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The Source and Purpose of “The Writings” in Treasury of Daily Prayer

November 14th, 2008
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My colleague, Rev. Scot Kinnaman, prepared yet another "White Paper" on the development and contents of The Treasury of Daily Prayer. This is an interesting overview and explanation of how the daily readings from church fathers were chosen for The Treasury. Be sure to click through and read the whole entry.

The primary aim of the devotional writings in the Treasury of Daily
Prayer is to serve those who pray the Treasury with solid devotional
material. Our selection of writings for the Treasury reflects the faith
and confession of the Lutheran Church, and consequently, features a
selection of writings from the church fathers. The selection of
writings in The Treasury demonstrate the Lutheran Church's catholicity,
and, where it was not fully known, to introduce our readers to their
heritage as Lutheran Christians. What Lutherans believe has always been
taught, if not always purely or fully, in the Church. Thus The Treasury
provides representation to every era Of the Church. We are not, of
course, in full agreement with everything every writer we used ever
wrote. We could not even say that of Martin Luther. But we are united
to all our writers in faith and think they all have something to say to
us. There are sure to be a few surprises even for the most well read
among us. We do hope that some readers will be encouraged to deeper
reading and for that reason (as well as legal obligations) we have
provided full bibliographic information in the acknowledgments section
of the Treasury.

Standards for Selecting Content

No
matter where they came from the devotional writings had to be
scripturally sound and apply the message of Law and Gospel to the life
of the reader. We wanted in every writing a clear statement of the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the first place, that is what our readers
need. But so also we believe that this what our writers would want
presented and preserved.

On top of that we wanted the writings
to serve the Word. The main component of the Treasury is the Daily
Lectionary. Wherever possible we chose writings that expounded the
day's lection directly. That wasn't always possible. Some of the
writings are related indirectly to the lection, commenting not on those
exact passages but on the same topic or parallel passages. If that
wasn't possible we connected the writings to the Church Year using
seasonal themes such as repentance in Lent and the Incarnation in
Christmas.

Timeless

The
writings are meant to be read again and again every year. So they had
to be substantial, to wear well, and to have something to say even
after multiple readings. For that to work the writings needed to be
timeless. That is why we chose to use no author who hadn't entered into
glory by 1950 and tried to avoid addressing current faddish topics. It
is not that there haven't been things written since 1950 that would fit
the bill. It is simply that we aren't in a position to yet identify
those things. Let the next generation judge the last, for we are far
better judges of our grandfathers than we are of our fathers. But every
rule has an exception or two, and so did ours. We bent our rule for the
sake of Herman Sasse, guessing that future Christians will count him as
one of the most significant and profound voices of the 20th and
century. We also let Dietrich Bonhoefer, who was 11 years younger than
Sasse, in on a technicality. He met the letter of the law, he died in
1944, but that is only because the Nazis martyred him. Still martyrdom
ought to count for something. And so also do we expect that Bonhoefer
will be embraced by future generations and still serve us today.

It
should also be noted that we received a large number of original
translations from our contributors. As a result, many of the writings
in the Treasury are not available anywhere else in English.

Procedure

To
meet our goals we made up categories of eras. Then we assigned target
percentages to each. The content of the categories and the percentages
are given and explained below. We solicited contributors from a wide
slice of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod including professors,
parish pastors, deaconesses, teachers, district presidents, and lay
people. As well we solicited members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Lutheran
Church of Canada, to help us find the best of the writings from the
fathers of the Church. Many of these people had special skills,
knowledge, or interest. Some went searching for us in works of writers
they'd never heard of before, some within a corpus of which they had
special knowledge. Each of our contributors donated their time and
effort, and as already pointed out, many also donated translation work.

Categories of Writings

The Confessions

As
you might guess from talk of Sasse and Bonhoefer, the Treasury was
prepared with a distinct and deliberate Lutheran identity. This book
was not to be simply a Lutheranized breviary. It was to be a Lutheran
prayer book overflowing with Lutheran devotional writings. Nothing has
worn so well, or so badly needed a way into the devotional lives of our
people, as the Lutheran Confessions. Thus our first category, and
highest target percentage, was the Lutheran Confessions. Our goal was
to have 30% of the writings be from the Lutheran Confessions. We also
took pains to make sure every word of the Small Catechism made it into
the Treasury at least once, and that all the confessional documents
were represented. Of the 400 days in the main body of the Treasury, 113
writings are from our Lutheran Confessions, or 28.25 %.

Luther

Our
next concern was assuring the liberal inclusion of the writings of
Martin Luther. He is our chief teacher. We set the target at 25%. Then
we made a list of Luther's most significant writings. We wanted them
all to be represented in the Treasury. That proved tougher than
expected. Certainly it was easy to find suitable material in Luther's
sermons and exegetical works. But some of his most important works are
heavily polemic and not in the least bit devotional. Nonetheless, we
managed to get at least one selection that met our criteria from each
of the following works: The Bondage of the Will, The Freedom of the
Christian, Against the Heavenly Prophets, Adoration of the Sacrament,
To the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, A
Simple Way to Pray, Heidelburg Disputation, The Marburg Articles, and
The Invocabit Sermons. Our count is 95 writings from Luther, or 24% of
the 400 total days.

Early Church

The
next largest category was what we thought of as early Church. This
category included writers up through the 4th century. We set the target
of 20%. A gem from the early Church on average appears every 5th day.
This will be a new experience for most of our people. It was natural
for us to run after Augustine and John Chrysostom, but we wanted more
breadth than that, so we established a list of what we considered the
most important writers from that era and managed again to get at least
one from each. Our early Church writers include: Ambrose, Athanasius,
Augustine, Basil, Clement, Cyril of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem,
Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory the Great, Hilary of Poitiers, Ignatius of
Antioch, Ireaneus, Jerome, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, John
Damascene, Leo the Great, Origen, Tertullian, and Ephrem the Syrian.
Our actual number of early Church writings is 68 of the 400, or 17%.

The Medieval Church

We
also wanted writings that spanned the era from the early Church to the
time of Luther. Even though this encompassed 1100 years, it wasn't the
most productive era of the Church. We set our target at a modest 10%.
Again we felt there were writers that should be represented, chief of
these was Thomas Aquinas and Anselm of Canterbury. But of all Christian
literature nothing has been so influential on the life of the Church as
St. Benedict's rule. You will find Benedict's advice for singing and
prayer on September 23. Dante's Divine Comedy also hails from the
middle ages. It is probably the greatest piece of literature from its
time. His imaginative depiction of Hell is still how most picture it.
For all the power of Dante's poetry, it wasn't easy to find something
suitable for the Treasury, but we did find a superb description of
faith which you will find on September 9. Besides those four authors we
also provided at least one writing from Hugh of St. Victor, Peter
Chrysologus, Vincent of Lerin, Thomas Kempis, Bernard of Clairvaux,
Bonaventure, John Donne, John Bunyon, and St. John of the Cross. Our
actual number from this era is 25, 6% of the total 400 days.

The Lutheran Fathers

Our
next category was Lutheran fathers of the 16th and 17th centuries. We
hoped to have 10% of our 400 writings be from this era. We certainly
wanted Martin Chemnitz, David Chytraeus, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann
Gerhard, and Johannes Bugenahage. But we thanks to our contributors we
also got: Valerius Herberger, Veit Dietrich, Lucas Lossius, Meister
Eckhart, Georg von Anhalt, Nicolaus Selnecker, and Timotheus Kirchner.
So also we have Jacob Andrea, C.C. Schmidt, Joseph Seis, and Phillip
Nicolai. Though he is not a Lutheran father, we included a reading from
Thomas Cranmer who was of the same era. This category proved richer
than we imagined: 54 writings, or 13.5%.

Missouri Fathers

We
also wanted a little taste of our own nearer history and established a
category of Missouri fathers. This we set at 4%. We provided writings
from C. F. W. Walther, Wilhelm Loehe, Paul Kretzmann, and Francis
Pieper. Again, we found this richer than expected. Our actual number is
22 writings, or 5.5%.

The 20th Century

Finally,
we wanted a taste of the best of the early part of the 20th century and
set a target of 2%. We provided readings from Bo Giertz, Deitrich
Bonhoeffer, Werner Elert, Herman Sasse, Pius Parsch, and G. K.
Chesterton. Here we far exceeded our target. We ended up with 15
writings for 5.75%.

Full list of contributors to the Writings included in Treasury of Daily Prayer:

Scott
T. Adle, Paul Gregory Alms, Steven Anderson, Eric Robert Andrae, John
W. Berg, Sara Bielby, Jason M. Braaten, Kent J. Burreson, Emily K.
Carder, Kristofer Carlson, Steve Cholak, David Coles, Shame R. Cota, H.
R. Curtis, William M. Cwirla, Sean Daenzer, Adriane Dorr, Burnell F.
Eckardt Jr., Joel Elowsky, Karl F. Fabrizius, Thomas E. Fast, Erich R.
Fickel, Ryan T. Fouts, William E. Foy, James A. Frey, Susan Gehlbach,
Joshua D. Genig, Erik M. Heen, Erich J. Heidenreich, Gregg Hein, David
Juhl, Scot A. Kinnaman, Aaron Koch, James A. Lee II, Larry K. Loree
Jr., Benjamin T.G. Mayes, Paul T. McCain, Aaron Moldenhauer, Herbert C.
Mueller Jr., David C. Mumme, Paul G. Mumme, Jonathan Naumann, Pamela
Nielsen, Preston A. Paul, David H. Petersen, Douglas Punke, David C.
Ratke, Sandra Rhein, Jody A. Rinas, Wade M. Seaver, John W. Sias,
Robert E. Smith, Edward J. Steeh, Julie Stiegemeyer, D. Richard
Stuckwisch, Ralph G. Tausz, Chad D. Trouten, Kurt Ulmer, Jon D. Vieker,
David Jay Webber, John Wilch, Larry G. Wright, Phillip Zielinski, and
Luke T. Zimmerman.

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  1. November 14th, 2008 at 09:17 | #1

    While I dig the writings and am thankful to have them, my one major suggestion for the second edition would be to identify the source of the writing right there … not just the name of the person who said/wrote it, but to identify where it can be found in a larger body of the author’s work. I know I’ve had a couple where a line or two really grabbed me and I wanted to go to the original and read the entire source. Just a thought.
    [McCain: Joe, I feel your pain. I do. I hear you. But...unfortunately... the way we layed the pages out, to pack as much in as we could, we just could not do what you, and I, would have proposed. They are all sourced in the back of the book. There is not enough space to include that in the daily readings section, given the two column layout. It would have gummed up the page layout and text flow. Sorry about that, but....that's the way it has to be on this. Thanks for your comment and interest in Treasury!]

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