Doctrine and Word: Theology in the Pulpit

Mark Ellingsen, John Knox Press, 1983

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        Ellingsen says the theological community must articulate the significance of traditional Christian doctrines for daily life with more power and force.  Doctrine and Word reflects this concern for doctrinal relevance.  The first section of each chapter describes the doctrine (14 doctrines are treated), its historical roots, and how it has been dealt with by varying Christian traditions (the ecumenical perspective).  The second section of each chapter summarizes its significance for daily life, with a sermon on a biblical text; the sermons illustrate how Christian doctrine can help make sense out of everyday experience (p viii), i.e., What is the nature of Christian identity?  What purpose in life do Christians have as a result of this faith?

        Ellingsen focuses on the nature of Christian identity, articulating the meaning and relevance for life of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.  Christian faith begins with the assumption that G-d is known in Jesus, Christians are people of the book, the church as community, the practise of sacraments, and the role of ecumenism (different concerns addressed sometimes by apparently contradictory doctrinal formations)(p 173).

        Ellingsen’s treatment invites the reader to interaction with history, doctrinal formulations and daily life; good reading and prodding.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.