Book Review: The Fire And The Staff (Preus)

The Fire and the Staff: Lutheran Theology in Practice by Klemet I. Preus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Klemet Preus’ book, “The Fire and the Staff,” is about the basic idea that doctrine and practice have a reciprocal relationship. Obviously doctrine drives the church’s practice, but Preus argues that a change in practice can actually bleed back into doctrine and influence one’s theology.

More specifically Preus seems to narrow in towards the practices of Modern Evangelicalism that are displayed most visibly by many mega-churches in America. He discusses the historical background of these practices in order to show that many of these practices are not rooted in the divine scriptures, but rooted in methodologies that have sprung forth from certain time periods and contexts. Thus he makes the appeal that when a conservative confessional Lutheran church body incorporates a Modern Evangelicalism’s practice it is essentially and inadvertently introducing new theology into the parish and its statement of faith. In simplistic terms, Modern Evangelicalism has practices that are not derived from scripture, some that are essentially anti-sacramental and anti-monergistic. Therefore, when a confessional Lutheran church embraces one of these practices, not for theological reasons but for pragmatic reasons, it is then allowing the practice to bleed false truths back into the church’s theology. Preus argues rightly that practice and methodologies are not neutral. Practice contains theological presuppositions. If practices are changed, the doctrine will be changed. If doctrine is changed, practice will be changed.

The main thesis of Preus’ book is certainly true. Doctrine not only provides knowledge to one’s epistemological framework, but practice is also a source of knowledge for one’s epistemological framework as well. They are connected and it is vital for the church to understand this. Simply saying that form is neutral, while embracing different methodologies for pragmatic reasons, will certainly jeopardize the Lutheran church’s theology. This may also create an environment for an epistemological crisis or cognitive dissonance to occur for parishioners. Thus Preus’ book is one that every pastor should soberly consider.

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Ron Voss said…
Pastor Matt,

Could you identify some of the Modern Evangelicalism practices that Preus takes issue with?


Hey Ron,

He hits on the following:

-Separating the Spirit from the Word
-Abuses of Contemporary Worship Music
-The idea that everyone is a minister
-The Osiander Conflict with Theology in Evangelicalism
-The Pitfalls of Revivalism
-The problems with Marketing the Gospel

While I did not totally agree with all of his assertions, it is a book that is very much worthwhile. It is a book that every pastor should soberly consider.