Book Review – Authentic Christianity

Authentic Christianity – How Lutheran Theology Speaks to a Postmodern World

by Gene Edward Veith Jr. and A. Trevor Sutton

I enjoy and respect Gene Veith’s thoughtful writing and thinking.  This book is no exception.  He sets forth his ideas in easy to understand language, bypassing technical jargon for the most part or explaining it so that a seminary education isn’t required to understand what he’s talking about.

I’m just not sure who this book is intended for.

It purports to demonstrate how Lutheranism, of all Christian flavors, is best suited to the particular needs of our day.  I think I’d even agree with this premise, but such a statement in and of itself is addressed more to the religiously inclined than the non-religious.  Is this a book intended to sway lukewarm Christians towards Lutheranism?  Perhaps.

But much of our culture is increasingly coming to the conclusion that worship and a life of faith within any kind of church setting is unnecessary, and this book does not seem aimed at changing their mind.

It’s a wonderful refresher on basic Lutheran theology, the kind of stuff I wish more catechism and confirmation classes touched on because it has to do with how we live our lives, rather than just how we worship on Sunday mornings.  Perhaps this book is intended for Lutherans, to refresh us on what we believe and why we believe it?  Perhaps.

If that’s the case, I think it does an admirable job.  But I purchased this book thinking that it was going to focus on how to connect Lutheran theology with an increasingly unchurched population, and the book doesn’t really do that.  There are places where it could do more, particularly in the chapter on justification, or the reality that we all want to justify our stances, statements, behaviors, and lives to others and ourselves and ultimately God.  Really good potential here but it doesn’t really connect strongly.

This text would make a good book study for a Lutheran congregation.  It might be helpful in discussion with lukewarm Christians of other stripes, or folks who are disenchanted with their current worship home and looking for another.  But if you’re trying to figure out how to explain why what you believe really matters to someone who is thoroughly post-modern in their approach to these things (meaning they’re happy you believe what you believe but don’t feel that it necessarily has any bearing on what they do or should believe), this book probably won’t be of much help.

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