Excerpt from Bo Giertz’s "Hammer of God"

I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Hammer of God, which comes highly recommended by […]

John Zahl / 10.19.09

I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Hammer of God, which comes highly recommended by many of my favorite Mbird theologians, and was especially stuck by the marvelous opening section entitled “The Call” (which I have quoted below). But before I do, I want to share two brief, and I would say quite funny, quotes from the book’s preface.

“As the Twentieth Century was coming to an end, Kyrkans Tidning, the official weekly newspaper of the Church of Sweden asked its readers, ‘Who made the greatest impact on the church in Sweden during the 1900s?’ Bo Giertz got more votes than anyone else!”

“In fact, Giertz may be compared with his famous contemporaries, C. S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.”

Suffice it to say that this guy has an altogether different perspective on Bo Giertz and Swedish Christianity than the one I have going in (at least, at the outset). Is Giertz really mentioned in the same breath as Lewis and Bonhoeffer on a regular basis? News to me.

Anyway, here’s a great passage from pp. 24-25:

(bedside conversation between a dying man, Johannes, and nice lady, Katrina, about whom we are later told: “Her story is different. She was born up north. They had a pastor who laid much stress on the atonement, and it was from him Katrina learned to understand all this about God’s grace” p. 31)

“You do not lack repentance, Johannes, but faith. You have walked the way of repentance for thirty years.”
“And still not attained to it!”
“Johannes,” said the woman, almost sternly, “answer me this question: Do you really want your heart to be clean?”
“Yes, Katrina. God knows that I want that.”
“Then your repentance is also as true as it can be in a corrupt child of Adam in this world. Your danger is not that you lack repentance, but that you have been drifting away from faith.”
“What, then, shall I believe, Katrina?”
“You must believe this living Word of God: ‘But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.’ Up to this day you have believed in works and looked at your own heart. You saw only sin and wretchedness, because God annointed your eyes with the salve of the Spirit to see the truth. Do you have sin in your heart, Johannes?”
“Yes,” answered the sic man timidly, “much sin, altogether too much.”
“Just that should make clear to you that God has not forsaken you,” said the woman firmly. “Only he can see his sin who has the Holy Spirit.
“Do you mean to say, Katrina, that it could be a work of God, that my heart is so unclean?”
“Not that your heart is unclean — that is the work of sin — but that you now see it, that is the work of God.”

“But why, then, have I not received a clean heart?”
“That you might learn to love Jesus,”
said the woman as calmly as before.

And now, in tribute to this wonderful character Katrina, I invite you to appreciate Jorge Ben’s 1981 song “Katarina, Katarina”, which is brilliant: