Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kleinig Festschrift: You, My People, Shall Be Holy

Stephenson, John R. & Thomas M. Winger, eds. You, My People, Shall Be Holy. St. Catharines, ON Canada, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, 2013.

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The Festschrift in honor of John Kleing consists of twenty-one essays, two original hymns, and a short bio from a stellar cast of Confessional Lutheran contributors. Some analysis is interesting, though I am not sure if the make-up of the list reflects more on the editors or on Kleinig. In any case,  of the twenty-three contributors thirteen are Americans, four are Canadians, four are Australians, one is a German, and one is a Finn. There are more contributors than offerings because the title hymn, written by Steven Starke, also includes a musical setting by Phillip Magness. Nine of the thirteen American contributors are affiliated with Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne. The only St. Louis faculty contributions are from Ronald Feuerhahn and Norman Nagel – neither of whom are currently teaching. The third St. Louis contributor is one of the most earnest Nagel and Feuerhahn disciples in the person of Brent Kuhlman. As to Magness’ alignment, if he has one, with the LCMS seminaries, I don’t know it. What this means then is that no current St. Louis faculty members or synodical administrators from any continent contributed. For all that, with three St. Catharines’ professors, including the editors and the emeritus Roger Humann, that seminary may have the largest percentage representation in the list, though, I suppose one could stick Winger into St. Louis and Stephenson into Ft. Wayne but they would both howl so much that I think we’d better not. As the bio indicates Dr. Kleinig taught at St. Catharines for a semester. So that might explain the bias along with the editors. The fourth Canadian is the LCC’s version of Steven Starke, Kurt Reinhardt, who also wrote a hymn and included some commentary on it, but for which no music is provided. Reinhardt is closely connected also to St. Catharines. The Australian poverty, numbering at a meager four contributors, I suppose, must be due to the production of the book in North America and may also have something to do with the fact that this is Kleinig’s second Festschrift.

I don’t recall in my collection of theological Festschrifts every seeing a list of contributors from so many places, so it seems to me remarkable. Nor do I think it is common to have original hymns alongside of essays. It could be, of course, that these things come from the editors, but even so, it certainly was a deliberate effort on their part to meet the spirit of Kleinig’s work and to pay homage to his unique contribution and influence. For my part, Leviticus was a closed book to me until I read his commentary. I am not exaggerating in saying that that commentary greatly deepened, if not quite completely changed, my perspective on Our Lord and His Temple in a way that few other things have. Based upon the tributes paid in this Festschrift, it is easy to see that I am not alone.

As to the essays themselves, they seem to be exceptional in quality. I am accustomed to buying Festschrifts for the sake of the man who is being honored and happy to discover one or two essays worth reading. This volume, however, can stand on its own simply as some of the best contemporary theology being written in English today. There isn’t an essay here that isn’t immediately accessible and useful.

Of particular note, usefulness, and timeliness are the twin essays by the sainted Kurt Marquart and David Scaer both addressing the issue of the third use of the Law. The Marquart essay is a survey and rehearsing of the doctrine in the Formula of Concord. The Scaer article provides a significant amount of new material and thinking on the topic.  He starts with a short survey of the Reformed view of the Lutheran view and then responds. The approach is unusual, but students of Scaer will most likely recognize it and feel right at home.

In addition to the hymns, there are other essays which stand out even in the competition of such excellence. These certainly include the essay by Normal Nagel, which is a fine contribution and culminating piece of his life’s work on the Office of the Ministry and stands very nicely alongside of Tom Winger’s essay which returns again to his interest in the corruption of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. The essay by Gottfried Martens serves as a timely and eerie warning here in North American as he attempts to stem the tide in the SELK by rehearsing the path followed to women’s ordination among European Lutherans and the current conflicts that have stemmed from it. So, also, the essay by John Stephenson is entertaining in its attempt to justify the use of the term Bishop by means of the Reformer though I did find it a bit forced and artificial. Why do we need the
Reformer’s blessing? Isn’t the New Testament the trump card? In any case, no one handles serious topics with better humor than Stephenson and I am grateful for his work here because such language is challenged among us and I was unaware of the Australian move toward it.

More could be said, and I expect more will. The essays on the third use of the Law, the Nagel essay, and Stephenson’s essay all have the potential of touching some nerves in our midst and anyone who wants to be considered a well-read Theologian will need to read them soon. Buy the book. You’ll be glad you did.

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