Book Recommendation – The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz
If you visit the seminary during the Christ Academy College weekend, they will give you an opportunity to speak to a panel of students from each different year at the seminary. When I visited a few years ago, one of the questions posed to these students was, “What books do you recommend we read before coming to seminary?” Each student gave their answer. The fourth year student recommended reading a book called The Hammer of God by Bo Giertz. I had previously heard the name of this book from a few pastors and a professor or two at the seminary. If I could read only one book before coming to the seminary, it would be this book.
The book is about the proper distinction between law and gospel. Professor Pless has said that what Walther does in theses, Giertz does in a novel. The book is filled with pastoral care scenarios in which the pastors have to apply law and gospel to the messy, real lives of their parishioners. The fantastic thing about this book is that these are no imaginary scenarios. Each situation represents something we’ve seen or someone we know has seen. The book will show you how law and gospel is applied to sinners, wherever they may be. I recommend reading this book before you get to seminary because it will get you thinking about how theology applies in real life and to real people.
The Hammer of God is more than just a guide in pastoral care. It is about the work of the law and gospel in our own lives. As a seminarian, you will struggle with the sin of spiritual pride, which is the common feature of each of the pastors in the book. For this reason, the book shows the necessity of having a pastor. It is impossible to apply law and gospel to ourselves. For that, we need a pastor. Each of the pastors in the book needs and eventually receives the spiritual care of a fellow pastor. As a seminarian you will need a pastor too. You won’t stop being a sinner when you show up on campus.
Before arriving at the seminary, read the book. You will read it again during your first year at the seminary. The great thing about this book is that you will keep seeing new insights every time you read it. The book is theological, yet thoroughly pastoral throughout. You will find wonderful insights for pastoral care. You will find application of law and gospel. But above all, you will find Jesus Christ crucified for sinners like you and me.