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