It has been well over a century since C. F. W. Walther's classic The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel was written. While it continues to be reprinted and is familiar among conservative Lutheran clergy, it is written in a scholarly tone for seminarians, bearing the marks of its age. Like an old family heirloom, Walther's volume of lectures has unfortunately collected a lot of dust, remaining shelved in the pastor's study, never really gaining traction outside Lutheran circles, which is why Professor John Pless's monograph Handling the Word of Truth has to be commended. In just over one hundred pages, Pless provides a much-needed introduction to the Reformation hermeneutic of properly distinguishing the law from the gospel in our reading, preaching, and understanding of the Bible. While some things have certainly changed since Walther's day, some remain the same; sadly, the confusion and conflation of the law and gospel is one of those constants that continue to plague Christ's church and therefore requires attention in every generation.
Brian W. Thomas is vicar of Grace Lutheran Church in San Diego, California, and is a graduate student of the Cross-cultural Ministry Center at Christ College, Concordia University in Irvine, California.
Issue: "Rightly Dividing the Word" Sept./Oct. 2010 Vol. 19 No. 5 Page number(s): 47-48
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