Friday, 18 June 2010

Lutheran Books for the Seeker

What Lutheran books would I as a pastor recommend for a seeker or inquirer into the faith of the Lutheran Church?

Pr William Weedon recently had an interesting post on the books he would give to a seeker inquiring into the Lutheran Church (click on the post title to read it.).

Here’s Pr Weedon’s list:
* Lutheran Service Book - everyone needs a hymnal.
* Treasury of Daily Prayer - find out about Lutherans by praying God's Word with us!
* Grace upon Grace (Kleinig) - get a handle on receptive spirituality!
* Lutheran Study Bible - generally good all around resource (not infallible, of course; the notes are NOT part of the inspired text).
* Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions - unlike so many churches, you can find what Lutherans believe in this single handy volume with a lot of helpful notes and even pictures!
* Walther's Law and Gospel - I've not seen the actual new release, but the promo material looked superb.

Now here’s mine, although I have included options to tailor it to individual contexts:

* Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (the LC-MS edition, either the old (blue) or new (sangria) one). As I hand it to my confirmands I assure them this is a resource for life, and the same goes for adult inquirers; we never outgrow the catechism (Sasse: "I am a simple Lutheran who prays the Catechism daily"). The invaluable explanation which makes up the bulk of the book leads one back into the main text and vice versa. An excellent resource which also equips laypeople to witness to their faith by answering the questions of others confidently.)

* Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, A Reader’s Edition (people love this book, especially the pictures!)

* The Lutheran Hymnal with Supplement (the LCA’s hymnal, substitute the equivalent denominational hymnal for those overseas). I would encourage the use of Morning and Evening Prayer from the hymnal as a daily devotion.

* The Lutheran Study Bible (by CPH, not Augsburg-Fortress; as per Pr Weedon, the study notes are not inspired, but are only meant to serve as a helpful aid to understanding the sacred text.)

No surprises there, I guess. The above represents the basic Lutheran library for the layperson as far as I’m concerned, books that should ideally be in every Lutheran home and which would enable a seeker to get a handle on practicing the Christian faith the Lutheran way. This assumes, of course, that the seeker is worshipping regularly with a Lutheran congregation.

Now the optional extras:

* Here I Stand by Roland Bainton (excellent accessible biography of Luther recently re-published in a handsome format. Of course, this book would come with the standard disclaimer that we do not worship the man!)

* Grace Upon Grace by John Kleinig (for a Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican inquirer. I was privileged to hear the content of this book directly from the author's mouth as a student in his Christian Spirituality class at Luther Seminary; I can't value this teaching too highly)
or Why I Am A Lutheran - Jesus at the Centre by Daniel Preus (for a lapsed Lutheran returning to the faith and/or a Presbyterian or Pentecostal)
or The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Veith (for an Evangelical)

*Treasury of Daily Prayer,
or Starck’s Prayer Book,
or Day by Day with Luther, or some other prayer/devotional book suitable for the inquirer. (I would really direct the seeker/catechumen to the Bible and the Hymnal as the source of their devotional life, but if extras are needed, these are they!)

*Walther’s Law & Gospel (the new edition),
or Handling the Word of Truth by John Pless
or God’s No and God’s Yes, the condensed version of Walther).
(These suggestions assume a lively interest in theology; failing that I would cover law and gospel myself).

*Lift High This Cross, The Theology of Martin Luther by Eugene Klug,
or A Summary of Christian Doctrine by W. A. Koehler (the 3rd, revised edition updated by Pr Kuhlmann),
or Mueller’s Dogmatics
or for the really adventurous and intellectually gifted, Pieper's Dogmatics or Hoenecke's; the latter is probably more accessible than Pieper. (We desperately need an up-to-date Lutheran dogmatics text which engages with contemporary theology from a confessional position.)
Once again these suggestions assume a lively interest in theology, which many seekers do have, and for such a person these are good places to start wading in to Lutheran doctrine. The books are listed in order of difficulty. Mueller’s Dogmatics was very helpful to me when I was a seeker myself, but then I had already read things like Ott’s RC Systematics and Berkhof’s Reformed Systematics and Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology too, along with others (yes, I really was a seeker!), so Mueller answered a lot of questions for me; but someone not familiar with polemics in theology might not take to it. It’s a question of tailoring a book to suit the individual. There are other options as well. Reading these texts would be a directed course of study under the pastor's oversight - and reception into the church would not be conditioned on completing this! :0))

I have used most of the above books successfully with inquirers and Lutherans seeking a deeper knowledge of their faith (fides quae). Of course, all this suggests a highy literate inquirer; what to do with one who is not into reading? Well, the Bible, Hymnal and Catechism would suffice in that case. With a group of non-literate inquirers (a situation becoming more common), one could explore using audio and video clips, 'connecting' the Gospel message to where these folk are at in life.

Then also this list really assumes a seeker who has a background in another confession/denomination;, what to do for someone new to the Christian faith?
Well, I would simply opt for reading through a Gospel with them and answering their questions, and then perhaps moving on to Acts and Romans. Catechisation would take place as we went. Then the 'neophyte' could be presented with a Catechism, a Study Bible or a Hymnal (or all three!) upon Baptism. The same method could be used for a class of inquirers, with tailored literature handed out to each individual as the class progressed.


Melanchthon said...

Another good book on Luther's understanding of the gospel is "Where God Meets Man" by Gerhard Forde. Also, for a Christian wondering what Lutheranism is all about might want to read "The Hammer of God." In fact, maybe I should do an adult study with that novel this Fall.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Yeah, I very nearly added The Hammer of God - it would probably go best in the theology section as an alternative for someone who appreciates stories more than the didactic method of dogmatic theology. At some stage (preferably university age), every literate Lutheran should read that book.

Pr. Alex Klages said...

At the risk of being self-promoting, I would add my wife's book, Water With the Word: A Baptism Q&A (available as free PDF at ) as an additional resource for those who are struggling with the question of the Lutheran teaching on Baptism.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Thanks Alex.
I'm going to download it and check it out.