Books Symbolics

It’s That Time Again

I have made it my practice to read through the Book of Concord in its entirety every other year, during the summer. Two years ago I posted an encouragement for others to read along with me using a schedule that gets us through the whole thing by the end of summer.

Read with Me
Summer Reading Schedule

Today is the first day of this schedule, so if anyone wants to read along again this summer, now’s the time. The first few days are for reading the introductory material, so it’s okay if you’re a little late.

Now is also a good time to pick up a copy of the Readers Edition of the Book of Concord. It’s on sale for just $20 at Concordia Publishing House. If you want to follow this schedule, but have to wait for your copy to be shipped, you can read online at

For those who might want to discuss what you’re reading this summer, I’ve created a group over at Facebook. It’s called Lutheran Symbols in Summer. Invite your friends to read along and follow the discussion.

Books Quotations Seelsorge


Indeed, it is more incredible that He who is eternal should die than that you who are mortal should live eternally. If you believe what is more incredible, how could you doubt the other?

 –Johann Gerhard, Handbook of Consolations

Books School

Lutheran Education

In his recent book, Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future, Dr. Thomas Korcok examines the history of Lutheran schools, starting with Luther and the other Wittenberg reformers and ending with a discussion of how Lutheran schools today best make use of this rich heritage. The basic premise is that throughout its history, confessional Lutheranism has considered the education of their youth to be critical to the ongoing life of the church. In every age, the church’s schools have had to determine how this work is to be done. Korcok makes the case that at critical points in its history, Lutherans have determined that the classical liberal arts model of education was the ideal in accomplishing its aims. And yet, Korcok shows how Luther and the Wittenberg educators, and then Walther and the Saxon immigrants modified and adapted the liberal arts for their own use. In each generation, various theological and educational movements either needed to be rejected or adapted in order for Lutheran education to be useful. Luther dealt with medieval scholasticism and Aristotelian philosophy, while also understanding that Erasmus’ humanism wasn’t the complete answer either. In Walther’s day, Rationalism was a force opposed to the Lutheran teaching, while Pietism was the pervasive background, even to many confessional Lutherans of that era.

It was enlightening to see how these Lutherans saw in the liberal arts (and their adaptations of it) a natural way of passing on the faith to the next generation and raising up another generation of useful members of society, particularly in the seedbed of society, the home. Baptism, vocation, and catechesis were central. Music was considered  an essential part of this education, and was incorporated into the lower trivial arts. Languages were always important, as language is the means by which God communicates in his word and the tool with which the baptized serve in their vocations in the world and with which they are able to communicate the Gospel to others. This was true even if the languages shifted from Latin to German to English.

The book does not spell out exactly what a Lutheran classroom should look like in the 21st century. It does make the point that the modern classical education movement is not completely identical to the Lutheran adaptation of the liberal arts. But Lutheran schools should carefully consider (or at least be familiar with) what their fathers did, why they did it, and thoughtfully adapt for today.

The book focuses on the schools established by the Saxon Lutherans who became the Missouri Synod. It would be very interesting to find out how those efforts compared to the beginnings of schools in the Wisconsin Synod. It seems as though Wisconsin churches were nearly as aggressive in starting and promoting their parish schools. I wonder if the paths are parallel here. Today, I don’t hear much talk at all about the liberal arts or classical education within the WELS. For example, last fall’s Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Symposium on Lutheran Schools featured a paper entitled “What our Lutheran Fathers Taught Us about Lutheran Schools.” The paper didn’t even mention the liberal arts as a foundation for Lutheran schools. The other papers didn’t mention it either. It makes me wonder why.

One issue that took me by surprise was the response to the kindergarten movement from confessional Lutherans. Interestingly, the first kindergarten in the United States was begun in Watertown, WI, in 1856. The first publicly funded kindergarten was started in St. Louis in 1873. The founder of the movement, Friedrich Fröbel, was raised a Lutheran but denied original sin, among other things. The philosophy behind the movement was not a good one, and the reaction from confessional Lutherans was not positive. At least one point of opposition to the kindergarten was that it removed young children from the influence of their parents. Today, obviously, we do not hear such objections. In fact, early childhood education is hailed as a premier outreach opportunity for Lutheran congregations. For example, take a look at this video that was publicized yesterday. My question is:  How is it that we have come full circle on this? I’m interested to know how the original objections were dismissed, and whether there is still some need for caution.

Another question that crossed my mind while reading about the differences between a Lutheran use of the liberal arts and progressive liberal education in the United States today, is to what degree are our Lutheran schools today influenced by these opposing philosophies? Or, have we somehow reconciled them? What are the distinctives in Lutheran education that set it apart from other models of education? How, for example, does our teacher training prepare our teachers to distinguish their teaching from progressive liberal education? Is it just that we teach religion classes and we watch for anti-Christian bias in other subjects? Or is there something fundamental in the basics of educational theory that is either Christian or not? Are our teachers trained to know the difference?

Finally, what does a liberal arts education look like in a 21st century Lutheran School? According to Korcok, there are three areas of emphasis in which a Lutheran school draws on its liberal arts roots—catechesis, language, and music. I would guess, then, that a strong focus on these areas is the best way for a Lutheran school to begin down the path of drawing on our rich heritage of Lutheran education in the liberal arts.

This past year our school went through the process of accreditation, and as part of that process we identified these statements to describe the way we see our school fulfilling its mission. At least part of the goal in stating these is to keep in the forefront those things that make a Lutheran school what it is.

  1. The school will demonstrate that its main objective is the catechesis (instruction) of its students in the Word of God and its teachings.
  2. The school will develop and maintain a quality music program, as central to its ministry.
  3. The school will intentionally seek to build up the homes and families of students and members of the congregation.
  4. The school will develop and maintain a language curriculum that prepares students to be master communicators and clear thinkers.

I highly recommend this book to all Lutheran pastors, teachers, school board members, etc. At the very least it should be a starting point for a discussion of the state of our schools and teaching today, and as a guide for talking about our future as well. Perhaps some of my readers will have some answers for the questions that my reading has raised. Below I have included a few additional links to resources dealing with the topic of the Lutheran use of the liberal arts and classical education models.

Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future
Lutheran Schools of America (Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education
Issues, etc. Segments on Classical Education

*This image is from the title page of a music book published in 1894. My copy came from my great-uncle George, which I think belonged to his grandfather before him.
Books Children Family

Ruth Elaine Caauwe

On Monday, Ruth Elaine Caauwe joined our family. She showed just how big a blessing she is by tipping the scales at 10 pounds and 9 ounces. The whole family is delighted. If you’re keeping track, yes, Ruth makes seven.

Obviously, Ruth has also tipped the scales in our family further towards the girls. Most of the kids were hoping for a boy. But I don’t think any of them are disappointed now, and love their sister dearly. We named her Ruth. In the Bible, Elimelech and Naomi had two sons. After her husband and two sons died, Naomi said her life was “bitter” and “empty.” It was about her daughter-in-law Ruth that the women said, “who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons.”

What makes our children—every single one of them—so valuable, is not how they contribute to a well-planned or balanced family structure. It’s not about how well-behaved or smart or even how independent or successful they may someday become. But they find themselves within our family, in this environment where we give and receive love. We care for each other. We forgive each other. And every one—boy or girl—that is received into this family strengthens the network and fabric of that love.

Naturally, every new baby makes me think about my vocation as father. As my daughters grow in size and number, I think especially about the unique relationship that I have with my girls. This past year I read a fantastic book on the subject. It’s called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Dr. Meg Meeker. It speaks of the unique dangers and challenges that confront girls today, and the unique role that their fathers play in their live. Dads with daughters: I highly recommend this book.

There’s another book which I actually just purchased today that, even though I haven’t read it yet, I am confident to recommend. It’s called Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood by Dr. Gene Edward Veith. Dr. Veith is also the author of the excellent book on Christian Vocation—God at Work.  This is a must-read, and I am looking forward to reading this newest piece.


2011 Reading

Here is a list of the books that I have read in the past year. As in prior years, I cannot recommend every book on the list, but many were simply outstanding. Email me or leave a comment if you want to know what I thought of any of these books.

  1. God So Loved the World (Lyle Lange, NPH)
  2. Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved (Martin Luther LW 46)
  3. Positively Lutheran (John Braun, NPH)
  4. The Kingdom of Christ (J.P. Meyer)
  5. Dying to Live (Harold Senkbeil)
  6. The Papacy Evaluated (E.G. Behm)
  7. Johann Kilian, Pastor (George Nielsen)
  8. A Tale of Two Synods: Events That Led to the Split between Wisconsin and Missouri (Mark Braun)
  9. The Christian & Birth Control (Robert Fleischmann)
  10. Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity (Eugene H. Peterson)
  11. On Being a Christian: a personal confession (Henry Hamann)
  12. Motivation for Ministry: perspectives for every pastor (Nathan Pope)
  13. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  14. First Conversation (Bethesda Institute)
  15. What in the World Is Going On?: Identifying Hollow and Deceptive Worldviews(David C. Thompson)
  16. Down Range: to Iraq and Back (Bridget C. Cantrell, Ph.D., & Chuck Dean)
  17. Examination of the Council of Trent, part 2 (Martin Chemnitz)
  18. Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns (T. David Gordon)
  19. The Cradle and the Crucible: A history of the forming of the Arizona-California District (Charles E. Found)
  20. The Ministry of the Word (John Brug)
  21. Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion (Martin Chemnitz)
  22. Gazelles, Baby Steps, and 37 Other Things Dave Ramsey Taught Me About Debt (Jon Acuff)
  23. Strong Father, Strong Daughters (Dr. Meg Meeker)
  24. The Hammer of God (Bo Giertz)
  25. Luther’s Liturgical Music (Robin Leaver)
  26. Why Johnny Can’t Preach (T. David Gordon)
  27. The Theology of the Cross (Daniel Deutschlander)

The most useful things I read this year were the two titles by Martin Chemnitz. They do not call him the “second Martin” for nothing.

The Amazon Kindle has made an impact on the way I buy and read books. Only two of the books on this year’s list were read on my Kindle, but that’s mostly because I had more than a year of reading in my “to-read” pile. That pile is beginning to dwindle, and I suspect that more than half of the books I read in 2012 will be in Kindle format. There are some books that I will still prefer to have and use in hard copy—especially reference books that won’t be read straight through. But right now I have at least three books loaded on my Kindle ready to read as soon as I get to them.



Over a month ago I bought myself an Amazon Kindle. For those of you who haven’t seen these or heard of them, the Kindle is an electronic book-reading device.

I should mention that this decision was a bit of a dilemma for me. On the one hand, I am a techy guy who loves gadgets. On top of it, I’m a big Apple user and am very interested in devices like the iPad. But on the other hand, I love books. Real books, with real paper. I hate to read longer documents on computer screens, and only do so when absolutely necessary.

But I bought a Kindle. And I love it. Here’s what sold me (and a few reasons I bought this rather than just saving up for an iPad).

Reading on a Kindle is like reading a book. It really is. It’s not a back-lit screen, but what they call their e-ink technology. It doesn’t seem to cause the same kind of eye strain that you would have with an LCD display, nor do you get glare from surrounding light. I know that the iPad has a great e-book reader, and there is even a Kindle app which can be used on the iPad and iPhone. But for the reading experience, the Kindle display wins hands-down.

Shelf Space –  I am now getting to the point that I really don’t have much more room in my study at church for too many more books. My shelves are nearly full. I don’t think this means that I will never buy a hard-cover book again, just that I need to be more judicious about which books deserve a place on my shelf. I’ll save the paper for books that I will want to have on hand, like reference books, lexicons, and some of those classics that I’ll want to fill with marginal notes and highlights. But for many volumes, I will be happy to be able to carry them all around in an 8.5 ounce device.

Cost – The Kindle is available for as low as $114. Obviously, this doesn’t really compare to something like the iPad, because the Kindle basically does one thing, and does it very well. The iPad does lots of things really well. And that is reflected in the price. There are also free readers available for Mac and PC, iPhone and iPad, Android, etc. Additionally, many of the books available on Amazon are cheaper in Kindle format than their print counterparts. And no one has to pay to ship an e-book to you since it is immediately available on your devices. I already prefer to buy books from, because their books prices are generally cheaper and because it’s easier to qualify for free shipping than most other online retailers. The Kindle store even has books from smaller publishers like Concordia Publishing House, which carries a great selection of Lutheran material.

Another great feature is the ability to send personal documents to read on the Kindle. This is great for longer documents (Word, PDF, RTF) that I have on my computer, but in order to read it I would either need to read it on the computer screen or print it out. Most often, these are things like essays and papers. Reading it on the Kindle is much more pleasant than any alternative.

The Kindle even gives me the ability to share highlighting and notes. It’s that much easier than typing out interesting quotes and then posting them to something like a Tumblr account. Here all I need to do is select the section, type a note, and post.

So, as you can tell, I’m sold. If you do lots of reading, and would appreciate the portability and convenience, I would highly recommend the Kindle. If you’re not interested in an e-reader, but want all the features of the iPad, go ahead and save your pennies. I hope that someday I might be able to have that, too. [One interesting side note: I have talked to a few people who have never been avid readers, but having this device has sparked their desire to read considerably more.]

If you are already a Kindle user, go ahead and follow me here.



Professor Daniel Deutschlander often told his students that every Lutheran pastor should read Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent (at least the first volume) every now and then—just to ensure that he is still a Lutheran.

A couple weeks ago I finished reading part II of Chemnitz’ monumental work, and I wholeheartedly agree with him. As Deutschlander says, “It’s so Lutheran!” The Examen is a Lutheran response to the Roman Catholic Council of Trent, which began in 1545 and was in many ways a response to the Lutheran Reformation. Many of the decrees of the Council are specifically condemning the teachings of the Lutherans. In other places, they continue to group the Lutherans together with the Anabaptists and other radical reformers. However, the main opponent seems to be the Lutheran teaching. The format goes like this: “If anyone says…let him be condemned (anathema sit).” Many have said that if you removed the anathemas from the decrees, you generally have a good statement of Lutheran teaching.

This second volume deals with the Sacraments. It first deals in a general way with the Sacraments, especially with the fact that the Roman Catholics insist on the number seven, and Chemnitz maintains that no matter how you define sacrament, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper stand out as distinct from all others. Then, Chemnitz works through each of the so-called seven sacraments and examines the doctrines and practices which the council commends and condemns.

One of the things that makes this work so brilliant is the way Chemnitz not only deals with the false assertions of the Council, but he manages to present the true, orthodox Lutheran teaching on each of these doctrines. And just because the Lutherans did not maintain seven sacraments does not mean that they had no teaching or practice concerning confession and absolution, ordination, consolation for the sick and dying, confirmation, and marriage.

That said, I think that many Lutherans would be surprised to read the way Chemnitz describes the way “our churches” practice. It appears that Lutheran practice and piety today has been shaped much more by American Protestantism than by the Lutheranism which Chemnitz describes.

Additionally, it always amazes me just how familiar men like Chemnitz were with the church fathers. And then, it strikes me that Chemnitz considers them worth listening to. The Council of Trent regularly made appeal to antiquity and tradition, and repeatedly Chemnitz shows that true antiquity was not what the Tridentine fathers were claiming. Many of the “ancient customs” to which Trent referred were not that ancient, or their writings were taken out of context, or the cited statements were exceptions to normal practice. History was on the side of the Lutherans.

But I don’t know anyone in Lutheran circles today who has this kind of knowledge of the church fathers—not even Seminary professors. And I know many more Lutherans (pastors, even) who wouldn’t particularly care. It is not as though we take our doctrine from the fathers, but I think Chemnitz (and many others) would make the point that they should be listened to. For me, reading more Chemnitz is a start down that path. I have just started reading Chemnitz’ Enchiridion, in which I’m finding much of the same stuff—brilliant. Definitely must-reads for every pastor.

Here’s a page where I started posting some quotes as I was reading:


2010 Reading List

Last year I posted a list of books that I read during 2009. This year I created a separate page where I will keep a running list of the books I am reading. You can find this page under the “Reading” tab at the top of the page. As I look at this year’s list, it’s a bit more eclectic than in years past. I actually managed to get some fiction in there. There are a few books that I wouldn’t recommend to others. There are a few on the list that I have read multiple times, which I never tire of reading (Lutheran Confessions, Hammer of God, Law & Gospel).

I would have to say that this year the most interesting read was Christopher Boyd Brown’s Singing the Gospel. I’ll have much more to say about this book in an upcoming separate post, but for now I’ll just say that any book that is about the Lutheran Reformation, music and hymnody, and the home, family, and children is going to be right up my alley.

I still have my reading pile, and it’s probably still over a year long. But I’m looking forward to getting into some of the titles on the top of the pile, and the books on the bottom of the pile also keep me motivated to someday get to those as well.

Would you share with me the top two or three books you read this year? Leave your answer in the comments section.


Law and Gospel

This summer, besides reading through the book of Concord, I am also reading two other rather heavy books. The BoC reading, as I’ve mentioned before is just something I try to do every other year, and is a part of my daily devotions. The other two books are just the next two in my reading stack. Let me explain. I have a stack of books in my study at church that I intend to read. I add books to the bottom of the stack and read them when they get to the top. I have two books going at one time, one at home and the other at church. This disciplines me to not read books as soon as I get them, to read books that I really need to read but may not be my favorite, and to not read ten books at one time and never finish any of them.

Right now I am reading some fiction for a change, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The other book is C.F.W. Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. Students who are training to become pastors are often told that they should read Walther every year. [I would be interested to know who first suggested that—because it seems to be universal advice.] I haven’t read it every year, but this is my fourth time through. I first read it one summer while in college. I was working out at Bush Lake Park and remember reading the book on my breaks. Time #2 was sometime while at Seminary. #3 was one of my first years in the ministry.

I remember struggling through the book the first time through, but simply being more and more delighted and refreshed with each subsequent reading. What I also realize now is that the struggle to apply the law and the gospel appropriately in the life and work of a pastor is indeed something that can only be learned in the “school of experience,” and that experience only teaches just how difficult this art truly is.

This month, Concordia Publishing House has released a new translation and edition of this classic work. They have updated the language and apparently provided a more authentic translation. I will miss all my highlighting and underlining from these previous reads, but I heartily welcome a new translation. I am sure that the translation contributed to my difficulty in reading the book the first time. I am still noticing that this time, especially now knowing that a new translation has been produced. In addition, the amount of additional material in this volume will make this book even more valuable. It is full of historical notes, maps, timelines, etc. I will continue plowing through the old edition (probably) one last time, and sometime, when I have the money to do so, I’ll pick up a copy of the new version and use that for reading #5. I guess I’ll just put it at the bottom of the pile, and I’ll get to it in about a year.

Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible [CPH]

The New, Fresh, Powerful Edition of Walther’s Law and Gospel is Available Now [Cyberbrethren]

When I Told My Pastor [Weedon’s Blog]



I am encouraged by the response to my last post about reading the Book of Concord this summer. There were more than a dozen people who commented on the blog or emailed me to say that they were going to be giving it a try. About 40 people have logged into Google Wave to follow the discussion there. Perhaps what I’m most encouraged by is variety of people who are excited to be reading the Book of Concord, especially the number of lay people who are reading it for the first time. So many have said, “I’ve always wanted to read the whole thing.” I would expect Lutheran pastors to do it. It should have a regular place in their reading and study schedules. But as the section I quoted in the previous post notes, the Lutheran Confessions were never meant to be for clergy only. And it always encourages me to know that lay people are interested in really learning what it means to be a confessional Lutheran.

When I was in college I received a bunch of books from the family of my great-uncle, who had just passed away. I visited him just days before he died, and sang some German hymns to him in his final days. He wasn’t a pastor. He was a farmer. But he was also a student of the Scriptures. Among the books I received were a bunch of music books, a book of Walther sermons, Stöckhardt’s Bible History Commentaries, and a German-Latin edition of the Book of Concord. Uncle George wasn’t a pastor, but he wasn’t a stranger to theology either.

I hope that the discussion is helpful in keeping everyone on schedule this summer. I’m still not convinced that Google Wave is the best tool for this kind of discussion. It’s pretty new, and most people are just getting used to it. But it seems to be working. If you aren’t interested in digging into Google Wave, you can try to start a discussion on the Book of Concord Facebook page, or leave me a comment on this page. I’m looking forward to hearing people’s questions or observations as they read. It’s already been quite interesting to see the thoughts that people have been having. I will be occasionally posting some of my more general observations from this summer’s reading here on The Shepherd’s Story.

If you’re still interested in starting, it’s not too late. We’re just starting the Augsburg Confession. If you still need/want to pick up a copy of the book, right now the best price is at I’m sure they’ll go on sale a CPH again.

Happy reading!