Friday, July 13, 2007

The Lutheran Handbook II

About two years ago, my brother got married. At the church where the ceremony was performed, I discovered a little book called The Lutheran Handbook. They had copies of this little blue book in every pew. The entire wedding party had a blast looking through it. I enjoyed what I saw so much I ordered a couple copies for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek look that the authors delivered on Lutheran culture as a whole but I also appreciated the thoughtful way that they handled some elements of Lutheran beliefs.

So you could imagine my delight when I found The Lutheran Handbook II! Thicker than its predecessor, this new edition promised to delve slightly deeper into Lutheran theology and not just tweak Lutheran foibles.

And, for the most part, I have to say that they did their job well. They had thoughtful articles on Luther's "two kingdoms" principle, they had a great glossary on objects that are used in Lutheran worship, they even had a section of lists in the back, like "Top 5 Monsters of the Bible."

But as much as I enjoyed it, I had a few minor complaints. The first might seem a little petty: they left out my seminary. In the first section of the book, they went over Lutheran colleges and seminaries. They listed every seminary the ELCA has, as well as the seminaries of WELS and the Lutheran Brethren, but they left both St. Louis and Fort Wayne off the list?

The other gripe I had is that the author, rather than try to be even-handed on every subject (which might have been a better idea) let his or her personal tastes show. In the article on "contemporary worship," they illustrated it with a smiling, happy, very friendly looking woman. In the article on traditional worship, they illustrated it with a dour-faced old man who looked more likely to bite you than talk to you. Is that really necessary? Not all of us who enjoy traditional worship are like that!

But for its few faults, this is still a great book for Lutherans and even for you non-Lutherans who are trying to figure us out.

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