Friday, May 19, 2006
For anyone interested in the history of private auricular confession in the early days of Lutheranism, I highly recommend the book The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany, by Ronald K. Rittgers.

I wrote a review of this book for Comitatus (Vol. 36), but copyright prohibits me from just pasting the whole review here. I think it will be okay if I just paste the first and last paragraphs, however...

In the historiography of the early Reformation, various theological loci have been treated exhaustively. Justification has always received the most attention, with the sacraments and ministry following close behind. Confession and absolution have, however, received scant attention, except insofar as they relate to justification. In The Reformation of the Keys, Ronald Rittgers seeks to fill this void. Using a pleasant prose style unencumbered by some of the jargon associated with too much work on social discipline, Rittgers details the transformation of confession and absolution from its medieval penitential forms into a new evangelical tool for the consolation of the sinner’s conscience. His particular focus is on the imperial city of Nürnberg, where the adoption of the new evangelical form of absolution followed a different path than that of other cities that adopted the Reformation early on.


While Rittgers does steer clear of messy jargon, the reader will need to know the various theological categories of Lutheranism to get the full meaning of Rittgers’ work. He does not stop to define terms such as “Two Kingdoms” or “Law and Gospel,” which are heavily loaded terms in Lutheran theology. This however is not a short-coming of the book; only a warning to the casual reader to come prepared to a well-documented and thoroughly grounded discussion of a key moment in the development of Lutheran theology.

Rittgers, FWIW, was a student of Steven Ozment at Harvard, who is among the best and brightest of Reformation historians today. Rittgers' book promises that he will follow in his doktorvater's footsteps.
posted by Kepler at 09:52 |


At 5/24/2006 02:26:00 AM, Blogger Xrysostom

Hey, Kepler. If you're reading some things (old or new) that aren't going to be submitted elsewhere, would you be interested in joining the Luther Library's merry band of disfunctional reviewers and tossing us the occasional freebie? Write me if you're interested and I'll get an invite sent your way.

BTW, I've been reading Tarheel Lutheran since young Maria outed you. Good stuff.


At 5/24/2006 04:36:00 PM, Blogger Kepler

"Good stuff"? Really? You've slogged your way through all nine posts? ;-).

For anyone who cares, there will be more to the whole evidentiary apologetics stuff, but I'm eagerly anticipating the arrival of my son right now. My wife is due Sunday.

Cheers, all...



At 5/24/2006 04:59:00 PM, Blogger Orycteropus Afer

Far out, K! God keep your wife and baby safe and you sane in the coming days.



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