Let’s talk about Bo Giertz and how you could give Bo Giertz collections for Christmas. Ha haa. Seriously, though, he is a gem of a Lutheran writer who, though sainted now, is increasingly available in English due to some serious dedication by Lutheran pastor and translator Bror Erickson. I’ll tell a little about him, list books that I know are available in English, and give a review of his most recently translated novel, Faith Alone: The Heart of Everything.
Bo Giertz is Impressive
Bo Giertz was a Swedish Lutheran bishop, theologian, and writer in both fiction and non-fiction genres. He was born in 1934 and died in 1998, though he continues to live in Jesus, of course. He took Scripture very seriously and repeatedly advocated a Christian life centered on Christ through Sacraments, Scripture, and prayer. Yay! Very pastoral in every positive sense.
He wrote more than 600 works (according to his wikipedia entry). He is most well-known for The Hammer of God. Hammer of God is a book I’ve heard Lutheran pastors say they read once a year. It’s just that sharp and poignant a Lutheran book on the Gospel and pastoral care, even as a novel. (Interestingly, its last chapter wasn’t available in English until 2004.)
Here are his books I want you to know about, as they are available in English:
- The Hammer of God, a novel
- Faith Alone, a recent release, this is the prequel to Hammer of God, reviewed below
- The Knights of Rhodes, his third novel (How did I miss this? Onto my wish list it goes.)
- With My Own Eyes, a novelization of the life of Jesus. (Admittedly I lost it mid-read but it was very interesting and well done, what I read. <Sigh> I’ll find it and review it. Likely when I move a couch or something. <headdesk>)
- Romans: A Devotional Commentary, a slim book of 104 pages, I love this with all my heart. I review it here.
- To Live with Christ, a collection of devotional writings published by CPH (on sale at CPH for $5 off right now!)
- Christ’s Church: Her Biblical Roots, Her Dramatic History, Her Saving Presence, Her Glorious Future, another RECENT RELEASE, a systematic look at the church within Christian life (This one is translated by Hans Andrae.)
- A Year of Grace: Two volumes of collected sermons: First & Second.
- Then Fell the Lord’s Fire, a collection of ordination sermons suitable for devotions (especially for pastors)
By the way, my understanding is that even more devotional commentaries will become available. Yay! Perfect for just about anyone who can read well. Family devotions? Sure! You may be amazed! It wouldn’t surprise me if such a series could be a stand alone homeschool curriculum for junior & high schoolers. Solid, approachable,
Faith Alone Review
This was a great book! It follows two very different brothers during a time of great turmoil, both in Sweden and the Christian church. The setting is between 1540 and 1543, and, although both brothers were, at one time, to become priests, one entered the ministry while the other became a protestant “scrivener” for the new king of Sweden. This allows Bo Giertz to write about both political and religious concerns, worldly and otherworldly. It’s solidly Lutheran, solidly historical fiction. 🙂
This book handles the spiritual & practical tensions and connections between Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and the “Schwarmerei” really well! Historians will appreciate details about peasant life, clergy life, and the Dacke Rebellion, while I’m sure I’m joining those with Scandanavian connections in imagining the picturesque imagine villages, towns, capital, etc. I liked some of the quaint words, like scrivener, used in the translation. It became nuanced in a way that I’m not sure scribe would have. Details like sleeping arrangements, as odd as that may sound, were endearing from the state—humanizing and well-written. I loved considering what it was first like as the Reformation spread beyond Germany. It was also very engaging to consider how countries that have been united for hundreds of years became so. There’s character development, state development, but also that persistent gut check at how, despite development, sin still stays so very much the same!
I really liked the polarizing effects of international tensions and interconnections, and I really appreciated learning more about this time of Scandanavian history. This book tried to do several significant things, and I think it succeeded at them all. It took extremes and showed the true center in Christ.
Admittedly, when I first read the historical introduction, I put the book down for fear I just wasn’t in the right mental place for it. I am happy to report that the book is not bogged down in history. It does tell you what you need to know (though feel free to google halberd as I did), including translations of a few scraps of liturgical Latin. (Classical homeschoolers everywhere will rejoice at those neat snippets!) The chapters are a bit long, but, to me, that just makes this good winter reading rather than a light summer escape.
The novel flows well, despite the passage of time, and all comes together at the end.
As a novel, it’s good reading. Worth subsequent readings! Bo Giertz is a marvel, and I’m so thankful to those who are translating him!