Monday, December 17, 2007

Teigen on Chemnitz

If you want to understand better what "Lutheran" means, please, please visit the website of the Logia journal and avail yourself of the free download of a very important book: the late Bjarne W. Teigen's The Lord's Supper in the Theology of Martin Chemnitz.

This precious book has been out of print for some time. Even before that, it was very hard to get hold of in proportion to its importance. I think it is the most important piece of Lutheran scholarship in the late 20th century; and I know without reservation that it is ditto in the history of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Teigen brings clarity to a point of Lutheran teaching--the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper--where other writers, in controversies old and new, seem only to make things more obfusc. I cannot overstate how deeply B.W.'s book impacted my thinking--formed it, even--so that I thought to myself, when I had finished reading it: "At last I understand what it means to be a Lutheran."

Unfortunately, Teigen's book was not well-received by all, particularly in his own Synod. Some in the ELS remember it as the cause of a bitter controversy between "consecrationism" and "receptionism." Some read into it a Romanizing tendency, such as insisting on a particular moment for the miracle of the Real Presence, or advocating practices that "smack of the Papacy," etc. The shocking thing about all this to-do is that Teigen went no further than the Lutheran Confessions teach, and his guiding principle was the same as Luther's: the item of key importance for understanding the Sacrament of the Altar is the efficacious power of God's Word.

Teigen's research is thorough and his arguments are compelling. Anyone who would confess that Christ is bodily present in the Lord's Supper, for all recipients (including hypocrites) to eat and drink, must read this book. Anyone who wants to know why Lutherans would or should do so, must read this book. Anyone who would be guided by Luther's thinking on the nature and character of the Word of God, and by the decisions of the Formula of Concord, must read this book. Anyone keen to examine the distinctives of Lutheran theology, out of academic interest or spiritual formation, must read this book. And anyone who would be interested in knowing how Lutheranism got to where it is at today - and the role teachers who disagreed with Luther and the Formula played in steering it there - must read this book.

And now, you can all read it for free. Again, you can get it here. While you're at it, feel free to subscribe to Logia!

To my own heartbreak and that of many others, the reaction triggered by this book propelled Teigen's synod farther from the teachings of Luther and the Formula. But with his book's electronic republication B.W. can speak again. With God's blessing, his Christ-centered message will continue to work on the hearts of Lutherans in the ELS, and other Lutheran bodies worldwide.

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