GOD WORDS: Intro to Classic Christian Theology by Terry Dittmer, et al.
Many pastors and youth workers will remember the packet “Wings of Faith,” prepared and distributed by the Board for Youth Services over a decade ago, dealing with theological issues from a youth-oriented perspective. That booklet is reprinted here by Concordia Publishing House in a new and attractive edition. With an emphasis not only on understanding, but expressing our Lutheran faith in clear and simple terms, this resource can be used in a variety of parish educational contexts.
After a brief publisher’s Introduction explaining the meaning and relevance of the title, the book is divided into twelve sensibly structured chapters. Beginning with an overview of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the basic doctrines of creation, humanity, justification by grace through faith, sanctification, the Trinity (entitled, “One God in Three Persons”), Jesus (subtitled “God for Man and Man for God”), the Holy Spirit, and the Means of Grace are explained simply, yet appealingly.
Studying these central Christian doctrines carefully will enable young Christians to apply them to their present life situations. The last four chapters model that kind of application of doctrine as the biblical teachings on the Church of Jesus Christ, the End Times are presented. The final chapter by Terry Dittmer, “Does It Really Make A Difference if You Are A Lutheran?” captures this approach very well. Each chapter shows how God works in the lives of God’s people preparing them for the reality of eternity. Regrettably, cross references between several chapters could have brought greater clarity, particularly the sections on Sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and Means of Grace. While there are no contradictions, the relationship between these three chapters, for example, results in some redundancy or confusion which could have been avoided in a more carefully edited product.
Clever formatting of each new chapter and along the side margins on each page makes this book an intriguing text for small group Bible classes for young people today. Short easy to read paragraphs allow for discussion at a variety of levels. Because of the various authors’ styles, some chapters, such as Paul Raabe’s two chapters, provide a better (clearer) biblical basis for our classic Christian theology along with some intriguing insights to engage the readers, while others are a bit superficial or elemental especially for post-confirmation young adults.
Helpful study questions at the end of each chapter gently challenge young people to relate what they have studied with their everyday lives. Each of the chapters contains at least a half-dozen study questions, from the straightforward, “Describe a Christian,” to the practical, “A Christian friend invites you to her church and you decide to go. You discover that the Lord’s super is to be celebrated. Your friend wants you to go to the altar with her. ‘We’re all Christians,” she says. You know her church has a different understanding of Communion than you do. What are you gong to do?” These questions encourage further digging into and understanding of the basic biblical truths of our Lutheran church.
Knowledgeable young people will undoubtedly want to go deeper into the biblical roots of our Lutheran teaching. While this book is beneficial for an initial reprise of Confirmation themes and some application, a more helpful resource would be We Believe, Teach, and Confess, published by Wipf and Stock (2005), edited by Dr. Steven Mueller of Concordia University, Irvine, or Robert Kolb’s The Christian Faith: A Lutheran Exposition (CPH 1993).
Engaging young people and new converts in theological discussion is always something to celebrate. The basic and key doctrines of the Christian faith need continual rehearsal as well as rephrasing for each generation. This book will provide such an introductory resource because of its readily accessible format and clear writing. Youth ministers and pastors will find this as a beneficial tool for their parish programs.