Lutheranism book is like a retract-a-bit screwdriver
by Garry Heintz
When Lutheranism 101 first came out, pictures floated about on Facebook of people “caught” with their nose in the book. LCMS President Matt Harrison; a pastor eating sushi; a bust of Luther; an Octoberfest band; people’s pets and children. Even a few Canadians were found reading it! So who should read this book?
Although the title implies it is an introduction for those with little exposure to the Christian faith, Lutheranism 101 is a great resource to help any Christian understand why historic, reformation Christianity believes, teaches, and practices the faith as it does.
The editors and authors (including LCC’s Rev. Michael Keith) have ensured that Lutheranism 101 is an easy read for anyone. There are margin notes with quotes from Luther, explanations of Biblical words, Bible verses, and insights into the practice of the faith. The book opens with a quick-start guide and throughout provides resources like “How Should We Pray,” “Christian Denominations,” and “Bible Study Tools.”
Getting into the text, Lutheranism 101 goes through the main teachings of Christianity, but it is not a Mere Christianity-type book. It doesn’t only deal with articles of the faith on which most Christians agree: Who is God? What is sin? Who is Jesus? What has He done for us? The authors deal with all these basics of the Christian faith with the Lutheran emphasis on the Gospel.
And like the Lutheran Church, Lutheranism 101 strives to keep Jesus at the centre of its teaching. For example, while many churches make prophecy a confusing maze to navigate, this book simply explains the return of Christ as a joyful hope of the resurrection.
While much of Christianity is trying to look indistinguishable from the world, this book isn’t afraid to say, “Here is what Lutheranism is.” For example, the church isn’t just a group of like-minded individuals, but it is every redeemed sinner. God then gathers His Church to hear His Word and receive His gifts from men set apart for that task.
Lutheranism 101 is not designed to be a new edition of the Catechism
Lutheranism 101 offers no apologies when it presents the Word of God as the source for all Christian teaching, understood through the lens of Law and Gospel. The Word of God is applied to sinners, calling them to repentance and to the places where Jesus works through His Word to give forgiveness in Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.
So how did the Lutherans start teaching these things? A look at Luther’s life and times presents Luther’s rediscovery of the Gospel and how the Church has continued in that message. Christ’s saving work prompts Christians to gather for the Divine Service, the weekly gathering of believers, to receive God’s gifts. Having received God’s gifts, Christians live out the life of faith to the glory of God. Jesus’ saving work moves Christians to sacrifice for the sake of others and for the further proclamation of Jesus, visible for the entire world to see. That’s what you get in Lutheranism 101.
Some may criticize the book as being too traditional, spending too much time on things like history and worship. However, tradition is simply that which is handed on. The purpose of this book is to pass on that which is at the heart of the Christian faith. Likewise, some may gripe that this book doesn’t delve deeply enough into the core Christian teachings: it doesn’t look at each of the commandments; it doesn’t spend enough time focusing on prayer. But Lutheranism 101 is not designed to be a new edition of the Catechism.
However, in one of the appendices Lutheranism 101 points readers to other books which make up a Christian library. Other valuable resources in the appendices include timelines for Biblical and Christian history, overviews of major events and people who have gone before us in the faith, and a glossary of important words.
Perhaps the best comparison for Lutheranism 101 is a retract-a-bit screwdriver. It isn’t a specialized tool. It doesn’t fit every situation, but it sure is handy to have.
Pick up a copy. Use it to help your children with their confirmation homework. Use it for Bible study or adult instruction. Use it to remind yourself of the great good news of Jesus at work in your life. And get “caught” reading Lutheranism 101, so you can pass it on to a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who would also benefit from a better understanding of God’s gifts for them!
Rev. Garry Heintz is pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kakabeka Falls, Ontario.
Lutheranism 101 (309 pages, various authors) is published by Concordia Publishing House and is available online.