Some enter the study of theology later in life, sometimes as laity bewildered by the false doctrine being promoted around them, sometimes as men sensing a calling into pastoral work.
The temptation to regret a late start should be quashed with the facts. Those who go through a system have to grow away from the synod worship imposed on them by years of training. The veterans of a system also have to develop critical thinking skills to replace the rigid conforming imposed by Holy Mother Synod. Few can escape the gravitational pull of both soul-destroying forces.
|Roland Bainton trained many generations of church historians;|
we were blessed to hear him lecture at Yale.
He also helped me with my dissertation and offered
to xerox some pages of a book for me.
Greek is the most important to learn, and Greek is remarkably easy to learn. I can get kids translating John's Gospel from Greek to English in two weeks. After that, the key is regular practice and use of Greek, so the New Testament is easily read in Greek and not translated at all. As my Latin teacher told us, "Keep at it - and one day your brain will switch on and Latin will be as easy as the newspaper." I kept reading Aquinas in Latin and one day - boom - as easy as skimming the Moline Dispatch. Ditto Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.
Language professors seldom grasp this concept and try to make their language akin to rocket science, so they can occupy the high ground with furtive pathas and iota subscripts.
Hebrew is good to know because the entire Old Testament is different with a knowledge of Hebrew. Someone can be tutored in Hebrew and read Jonah or a little Genesis or Joshua. Psalms are entirely different in Hebrew, which also gives us insight into Arabic. But Hebrew is not going to be used as easily or as often in pastoral work. That is no reason to bypass it altogether. My LCA seminary president discouraged me from taking Hebrew, because "It is not required and will not earn credits." I graduated early anyway and won the uncoveted Hebrew prize for being the only Hebrew student that year.
Language professors awe people by flourishing the rules of grammar in their language, as if humans learn a language by memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary lists. Just the opposite is true. We learn our first language through immersion. Parents say "No, no" and shake their heads. The baby soon learns to say "No, no" and shake his head - and the parents stand back in awe.
Latin is shockingly easy to learn. Roland Bainton taught me the Gospel of John approach. The Fourth Gospel has very simple grammar, short phrases, and repetition of the same word in many passages. Like Greek, learning to read the endings is the key to reading the language. A little tutoring is good for a start and continued reading in Latin (without a pony or a jimmy - nicknames for a Bible as a crutch) will do the job. German, Spanish, and French are similar - easily learned from the Gospel of John. Bainton learned 20 languages this way and had no sympathy for someone who said, "But that is not written in English."
In Latin and Greek, I had Little Ichabod go over the text of John, chapters 1 - 4, carefully. Then we started over, because learning curve had been flattened. After that, he became a rapid reader and ending up translating Latin to English, Greek to English on the fly.
Languages - Conclusion
The best and most worthwhile start is Greek, constantly rewarding and easily repaying time spent getting past the early language study frustrations.
Biblical Theology Is Learned More Than Taught
The more engaged I became in writing about Lutheran theology, the more I realized that most clergy - especially the synod leaders - were simply relying on talking points from seminary, where no one was really challenged to move beyond the trite affirmations the institution's glory.
Example - Mequon would teach against the errors of Calvinism in one class and promote the same errors in the next, with the errors being emphasized as the only way to get things done. In 1987, only one professor was left who was Lutheran in thought and teaching. The rest - like Wayne Mueller - were Pietists with no grasp of Lutheran theology and a decided ignorance of anything outside their enclave on Mt. Zion.
When I was in Cisco training we had to learn the arcane science of sub-net masking, using base two, which few could comprehend when we started. I knew base two from math in Moline, and agreed with the conclusion of two students who said, "Sub-net masking has to be learned. It cannot be taught." The teacher was a burn-out and he could not teach anything, so I began to make my little charts on sub-net masking. When I took the Cisco CCNA test, I scored 8 out of 8 on sub-net masking, which included some devilish examples to break down. However, the test concluded that I really needed some experience before I became an Internet manager, so I donated my books to LI and changed history at a grocery store chain.
How does this apply to theology? someone is asking.
Although it is good to read books and their opinions about Biblical topics, the only way to learn theology is to work through the topics in the Bible itself. Does the Bible really teach the efficacy of the Word, the Word/Spirit combination, the Means of Grace? Each person must teach himself, and that is why so many laity can run rings around lazy pastors stuck in their dog notes from 1884.
The second part of this is to read the non-Lutheran sources and see how Calvinists and Roman Catholics fail to see this and also how they distort concepts with the same name and yet twisted in a new and diabolical way.
Luther said we must know the opposition's dogma better than they do, so much that we could teach it if we had to. Thus we stop their attacks and defeat them with the very weapons they would use against us. Sadly today, that is more true of synodical leaders and professors than other denominations, because the other sects realize Lutherdom is self-defeating with its rainbow coalition of dogmas and fantasies.
Best Lutheran Theology Sets - Two To Own for Mandatory and Continuous Use
This claim is non-negotiable and cannot be swapped for another contingency.
I. Luther's Sermons - Lenker Edition
This is often bought with the Postils, which are also excellent. I will concentrate on the Lenker portion.
Luther did not emphasize evangelism as such, which is a fetish of the Evangelicals and Pentecostals, and by coveting and imitation, the Lutherans today. The Reformer believed and practiced the sermon as the key work of the congregation and the pastor.
We act according to our beliefs, and beliefs are taught. Everyone seems to say Luther was the greatest Biblical scholar and expositor ever, but precious few follow his example of preaching expository sermons from the historic text.
Jesus converted through the external, the spoken Word. He did not break up the crowds into cell groups and give them Reformed tracts to study.
Luther changed the world forever by writing and preaching.
The only way to learn Lutheran theology is to study Luther's sermons, each and every week, and commit passages to memory.
The individual pastor's sermons should be like Luther's almost always verse by verse expositions, delivered without notes - other than the text itself, which should help considerably.
I have taught thousands of working adults to give their oral presentations without notes. Believe me, there is no substitute for 100% eye contact and knowing the content from previous study. Those who free themselves from notes agree. One team of working adults said, "We thought having five resources each was a burden when we started the class. Now we think of five as a beginning. And we do not need notes because we know the subject so much better."
So the use of Lenker, above other sources, should be weekly and continuous until the end of life. There is no better school for Biblical studies, comparative dogmatics, theology, and practical examples.
II. The Book of Concord
Lemme see, which is better - yellowed dog notes from seminary, the collected works of CFW Walther (BA, Leipzig, Pietist Extraordinaire), Paul Tillich, Charlotte Kirschbaum's Church Dogmatics - with notes by Karl Barth, or -
The Best Writing of Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, and other geniuses of the Reformation?
The Book of Concord is the best one-volume Biblical commentary, the best theology text (apart from Luther), the best comparative dogmatics book, the best sermon starter, the best example for quoting.
The Book of Concord is more of a theology text just as Luther's sermons are Biblical studies, but observe how closely related both are. The Book of Concord organizes the Biblical studies into topics, while Luther preaches theology based on the text for the day.
Warning! Warning! Once the student becomes familiar with Luther's sermons and the Book of Concord, the hollow claims of the "Confessional Lutherans" will become far too evident. Their puffery will sound like the cries of peacocks who struck around with their feathers on display while making the most horrible cries. As Luther wrote, it is as if they have seen their feet of clay and began screaming in protest at their ugliness and fragility.
Father Richard John Neuhaus was a "Confessional Lutheran," just before he became a Roman Catholic priest. So if that is a "Confesional Lutheran," I agree that WELS, Missouri, and the Little Sect of the Prairie are all packed to the gills with them.
The vainglory of the false teachers is so powerful that they cannot abide anyone who knows how ugly are their feet (that is - their doctrinal foundations). They will drive away or peck to death anyone who starts to have a complete and abiding trust in the Word, Luther, and the Confessions. They smugly smile when their deluded disciples praise them and repeat their toxic words verbatim.
|Graduation day at ELCA, LCMS, WELS, ELS, CLC (sic)|
and the Institute of Lutheran (sic) Theology seminaries.
Almost all of them are UOJ Stormtroopers -
lots of firepower, cannot hit anything.