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Bo Giertz

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Giertz, Bo (1905-1998), bishop, Sweden.

A full-length biography of Bo Giertz in Swedish has been authored by Algot Mattsson, Bo Giertz: Ateisten som blev biskop [Bo Giertz: the atheist who became bishop] (1994). It's quite a fun read, with lots of pictures and much of the life-story told with lengthy quotes from Giertz.

Review of The Hammer of God

Bo Giertz, The Hammer of God. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1973 (paperback edition).
Reviewed by: Pastor Eric R. Andræ, 12 June A.D. 2003, Week of Pentecost.

The Hammer of God [Stengrunden] has been rightly called the best Law/Gospel narrative ever written. At the tender age of 36, and as an associate pastor in rural Småland, Sweden, Bo Harald Giertz (1905-1998) in a span of six weeks wrote a book which battles those forces which would seek to destroy historical & Confessional Lutheranism. Through the stories of three young pastors from different time-periods, he ``earnestly contend[s] for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints'' (p. 321, Jude 3). As such, Giertz fights heterodoxy through three novellas and in three forms: neology (p. 40), New Evangelicalism/Pietism (pp. 147-148), and Liberalism (pp. 267-268) and the ``Young Church Movement'' [ungkyrkorörelsen]. With Henric Schartau's (1757-1825) Order of Grace as the foundation (see the first novella, pp. 3-131 [especially pp. 116-117], as well as pp. 202ff., p. 267, p. 295, p. 334, etc.) and Augsburg Confession IV & V as the backbone, Giertz shows what it is to be a "true/right pastor" (rätt präst): one who is a believer himself, preaches the Gospel in its purity, and administers the holy sacraments according to the Lord's word (Augsburg Confession VII). A ``true pastor,'' standing firm in the time-tested Holy Word & Holy Liturgy of the Church (p. 201, pp. 210-211, p. 332), is equipped to care for souls (själasörjare), rightly dividing Law and Gospel (p. 124). To be such a pastor is the prayer of Pastor Torvik in the third novella (p. 335; an autobiographical character?) and should indeed be the prayer of every pastor. The theology of the book is summarized in a fantastic and powerful sermon (pp. 313-320) that every pastor could fruitfully borrow for some Sunday morning Divine Service (gudstjänst). Every pastor (and lay person) should also read this stunning work every year, though it is strange that the last chapter (I syndares ställe [``In the Place of Sinners'']) was not translated for this American edition; however, the Rev. Hans O. Andræ, has recently completed a translation into English, which is in the process of being edited for publication.

Mainly due to his writings, such as The Hammer of God, Giertz went on to become the Bishop of the Göteborg Diocese (1949-1970). Both due to his age and position, this was a shock: bishops were routinely selected from among Cathedral Deans and University Chairmen of Theology. He also became the leader of the main Confessional movement in Sweden (Kyrklig Samling Kring Bibeln och Bekännelsen [Ecclesiastical Gathering Around the Bible and the Confession]) and served as vice president of the Lutheran World Federation (1957-1963). Furthermore, in his retirement, he later translated the entire New Testament and provided commentaries on all its books. Through a survey, Kyrkans Tidning, the Church of Sweden's official newspaper, recently named him the most influential Swedish churchman of the 20th century. On 25-28 April 2005, an international theological symposium, "A Hammer for God," will mark the centennial of the bishop's birth: held at First Trinity Church in Pittsburgh, the conference will feature respected speakers from Sweden and the U.S. addressing topics such as "Reflections on the Life and Theology of Bishop Giertz," "The Hammer of God," "Giertz's Devotional and Liturgical Life," and "International Evangelical-Lutheranism: A Bridge from North America to Northern Europe."

The Rev. Eric R. Andræ, First Trinity Evangelical-Lutheran Church, 535 N. Neville St., Pittsburgh, Penn., 15213, USA;
www.FirstTrinity.net; ERA@FirstTrinity.net; 412-683-4121


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