Doctrine is Life: Robert D. Preus Essays on Justification and the Lutheran Confessions
Item #: 531150WEB / 2006 / Hardback / 378 Pages
On August 15 and 16 I wrote about some remembrances of Robert Preus and received quite a bit of feed back. My acquaintance with Klemet was close enough that I spent much time with him and therefore was able to spend some time with his Dad too. My time with Klemet was a theological and comedic feast and a constant discussion of doctrine. Klemet invited me to speak and teach several times at Wittenberg Chapel and I had the privilege of officiating at the weddings of several young people that I came to know from that relationship. One memory that has come back over and over again since Klemet’s death was a discussion we were having with a group of those students when one of the young ladies asked an interesting question of the two of us. “Don’t you ever talk about anything but doctrine?” she asked. She asked it so sweetly that I wasn’t offended but I was at a loss for words. Klemet of course never was and immediately replied, “There isn’t anything else”. There ensued a long discussion that boiled down to the proposition that the doctrine of Justification is the doctrine about everything.
Interesting to me was that Robert, the great theologian of Justification, was much more pastoral in private conversation. With Klemet the doctrinal discussion had the feel of a cutting edge world view honed by life on a campus and seeing the cultural divide that was cutting through at every level, much fueled by the pantheistic worldview of academe. Klemet was seeing the first small wave of what would be a tsunami that has engulfed our life together and that we glibly call postmodernism.
Robert saw the same things as clearly and could write about them in the scholarly arena like no one else. But the private conversations were tales of surviving blizzards by sleeping in the back seat of a car trusting that parishioners that knew you had gone to make calls would search and dig you out of the snow back when it was over. At least that allowed you to sleep as the wind howled. If they didn’t come? Well “whether we live or die we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14) Christ’s death that brought him life and Christ’s life that he lived by faith were not just theological propositions but an ever present reality.
He could be eloquent when describing the joys of a parish pastor who finally gets to witness the folks that he serves “grabbing hold of, and being grabbed by, the word of God”. He could be quite severe with those that he believed had sold their confessional birthright for a mess of pottage that separated doctrine and practice. He told a story several times of an old parishioner in Minnesota that said something that he never would forget, and evidently neither would his son: “Doctrine is life”.