Today we remember the great theologian Johann Gerhard, and we read a devotion from Theological Commonplaces: On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, Second Edition.
Johann Gerhard was a prolific writer, a passionate teacher, and a dedicated theologian. We thank God for working through Gerhard to raise up many faithful pastors and to provide the church with theological teachings the church can return to again and again.
Following the two sixteenth-century Martins—Martin Luther and Martin Chemnitz—no other Lutheran theologian has been as instrumental in shaping and forming Lutheran theology as Johann Gerhard. Just as Roman Catholicism has Thomas Aquinas, Lutheranism has Johann Gerhard. Both theologians wrote massive works of detailed doctrinal theology for their church bodies, works to which all other such efforts are compared.
According to Gerhard, theology is conversation, discussion, and discourse about God. This conversation is based on God’s self-revelation in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures. The subject of all theology is Jesus Christ. It is a divine gift that we know Christ and are led to take refuge in Him. In this sense, Gerhard considered theology to be not only an academic discipline or a matter of scientific study. . . .
Explaining carefully the truth and life of the crucified and risen Lord for pilgrims on the journey to eternity is Gerhard’s goal. Of course, some will choose to read Gerhard only for academic and scholarly purposes, and there is great value in such activity, but above all else it was Gerhard’s intention to provide a comprehensive presentation of the Christian faith precisely for the sake of confessing, defending, and extending the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ. The glory and worship of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was the ultimate aim of Gerhard’s doctrinal work, and it is with this in mind that Gerhard is most clearly understood.
The massive reorientation of Christian theology in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in response to Pietism and Rationalism resulted in disregard and even disdain for the doctrinal theology of Gerhard and other Orthodox Lutheran theologians. This attitude remains among us today. Gerhard’s insistence that we can know and confess doctrine purely and that we must reject error runs contrary to the spirit of relativism and pluralism that engulfs much of modern Christianity. In stark contrast, Gerhard asserted that the Lutheran Reformation in the sixteenth century was necessary and vital. The Lutheranism that Gerhard endorsed remains an essential confessing and reforming movement for the sake of the true and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and for the sake of genuine confession of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.
Devotional reading is from Theological Commonplaces: On the Nature of Theology and Scripture, Second Edition, page ix © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
O omnipotent, eternal, and merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . I humbly praise You and submissively ask that You preserve undefiled the saving doctrine of Your Word among us and daily extend more widely the bounds of the church. Out of Your boundless mercy, set alight for us in this dark world the light of Your Word. Do not allow it to be extinguished or obscured by the fog of human tradition. Give to us Your Word as salutary food for the soul. Amen.
Prayer is from Meditations on Divine Mercy, page 132 © 1992, 2003 M. C. Harrison. Published by Concordia Publishing House.