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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pieper: German language - from 1919 back to 1885

In the earlier post that quoted Dr. Pieper's authoritative answer to the question of German vs. English in 1919, I would like to go back about 34 years to November 1885 ("Lehre und Wehre" pg 384ff) when he published a comment to an article in the "Lutheran" magazine by an "American" writer that there should be more English preachers instead of German.  Since the article includes a rather lengthy quote of the "American" writer, I will abbreviate it to Pieper's comments only:

The Lutheran Church and the German language in America.
... Here are some observations. The writer is absolutely right when he insists that one should actually expect these conditions.  If one can get with the Church of the Reformation a certain "element" only by the means of the English language, it is the sacred duty of each of the synods and congregations to provide for English preaching and preachers.  It would be irresponsible stubbornness if someone from preference for German opposed the formation of English Lutheran congregations, although apparently only as a part of the children of our Church in same might be obtained.  This can not be stressed earnestly enough.  We must preach in the Tamil language when it would be necessary.  But the writer is surely mistaken if he believes in Philadelphia, and in many other places, the Lutheran Church has solely or mainly for that reason lost so much material to the sects because one did not want to venture into the English language.  Because the youth have not been educated at all in the Lutheran doctrine, therefore the youth have primarily gone so soon to the sects.  There is yet no one who will seriously suggest that the youth be educated in the Lutheran doctrine by being taught on Sundays for about an hour in the Sunday school in the faith of the parents, when they attended public schools the whole week.  When the writer says: Other means than the pure German language is needed to get the youth in the church, even so we want to confront him with another statement:  It requires other means than the English language to get the youth in the churchWhen the Lutheran Church of the East - German or English tongue - does not provide for Lutheran day schools, so they will not get their youth in the Lutheran church, but will mostly lose them to the sects.  Nor is the proposition that every German congregation in a single generation have a very Americanized element not true.  St. Louis lies so well in America as Philadelphia, and yet we have certainly not an Americanized element, that is to say such an element which evokes the English language better than German.  It is certainly the duty of the Lutheran church to provide the foundation for all English congregations where their own children can be kept in the church only in this way.  But one should even beware to create artificial needs too much.  "That the children of our German families strongly Americanized" -- that is, above all, take the English language, is certainly "no sin": but neither is it a "sin" and certainly more natural when the children of our German families make use of the German language and also hold the German language.  They are just as good Americans.  It is just how the situation is: even now there is no American language, but there are English-speaking, German, etc. speaking Americans. (underlining is mine)
Dr. Pieper made a lot of points in this article!
  • It is not the language (German or English) but the doctrine that saves!
  • Pure doctrine must be taught and not just for 1 hour a week!
  • America was a multi-lingual country in the late 1800s - especially many German-speaking people.
I was brought up in an LC-MS church in my youth.  Confirmation classes for a few hours on Saturday mornings and also 1-hour Sunday School classes.  The confirmation class used Luther's Small Catechism and portions were memorized -- the Ten Commandments, Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Although this was more than just 1-hour of Sunday School, yet it was not as much as a "Lutheran Day School" that Pieper stresses.  In those days, there were many more Lutheran children sent to Lutheran day schools instead of public schools.  There they were not exposed to so much anti-Christian teaching taught in the public schools.  So we see Pieper's point -- it is the teaching of true doctrine that overrides any consideration of which language to use.

As to Pieper's last point, Wikipedia has an article here that discusses the history of the German language in America.  It says that
"Currently, more than 49 million Americans claim German ancestry, the largest self-described ethnic group in the U.S..." and 
"One reason for this decline of German language was the perception during both World Wars that speaking the language of the enemy was unpatriotic; foreign language instruction was banned in places during the First World War..."
So we see that the 20th century saw a marked decrease in the use of German due to the World Wars... and I am a product of this.  I am supposed to "hate" all things German because of this, especially because of Hitler and the Nazis.  But the fathers of the Missouri Synod (and Luther) used German (and Latin) to hold fast to the pure doctrine and so I must go back to them using any means at my disposal.  This blog is dedicated to this very endeavor!

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