A Christian theologian’s most important calling is to explain the faith so that when the gospel is preached and taught it is life-giving. That is exactly what Philip Melanchthon sought to do when he authored what could well be called the first Protestant treatise in systematic theology, the Loci Communes (Common Places) in 1521. Between his own immersion in the scriptures, especially Paul’s letter to the Romans that provided the topics for his work, his wide-ranging reading in the major theologians of the faith, the new insights which he learned from Luther, and his own collaboration with Luther, Melanchthon explored those most important topics shared by all Christians which described the path to eternal life.  The following essays present the work of seventeen Lutheran theologians charged with examining theological topics shared by all Christians pivotal for understanding the basics of the Christian faith. They are offered here precisely to help pastors and teachers cut their teeth on good theology and thus be able to preach and teach authoritatively, engagingly, and persuasively. They aim at what Luther in the Small Catechism called delivering the word “clearly and purely.” 
These essays are designed to help you, a preacher, teacher, or interested lay person, grow in your awareness of the contours of and prospects in each topic and the impact that such attention can make in your ministry.
This volume originated in a series of articles from Lutheran Quarterly which examined classical theological topics with the goal of honoring the tradition and addressing contemporary concerns. In presenting a locus, each essayist sought loyalty not only to a distinctively Lutheran approach, but also relevance for how it bears upon both current issues and the life of the church. Although the combined efforts of these essayists fall short of a thoroughly comprehensive and coherent systematic theology, the characteris- tically Lutheran flavor of each is unavoidable and inviting. These essays are designed to help you, a preacher, teacher, or interested lay person, grow in your awareness of the contours of and prospects in each topic and the impact that such attention can make in your ministry.
As a whole, the volume falls short of a comprehensive systematic theology. In order to achieve comprehensiveness, the essayists would have had to agree upon a shared or common framework for the articulation of evangelical faith and then situate their essay within that framework. That is not the case here. To be sure, all the essayists share two foundational commitments: (1) the scriptures are the chief or final authority for all matters in Christian faith and life and (2) the Lutheran Confessions offer a true inter- pretation of the scriptures. But they represent no single Richtung (direction) agreed upon in advance. That said, the following essays are no mere patchwork lacking continuity. Rather, each essayist owes fealty to the scriptures and the Lutheran theological tradition, loves them, owns them, and wants to pass them on to future generations.
Throughout these essays we find a deep appreciation for Lutheran distinctives: (1) the catholic confession of the one God as triune and the one person of the Son of God as composed of two natures, divine and human, (2) the Son of God seen not in terms of an “extra-Calvinisticum,” in which the Logos as such transcends or is uncontained by his incar- nation in Jesus Christ but instead an “infra-Lutheranum,” in which the Logos is wholly and inseparably embodied in Jesus Christ,  (3) the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone as central for an evangelical understanding of the gospel, (4) the priority of grace with respect to God’s relationship with humans in contradistinction to accentuating or highlighting a human response to God, (5) a passion for the proper distinction between law and gospel when seeking to deliver this grace to sinners, (6) an affirmation that God works through “two regiments” or “two kingdoms,” the secular world as the place of God’s ongoing creativity and the church as offering the saving word and the means of grace, and (7) the sacraments as effectuating grace and not merely testifying to grace.
Readers can expect their thinking to be enriched and provoked here, but what they will not find is a comprehensive theological system.
The essays all transcend a “fundamentalist versus modernist” divide. This divide is a result of Enlightenment assumptions. Countering these assumptions, they refuse to anchor truth to matters of math and science, which then buoys matters of faith in an autonomous morality (the legacy of Kant) [1724-1804], or in a “feeling of absolute dependence” (Schleiermacher [1768-1834]), or the cosmic sweep of history in which God becomes Absolute Consciousness (Hegel [1770-1831]). Instead, each author is comfortable with the truth that God reveals himself both in the book of nature and in the book of scripture, with the latter serving as the compass by which to decipher the former and all other matters. While the overall project presented here may lack the cohesion found in the systematic theologies of either a single theologian or group of theologians committed to a single Richtung, it will offer instead commonalities based on a family resemblance that all confessional Lutherans can be expected to share as well as a willingness to venture forth into uncharted waters that not all systematicians committed to a certain school can do.
This volume is unlike the two-volume Christian Dogmatics, edited by Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson, a collaborative endeavor published in 1984 by theologians hailing from those groups which would form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1987).  This volume offers a wider range of perspectives and is less tethered to a synod. Likewise, it differs from the more recent Confessing the Gospel: A Lutheran Approach to Systematic Theology, an effort of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod theologians to update Francis Pieper’s century-old three volume classic.  The authors of these essays are affiliated with several synods and are beholden to different visions of theological method. They do not always voice the stance of their own synod. If this work has a precedent, it would be What Lutherans Are Thinking, a collection of essays on theological loci edited by Edward Fendt in 1947 which featured authors of different synodical backgrounds existent at that time.  The advantage to this kind of work is that the essayists explore new directions relevant to their loci all the while maintaining confessional loyalty. Many of the authors rub shoulders with non-Lutheran Christians, and so write with an ecumenical awareness. Readers can expect their thinking to be enriched and provoked here, but what they will not find is a comprehensive theological system. That is, not every particular issue germane to a theological topic, particularly an extensive history of how the church has thought about the topic throughout the centuries and across confessional traditions. Such matters are touched upon but due to the constraints of each article’s length are not developed as thoroughly as a longer work would do.
All humans are theologians, whether or not they are aware of this, though not all are good theologians. This volume is offered to help its readers, whether clergy or laity, improve their theological skills. The essays found here are accessible to literate laity. They also can be a great help for pastors seeking to expand their abilities in preaching, teaching, and pastoral care and counseling. Pastors need to be on top of things theologically. Given the toolkit of skills learned in the seminary, pastors will find these essays powerful resources to help them in discernment of how to present the word to their con- gregants, catechumens, and the unchurched.
All humans are theologians, whether or not they are aware of this, though not all are good theologians.
Most of the essays indicate the biblical roots of their chosen loci, indeed, a few essays are largely exposition of scripture without much elaboration on how the wider catholic and evangelical tradition bears upon the topic. Yet, even in those essays rooted in biblical exegesis, there hovers in the background a loyalty to the Lutheran Confessions, the theology of Luther, and the best interpreters of the Lutheran tradition across the centuries, all the while engaging ecumenical voices one way or another. Our essayists have first of all listened to the scriptural and confessional heritage before they have spoken. Much wisdom is to be found here. All these essays will help pastors and laity be more faithful in their witness, grow in their knowledge of God and his ways with humans, and become more adept in the grammar of faith.
This is an excerpt from the introduction of “Common Places in Christian Theology: A Curated Collection of Essays from Lutheran Quarterly,” edited by Mark Mattes (1517 Publishing, 2023), pgs XV -XVIII.
1. For Melanchthon’s first edition of the Loci Communes, see Philip Melanchthon, Commonplaces: Loci Communes 1521, trans. Christian Preus (St. Louis: Concordia, 2014). For a translation of the significantly expanded third edition, see Philip Melanchthon, The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559, trans. J. A. O. Preus, 2d ed. (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011). For Melanchthon’s influence on Luther, see Heinz Scheible, “Luther and Melanchthon,” Lutheran Quarterly 4 (1990): 317-339 and Timothy J. Wengert, “Luther and Melanchthon—Melanchthon and Luther,” Lutherjahrbuch 66 (1999):55-88.
2. The Small Catechism in The Book of Concord, eds. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 356:5.
3. “The quarrel between Lutherans and Reformed has centered on a concept known as extra-Calvinisticum. For example, the Reformed Heidelberg Catechism stated: ‘Since the Godhead is incomprehensible and everywhere present, it must follow that it is indeed beyond the bounds of the manhood which it has assumed, and yet is nonetheless within it as well, and remains personally united to it.’ The Lutheran position was dubbed the infra-Lutheranum because it held that the Son of God is totally within the flesh and never outside it (neque logos extra carnem, neque caro extra logon). In the incarnation God will be known in the flesh, never apart from it. Looking for God outside of his self-enfleshment struck Luther as the kind of blasphemy Christians should seek to avoid.” See Carl E. Braaten, Principles of Lutheran Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 94.
4. Christian Dogmatics. Two Volumes, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984).
5. Confessing the Gospel: A Lutheran Approach to Systematic Theology. Two Volumes (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017). Independently of the seminaries and national headquarters of the Missouri Synod, the Luther Academy sponsors the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Series with six volumes already in print and seven more planned. The goal of this series is to supplement Pieper and address contemporary theological issues, but in strict fidelity to scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
6. What Lutherans Are Thinking: A Symposium on Lutheran Faith and Life, ed. E. C. Fendt (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press, 1947). These essays were the fruit of the “first free conference of Lutheran theological professors in the United States and Canada.” Fendt notes, “There has been no attempt to ‘harmonize’ divergent opinions of various writers. that there are differing opin- ions within the Lutheran Church on many questions in theology is a fact not to be concealed, but that there is also an inner unity in the varied approaches used and in the conclusions reached by Lutheran scholars will also be evident to the reader of these chapters.” See p. 5.