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Friday, October 10, 2008 

What Books Do You Put In A Lutheran Library?

I just received an email from the chair of the Board of Education at church asking what books I thought should be in a Lutheran library. So what do you think?

To be honest our library looks like any nondenominational library with a few exceptions. We do have a few books on and by Luther, Sasse, and a small number of historical books. However, combined together the solidly Lutheran books don’t total up to what seems like the collected works of Billy Graham. Heck, we have more books about Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa than we do the early fathers and martyrs who boldly confessed Christ as they were being put to death.

I’m certainly not saying we can’t have a Billy Graham or Charles Swindoll, but when these books teach something that goes against Scripture (like decision theology for starters) and Lutheran teaching, they shouldn’t be on our shelves.

A few years back someone added a book by a new age rabbi that made his case that Jesus wasn’t God (God would never humiliate himself by taking on the flesh of His creation… sounds a little like the Mohammadians doesn’t it?) and Eve wasn’t the first women (it was Lilith). Why was such a book added? Well it had gotten good reviews in a “Christian” book distributor publication. I guess they were going for, uh, equal time? Thankfully, I haven’t seen that book on the shelves lately.

So I ask again, what would you put in your library that would distinguish it as being Lutheran? What books would you add that are not written by Lutherans but are still very good?


While we still have a few questionable books in our library like you have, they are now being dwarfed by solid doctrinal books and our newest librarian is adding several more per year. It helps when your librarian is an elder rather than a retired widow. No offense to her, but her book choices were geared more towards the older ladies in the congregation.

So I say get a few copies of "The Fire and the Staff" and Craig Parton books and any other Preuss (all the Preuss') books. "Handling the Word of Truth..." by Pless, and I've heard "Heaven on Earth" by Dr. Just is awesome. One of these days I'll get to reading it.

And ask around and see if anyone has a personal library with a lot of the Luther Works books and such. It really fills out the library and at least LOOKS right. Sure, only one or two people per year might even attempt to read one of them, but it's there for reference at least.

What books do you suggest?

Red, we added "The Fire and the Staff" earlier this year and a copy of "Heaven on Earth" will be in the library soon enough. Concerning "Heaven on Earth", you heard correctly that it’s a great, great book. I used the chapter on Psalms to teach a six week class on the Psalms as Scripture and hymnody of the first Christians for my Sunday morning class.

Anon, I’ll give everyone my list on Wednesday when I send my email to the BoE. I wanted to give folks a chance to list books that I might not consider. If I listed a whole bunch of books, my thinking is that I might not get as good of a response.

Am I allowed to ask what you mean by "decision theology" and noting that it (whatever it is that you mean by the term) is not scriptural? Have you covered this somewhere already? I'm interested to know what you mean by this.

BD, you can ask me anything you want, anytime, and I will always try do my very best to answer your question. I don’t even mind “arguing” with folks that completely disagree with me as that forces me to defend my position and back it up with Scripture.

When I say decision theology I’m talking about the line of thought that says we must accept Jesus into our hearts for us to be saved.

Lutherans believe and confess that faith is something that comes from outside ourselves and we are incapable of choosing Jesus. We believe that it is God who creates the faith through the Gospel (Rom. 10:17)( John 15:16). We believe that we can no more choose a life in Christ any more that a corpse can choose to get up and walk on his own.

To say that we can make a decision for Jesus is to say that faith somehow depends on something we do, and that is not Scriptural.

A goodly number of my Christian friends take great offense when I say this claiming that I can never know for sure if I’m saved if I don’t do the doing. I usually respond by saying I am certain because Jesus loved me so much that he got nailed to the cursed tree on my behalf so that in spite of my wretched state I might inherit that which I don’t deserve, heaven.

If you need more…it’ll have to wait until tomorrow as I’ll be at a customer all day doing metrology stuff.

So, you're going to be with a customer all day just predicting the weather? Cool! ;)

But seriously, I appreciate your description of what you call "decision theology." In some cases, it's only semantics, but in others, there's a great deal of debate over this whole issue. In the evangelical world it is widely accepted that a profession of faith is part of the process of becoming a Christian. But it is also widely held that believers can do nothing to earn this salvation. If we've done nothing to earn it, then it might not matter whether or not we "decide."

To just read Romans 10:17 out of context you MIGHT get the idea that there is no proclamation or confession of faith involved in our salvation. However, when you read the entire chapter, you see that there IS a call on us to respond verbally. Are we saved by words? No. We are saved by the grace of God and the work he did on the cross. I think that by actually saying it we somehow humble ourselves before God as if to say something like, "ok, I was stupid enough to think that I could do this on my own and now I realize that this is totally beyond my power."

The John 15 passage is a strong reminder that God calls us and we don't do anything to gain our salvation.

I've heard preachers and traveling salesmen...I mean, evangelists say that if you cannot remember the day that you professed Christ then you're not a Christian. This is, of course, hogwash. I'm convinced that this whole realization can be a drawn out process for some folks. However, I can tell you from my own experience that I was confronted with my sin and need for a saviour head on and responded in faith. That faith was verbalized.

The battle in the evangelical church is over "Lordship salvation." To put it simply, it's the belief that a REAL believer will show fruit as a sign of their salvation. That sounds good, but only God knows our hearts and whether or not we've been regenerated. I get plastered by my other evangelical friends because I DON'T believe this. They call what I believe, "easy believism" in that all you have to do is say the magic words and you're saved no matter what. Well, that's a load of crap and everyone knows it. But the thief on the cross confessed Christ when he was being justly crucified. Did he get a chance to show any fruit?

It seems to me like the same people who want to teach us that we're saved by grace also want to make it difficult to really believe this. There's a resentment that someone might get to heaven without doing as much work as someone else.

I cannot go on. This is a subject I'm very passionate about, but I'm sure it's getting lost in this reply. One of these days we'll spend a few hours together over a few beers talking about theology.

For the sake of record, I found this decent reading list (a little heavy on dogmatics IMO):


1. Why I Am a Lutheran
By: Daniel Preus
Published: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo.
Copyright: 2004, Concordia Publishing House
COMMENTS: Easy to read. Written with a personal touch. Explores the basic teachings to the Church.
SUBJECT MATTER: Basic Christian beliefs/Lutheran doctrine.

2. Luther’s Small Catechism Annotated by Edw. W.A. Koehler
Published: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
Copyright orig. 1946, 1981.
Annotations very helpful in understanding basic teachings of our church.
Basic Christian beliefs/Lutheran doctrine.

3. The Christian Faith, a Lutheran Exposition
By: Robert Kolb
Published: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Copyright 1993
Excellent overview of basic teachings. Easy to read.
Lutheran doctrine/Basic Christian beliefs

4. Handling the Word of Truth
By: John T. Pless
Published: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis
Copyright 2004
Excellent presentation of C.F.W. Walther’s theses on distinguishing between Law and Gospel in an easy to read presentation.
Lutheran Doctrine/Understanding the Scriptures

5. Law and Gospel: The Foundation of Lutheran Ministry
By: Robert J. Koester
Published: Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Copyright 1993 (Impact Series)
Applies the proper division between Law and Gospel specifically to the church growth movement. Good tool for developing additional ability to apply the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.
Lutheran doctrine/Lutheran practice

6. Sanctification: Christ in Action
By: Harold L. Senkbeil
Published: Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Copyright 1989 (Impact Series)
Excellent study of sanctification.
Lutheran doctrine/Lutheran practice

7. A Summary of Christian Doctrine, Second Revised Edition
By: Edward W.A. Koehler
Published: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo.
Copyright 1939, 1952
Good resource material for understanding basic Lutheran doctrines.
Lutheran doctrine/basic Christian beliefs

8. The Fire and the Staff
By: Klemet I. Preus
Published: Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo.
Copyright 2004 by Preus
Easy to read. Written with a personal touch. Explores the interdependence of doctrine and practice.

Herr, Gillespie,
Not as heavy on dogmatics as my list... I’ll post my full list as soon as the Board of Ed forwards it to our librarian. I didn’t include both Preus books because they have both made it into the library already. I did include the Pless book you listed.

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