Aug 12, 2016

What Books Have Shaped Your Understanding of Lutheranism?

Sometimes readers send us questions about which they would like to talk to other Lutheran women. Today’s question is,

"If you were to pick a book (other than the Bible) that strongly influenced your faith and your understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran Christian, what would it be? What is it about and when did you read it?"

Several SDMW authors shared about the books that have most influenced them. What else would you recommend? You can chime in via the comments. 

Alison Andreasen (Alison loves that since its beginning, Lutheran Christendom sought to maintain truth in whatever context Christians found themselves. Believers live their lives with reverence to God, humility toward one another, and boldness as God's children, seeking and receiving forgiveness as they go.)

In college, I read, "Spirituality of the Cross," by Gene Edward Veith.  It speaks on many aspects of the Christian faith such as vocation, the means of grace, justification by grace and more.  Specifically, I recall the section on the theology of the cross being mind blowing to my young, Bible-belt-raised brain.

Alison Schroeder (Alison studied Christian Thought in college and is now a wife and homeschooling mother of four children).

I attended Lutheran parochial schools, and so I have clear memories (from later elementary school and middle school) of time spent listening to, reading aloud, internally memorizing, copying by hand, and verbally reciting bits and pieces of Luther’s explanations of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer (in particular). Those words have stuck with me to this day, reinforced by numerous faithful pastors and teachers. Probably no book, other than the Bible itself, has had that profound, lingering, and salutary an effect upon my thinking and my belief, and I am very grateful for it!  

About midway through high school, I was driven to study Lutheran theology more intently. Around that time, I was introduced to two works that helped clear up my confusion almost instantly: Walther’s theses on Law and Gospel (via the book, God’s No and God’s Yes) and Luther’s Heidelberg Theses. I then read through the following books in succession: The Spirituality of the Cross (Veith), which introduced me to the Lutheran concept of the hiddenness of God and His work via means (in vocation, in the sacraments); Sanctification: Christ in Action (Senkbeil), which provided some needed clarity on the doctrine of Sanctification and a whole host of related issues (the sacraments, worship, American Evangelicalism); and Just Words (Preus), which laid out (via numerous impactful illustrations) the doctrine of Justification in all its depth and richness.  

While at college (yes, a Concordia), I was introduced (for the very first time!) to living, breathing, so-called “Confessional Lutherans,” who directed me at once to the Book of Concord. I read through bits and pieces of it in the course of my studies and in an informal BOC study group on campus, but never felt the need to sit down and go through the whole volume cover to cover. I’m finally doing it now, though, and enjoying (and benefiting from) it tremendously! It’s been very helpful for me to see first hand how Lutheran doctrines are drawn from Scripture (references abound!), and then to see and consider how the doctrines interrelate and build upon each other. I was even introduced to some new (to me) concepts and wonderful food for thought (like, for example, that bit about “eucharistic sacrifices”).

Kaitlin DeYoung (Kaitlyn is a pastor’s daughter, vicar's wife, baby boy's mother, and the "president emeritus" of the Carnegie Mellon University chapter of Lutheran Student Fellowship of Pittsburgh. She enjoys apologetics, music, travel, and naps. Kaitlyn's neglected blog is Pottery in Progress.)

One book that influenced both my faith and my understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran Christian is The Defense Never Rests by Craig Parton. My campus pastor chose it as the book to guide our semester’s study of apologetics (the defense of the Christian faith) during the first semester of my junior year of college (fall 2012). Apologetics is an extensive subject that can sometimes demand a significant amount of mental effort, but Parton’s treatment was accessible without being narrowly-focused or simplistic. It covers two main types of apologetics: apologetics for the “tough minded” (more focused on logical arguments) and apologetics for the “tender minded” (more focused on culture, art, etc.). I thought it was a great as a standalone book in your pursuit of “always be[ing] ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), or as a stepping stone to books that explore apologetics in more depth (as it was for me). 

The book influenced my understanding of being Lutheran mostly because it approaches apologetics in what I learned to be the distinctly Lutheran way—it encourages readers to not get caught up in side issues, but to focus again and again on Christ, because believing in 7-day creation won’t save a person, but believing in Jesus will. Additionally, Parton tells the story of why he decided to convert to Lutheranism from evangelicalism, and he speaks of how important it is for Lutherans to retain their liturgical heritage, instead of trying to mimic evangelicals’ style of worship. My campus ministry group read the first edition of the book, but the newer second edition includes even more of Parton’s cogent critique of shallow pop-spirituality, as well as new material that addresses the latest topics in apologetics. If I’ve piqued your interest, it’s well worth taking a “look inside” and then grabbing a copy from CPH!

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