Lutheran Pietism v Lutheran Orthodoxy

 A LCMS pastor and dear friend of mine recently gave me Bo Giertz’s Hammer of God to read as a sort of “fun” read.  It was not only fun, it was great!  This book is fiction, but it is based on historical and theological “happenings” in  Sweden.  This book could be Walther’s lectures on the Law and Gospel set in narrative/story form!  Here’s a blurb from a dialogue between an old “codgy” Lutheran orthodox pastor and a young “warm” Lutheran pietist minister named Fridfeldt.

“So you are a believer, I’m glad to hear that.  What do you believe in?”  Fridfeldt stared dumbfounded at his superior.  Was he jesting with him?  “But sir, I am simply saying that I am a believer.” 

“Yes, I hear that my boy, but what is it that you believe in?”  Fridfeldt was almost speechless.  “But don’t you know, sir, what it means to believe?” 

“That is a word which can stand for things that differ greatly, my boy.  I ask only what it is that you believe in.”

“In Jesus, of course,” answered Fridfeldt, raising his voice. “I mean–I mean that I have given Him my heart.”  The older man’s voice became suddenly as solemn as the grave.  “Do you consider that something to give him?”  By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears.  “But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannot be saved.”

“You are right, my boy.  And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved.  You see, my boy…it is one thing to choose Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, to give Him one’s heart and commit oneself to Him, and that He now accepts one into His little flock; it is a very different thing to believe on Him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is the chief.  One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one’s heart to Him.  The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap.  A fine birthday gift, indeed!  But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks His walking cane through it and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with Him.  That is how it is….  And now you must understand that these two ways of believing are like two different religions, they have nothing whatever to do with each other.”

Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God trans. Clifford Ansgar Nelson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1960), 147-8.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

5 thoughts on “Lutheran Pietism v Lutheran Orthodoxy”

  1. Thanks to your reminder here, I picked up my copy and re-read the whole thing. And what a great book – a must-read for seminary grads embarking on the daunting task of pastoring God’s people.


  2. Not a good book at all…Used as justification for living a lazy spiritual life. Lutherans that love to pose with a beer in their hands and a cigar in their mouths will LOVE this book!! Gentleman- irregardless of whether our heart is a clunky can or whatever- God wants it- and he wants us to LOVE HIM with ALL OUR HEARTS, SOUL AND STRENGTH. Its not about “winning salvation.” Its about a personal commitment to Christ-
    Maybe if we preached this message in our parishes we would have less people teaching Sunday School and singing in the choir who are living together out of wedlock…


    1. It MUST be a good book. Bo Gietz gets accused of antinomianism–which means, in the immortal words of “the Doctor” that he preaches the Gospel in his book. The Gospel isn’t about a personal commitment to Christ–it’s about what Christ has done FOR us! And that is the power of God for our salvation–not the Law.


  3. Beer and cigar. Sounds good to me! Juan, get over yourself. It’s not about you, it’s about what CHRIST did for YOU. You are forgiven! Great news indeed.


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