Monday, February 10, 2014

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church by G. H. Gerberding – Book Review

Jordan Cooper has undertaken the task of publishing Lutheran works from the early twentieth century American authors with slightly updated language and scripture references (English Standard Version) at an affordable price.  The series, entitled American Lutheran Classics, was initially announced as having five volumes of which four are available.

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church by George H. Gerberding is the first volume in the series and is an introduction to the Lutheran doctrine of salvation.  Gerberding desired “to write a basic of basic, practical articles” on the Lutheran doctrine of salvation in order to answer questions that were raised.  This he has accomplished.

The topics are presented in a logical order beginning with Original Sin and the necessity of salvation.  From there Geberding takes up the means of grace.  There will be disagreement over the use and efficacy of baptism, however I do commend the author for being thorough and discussing its use both for infants and adults.  Especially, in regards to the former, there are concerns about the parent’s upbringing of the child in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” to ensure they understand their covenant responsibility.  He also addresses the use of Sunday School in supporting catechetical and other biblical instruction at home and church.  Following these chapters are those addressing the Lord's Supper, Confession, and the Word of God as means of grace delivering faith.  These points are presented in logical fashion, one building on the preceding, so that the progression is integrated from new birth to adulthood.  Any reading the book will appreciate the multifaceted obligation of parents, pastor, and the church at large for the care of each person so that they might be built up and taught rightly in Christ.

Following the above subjects are chapters dealing specifically with conversion, justification, and sanctification, ending with a biblical look at revival.  Gerberding wants to lay a foundation of the necessity of regeneration or newness of life and that it is all of Christ.  However, he also looks forward to when faith wanes, swerves, or is upset.  As a complete picture, he understands that revival (or restoration) follows the same source and path as that faith first came: it is not through programmed measures or new excitements, but is built up by returning to the fount of blessing—Christ and his eternal word.

Overall, the material is quite readable and easy to understand.  As Cooper states from his own introduction:
This book was not written primarily for pastors or theologians…. It is exceptionally readable, so that it might be used in Bible studies, Sunday school, or just read by those interested in Lutheranism or in defending their own Lutheran faith. (12)
I have read Lutheran books that dealt with this subject in part, but as they were more academic in nature, points were made without connecting the points to my satisfaction.  This simple book fills in those gaps.  Also, I was pleasantly surprised by the passion the author exuded in his desire to build up the Christian and encourage the sharing of the gospel.  Not all Lutherans are reserved.

I recommend this to be read for no other reason than to understand that discipleship does not happen in a vacuum, but in a community of like-minded believers.  On the other hand, Gerberding is persuasive in his simple, reverent style, so that you may come away saying to yourself: Almost thou persuadest me to be a Lutheran.

This book and others in the series can be purchased directly at and


Dominick said...

Great review.. this is on my list to read. The review and the flow of the book you described reminds me of the the book I am currently reading, The Spirituality of The Cross. Its kind of a laymen intro to Lutheranism, sharply written and so far incredibly engaging. It's convincingly pulling me nearer to the lutheran faith. Your review encourages me to read The Way of Salvation, with the same excitement. Thanks!

Vanessa said...

Very excited to see your review, Steve! I'll be reviewing this soon myself, and giving away a copy next week. I have found a lot of blogs and books out there to be a bit too scholarly or geared more toward theologians and pastors. I'm always eager to find and read books easily digested by laity, and this looks like it would be a great book, even for my friends who simply have a curiosity as to what it means for us to be Lutheran. :)

Steve Bricker said...

Thank you both for your comments. I just want to let people know when worthwhile material comes along.