The International Giertz Society [IGS] (English Language Section) is a nonprofit scholarly organization which, by promoting, studying, discussing, translating, and publishing the work of Bo H. Giertz (1905-1998), strives to preserve the memory and enhance the knowledge of this bishop confessor and his legacy. If you would like be a member of the IGS e-group, please e-mail a request to the President, Pastor Eric Andræ, at EricAndrae@gmail.com.
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
As the 20th century was coming to an end, Kyrkans Tidning, the official weekly newspaper of the Church of Sweden, asked its readers, “Who was the most influential Swedish church leader during the 1900s?”. Bo Giertz received more votes than anyone else, including Söderblom, Nygren, Aulén, and Wingren! It was both through his inspiring leadership as a pastor and a bishop, and as an author of many bestsellers, that Giertz exerted such matchless influence in Sweden and beyond.
Giertz was born August 31, 1905 into a very prominent family, his father being an acclaimed surgeon and head of the fourth largest hospital in the country. In 1924 he enrolled in the School of Medicine at the University of Uppsala. However, through the influence of students of theology, he moved away from his father’s atheism, embraced the faith of the Church, and switched to the University School of Theology.
Bo Giertz was ordained in the Linköping Cathedral in 1934 and became an assistant to the bishop with special responsibility for youth work. He conveyed to thousands of teenagers his own zeal for the Church and the relevance of the Christian faith. As an appreciated (and attacked) writer both in periodicals and newspapers, he became known to the general public as a bold and gifted expounder of church doctrine as anchored in Scripture, confessed in the Creeds, and explained in the Lutheran Confessions.
During his time as pastor in Torpa (1938-1949), Giertz authored four monumental theological works, Christ’s Church (1939), Church Piety (1939), The Great Lie and the Great Truth (1945), and The Battle for Man (1946); two engaging novels, The Hammer of God (1941), and Faith Alone (1943); a retelling of the gospel events, With My Own Eyes (1947); and The Foundation (1942), a widely-used (225,000 copies sold by 1977) catechetical textbook – even translated into Tamil and Zulu!
When he was Bishop in Gothenburg (1949-1970), Giertz invited in 1958 all confessional groups in the Church of Sweden to form The Church Coalition for Bible and the Confession (Kyrklig samling) in response to the Churchwide Assembly’s decision to ordain women. As Bishop emeritus, Giertz once again became a prolific writer: The ABCs of Our Christian Faith (1971); another best-selling novel, The Knights of Rhodes (1972); the devotional books To Believe in Christ (1973) and To Live with Christ (1974); a new translation of the New Testament with commentary (1977-1982); and a compilation of three booklets written in the mid-1980s, The Living God – A Guide to the Christian Faith (1995). Most of Giertz’s writings are not available in English, though an increasing and significant number have now been translated.
Among those that are available are With My Own Eyes (MacMillan, 1960), Preaching from the Whole Bible (Lutheran Legacy reprint, 2007), and The Hammer of God (Augsburg Fortress, 2005), the #3(!) bestseller in Sweden 1941. Also, the devotional books were published in one volume in 2008 by Concordia Publishing House as To Live with Christ. Over the years a few booklets as well as articles and essays have also appeared in English, from Liturgy and Spiritual Awakening (1950), The Message of the Church in a Time of Crisis (1953), and Life by Drowning: Enlightenment through Law and Gospel (2008), to “Be Not Discouraged,” “Do Not Lose Heart,” and “Pierced by the Law, Illumined by the Gospel,” the latter three recently included in the Logia journal. A complete bibliography of Giertz’s writings available in English can be found here.
In his vision of the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church, Giertz integrated a vibrant Evangelical-Lutheran orthodoxy, the Church’s traditional liturgy, and sincere church piety into a harmonious and powerful wholeness. It is no overstatement to say that Giertz is the Swedish, confessional Lutheran parallel to C.S. Lewis.
– Rev. Hans O. Andræ, September 2009
An “Issues, Etc.” audio interview with Rev. Eric R. Andræ on Giertz can be found here (original broadcast: April 26, 2005).
A Hammer for God: Bo Giertz, Eric R. Andræ, editor.
This “Giertz reader” is the most comprehensive volume ever published on Giertz in the world’s language. The American Giertz revolution which began shortly before his centennial, continues with an increasing number of works by and about Giertz being made available in English. Indeed, had he written and worked primarily in English, and not in Swedish, the bishop would have long ago taken his rightful place alongside such 20th century luminaries as C.S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Through essays by such scholars as Robert Kolb, Gene Veith, Hans Andræ, Eric Andræ, Bror Erickson, Alex Klages, Charles Henrickson, Naomichi Masaki, and John Pless, as well as original translations from Giertz’s work, this volume is the leading U.S. contribution in giving his life and theology the hearing it demands. This book is an indispensable aid to those who wish to dig deeper into the confession and understand the faith of the author of the acclaimed and beloved The Hammer of God, which in 2010 and with this anthology celebrates the 50th anniversary of the novel’s first English edition.
Eric R. Andræ, a native of Sweden, is the general editor of this volume, as well as the founder and president of the International Giertz Society (English Language Section). Having spent a semester as a research scholar at Uppsala University, he received his S.T.M. [Lic.] from Concordia Seminary-St. Louis in 2003 with his thesis on Giertz’s use of the Order of Grace. He has translated many articles by Giertz and is now working on his Kyrkofromhet [Church Piety].