Footwashers is now in pre-release. That means that I am finishing up some technical details, but the actual work of reviewing, formatting, etc. is done. I can’t express how excited I am about this project. I believe that this book will be a great help and benefit to the church. Pastors and laity will benefit from it. It answers the perennial question, “Well, I’m Saved. What now?” Of course, as Lutherans, we have the doctrine of vocation. We serve God by serving our neighbor. But for many, that doesn’t go into enough detail. They want the how’s and why’s. After all, “Do your job, love your family” is understandable, but it seems too easy. We want something more. And, the large volume of books that purport to explain the Christian life (40 days of purpose, whatever-the-latest-fad-is, etc.) mean that there is a viable market for detailed explanations of what a Christian life should look like.
The problem is, that this is a law question. And, as we know, when you ask a law question, you are likely to end up with a law answer. And that’s a problem.
Dr. Lehmann does an expert job of expanding on the Christian life, using the words of Jesus himself. He addresses a lot of common areas of conflict and debate in the church: marriage and sexuality, forgiveness and judging others, church and politics, management of possessions (normally called stewardship, but I’ve never seen it handled like this before). The list goes on. And, as I’ve noted before, he does it while not only maintaining, but actually celebrating the Law and Gospel in their proper spheres.
I was a little bit surprised at this project. Ethics is not really my area of expertise. I prefer catechesis. But there is an element of ethics to catechesis. Luther’s Large Catechism on the Ten Commandments is, in my opinion, the finest ethical treatise in history, in or out of the church. And this book aligns very will with the catechism. It’s sort of an explanation of the table of duties. That’s not its intent, but that is basically what it does.
Honestly, I hadn’t planned to get into the business of publishing other people’s work. But when the opportunity presented itself, I could not say no. This was too good to pass up, and the delay to my other projects was more than worth it. A lifetime of study of Lutheran theology and the Word of Jesus, distilled into an easy to read book that is part theology, part ethics, part self-help, part advice column, and all terrific.
When I was in Seminary, I took a class called “Theological Ethics”. It was basically a chance for the professor to demonstrate post-modernism in it’s most crass form. “You just don’t know” seemed to be his favorite thought. Well, if we don’t know, then why bother preaching?
This book and its author would have made for a great course. Students would have been waiting in line to get into a class like this, instead of counting the minutes until it was over. It sounds cliché to say, “It will change the way you think”, but in this case, that’s not an exaggeration. It really does give you a different sort of framework for understanding the teaching of our Lord. Not apart from Law and Gospel, but firmly within it. It builds the framework of Law and Gospel not around abstract theology, but around the everyday life of the Christian. Many theological works, though doctrinally correct, fail to connect that doctrine to the life lived. I think Walther was complaining about this in his Law and Gospel when he said that it isn’t enough to preach doctrinally correct sermons. You have to properly distinguish Law and Gospel, and that is only done by means of experience. Wise words. Sadly, they are too often treated as requiring an academic formula to insure proper division. At it’s worst, it manifests itself as sermons that are certified to have 49% Law, followed by 51% Gospel. Luther’s sermons would fail such a test. As would Walther’s. For that matter, so would the sermons of our Lord.
Dr. Lehmann keeps Law and Gospel firmly in view as he builds his ethical framework.
This is Luther’s teaching, explained in a simple way, ready for practical use. And, it will be either free, or available at a very reasonable cost. (I’m discovering it’s not as easy as it sounds to give things away online.)
So, tell your friends and neighbors, and get ready. “Footwashers: Following the Jesus Way” is coming very soon…