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Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation

November 14th, 2009
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Picture 2There is a great new book out by Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown titled Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation. In this book, which began as his dissertation for his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, Dr. Brown offers a new appraisal of the Reformation and its popular appeal, based on the place of German hymns in the sixteenth century and in the lives of the early Lutherans. He focuses on the Bohemian mining town of Joachimsthal, where pastors, musicians, and laity forged an enduring and influential union of Lutheranism, music, and culture as the “test case” for his research.

The Lutheran hymns, sung in the streets and homes as well as in the churches and schools of Joachimsthal, were central instruments of a Lutheran pedagogy that sought to convey the Gospel to laymen and women in a form that they could remember and apply for themselves. Townspeople and miners sang the hymns, in their home, they taught their children, counseled one another, and consoled themselves hen death came near.

Shaped and nourised by the theology of the hymns, the laity of Joachimsthal maintained this Lutheran piety in their homes for a generation after Evangelical pastors had been expelled from their city during the Counter-Reformation. They finally chose to leaqve their homeland rather than submit to the demands of their Catholic church and political rulers. Singing the Gospel challenges the prevailing view that Lutheranism failed to transform the homes and harts of sixteenth-century Germany.

Dr. Brown is Assistant Professor of Church History, Boston University School of Theology. He is also the General Editor of Luther’s Works: American Edition, New Series. It is published by Harvard University Press.

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  1. Bethany Kilcrease
    November 14th, 2009 at 13:13 | #1

    Dr. Christopher Brown’s work is both an outstanding piece of scholarship and also very accessible for the non-academic reader. It is also a great example of how theological history can be applicable to current debates in the Church – i.e., what types of music and hymns should we use and why? I’m lucky enough to have a signed copy! :)

    Bethany Kilcrease

  2. Duncan Sprague
    November 14th, 2009 at 13:38 | #2

    It’s a great book Pastor McCain. I enjoyed reading it for one of my classes here at seminary. But one minor correction if I may – it’s not exactly new. It was published back in 2005. It’s good though to see it getting broader exposure, as it should be widely read. = )

  3. November 14th, 2009 at 16:16 | #3

    I don’t see a suggestion on where to get it. Suggestions?

  4. Bethany Kilcrease
    November 15th, 2009 at 18:09 | #4

    Amazon or Harvard University Press

Comments are closed.