Knowledge is Good! (Why Lutheranism 101 is So Popular)
I came in yesterday morning to my office here at Concordia Publishing House and find a reprint order waiting for me to sign. I get these constantly. We are always reprinting things, as they sell through. But this one was different. It was unique, unlike any other reprint order I’ve ever signed here. After only 2.5 weeks we have just about depleted the first print run of Lutheranism 101. Consider that with me: after only 2.5 weeks of the book coming into inventory we are headed back to the presses for yet thousands of additional copies. I’ve never seen a response like this to anything we’ve published before.
Let me explain. Usually when we are publishing a new book or resource, we give it quite a lot of publicity before it is published. We mention it everywhere. So, for example, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions was, and still is, a big hit. Ditto with The Lutheran Study Bible. And of course, with Lutheran Service Book. But we did not do this much pre-publication publicity with Lutheranism 101. We had a hundred pre-orders for it, but the minute it hit the distribution center, the orders started pouring in, flooding in. Thousands of copies later, and only 2.5 weeks into this thing, we are getting back on press as fast as we can. I’m hearing from pastors and laity alike who are telling me, “I showed it to my Bible class and 25 people ordered one on the spot.” Another person just told me, “I brought it to church on Sunday and I had over thirty orders placed.”
To ask a good Lutheran question: What does this mean?
In Holy Scripture we read in Hosea 6:14 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” The Lord through His prophet Isaiah said: “Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” We, and our pastors, are warned not to let ourselves remain, “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:14-16). And, again, in Hebrews we are told: “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Note those words trained by constant practice. Hear more of God’s Word: “My people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding.They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not” (Jeremiah 4:22).
The good news is that there is a growing hunger for good, solid, substantial teaching. And oh what a need there is. I was speaking with a colleague just this morning who reported how a dear lifelong Lutheran lady was scandalized when the words “confession and absolution” were printed in the bulletin. She had apparently ever noticed that Lutherans do believe in confession and do believe in absolution—confession, to a pastor, absolution, from a pastor. I know. This is basic Small Catechism stuff. But therein is precisely the problem. Have we been putting our people on a “liquid diet” and never helping them move up to the good, solid, sturdy food of the Word and doctrine drawn from that Word?
The Pew Foundation’s recent Religious Knowledge Survey proved, once again, how appallingly ignorant many Christians are. And we should not fool ourselves by thinking, “Oh, well, our conservative Lutherans would do a lot better.” Really? I think we would all be in for a great shock were we to dig deeply into what the people who attend our Lutheran congregations actually know and actually believe. Let me go back again to the conversation with my colleague. He told me also about the person who asked the pastor in a Bible class. “Why do we sing the Sanctus? Where do those words come from?” The pastor gently showed the person where, from the Bible, the words we sing are given to us. “Oh, I never realized the liturgy was all from the Bible!” was the response.
And, I’m sure you can cite many such examples. All of which is to say, I think the reason why Lutheranism 101 is flying off the shelves around here at Concordia Publishing House is because it has met a deep need on the part of our people for good, solid, basic teaching, good, solid instruction, clear and to the point presentations of truth, presented well and winsomely, in an attractive and accessible manner. That’s my take on the situation. What’s yours?