Steal This Book

CommonplacesThat’s the title of a 1971 book written by Abbie Hoffman encouraging the counter counterculture against the established one.  I always liked the title. From time to time in the 70’s and later there were stories about people who were caught trying to steal the book.  Their defense was obvious. I have a book I wish that you to read not steal.

It’s Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521 written by Philip Melanchthon and translated by Christian Preus.  I only read the book because of the translator. It’s not that I know him or have even met him. I know the family. Who but a sojourner in the LCMS does not? Let’s just say I had an interest in his theology.

A tangent: I wouldn’t have read the book except for the translator because A) I had read Melanchthon’s Loci Communes 1555 in the 80s.  Yes, this is after Melanchthon had all but completed his slide into Reformed theology. B) I never understood why he who had done so much to destroy legitimate Lutheranism is still studied by legitimate Lutherans. And C) I frequently say LCMS stands for Lutheran Church Melanchthon Synod.

Boy was I wrong.  How much sharper, bolder, and less mewling is the Melanchthon of 1521 than of later years.  He obviously understands James and justification rightly, so why is it that Luther in 1522 still called it an “Epistle of straw”?

I felt the same way reading this work as I did Luther’s Commentary on the First Twenty-Two Psalms. (By the way, I understand that our translator of Melanchthon is taking up this two volume work.  Now you can only find in English volume 1. Volume 2 is available across the pond but at a steep price. An unnamed source at CPH, actually he wouldn’t mind if I mentioned his name it just sounds more important not to, tells me the Cole translations are poor ones.)

Well I read Cole’s volume 1 translation and poor though it might be I was impressed. A brother asked me if I really got anything out of Pre-Reformation Luther. I said to him that it took me 30 years in the ministry to get to the questions Luther had after 7.  I feel the same way about this book.

I still think Melanchthon is the Benedict Arnold of Lutheranism, and we should spit on the ground every time his name gets mentioned, but I am thankful for this fine translation of this book. It taught me much. One, to read not steal books. Two, you can start out rock solid as a young man but not finish the same.


Steal This Book — 2 Comments

  1. You are one of a small group of Lutherans who actually read deep theological writings and ponder the veracity of early commentaries. Yet, few Lutherans I have met really understand Melanchthon or his contributions, as well as the concerns of his critics. I personally see a rejection of orthodoxy today, and troubling inroads of post modernist theology tainting Lutheranism. When one looks at the teachings of ELCA, for example, I do not even consider them Lutheran, although they falsely claim to be. They have managed to help blur the lines of Lutheran doctrines before the world, making themselves representatives of a revisionist Lutheran genre. I know there are some in the LCMS who would like to follow ELCA down the path of heresy and apostasy in order to increase membership and add carnal followers, at the expense of truth and integrity. I think both Luther and Melanchthon would be too orthodox for some contemporary Lutherans today, anf both men would certainly be unwelcome in any ELCA church for certain.

  2. It is a humble reminder to all young Lutherans that the great confessor in 1521, 1530, 1531, and even 1537 could end up denying the bondage of the will, and compromising on the bodily presence in the Sacrament. Compromise is a horrid disease. May God keep our youth from it!

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