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Lutheran pastor and frequent contributor Russell E. Saltzman has just published a short, enjoyable, and stimulating book called The Pastor’s Page , published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau . It’s a collection of letters from his parish newsletter, and dedicated to Father Richard John Neuhaus.

In a page titled “Signs of Judgment,” for example, which I’ve picked almost at random, he begins with an entertaining description — as a writer, he’s particularly good at telling stories that make his teaching vivid and compelling — of hell-fire-and-brimstone highway signs and a Halloween “Judgment House” in which Hell and Heaven are depicted (the first predictably being the most interesting). He then writes of this “fear theology,” and says:

I’ve always been rather attracted to the notion that is Jesus, first, who accepts us . . . . This means: The major theological question about salvation isn’t whether you have accepted Jesus Christ. Instead, the question is whether God-in-Christ has accepted you . . . in spite of all your faults, regrets, stumbling missteps, mistakes, foibles, excuses and, well, you get the idea.

. . . [I]f it is, as Scripture tells us, God’s will to save the whole world through Christ, well, who am I to tell God He can’t have what He wants?

The Christian work, then, is but one task: learning how to say “thank you.” Of course it takes a lifetime. Probably longer.

Robert Benne, author of Lutherans in Search of a Church , calls the book “an exemplary example of a parish theologian at work.” I would add that the book is, among other things, a useful lesson to pastors in how to write to their people in a way they’ll actually want to read.

To find Pastor Saltzman’s many contributions to First Things , just search “Saltzman” on the search button to the right.

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