Essential Lutheranism: Theological Perspectives on Christian Faith and Doctrine

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by Carl E. Braaten

In this new book leading American theologian Carl E. Braaten considers what it means to be a Lutheran Christian today. His colleagues and friends were impressed:

From Steven D. Paulson, Professor of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary:

“There is something liberating in reading the vision of a grand theologian of the church like Carl Braaten who first looks back at the history of the Lutheran churches, then projects forward his ideal—especially when that dream for the churches stands contrary to what we see today. This book is part Lutheran church history, part dogmatic education, and always delightfully polemical. Dr. Braaten has given us a primer on the great theory of his generation that Lutheran means ‘Catholic substance and Protestant principle,’ and it has the gravity of being the last word on the matter. Churches everywhere will be better for this great teacher’s testimony to what endures as the kernel of theology and what is even now being thrown away as the husks that will not stand the test of time.”

From Frank C. Senn, STS, Author of Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical and The People’s Work: A Social History of the Liturgy:

“In Essential Lutheranism Carl Braaten continues the memoirist genre begun in Because of Christ. But he here focuses on specific theological topics that have been important to him throughout his long career as a theologian of the church: the gospel of salvation in Christ, ecclesiology, ecumenism, evangelization, two kingdoms ethics, and eschatology. These reflections are not just a trip down the theological memory lane. Rather, Braaten addresses current issues from the perspective of evangelical, catholic Lutheranism’s commitment to the Great Tradition. The lion has not lost his roar. The Society of the Holy Trinity is honored by his dedication of this book to our order.”

From Robert W. Jenson, Cofounder of the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology and Professor of Systematic Theology Emeritus at Lutheran School of Theology at Gettysburg:

“How to classify this book? After weighing possibilities, I decided what it did was to settle up. My friend (full disclosure) settles up with the history of theology, with the role of Lutheranism in that history, with the imprint on his own thinking of childhood in a missionary compound, with the problems of certain theological loci, with the state of ecumenism, with those who have influenced him, and with much else along the way. I would call it a final general reckoning, except that Carl is very much alive and at work—who knows what he will do next?”

“Is there a unifying agenda? The book’s dedication, to the Society of the Holy Trinity, tips it. The kind of thinking and churchmanship that Carl regards as faithful and viable is what recently has called itself ‘evangelical and catholic.’ (There are dominant sorts of contemporary Lutheranism that he regards as unfaithful and deadly, about which he is typically candid.)

“If you already know what Carl Braaten thinks about things, you will have some fun with this book. If you don’t know about him, reading this book will repair the lack.”

From Paul R. Hinlicky, Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies, Roanoke College:

“Essential Lutheranism is vintage Braaten: a spicy stew of autobiographical reminiscence and reflection, theological erudition, passionate argumentation and incisive judgment from the ‘eschatological’ perspective out of which Braaten unfolds the essence of Lutheran theology. What is special about this offering is Braaten’s application to flashpoints in contemporary theology: ecclesiology, mission, ethics, and ecumenism. Braaten does not just receive Lutheranism like a fossil from the past, but renews and reinvigorates it in taking on the challenges of today.”

From Kenneth H. Sauer, Former Bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod (ELCA):

“In Essential Lutheranism, Carl Braaten has added another treasure for those who have a deep interest in the current crisis in American Lutheranism. His books have always come from a commitment to mission, and this one is no different. It offers many things. It is an encyclopedia telling you about the meaning of words, movements, and persons. It recounts history so you know how we got here. It helps us see the Lutheran movement from the perspective of its catholic, evangelical, and ecumenical roots. It is easily understood, quite readable with colorful language and contemporary examples. Carl traces the great doctrines of the church with a critical but up-building eye. It’s a great manual by one of the eminent theologians of our time, yet it does not fail to call for our own passion and commitment to the gospel and the hope that keeps us faithful.”

Paper, 206 pp., $16.00 + postage