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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Matthew Carver’s response – Walther’s Hymnal; a challenge

Walther's Hymnal
translated by
Matthew Carver

I received a response yesterday from Matthew Carver to my questions that I publicly posed to him in my 2015 blog post “The Most Controversial Protestant Hymn”. (see that blog post for his replies)  Mr. Carver is the translator of Walther’s Hymnal, and his response is important enough to merit a full blog post to give notice of it and my replies to him here:
Mr. Carver:

Your reply to me was most welcome!... and a bit surprising.  It surely is not lost on you that I am persona non grata in today’s LC-MS.  But I sense in your reply a tone that indicates that you too are interested in the truth, both factual truth, and the Truth. (John 14:6)  And so perhaps you sense that my polemics against today’s LC-MS, the church body I was born into, are directed to show it the way back to the truth, the truth that was taught in its history, that was sung in its worship services.
Before I go on, I must proclaim how wonderful your book has been (and is!) for the Church!  It was truly breathtaking to see the words of these German Lutheran hymns come to life for the English-only Lutherans of today.  Dear God! how the two World Wars stripped away practically all common knowledge of the German language.  Both my parents could speak German but they only used it to speak to each other to keep their their children in the dark on certain topics.  They made no effort to teach us children…. German.  I have no knowledge of languages except … English.  (sigh)
But you have shown by your responses that you would be guileless.  You did not take offense at my questions.  (Others have.)  No, you straightforwardly answered my questions:  
#1: I will accept your answer, but could part of the reason for your answer be from what you reported in question #2? (see next item).
#2: If I understand your response, someone (unnamed) suggested that you change Luther’s original words (murd’rous Pope and Turk) into what was essentially the changed wording of the 1941 TLH hymnal, i.e. “the generalized version” = “those who fain by craft and sword”.  But you avoided the “fear of objections” by publishing Luther’s/Walther’s actual words that make this hymn “the most controversial Protestant hymn”.  
#3: “Historical artifact”:  “I certainly don't mean an obsolete thing”:
The world can see by news reports from around the world that the “Turk” ( i.e. Islamics, Muslims, Mohammedans) still carries out its “murd’rous” physical acts against Christians, even when the news media minimizes all but the most heinous acts.  But what about the Pope?  The Inquisition by the Papists that murdered the Lutheran martyrs would seem to be over, and so the Papacy is a “kinder, gentler” church body willing to get along with other churches.  Can we really sing in our hearts about the “murd’rous Pope” now? … now that CPH’s book editor of The Lutheran Difference says that Vatican II made substantive changes?  To that I can only ask: Where has Roman Catholicism rescinded its anathemas from the Council of Trent against all Christianity?  It has not.  It continues to teach “faith and works”.  And so I say that the Papacy does not have to be physically “murd’rous” anymore because external “Lutheranism” no longer identifies the Pope in Rome as the Anti-Christ, no longer cries out its defining shibboleth “SOLA FIDEI!” against the Romanists.  Today’s Lutheran teachers look at those slain Magdeburg children and say that they should have changed the words of Luther’s children’s hymn to say the same as what the 1941 LC-MS TLH hymnal said, to avoid the offense… and so “saved” the lives of the children.  To this I say that there will be no Hollywood movie depicting the death of these Magdeburg children singing Luther’s hymn… they will only be honored by the true Church.  I honor them… today, here and now, more than as a “historical artifact”.
I challenge you, Matthew Carver, as you say that Walther’s Hymnal is not “an obsolete thing”, that you would do nearly equal work for the Church if you would consider translating Walther’s “Foreword” (Vorwort) to the 1886 Lehre und Wehre (LuW) journal (full digital text file here).  This is one of the greatest writings concerning the Inspiration of Holy Scripture by the greatest defender of Christian doctrine since… Martin Luther.  But… it probably would not be publishable by today’s LC-MS because I’ve heard that…. “Walther isn’t popular right now”.   But that does not mean that this is not important for the Church.  In fact the Church is gasping for a breath of fresh air regarding the truth and reliability of the Scriptures for our Christian faith.  Another translator, Andrew Boomhower,  took up my challenge to translate the 1886 Synodical Conference essay entitled “Theses on the Divinity of Holy Scripture” and what a glorious work that was!  But Walther’s 1886 “Foreword” to LuW preceded this and I think was partially the basis for it. (Dr. Robert Preus recognized the significance of this essay..)  Walther was the restorer of the Scriptures as the Christian’s only “Touchstone” for our modern world.  And his 1886 Vorwort was his great plea to all of Christianity to come back,... back, … Back to the Bible.  —  Show me, Matthew Carver, prove to me that Walther’s Hymnal is indeed not “an obsolete thing”.  If you should decide to proceed with this project, let me know.  As you see above, I am offering full assistance in seeing a project like this through – it is about 45 pages long.  If I do not hear from you, I will assume that you have declined.  And so I will then be working diligently to find someone else to do it.  But if you do proceed with it, I would be honored to publish it on my blog, assuming no one else will.  (Andrew Boomhower allowed me to publish his work.)
Now, I say to you, Matthew Carver, that the next step up for this masterful translation work of yours would be to have it set to music so that the laity in their homes can sing it.  Dare I say, it could be a major work in restoring true Lutheranism?...  How I would love to memorize German Lutheran hymn verses set to music so that I can block out the constant bombardment that a Christian receives daily, every hour, wherever he goes in this world.  I would like to have this hymn stanza, Luther’s “Erhalt uns, HErr, bei deinem Wort” (Preserve us, Lord, by Thy Word.) readily available to memorize so that I can recall it when I need it. (I try to sing "Chief Of Sinners Though I Be" in my mind when today's "music" blasts in my ears – YouTube hymn sung here by The Lutheran Quartet)  Isn’t this what the apostle Paul admonishes us to do? (Eph 5:19)
With my original blog post, I wanted to honor the parents of the children of Magdeburg who deemed their loss as giving back to the Lord the gift He had originally given to them in the first place.  And so the great pain of the parents at the loss of their children would have the divine comfort of the Lord of Hosts.  I strongly suspect that you, Matthew Carver, can find the very words of comfort from our Savior for these parents – Matthew 16:25 comes to my mind (that's Matthew, your namesake).
Matthew Carver!  Your book is evidently popular for I cannot seem to find it being sold second hand cheaply or on sale by CPH… it seems to be in demand.  I would like to buy more copies of it, but I have to pay full price!  I’m cheap and avoid having to pay full price, but this book is worth its weight in gold.  It is the gold standard in Christian hymns for today.  It truly provides the greatest hymns to celebrate the 500th Anniversary year of Luther’s Reformation, bar none.   Now I challenge you to put it to music.
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I would make note here of two things related to my original blog post, but not necessarily to Matthew Carver’s reply:
1) I have updated a broken link in item #8 referring to a 2010 letter published in Christian News.  This letter indicated to me that true Lutherans lament the passing of its former strong defense of Christianity.
2) I recently ran across a reference to an indication of the offense that this hymn of Luther had in a more recent times, albeit 1-1/2 centuries ago.  It was recorded in the book The History of the Wisconsin Synod, p. 115 and comes from a Wisconsin Synod periodical from Nov. 15, 1867:
“... followed up by another article under the heading: “What ‘to show one’s colors’ means”, in which he tells about one of the popular Reformation jubilee processions of the Missourians; he relates that one of the banners had its legend: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort und steur des Papsts und Tuerken Mord! (Lord, keep us in Thy word and work, Restrain the murd’rous Pope and Turk) concealed by a red drape, presumably for fear of the Irish and German Catholics. … In answer the Lutheraner (Jan. 15, 1868) carried an article by Lochner of Milwaukee …  The draped-banner matter he brushes aside as trivial, local, and incorrect.”
Whatever the facts of this incident are (see Der Lutheraner paragraph on p. 76 in response, text file here), it shows that 150 years ago, during 350th Reformation anniversary, this hymn of Luther was certainly not unknown for its offense to the world, especially to “Irish and German Catholics”.  
Yes, Matthew Carver, I shall dedicate this blog post to your translation effort for Walther’s Hymnal and especially for your
  • presentation of Luther’s words “without fear of objections” and
  • purpose to convey that Walther’s Hymnal is not “an obsolete thing”.
May God bless this work to His glory!  May it bring honor to Him during this year 2017 of the 500th Reformation Anniversary!  Amen!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Stoeckhardt 5: Missourian! On Conversion & Election; Part 4e

      This concludes from Part 4d a sub-series (see Part 4a) of a wider series (Table of Contents in Part 1) of Franz Pieper's addresses at the "going home" (funerals) of  Old Missouri's earliest teachers.  This Part 4x sub-series presents the address at the funeral of Dr. George Stoeckhardt.
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      In the previous installment, Pieper included Stoeckhardt as one the chief defenders at his side against the synergism of other American Lutherans, chiefly the Iowa Synod (#6-7) and the Ohio Synod.  He pinpointed the two doctrines: Conversion and Election of Grace.  But he was not finished highlighting these doctrines.  He ties this great battle in America to the Father of the Missouri Synod, C.F.W. Walther.  And we find out that he, of all people, would know… the heart of Walther. — Now I present the conclusion of Franz Pieper's address, a milestone in the History of the Missouri Synod, at the funeral of "our dear George Stoeckhardt" (from 1913 Der Lutheraner vol. 69, p. 20, bolding, highlighting are mine):
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We have always been accused as so-called Missourians, that we made too much of our dead and also living public teachers, that we put their authority in place of Holy Scripture. This is not so. We keep in mind through the grace of God that even our most gifted teachers are fallible human beings, and that we have the duty, imposed on us by God, to examine all that they speak and write according to God's Word, whether it is so. Even more: when we do this test, we find that they, too — including Walther — have not met it in every word in individual arguments and occasional remarks. "Whosoever fails not in any word, he is a perfect man."  To be lacking in no words is confined to a small class of men in the Church, to the holy apostles after Pentecost, and the scribes of the Holy Scripture.  All the other teachers of the Church are right teachers because and in so far as they teach the Word of Scripture and, where they once have their own thoughts, they let them go, and return to the Word of Scripture.  We are, as Luther expresses it, true teachers, inasmuch as we are pupils of the Apostles and children of the Prophets, who do not speak their own, but the doctrine of the Apostles and the Prophets.  So we may also say of  ourselves and our fathers: we are the true teachers because we remain by God's grace in the Word of God in all the articles of Christian doctrine.
Twenty-six years ago, at about this time of the year, I was sitting at the sickbed of Dr. Walther.  We discussed what primarily filled our hearts, our struggle for the doctrine of Conversion and Election of Grace. Walther then expressed himself with these words: “You know, the dispute was hard, very hard. We have experienced a lot of opposition. But I could not help it. When the Lord Christ asks me on the Last Day why I taught thus, I will answer: Thou, O Christ, with your clear Word hath taught me and seduced me.”  —  These are the teaching gifts which God has bestowed on us in our fathers and brethren who have gone home.  For this we give thanks to God, sincere thanks!  Who are we, that God has considered us in grace?
But how will it be in the future?  Will God deprive us of His gifts?  We would have deserved it with our manifold ingratitude. But we humble ourselves before God and flee to his grace. And God has never denied the humble, crushed and broken heart a request. Besides, it indeed concerns the Church. The Church is very close to our Savior. It is His body, His own spiritual body. He can give her everything she needs, for He has everything in heaven and on earth in His hand. And He will give her all things, for He is a Savior to His body. Therefore we ask with the confidence of being heard:
Oh, stay with your grace
With us, Lord Jesus Christ,
That we should not be sorry
The evil enemy’s deceit.

Oh, stay with your faithfulness
With us, my Lord and God!
Lend us constancy;
Help us from all need!
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Missourians – Infallible teachers?
      One of the consistent charges made against Old Missouri by its enemies was that it claimed infallibility for its teachers.  This would go something like: "You think you are the only right teachers"!  Today many of those enemies of Old Missouri are the teachers of the LC-MS:

Dr. David Scaer's charges against Old Missouri/Pieper
(2003 Logia, 12-1, p. 37):
Scaer Charge #1:
“…the edited version of 1932 [Brief Statement] do(es) not even reference the Lutheran Confessions once, as Sasse noted.”
False: The Brief Statement of 1932 references the Book of Concord in 9 places.

Scaer Charge #2:
“… this thinking is that the synod’s position is ipso facto identical to that of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. This was hardly Pieper’s intention in his A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod”…, though it could be understood this way.”
False: Pieper is quoted saying exactly what Scaer says he did not intend, and makes Pieper appear the fool. (Scaer then goes on to claim that the Brief Statement contradicts the Confessions on the the teaching of "ordination", but he does not know the intent of the Confessions on this point.)
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Pieper flatly denies this charge of "infallibility", saying that even Walther can be included among those where some of their words did not meet God's Word.  The only infallible teachers were the Apostles and Prophets in their writings of Holy Scriptures.   I must repeat Pieper's claim for those "so-called Missourians":
“We are the true teachers because we remain by God's grace in the Word of God in all the articles of Christian doctrine.”
Prof. David P. Scaer speaks as the opponents of Old Missouri, the Iowa and Ohio Synods. — Compare Pieper against Scaer on who each one humbles themselves before:
Franz Pieper: “…we humble ourselves before God” –  1913
David Scaer: “It is humbling to discover that someone [Herman Sasse] half a century ago was saying the things you thought original.” – (2003 Logia, 12-1 p. 39)
Scaer humbles himself before Sasse – Pieper humbled himself before God.  (Anyone who thinks Dr. David Scaer is like Old Missouri should read what he writes in 2003 Logia 12-1 – his full article is here.)

Conversion & Election of Grace
      There those two doctrines are again!  Just as Pieper praised "dear Stoeckhardt" on his prominent defense of these doctrines in the controversies with the opponents of the Missouri Synod and the Synodical Conference, he ties this again to Walther, to "our struggle", the "hard, very hard dispute" with "a lot of opposition".   And part of Stoeckhardt's legacy as a true defender of Christian doctrine is written into… the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod.

Pieper: Walther's successor
      Pieper reveals part of the reason why he, at such a young age, would succeed Walther, the founding father of the Old Missouri Synod, as President of Concordia Seminary.  Some wondered that the successor would be George Stoeckhardt – Walther had in earlier times indicated a strong preference for Stoeckhardt.  But we now see Walther speaking so closely with the much younger (~35) junior associate. Some might have thought even then that Stoeckhardt should have been Walther's successor, for he too ministered to Walther at his sickbed.  But he wasn't.  It was Franz Pieper.  Why?  We can see here that Walther knew in the "hard, very hard" doctrinal controversies, that that young man at his bedside was the one that God had sent for the future of his dear Missouri Synod!

What about "here and now", and the future?
Dear God! We are a stiff-necked and stubborn generation, have mercy on us!  For your mercy's sake, grant us teachers as Walther, Pieper, and George Stoeckhardt!  In Jesus name, Amen!

(The next blog post begins my polemic against the misuse of "exegesis".)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Stoeckhardt 4: Now our dear one, a true Exegete! (Pieper's address, Part 4d)

      This continues from Part 4c in a sub-series (see Part 4a) of a wider series (Table of Contents in Part 1) of Franz Pieper's addresses at the "going home" (funerals) of  Old Missouri's earliest teachers.  This Part 4x sub-series presents the address at the funeral of Dr. George Stoeckhardt.
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      Up to this point in his address, Pieper showed how Missouri was blessed with Christian teachers.  This led him to present his brief summary and praise of the greatness of the teacher for whom this funeral address was given (continuing Pieper's address from Part 4c; enlargement, bolding is mine):
George Stoeckhardt
(servant of the Word)

And now our dear Stöckhardt! He came in October 1878 from Germany to St. Louis and was first pastor of the local church at Holy Cross for nine years, and during his pastorate he served as a lecturer in exegetical lectures, and at the same time entered the front ranks in the struggle for the right doctrine of Conversion and Election of Grace. [Cp. Brief Statement, 16-19, 35-40] In the autumn of 1887, the full exegetical professorship was then transferred to him.  He is known to us for all the excellent gifts he has rendered. With language skills absolutely equal to the most prestigious exegetes of our time, he had one advantage over all exegetes of modern times. And this is what makes an exegete a true exegete.  He believed with us all, in his heart, the so-called verbal inspiration, that is, the truth that the Holy Scripture is not to be the word of man, but the majestic, infallible Word of God given by God and to be treated accordingly. Thus his exegetical method was not the method which mastered the Word of God, but the method which serves God's Word merely by setting forth what is expressed in Scripture, and leaving God's sole reign in the Church. These are the glorious teaching gifts which God gave to our synod, and especially to our theological institution. [S. 20, col. 1]

Pieper highlights the following strengths of Stoeckhardt:

Conversion & Election of Grace
      These two doctrines were the focus of much contention in the American Lutheran Church.  And Pieper includes Prof. Stoeckhardt as one of the top defenders for the truth, and so rooted out all vestiges of synergism.  I have wondered why Pieper did not include the doctrine of Universal Justification as Stoeckhardt was an outspoken defender of this doctrine, but then I remembered that with the other two doctrines, it was actually UOJ (Universal, Objective Justification) that was at the heart of the matter. Pieper will again draw attention to these same doctrines in the final comments of his address on Stoeckhardt – see Part 4e.

A True Exegete
      Pieper asserts that "absolutely" no other exegete, German or otherwise, had better language skills than Stoeckhardt.  This judgment comes from one of the greatest masters of theological languages in the world – Franz Pieper.  But Pieper puts even this aside and claims for Stoeckhardt the higher ground of a true exegete – as a defender of "verbal inspiration".  But if the words of Scripture are divinely inspired then one bows to Scripture, for who would presume to be the master over God? — For some time, I had a bad taste for "Exegetical Theology" because it seemed that all those who claimed proficiency in it actually perverted the meaning of the bare words!  But then I discovered the exegetical writings of George Stoeckhardt, and now I know that there is indeed a place for this branch of theology, because Stoeckhardt restored it to its rightful place – as a servant of the Word, not a master over it.  Any exegete who perverts the plain meaning of the words of Holy Scripture is not a true exegete, but an eisigete.
      Exegetical Theology was the focus of much of Stoeckhardt's attention and he produced several books.  Much of his legacy is in remembering his work in this area.  I recall that as I was returning to my Christian faith 20+ years ago, I had discovered the works of Stoeckhardt in the CTS-FW bookstore and snapped up all the many titles they had then.  I wondered why these were only available from the CTS-FW bookstore, and not from CPH?  Stoeckhardt's writings (true exegesis, Biblical History) built up my faith, taught me that the Bible is absolutely true, set my faith on a solid Rock.
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      However there arose during Stoeckhardt's later years a faction among some teachers of the Synodical Conference who elevated the importance of "exegesis" of Scripture to the detriment of dogmatics or the teaching nature of Scripture.  The instigator and leader of this movement was Prof. John Philipp Koehler of the Wisconsin Synod (WELS).  He would come to, essentially, drive a wedge among the teachers of the Old Synodical Conference by his new emphasis, his claim of superiority, of "exegesis".  But was it superior?  I am preparing a separate blog post from this series that is quite polemical against the legacy of Koehler... I will take this up soon... (I found a surprising "benefit" to the agitation of Koehler.)
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      The above few words from Pieper were the greatest testament ever to the legacy of George Stoeckhardt.  In final installment of Pieper's funeral address for "our dear Stoeckhardt" he reveals a close conversation with Walther, in the next Part 4e.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Stoeckhardt 3: 4 teachers of Old Missouri; Lange's gem; Part 4c

      This continues from Part 4b in a sub-series (see Part 4a) of a wider series (Table of Contents in Part 1) of Franz Pieper's addresses at the "going home" (funerals) of  Old Missouri's earliest teachers.  This Part 4x sub-series presents the address at the funeral of Dr. George Stoeckhardt.
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      After putting Walther in his proper place, next to Martin Luther, Pieper moves on to comment on 4 other teachers of Old Missouri.  We are still several paragraphs into the funeral address for George Stoeckhardt, yet Pieper takes more time to show his Missouri how blessed it has been by its earlier faithful teachers.  These would compliment Walther's strong leadership in teaching and defending pure Lutheran/Christian doctrine (continuing Pieper's address from Part 4b):

Schaller used to say in our smaller circles: “God has not made me a warrior.” But he was an extremely valuable gift from God in our faculty meetings. In his silent manner, and with his deep and profound recognition of the Christian teachings, he has strengthened our hearts and hands through counsel and instruction, especially in the contentious points. Lange was rightly said to have a philosophical nature. But in all theological matters, God's Word was his only wisdom.  His preface to Lehre und Wehre in 1884 is an immense exposition of the the "sola Scriptum", the truth that in theology all man’s thoughts are nothing and God's revealed Word has its own validity.  I do not know if ever anything more glorious has been written.   He used to sit in our meetings somewhat apart, listening attentively and covering his face with his hand. But then he often spoke words to us all that were at once teaching and refreshment.  Günther was one of the first students of our institution, when it still was located in Perry County. He had grown up entirely in the spirit of our fathers. He was especially given the gift of distinguishing between truth and error, and with this gift he had served the Church especially in clear, concise written expression, as his years of editorship of our Der Lutheraner proves.  Gräbner, combined an amazing diligence with his extraordinary general knowledge and the clear recording of Christian doctrines. He has worn himself out prematurely by his diligence. His special field of work was the history of the Church; but in the last major doctrinal controversy he also fought in the foremost ranks.
What struck me in this summary was the special compliment he paid to C.H.R. Lange that he had not done in his earlier address at his funeral – on Lange's "Foreword" ("Vorwort") to the 1884 Lehre und Wehre journal.  My blog has concentrated mostly on presenting Walther and Pieper, but Pieper's immense praise of Lange's "Foreword" caused me to take some time in the Google Books copy, with Google "plain text" and Google Translate to skim over this highly regarded essay.  Would to God someone would take on the project of carefully translating this article into English!  What was it the Pieper said again?
“I do not know if ever anything more glorious has been written.”
Indeed, pure Lutheranism!  Because of Pieper's high praise, I have now also gone back to Lange's periodical, the St. Louis Theological Monthly, the earliest English language Missouri Synod doctrinal journal, a forerunner of the Lutheran Witness and Theological Quarterly. It is freely available in Google Books.  This journal contains the best English writings that give an overview of the “Predestinarian Controversy” and present the clearest defense of the truth, by Rudolf Lange and others.  It shows that Lange was a true pupil of Walther.  It was quite a treat for me to again skim through the many articles, and such good doctrine in so easy-to-read ENGLISH!! Thank God that Prof. Lange produced this wonderful journal... in... English.  Too bad that it only ran 2 years, from 1881 to 1882.  —

      In the next Part 4d, Pieper reaches the point in his address where he highlights perhaps his closest colleague at that time, George Stoeckhardt.