26 August 2005

hammer of god

A kind reader of my blog noticed Hammer of God on my wishlist and sent me his copy. The novel, written by Swedish Lutheran bishop Bo Giertz, is the story of three pastors who, humanly speaking, are failures--caught up into their pride, doubts, ineptitude, shame, and indeed unbelief.

The story of the first pastor, for instance, presents a highly-educated intellectual Lutheran theologian who, nonetheless, disdains orthodoxy and whose grasp of Scripture maintains a critical distance. But then he is unexpectedly called to the bedside of a dying man who is tormented with terrors of conscience in the face of a holy God. The pastor finds himself at a loss for words and it is only through the ministrations of a peasant girl that the dying man receives the comfort of the Gospel, a savior who is stronger than all our sins.

Through experiences such as these, God works in the life of each pastor so that he can at last set aside his own pride and unbelief. It is then that the Spirit works through him to minister Jesus to those in need, even in the midst of the pastor's own continued failings and doubts.

While the piety of the novel is decidedly Lutheran in its language and shape, it is also full of rich spiritual insight regarding the human condition, the centrality of the Gospel, and the cure of souls. It strikes me in many respects as a kind of Lutheran rendering of Georges Bernanos' classic A Diary of a Country Priest, which stands among my favorite works of Christian fiction.