Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
PRJ 2:1 (January 2010) p. 357
Anderson, Mary Elizabeth. Gustaf Wingren and the Swedish Luther Renaissance (New York: Peter Lang, 2006), 171 pp.
Although the twentieth-century’s Swedish Luther Renaissance is a topic likely unfamiliar to laymen and scholars alike, Mary Elizabeth Anderson shows in this book that the topic holds great value for both groups. Anderson, who earned her Ph.D. in church history from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and teaches at Saint Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, argues that each generation of the Swedish Luther Renaissance used Luther’s thought to address a contemporary theological dilemma. In the process, she provides case studies of how historical theology can help the church deal with doctrinal challenges. The first generation— comprised of Nathan Söderblom and Einar Billing—appropriated Luther to maintain confidence in the Bible in the face of the historical critical method of reading Scripture (pp. 27-42). Second-generation scholars Gustaf Aulén, Anders Nygren, and Herbert Olsson used Luther to combat the excessive importation of philosophy into theology (pp. 49-68), and third-generation thinker Gustaf Wingren drew from Luther to establish a connection between faith and life (pp. 73-92). The book concludes with two chapters arguing that Wingren “presented both a faithful and a misleading description of Luther’s views” (p. 143).
Anderson makes a significant contribution to the study of Swedish theology by weighting her book with the largely unexplored third generation of the Swedish Luther Renaissance, devoting three chapters to Wingren. Her broad knowledge of primary sources from both twentieth-century Sweden and the Reformation helps Anderson “demonstrate that the need to respond to the theological challenges presented by contemporary contexts was a central aspect of the Luther
PRJ 2:1 (January 2010) p. 358
research of each generation” (pp. 1-2). In addition, a helpful first chapter introduces readers to the division between liberals and traditionalists within Lutheran theology at the turn of the twentieth century.
The book’s greatest weakness is its failure to interact with secondary sources despite Anderson’s obvious knowledge of those sources, demonstrated in the endnotes (pp. 3-4) and bibliography (pp. 157-166). A confusing combination of endnotes and parenthetical references may prevent readers at times from identifying Anderson’s sources, while occasional misspellings and grammatical inconsistencies cause the reader to unnecessarily question Anderson’s expertise.
To be sure, Anderson brings a compelling topic to light in this book, which will hopefully provoke further research. Scholars would do well to build on And...
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