Let me begin by saying that I did not receive a review copy of The Lutheran Study Bible, though I probably could have. Like the ESV Study Bible, I bought my own copy from the publisher. I’m open to bribes, kickbacks and rental, but in this instance, it didn’t happen.
Concordia Publishing has now completed what I think is a rather extraordinary collection of books for those interested in historic, orthodox Lutheran spirituality: The Reader’s Edition of the Lutheran Confessions, The Treasury of Daily Prayer, The Lutheran Service Book
(I’d love to have someone donate ten of these to our ministry) and now The Lutheran Study Bible. I know of no other tradition that has accomplished anything remotely like this in such a usable form and in a way that can introduce anyone- clergy or layperson- to the riches of the Lutheran version of the Reformation and the Lutheran approach to spirituality.
It is ironic then, that I have to say at the outset that outside of existing Lutheranism, it’s doubtful that large numbers of evangelicals will ever seen these resources without asking for them on special order. I am sure that large bookstores will have the occasional volume here and there, but unless one is within Lutheranism, on a Lutheran campus, visits a Concordia store, listens to Lutheran radio or friendly confessional internet programming, these resources will never be known.
It would be interesting if any non-Lutherans on the web will even be given the opportunity to review these resources by receiving review copies? Will Concordia buy advertising on any non-Lutheran blogs? How about larger Christian media like Relevant magazine, Modern Reformation or even the White Horse Inn?
Which goes to the heart of a growing frustration I have Lutheranism: With the dominance of the reformed camp in the Christian blogosphere and much of conservative evangelicalism public voice, there has never been a time the Gospel-centric, church-formed-around-the-Gospel/Sacraments, focused, classical, catholic, reformational, law and Gospel voice of Lutheranism was needed more.
The imbalances of the current versions of resurgent Calvinism are more and more obvious all the time. The beating heart of our life and message is Jesus and justification, not sovereignty and election. It is the free offer to all, not the efficient offer to the elect, that needs to be clearly heard now. It is all of scripture as law and Gospel that needs to be filling the church. Reformed Baptists are ascending at just the time that Lutheranism’s view of the Christian life is most needed. If you do not know the difference, then make that a project.
How many Calvinists cite Bondage of the Will as virtually a Calvinist text, having no idea that Luther rejected the rest of the TULIP?
Lutheranism is attracting more and more evangelical converts who do not struggle with issues of Lutheran ethnic identity or denominational purity. (If I hear one more prideful Lutheran denominationalist say they alone have “the pure Gospel,” I’m going to break things.) When an evangelical hears Rod Rosenbladt or Craig Parton or the God Whisperers they realize they are hearing something substantial, but those same evangelicals are by and large convinced that the “Lutheran” label means an insurmountable accumulation of the very things most evangelicals want to avoid or leave behind.
I am not talking about evangelicals who want Lutherans to go ablaze with megachurch tactics. No, I am talking evangelicals who…
1) Need and want to be taught the significance of liturgy.
2) Are not attracted to denominationalism as a primary label. (Secondary is another matter.) Show me your Nicene Creed first please.
3) Want their attraction to the eucharist to be met with an affirmation of their own Christian profession, not a denouncement of their evangelical journey and ignorance. In other words, while someone is on the way, be kind.
4) Want to have worship with intentional depth and seriousness in worship, not just something old and familiar to the regular residents. They like what they see, maybe more than some Lutherans (and Anglicans, etc) like it themselves.
5) Want leaders committed to missional outreach and evangelical, Gospel-centered ecumenism. Evangelicals aren’t attracted to your tradition to become less interested in evangelism and missions.
So whether you are talking about incredibly useful books or the entire tradition, there is a point at which Lutherans have to say, “We want to get this out to evangelicals. We want to build the bridge. We want to say we have something worthy reading and looking into…and we are willing to go the extra mile to get it to you.”
So what about The Lutheran Study Bible?
It’s not your ESV Study Bible and I can say that if you own both, there’s little overlap past the text, maps, concordance and very basic materials.
The LSB is full of things that aren’t in the ESVSB. Fewer essays and articles. More material scattered throughout the text, but not the “usual” study Bible kinds of “helps.” Trust me, they are quite unique.
Most impressive? The notes contain extensive theological reflections on Law and Gospel, the sacraments, the church and the Trinity. These are much more devotional and less purely technical. There are extensive quotes and references from the Church Fathers, Luther, Lutheran reformers, classic works of church history and contemporary Lutheran works, including excellent recent commentaries. It’s a wealth in information and a much greater variety in intention and kind than any other study Bible.
This is a preacher’s Bible at more levels than the exegetical. It’s theological, practical, devotional and historical, as well as exegetical.
The helps are sometimes similar to the ESVSB, but others, like the essay on Law and Gospel, are quite unique. The maps and illustrations are not done as well as the ESVSB.
The hardback I have is similar in size to the Treasury of Daily Prayer. IOWs, it’s more of a square book. Very solid 2,000 pages.
The ESV text seems to be in slightly larger, more readable print than my other study Bibles. Those awful red letters are there, of course. The references are extensive, but not overwhelming. The introductions are….Lutheran, and very well done. Again, not duplicating other study Bibles. They are keyed to Lutheran and reformation interest in the Bible, especially thematically. There’s a constant focus on how all of scripture stresses Justification, Law/Gospel and salvation of God’s people by grace.
I’m enjoying getting to know my LSB a great deal, but why does it have “Lutheran” Study Bible on the cover? Why not “The Holy Scriptures: Lutheran Study edition” or something that doesn’t imply “For Lutherans only?” (Oh I know, but tell it to the people seeing it on the shelf who aren’t Lutheran. Why would they pick it up? Do you pick up “The Charismatic Study Bible?”
I’m sure I’ve made everyone mad, but this study Bible is a fine achievement alongside the other amazing pieces of the “Lutheran Spirituality and Worship Toolbox.”
Thanks to New Reformation Press, Pirate Christian Radio, Issues, Etc and others who are doing a great job changing the Lutheran presence in the wider evangelical culture. May they have every success. If NRP get the LSB in soon, buy it from them.