Monday, 15 March 2010

Good News for Australian Readers of Luther

When I was a student at Luther Seminary in Adelaide, our church history and Lutheran confessions lecturer, Maurice Schild*, did once, while talking about the impact of Luther's writings on ordinary people during the Reformation, interrupt his lecture in order to look wistfully out the window of the lecture room to where the leaves of the London Plane trees were falling on the street outside, and he then said to the class with a not uncharacteristic note of urgency in his voice, "Do you think there are bus drivers out there who read Luther?" (I can only suppose that a bus was passing at the time, prompting this otherwise enigmatic remark.)

Well, lo and behold, when I went into my first parish, I did have a parishioner who was a bus driver who did read Luther. Needless to say he was not a bad theologian, either. But he was hampered by how little of Luther is readily available in English to the (non-mythical) intelligent lay-person without forking out AUS$60+ for a volume of the American Edition of Luther's Works. All the non-scholarly reader has had to subsist on to date are John Dillenberger's and Timothy Lull's skimpy one-volume collections of extracts from Luther's more important writings.
Well, here's good news for any Australian bus-drivers or other readers out there who have ever thought of getting seriously into Luther but were hampered by not having access to a reasonably priced edition of his more important works:
Australian readers can now easily obtain a new edition of Theodore Tappert's old 4-volume set, 'Selected Writings of Martin Luther' through Koorong (for American readers, an Australian evangelical bookstore chain) for the very reasonable price of $34.95, which is substantially below even the American recommended retail price (the Koorong web-store price is $40.95, but I picked up a set at my local shop for the sticker price of $34.95. Why Koorong persist in having different prices on their web page to in-store is beyond me. I asked them about it once but their reply made no sense).

The individual volumes are paperbound and small enough to fit in a handbag, knapsack or brief-case if you wanted to read them on a train or bus while travelling to work, or they could be easily taken along in a caravan or camper without usurping too much valuable shelf space if you are a 'grey nomad' trekking around the continent in your retirement. Despite the compact size of the volumes the font is very readable (even if with reading-glasses, for those of us approaching or past middle-age!), and explanatory notes specifically written for the lay-reader are included. The volumes have been printed on acid-free paper in Canada (not China!) and the set also comes in an attractive slip-case. This is one of the best things Fortress Press have done in years; all of the essential Luther writings are here, all the writings I remember Dr Schild told us we must read! Indeed, there is enough substance herein to sustain a lifetime of reflection on the eternal verities of the Christian faith and how these truths apply to daily life.

Koorong has 50+ sets in stock at this price. Delay no longer!

(Click on the post title to view the Koorong order page for this set. No - I don't get a commission!)

* Dr Schild was Hermann Sasse's successor in this position. He did his doctorate in Heidelberg, where he sat at the feet of the esteemed confessional theologian, Peter Brunner, who had been imprisoned by the Nazis during WWII. Dr Schild, one of my favourite lecturers, was passionate about his theology; he used to often suggest that, instead of pastoral graduates being given church-funded loans to purchase a car for use in ministry, they should instead be loaned $15,000 to purchase a set of the Weimar Ausgabe German/Latin edition of Luther's works. I think he was serious, too! And why shouldn't he be? Quite ordinary people were once prepared to pay quite a high price, even to die, for possessing one of Luther's tracts or even a New Testament in German, or indeed Tyndale's English version, which owed much to Luther.


matthias said...

Pastor i have just read an excerpt from Albrecht Durer's diary that dealt with Luther's "disappearance"-hiding in the castle. Durer said that Luther was the first person in 140 years to ensure that the Gospel was available to all and sundry. The other before him were Jan Huss and wycliffe,but Durer's writing,and remember this was a man who had art work well before the Reformation ,was filled with hope,despair as to Luther's fate and faith in the Providence of God

acroamaticus said...

Yes indeed, Matthias, we greatly underestimate the impact of Luther's popular writings, I think because we are so blessed with access to the Gospel at present.

Now, where did you get hold of such a treasure as Durer's diaries?

Matthias said...

Excerpts in Francis Scaheffer's HOW THEN SHOULD WE LIVE -this book is well over thirty years old but i treasure it ,as it was given to me by friends who now live back in Malaysia

acroamaticus said...

Ah, yes, I know the book, Wayne.

Peter McKeague said...

Thanks for this info. And tomorrow Koorong begins a 5 day 20% off sale on all web orders. Perfect timing. I know what I'll be doing in the morning.

Peter McKeague

acroamaticus said...

Enjoy, Peter!

(Have you ever noticed how if Koorong announces a sale, Word follows, and when Word does, vice versa? The competition is fierce in the world of book retailers, but the beneficiary for now is the reader.)

Mild Colonial Boy, Esq. said...

Thank you Pastor for the review - I just bought a copy last night on my way home from work.

acroamaticus said...

You're welcome, MCB.

I noticed from their webstore that Koorong's stock levels of this set have halved since Monday; could it be down to this humble blog? Whether yes or no, it is gratifying to see such interest in Luther in Australia.

Matthias said...

Yes Koorong tends to have more Reformation based books than WORD who seem to be firmly entrenched in Dispensationalism.

acroamaticus said...

I noticed that when I lived in Adelaide and has access to both. As in this case, Koorong even occasionally has good Lutheran books in stock, although you have to watch out for them. Generally, they seem to be slanted more towards the Reformed side in their theology section.

Schutz said...

Thanks for this. I might just purchase a set for our Copmmission's library. It is a great piyt that more Catholics do not read Luther. They could profitably follow our beloved Pope's example in this.

Maurie was a real gem of a lecturer. A true academic who was never bothered by the mundane reality of student economics!

acroamaticus said...

David, great idea! You can't understand Trent without understanding Luther.

Yes, Maurie was/is a classic, very much a lecturer in the German style, I think.

No hard feelings over the "RCC" issue, eh?

L P said...

Thanks for the info. I am ordering mine now.