A prominent evangelical discovers Bo Giertz

Remember our recent discussion about “Where are the Lutherans?”, responding to another blog complaining that Lutherans are invisible in the evangelical world?  Well, here is a post from Tullian Tchividjian.  He is a Reformed pastor, the grandson of Billy Graham and the successor to the late D. James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian church.  He describes reading The Hammer of God  by the Swedish Lutheran bishop and novelist Bo Giertz.  The result?  A  “Copernican revolution” in his ministry:

After sitting on my shelf uncracked for the better part of last year, I finally decided to read Bo Giertz’s classic novel The Hammer of God (first published in 1941). I first heard about this book from my friends Elyse Fitzpatrick and Mike Horton. I’m a third of the way through it and it is simply breathtaking. Giertz was a master storyteller and theologian. Both of these gifts shine brightly on every page of this book. It is the story of three pastors who learn the necessity of relying on God’s grace. It is law/gospel theology in the most captivating narrative form. But, you’ll have to read it for yourself. I just want to share one part. I need to first give some context, though.

Set in Sweden in the early 1800′s, Henrik is a young, remarkably gifted and fiery preacher who very much looks up to Justus Johan Linder, a preacher ten years his senior. Henrik is having a crisis of faith. Bothered by the worldliness all around him, he has become widely known for his passionate pleas and exhortations for people to stop sinning. He’s meticulous in his examination of sinful behavior both in and out of the pulpit. And it is bearing fruit. The church is packed every Sunday and bad behavior is declining in the village. But, much to his surprise, pride and self-righteousness are popping up everywhere. He’s noticed that while drinking and debauchery may be at an all time low, a cold and legalistic hardness of heart has emerged in their place. While on the one hand Henrik is encouraged to see external worldliness dissipating, he’s remarkably discouraged to see a cold, loveless culture developing. Not only that, but now he’s beginning to realize the depth of his own sin. He feels like a hypocrite for preaching so strongly against the external manifestation of sin while ignoring the deeper problem, sin’s root. In despair over his own inability to be as good as he tells other people to be, he breaks down and confesses to Linder that he’s not even sure he’s saved. Linder’s response is pure gold:

Henrik, we must start again from the beginning. We have thundered like the storm [speaking of the way he and Henrik have preached God's Law], we have bombarded with the heaviest mortars of God’s Law in an attempt to break down the walls of sin. And that was surely right. I still load my gun with the best powder when I aim at unrepentance. But we had almost forgotten to let the sunshine of the gospel shine through the clouds. Our method has been to destroy all carnal security by our volley’s, but we have left it to the soul’s to build something new with their own resolutions and their own honest attempts at amending their lives. In that way, Henrik, it is never finished. We have not become finished  ourselves. Now I have instead begun to preach about that which is finished, about that which is built on Calvary and which is a safe fortress to come to when the thunder rolls over our sinful heads. And now I always apportion the Word of God in three directions, not only to the self-satisfied [the bad people] as I did formerly, but also to the awakened [the "good" people] and to the anxious, the heavy laden and to the  poor in spirit. And I find strength each day for my own poor heart at the fount of redemption.

Henrik is captivated by the “new” way in which Linder is preaching and he asks about the results. “Do you note any difference?”

Linder answers:

In the first place, I myself see light where formerly I saw only darkness. There is light in my heart and light over the congregation. Before, I was in despair over my people, at their impenitence. I see now that this was because I kept thinking that everything depended on what we should do, for when I saw so little of true repentance and victory over sin, helplessness crept into my heart. I counted and summed up all that they did  [to clean up their act], and not the smallest percentage of debt was paid. But now I see that which is done, and  I see that the whole debt is paid. Now therefore I go about my duties as might a prison warden who carries in his pocket a letter of pardon for all  his criminals. Do you wonder why I am so happy? Now I see everything in the sun’s light. If God has done so much already, surely there is hope for what remains.

The way Linder describes the transformation that took place in his preaching is almost identical to the transformation that has taken place in mine (and Chuck’s–click here). I  have a long way to go (bad habits die slowly, for sure). But a Copernican revolution of sorts has taken place in my own heart regarding the need to preach the law then the gospel without going back to the law as a means of keeping God’s favor.

via The Whole Debt Is Paid – Tullian Tchividjian.

I would add that I have just reviewed a manuscript by Rev. Tchividjian entitled Jesus + Nothing = Everything, in which he describes his growing understanding of the  Gospel, with the help of writers including Gerhard Forde, C. F. W. Walther, and Harold Senkbeil.  So there are the Lutherans for contemporary evangelicals.

HT:  Larry Wilson

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Funny, I have never seen it documented, and the sources I heard it from I regard as suspect. But at seminary I was instructed that Billy Graham learned to preach from, Walter A Maier. Would that he had learned a few other things from Lutherans.
    But could this be a case of history repeating itself?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Funny, I have never seen it documented, and the sources I heard it from I regard as suspect. But at seminary I was instructed that Billy Graham learned to preach from, Walter A Maier. Would that he had learned a few other things from Lutherans.
    But could this be a case of history repeating itself?

  • SKPeterson

    This weekend we were discussing an upcoming lecture from Paul Maier (Christ Our Savior, Lenoir City, TN, Aug. 20 for those in the area) and our pastor mentioned that he was the son of Walter Maier and that through the Lutheran Hour program he was enormously influential in the heyday of radio programming in the U.S. I guess one might say that Lutherans set the stage for mass media outreach, but that Billy Graham and others stole a march on us when television came into cultural dominance. Perhaps we can win the internet podcast wars by using more dead Swedish bishops as the vanguard. Christus Victor anyone?

  • SKPeterson

    This weekend we were discussing an upcoming lecture from Paul Maier (Christ Our Savior, Lenoir City, TN, Aug. 20 for those in the area) and our pastor mentioned that he was the son of Walter Maier and that through the Lutheran Hour program he was enormously influential in the heyday of radio programming in the U.S. I guess one might say that Lutherans set the stage for mass media outreach, but that Billy Graham and others stole a march on us when television came into cultural dominance. Perhaps we can win the internet podcast wars by using more dead Swedish bishops as the vanguard. Christus Victor anyone?

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    I cracked the spine on Giertz’s “Christ’s Church” just yesterday. A deeper understanding of what exactly the church is could also be of enormous value to many contemporary evangelicals.

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    I cracked the spine on Giertz’s “Christ’s Church” just yesterday. A deeper understanding of what exactly the church is could also be of enormous value to many contemporary evangelicals.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Perhaps we should invite Rev. Tchividjian to Symposia in January. I’m sure he could engage a few Lutherans at this gathering (I’d even be willing to invite him to the bar for a beer and cigar – unless Indiana has gotten toooo pharisical regarding incense).
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Perhaps we should invite Rev. Tchividjian to Symposia in January. I’m sure he could engage a few Lutherans at this gathering (I’d even be willing to invite him to the bar for a beer and cigar – unless Indiana has gotten toooo pharisical regarding incense).
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Edward
  • Edward
  • http://lutheranvisuals.com Ken Ring

    The first three chapters of “Hammer of God” have been released as a dramatic presentation with English subtitles. More information and a brief clip are available on the Lutheran Visuals website. To go directly to “The Hammer of God” go to http://www.lutheranvisuals.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=41

  • http://lutheranvisuals.com Ken Ring

    The first three chapters of “Hammer of God” have been released as a dramatic presentation with English subtitles. More information and a brief clip are available on the Lutheran Visuals website. To go directly to “The Hammer of God” go to http://www.lutheranvisuals.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=41

  • Craig

    Presbyterian/Reformed reading and discussing The Hammer of God. Pearls before swine!

  • Craig

    Presbyterian/Reformed reading and discussing The Hammer of God. Pearls before swine!

  • Kimberly

    How wonderfully encouraging! Now maybe he’ll start seeing all of this in Paul’s letters and throughout Scripture!

  • Kimberly

    How wonderfully encouraging! Now maybe he’ll start seeing all of this in Paul’s letters and throughout Scripture!

  • http://NRP Rod

    Tullian,
    My church doesn’t know how to talk to “others,” so I recommend you don’t read critiques from “our guys.” It’s never “redemption level” that does us in, but always “creation level” (e.g., “How do I have a civil conversation with those not LCMS?”) We see everything as “binary” rather than “analog” (some are closer to us than others). Just keep reading these “good guys” and ask me for further reading.
    Rod

  • http://NRP Rod

    Tullian,
    My church doesn’t know how to talk to “others,” so I recommend you don’t read critiques from “our guys.” It’s never “redemption level” that does us in, but always “creation level” (e.g., “How do I have a civil conversation with those not LCMS?”) We see everything as “binary” rather than “analog” (some are closer to us than others). Just keep reading these “good guys” and ask me for further reading.
    Rod

  • Abby

    I am one who has benefited immensely from hearing/reading several Reformed pastors: Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, and now Tullian–recently discovering his sermons online. Their teachings have brought me closer and deeper to Jesus and His Grace, and the understanding of Justification, than I have understood for a long time. I greatly appreciate what they are doing as the “Young, Restless, and Reformed.”

    I am also, as I like to say, an LCMS Lutheran from before I was born–and will always be. And our President, Pastor Matthew Harrison has said in admonishment that we have a “deficit of preaching” in our denomination presently. Because of a sermon he heard preached by Billy Graham that was “full of the Word of God.”

    So, I say “thank you” to Tullian and the others. In fact, I read this article by Tullian a while ago and had put the “Hammer of
    God” on my book list. I just saw that it is available at the CPH bookstore.

    May God bless us all in Jesus Name.

  • Abby

    I am one who has benefited immensely from hearing/reading several Reformed pastors: Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Tim Keller, and now Tullian–recently discovering his sermons online. Their teachings have brought me closer and deeper to Jesus and His Grace, and the understanding of Justification, than I have understood for a long time. I greatly appreciate what they are doing as the “Young, Restless, and Reformed.”

    I am also, as I like to say, an LCMS Lutheran from before I was born–and will always be. And our President, Pastor Matthew Harrison has said in admonishment that we have a “deficit of preaching” in our denomination presently. Because of a sermon he heard preached by Billy Graham that was “full of the Word of God.”

    So, I say “thank you” to Tullian and the others. In fact, I read this article by Tullian a while ago and had put the “Hammer of
    God” on my book list. I just saw that it is available at the CPH bookstore.

    May God bless us all in Jesus Name.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    You Just can’t go wrong with Bo Giertz.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    You Just can’t go wrong with Bo Giertz.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    I wonder if they’ll be able to extricate the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper from Bo Giertz’s theology.

  • http://mark.veenman@gmail.com Mark Veenman

    I wonder if they’ll be able to extricate the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper from Bo Giertz’s theology.

  • Robin

    I am using Bo Gertz’s church year devotional and wow it is a GEM! It is something to add to the list of things to purchase. Thanks Pastor Erickson for the translation!

  • Robin

    I am using Bo Gertz’s church year devotional and wow it is a GEM! It is something to add to the list of things to purchase. Thanks Pastor Erickson for the translation!

  • Abby

    R.C. Sproul says that they believe in the real presence at his church.

  • Abby

    R.C. Sproul says that they believe in the real presence at his church.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Robin, thanks. That book was a joy to translate. And has influenced my preaching, just a little.
    Abby, is this the same R.C. Sproul who, in his book on Biblical interpretation, claims Jesus had to use a trap door to get into the upper room, since it is impossible for a body to go through a closeed door? Reformed often use the term “real presence” but they often mean something entirely different by it then lutherans.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Robin, thanks. That book was a joy to translate. And has influenced my preaching, just a little.
    Abby, is this the same R.C. Sproul who, in his book on Biblical interpretation, claims Jesus had to use a trap door to get into the upper room, since it is impossible for a body to go through a closeed door? Reformed often use the term “real presence” but they often mean something entirely different by it then lutherans.

  • Abby

    Bror, I don’t know the book you mean. Maybe he wrote it and then changed his mind.

    I heard him talk about it at the end of a sermon from the book of John 4:16-42 (The Woman at the Well Pt 2)–these are his exact words: “This is the Jesus we come to meet this morning. This is the Jesus who has set His table for us. This is the Jesus who comes to us as our Host to meet with us. At St. Andrews, we believe and affirm the Real Presence of Christ in this Sacrament. We believe that this Sacrament is a true means of Grace by which Christ by His Spirit is truly present here to minister to us in our weakness. This Christ who knows everything about us, everything we’ve ever done–invites those who come in humility to His Table to receive a fresh experience of His forgiveness. If you’re a Christian, and your mind is burdened by unresolved guilt–you come to the Table. If you are a Christian who’s frightened by what lies before you in the days ahead and need strength for your soul and strength and food of the Grace of God–come to the Table. If you want to meet the Living Christ in His Grace and in His Mercy and in His Power–come to the Table. For I declare to you what the Apostle Paul reminded the Church, that on the night on which Jesus was betrayed, He took bread. And when He had blessed it He broke it and He said to His disciples, ‘this is My Body broken for you.’ And in like manner after they had supped, He took the cup (which is part of the ritual of the Old Testament Passover), CHANGED the significance of it saying ‘this is NOW My Blood shed for the remission of your sins. Shed for making a New Covenant. Drink ye all of it.’ Since that day, the Church of every generation has come to the Lord’s Table to be nurtured by Him. Let us pray. Father, now we ask that You would take these normal elements of bread and wine, transform them by Your power to signs and seals of the promises that You have for Your people. We pray, Father, that all of us that confess Your Name may be ministered to by Your Presence. Keep our feet from handling these things in an unworthy manner lest we fail to discern Your Body. We ask it in the Name of Jesus. Amen.”

    It sure sounds to me the way we present Holy Communion. But maybe you see something else.

    Here is the exact link for the sermon: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/woman-well-part-2/

  • Abby

    Bror, I don’t know the book you mean. Maybe he wrote it and then changed his mind.

    I heard him talk about it at the end of a sermon from the book of John 4:16-42 (The Woman at the Well Pt 2)–these are his exact words: “This is the Jesus we come to meet this morning. This is the Jesus who has set His table for us. This is the Jesus who comes to us as our Host to meet with us. At St. Andrews, we believe and affirm the Real Presence of Christ in this Sacrament. We believe that this Sacrament is a true means of Grace by which Christ by His Spirit is truly present here to minister to us in our weakness. This Christ who knows everything about us, everything we’ve ever done–invites those who come in humility to His Table to receive a fresh experience of His forgiveness. If you’re a Christian, and your mind is burdened by unresolved guilt–you come to the Table. If you are a Christian who’s frightened by what lies before you in the days ahead and need strength for your soul and strength and food of the Grace of God–come to the Table. If you want to meet the Living Christ in His Grace and in His Mercy and in His Power–come to the Table. For I declare to you what the Apostle Paul reminded the Church, that on the night on which Jesus was betrayed, He took bread. And when He had blessed it He broke it and He said to His disciples, ‘this is My Body broken for you.’ And in like manner after they had supped, He took the cup (which is part of the ritual of the Old Testament Passover), CHANGED the significance of it saying ‘this is NOW My Blood shed for the remission of your sins. Shed for making a New Covenant. Drink ye all of it.’ Since that day, the Church of every generation has come to the Lord’s Table to be nurtured by Him. Let us pray. Father, now we ask that You would take these normal elements of bread and wine, transform them by Your power to signs and seals of the promises that You have for Your people. We pray, Father, that all of us that confess Your Name may be ministered to by Your Presence. Keep our feet from handling these things in an unworthy manner lest we fail to discern Your Body. We ask it in the Name of Jesus. Amen.”

    It sure sounds to me the way we present Holy Communion. But maybe you see something else.

    Here is the exact link for the sermon: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/woman-well-part-2/

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Abby,
    I see something way different from what we lutherans believe! Notice he is there in spirit, and that little blurb is patien in its avoidance of saying anything about receiving what christ actaually says is there, his body, and his blood. Rather there is a vague reference to “promised gifts” that could be interpreted a million ways, but is not intended to mean his actual body and blood.
    I don’t think R.C. Has changed his mind. I think the book was “knowing scripture.l would have to check my office library.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Abby,
    I see something way different from what we lutherans believe! Notice he is there in spirit, and that little blurb is patien in its avoidance of saying anything about receiving what christ actaually says is there, his body, and his blood. Rather there is a vague reference to “promised gifts” that could be interpreted a million ways, but is not intended to mean his actual body and blood.
    I don’t think R.C. Has changed his mind. I think the book was “knowing scripture.l would have to check my office library.

  • Bob

    This is great news. Thanks, Dr. Veith, for posting.

  • Bob

    This is great news. Thanks, Dr. Veith, for posting.

  • Dennis Peskey

    Abby,
    Pastor Albert B Collver III (executive assistant to President Matthew Harrison) wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Real Presence. The following link, published in the Concordia Journal, 2002 is a summary form of the document (the actual dissertation is 390 pages and rather involved): https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B7ercLIFXUqWNjcwMDYyOTUtNmIwMi00OTEzLWEwNTAtZjNhZmVkZjYzMTlk&hl=en
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    Abby,
    Pastor Albert B Collver III (executive assistant to President Matthew Harrison) wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Real Presence. The following link, published in the Concordia Journal, 2002 is a summary form of the document (the actual dissertation is 390 pages and rather involved): https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B7ercLIFXUqWNjcwMDYyOTUtNmIwMi00OTEzLWEwNTAtZjNhZmVkZjYzMTlk&hl=en
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Abby

    Thank you Dennis! I will read it entirely and hope my brain can keep up! (I especially like the last 2 paragraphs.)

  • Abby

    Thank you Dennis! I will read it entirely and hope my brain can keep up! (I especially like the last 2 paragraphs.)

  • Michael Schutz

    I’m glad these doors of conversation are starting to open. Kevin deYoung’s post, this one, and more are heartening to see “us” conversing with others in a better way. During a recent short, but good, Twitter conversation with Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle who’s the director of The Resurgence, he said that he and Tullian were “wannabe Lutherans”. :)

  • Michael Schutz

    I’m glad these doors of conversation are starting to open. Kevin deYoung’s post, this one, and more are heartening to see “us” conversing with others in a better way. During a recent short, but good, Twitter conversation with Justin Holcomb, a pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle who’s the director of The Resurgence, he said that he and Tullian were “wannabe Lutherans”. :)

  • Kimett Geist

    My Pastor lead me to this book a few months ago and I agree wholeheartedly that “The Hammer of God” is a great book. I try to recommend it when I can. My pastor told me that he trys to read it at least once a year. I hope others find it as uplifting and helpful as I did.

    Kimett N Geist

  • Kimett Geist

    My Pastor lead me to this book a few months ago and I agree wholeheartedly that “The Hammer of God” is a great book. I try to recommend it when I can. My pastor told me that he trys to read it at least once a year. I hope others find it as uplifting and helpful as I did.

    Kimett N Geist

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well michael, I mean if you “wannabe” a lutheran it isn’t hard to become one, I mean, I’m happy to “Jump” any one in to this camp.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well michael, I mean if you “wannabe” a lutheran it isn’t hard to become one, I mean, I’m happy to “Jump” any one in to this camp.

  • Abby

    Michael, I read Justin’s book “Rid of My Disgrace.” It was “Grace” saturated. I loved it!

  • Abby

    Michael, I read Justin’s book “Rid of My Disgrace.” It was “Grace” saturated. I loved it!

  • Jim

    Hammer of God is a great book. I was thinking of becoming a Lutheran for awhile, then I read Hammer of God a year ago, and there was no turning back. He takes on the white elephant in the room I’ve experienced in many evangelical circles, that once you become “saved” you should no longer sin, or you will rarely sin. But then it’s discouraging when you realize you and every Christian you know is still deeply flawed and often sinning. It’s tempting to think that Chrisitanity does not work for you. Hammer of God show God’s grace is bigger than our sin, even for Christians. It really made me appreciate the love and grace of God like no other book outside the Bible.

  • Jim

    Hammer of God is a great book. I was thinking of becoming a Lutheran for awhile, then I read Hammer of God a year ago, and there was no turning back. He takes on the white elephant in the room I’ve experienced in many evangelical circles, that once you become “saved” you should no longer sin, or you will rarely sin. But then it’s discouraging when you realize you and every Christian you know is still deeply flawed and often sinning. It’s tempting to think that Chrisitanity does not work for you. Hammer of God show God’s grace is bigger than our sin, even for Christians. It really made me appreciate the love and grace of God like no other book outside the Bible.

  • Matthew

    I completed my MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary ( http://www.gcts.edu ), a very prominent seminary in the American Evangelical tradition. It was there that I was introduced to Giertz by Dr. Gary Parrett, a five-point Calvinist.

    Lutheran’s in general have been far to willing to disengage from the broader Christian church and openly partner and wrestle with people we disagree with. This is a shame and something Giertz worked against. Geirtz writes: “Christians are obliged by the strongest ties not to break asunder the unity that the Lord Himself has created. Even very deep-going differences must therefore be viewed as insignificant.” (Christ’s Church, 20)

    Because we have chosen to disengage from the broader church we have robbed Evangelicals and Protestant Liberals of our voice and influence. At the same time we have robed ourselves of the voices and influence of many whom we desperately need. This is I think an area where Walther and Giertz diverge from one another significantly. See: Giertz – Christ’s Church vs. Walther – Walther on the Church.

  • Matthew

    I completed my MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary ( http://www.gcts.edu ), a very prominent seminary in the American Evangelical tradition. It was there that I was introduced to Giertz by Dr. Gary Parrett, a five-point Calvinist.

    Lutheran’s in general have been far to willing to disengage from the broader Christian church and openly partner and wrestle with people we disagree with. This is a shame and something Giertz worked against. Geirtz writes: “Christians are obliged by the strongest ties not to break asunder the unity that the Lord Himself has created. Even very deep-going differences must therefore be viewed as insignificant.” (Christ’s Church, 20)

    Because we have chosen to disengage from the broader church we have robbed Evangelicals and Protestant Liberals of our voice and influence. At the same time we have robed ourselves of the voices and influence of many whom we desperately need. This is I think an area where Walther and Giertz diverge from one another significantly. See: Giertz – Christ’s Church vs. Walther – Walther on the Church.

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