critiqued in the chapter of sexual ethics. They too have fallen under the spell of diversity at all costs to the truth. Premarital abstinence and the teaching of sexual dignity is dismissed for "safe sex." Dr. Benne argues that we can and should stand up to the destruction of marriage in our society. A Christian couple in marriage makes a break with the past, rearranging loyalties, assuming new financial responsibilities, and founding a new home as "two become one". Marriage, like baptism and ordination, come with vows.

In his chapter on culture and entertainment, Dr. Benne gives positive use of religion in sports: to elevate sportsmanship, fair play, respect for the opponent, and civility towards officials. His "Viewing Movies Through Christian Eyes" article is intriguing, putting American Beauty on a statue for the internal bondage to sin of Kevin Spacey's character, causing the lust for a teenager, the character's realization that he has done something wrong, and his redemption and return to grace (before he is shot). Political correctness is more accurately "cultural" correctness, as society rather than politics condemns behavior. It totally condemns Mel Gibson's behavior while giving Bill and Hillary Clinton a free pass with theirs. We have to demand diversity for our ideas rather than social liberals finding people of every race, color, etc., with the same beliefs.

Since these essays were written and different times for different publications, some material overlaps. His ELCA background comes through his examples and his counting of two uses of the Law. He chooses to stay in the ELCA square and speak the truth so long as they will let him. The book is pretty easy to read and at 341 pages will occupy one's time on a plane. I recommend to everyone most chapters of this book. :)

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30 January 2007
  A Time for Burning

Last night I watched the movie A Time for Burning, it is a documentary about two Lutheran Churches in Omaha, Nebraska. One was a white congregation and the other a black congregation. The movie takes place in the late '60's; I think it was around 1967.

The pastor at the white church decides that he would like to open a dialogue between his church and the other church. Here is the description of the movie from The Internet Movie Database:
In the mid-1960s, 1200 White people attend Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Nearby, Negro Lutherans worship at Hope Lutheran Church. Reverend Bill Youngdahl, Augustana's pastor, proposes that ten couples visit ten Negro families from Hope. It's a controversial idea; within weeks, Youngdahl resigns. The camera observes: Augustana parishioners discuss the idea, the social ministry committee meets with Hope leaders, and Hope youth talk about race and religion. Ernie Chambers, a Negro barber, predicts Youngdahl's failure, and Chambers' implacable questions help lead Ray Christensen, an Augustana social ministry member, to a conversion.


I know that for most of my life I had never seen a "black-Lutheran." The first time I had met an black Lutheran was when I attended the Denver Youth Gathering. I ended up rooming with three black kids from Chicago, I think, because my group had an odd number of guys. I didn't mind. They were nice guys, for the life of me I can't remember their names, though.

I wasn't sure how I would feel about this movie. Its a free flowing movie. There is no narrator so it takes a little while to figure out who the major players are. There are three: Rev. Bill Youngdahl, Ray Cristen, and Ernie Chambers.

Ernie Chambers is a black man, who eventually becomes a very powerful senator in the Nebraska Senate. Ray Cristen is the head of the "social ministries" at Augusta Lutheran church. Cristen is an interesting guy. At first he is against the idea completely, but he eventually comes the value of the whole "excercise." Sadly, and this is a spoiler, I apologize, Rev. Youngdahl is removed from his ministry by his congregation of the episode. It is said he isn't a good "fit" for the congregation.

This movie is mainly video of meetings and chats between these three men.

It is an interesting movie, but tough to follow at times. It's a history that many Lutherans might not like to see or be reminded of, sadly, it might even present a present that many Lutherans might not like to be reminded of.

A Time for Burning is about an hour long. I'd say its worth an hour of your day or evening and would give it an A-.

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28 January 2007
  Lutheran Carnival XLII

House, MDiv put together a fine effort for Lutheran Carnival XLII. Drop by and sample the works of an eclectic group of Lutheran authors.

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15 January 2007
  Meditations on Divine Mercy

Originally posted at Necessary Roughness. Comments will be handled there.

Meditations on Divine Mercy is a translation of Exercitium pietatis by Johann Gerhard. It has been translated into English by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief.

Meditations is a small package — about 4" x 7", 144 pages — with vivid theological imagery in its 45 prayers. Usually emotion is a flag that one has wandered off theologically, but Gerhard shows that one can be quite emotional while remaining firmly in the Word. It is easily read, thanks to the translator.

The author recommends that the reader/meditator take a prayer out of each of the book's four sections for one daily meditation:
  1. Contemplating sins and forgiveness,
  2. Thanking God for his blessings,
  3. Praying to increase our spiritual gifts, and
  4. Praying for the temporal and spiritual needs of our neighbor.
Each small prayer is 2-3 pages, so one's meditation may run about 10-15 minutes. There are more than enough combinations to have a different prayer every day. :)

Gerhard's work is applicable in the recent blog discussions about sanctification and good deeds, especially in the prayers for the mortification of the old man and the disdain of earthly things: We ask for help so that sin does not rule us. If we live according to the flesh, we will die (Romans 8:13). The things of this world do not satisfy the soul. They do not give in return the love we give them. Where our treasure is, there our heart is also (Matthew 6:21).

I'll let a couple of people borrow this book, but they will have to give it back. I do recommend this for everyone. :)


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14 January 2007
  Lutheran Carnival Kicks Off 2007

Dan at Necessary Roughness starts the new year for the Lutheran Carnival with an American football theme, plus comments on one of his favorite Lutheran hymn writers, Philipp Nicolai. So sit down with Lutheran Carnival XLI: The Post Season and catch up on some of the recent good writing in the confessional Lutheran blogosphere.

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10 January 2007
  Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries

Originally posted at Necessary Roughness. Please leave any comments there.

I don’t remember who exactly in the #tabletalk IRC chat room directed me to this book in answer to my question, “What was meant by ‘the communion of saints’ in the Apostles’ Creed?” I thank them nonetheless.

Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, originally written in German by Werner Elert and translated into English by N. E. Nagel, is a fascinating book detailing early church practice, the schisms that occurred and why, and even a couple of attempts at unification.

Elert answers the question by going first to the Creed in the original Greek and then to the Latin that has been used in church liturgy. He argues that the Greek follows more closely with a “communion of holy things” rather than a communion of people. The phrase simply means Holy Communion. The Latin language did not denote as specifically as the Greek the difference between people and objects, so holy people, or “saints” as we know it, worked its way into the Creed.

Throughout the book the author emphasizes that the coming together of people does not constitute the Sacrament of Holy Communion. People of different beliefs have been brought together and even forced to take communion together by emperors in an effort to show church unity where there was none. Elert tells the reader, “The fellowship-nature of the Sacrament is in this that Christ incorporates into Himself those who partake of it.” The words of Christ in the creation of the Lord’s Supper “are without analogy and are therefore not to be explained by means of other examples.”

The reader is led from the true doctrine of the earliest believers into increasing degrees of human defenses and human error. The episcopate, the canon of the New Testament, and the Rule of Faith which manifested itself in the confession of creed and doctrine, defended the Gospel early on. The episcopate and the Rule of Faith were expanded and given more power, eventually causing more schisms. Penitential periods for gross sin started out as a time for re-instruction but turned into punishments and penances. Civil government got involved and began to enforce unity through coercion rather than discussion.

A background in Greek and Latin is helpful but not necessary to understanding this book. It is a fast and easy read, a credit to both Elert and his translator. I came away with this with an adjustment in my thinking about church discipline: ideally, refusal of the Lord’s Supper and excommunication are not new punishments but outward indications of the split one has already done himself from what is taught in the Bible. The first half of this book would be of wonderful use in a Bible study, and the rest is simply good history.

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