Lutheranism 101 was written by Pretty Much Everyone in the LCMS Except Me. Truly. The list of contributors to this book is three columns and probably 40-odd people long.
This book is receiving a big push from Concordia Publishing House (CPH), and having read it, I can see why they’d be a little excited. This book is a very handy overview of Lutheranism. It’s not the Catechism or any of the rest of The Book of Concord, but it references these heavier tomes (in addition to Scripture and quotes from Martin Luther) throughout. If you’re intimidated at the idea of picking up The Book of Concord to read it, this might be a better starting point to work your way up.
Accessibility seems to have been high on the priority list in terms of style for this text. Graphics and sidebars key the reader into interesting asides, explanations of theological terms and concepts, Scripture quotes, and other handy reference points. They serve the added function of breaking up the text and making the book feel more like a Lutheranism for Dummies book than a serious theological primer. That will undoubtedly be viewed by some as near-heresy, and by others as a Godsend.
Since this is an overview, it covers a lot of ground but not much depth. The depth is probably overall on par with the Small Catechism, but includes lessons on the Reformation, the growth of Lutheranism and other related topics. The two longest sections are not surprisingly on the Means of Grace and Lutheran history. Some of the incidental tidbits I found particularly interesting include a non-exhaustive list of prophesies regarding the end of the world – all of which have proved to be wrong, and a brief overview of major Christian denominations and their characteristics, including a section covering the different major Lutheran denominations in America. I think the treatment of confession and absolution is also particularly helpful.
But, as mentioned, what the book offers in breadth it lacks in depth. Frequently I wished for more in-depth treatment. Then again, that’s part of my job. Others may find the book a more than helpful review, and a launching point for further reading and pastoral discussions. The goal in this book is to cover a lot of ground more quickly than deeply, so if you’re looking for an exhaustive discussion on any one topic, you’ll want to augment this with other resources.
I believe this is an excellent resource (along with Gene Veith’s The Spirituality of the Cross, which I’ve already reviewed on this site) for adults of all ages who would like a refresher on some of the major characteristics of Lutheranism. This would be very suitable for a Bible study series as it covers a broad range of topics so that everyone has something to learn or enjoy. I also think this would be a great tool for Confirmation work, and I may experiment with incorporating it in the future.
I’m grateful for this resource from CPH, and think it should be a standard feature on any church worker’s desk. Frankly, it belongs in pretty much every Lutheran household as a resource for family discussions on faith and what it is that we believe and why we do what we do.