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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pieper: Why they used German in American churches

In an earlier post, I wrote about the use of German by the fathers of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church.  After some work of polishing the translation, here are articles that Pieper published on this subject.  I will present them in reverse chronological order as I back track his writings.

The first is the main answer to me, a third generation German descent American who only speaks English.  It was in the August 1919 issue of "Lehre und Wehre" (page 380) that Pieper's answer to all us subsequent English-speaking generations was given.  Here is my translation of his German:
Why the fathers of the Missouri Synod used the German language almost exclusively in the church.
This question has been put to us by people of the third and fourth generation every now and then perhaps in embarrassment.  The right answer to this question has some resemblance to the answer of the question of why Luther did not start a mission to the heathen.    First of all the fact is that just from the beginning the Saxon immigrants considered using the English language in church activities.  Even in Perry County English was preached.  In the St. Louis congregational school, the lesson in English language was already introduced before they had their own church and school buildings.  But soon they were faced with church conditions which made a nearly exclusive use of the German language necessary.  It was a matter of preserving the German immigration that was flowing into the country from the reformed sects and degenerated "American" Lutheranism.  It would have been very dear to the people of the sects and the "American" Lutherans indeed if our fathers would have abandoned the use of the German language and had left the German immigrants up to them.  But what would have become then of the Lutheran church in America?  In the light of these circumstances the accusation is to be judged, which was raised and is raised in particular on the part of the General Synod and the General Council, that the "Missourians" had not turned to the English-speaking population early enough in the English language.  Also we do not see that even those which raise this accusation act according to their demanded method.  They often show little inclination to turn to the English-speaking population to win them for the Lutheran church, but rather a strong trend comes out repeatedly to take care of the still German-speaking Lutherans and to win them over to themselves.  We still remember very well that from the circle of our accusers about ten years ago a voice was expressed saying that they should give up church activity in the East because there already everything has gone bad nevertheless by their own mismanagement, and instead of this they should proceed particularly to the West, e.g. to the state of Wisconsin, where one can use very well 50 "missionaries" to all of a sudden incorporate the German-speaking Lutherans to the English-speaking Lutheran church.  In short: One is very careful in discussing the question of why the fathers of the Missouri Synod mainly worked through the medium of the German language in the churches.  (my underlining)
Oh! how I studied this article carefully since it involved me so deeply.  I so longed to understand the German language of Luther and the fathers of the Missouri Synod but I could not.
Dear Dr. Pieper: -->> Could you not see how quickly the language situation was changing in America in your later years so that you would switch your writing to English?
But now I have to ask myself whether purity of doctrine was more important than transitioning to my English tongue... and I have to answer that (praise God!) it is purity of doctrine, by far!  What good is false doctrine in any language?  St. Paul says:
Gal. 5:9  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.
1 Cor. 6:2  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
So it is more important to have pure doctrine so that I may know of my salvation and also "judge the world".
Pieper's earlier article published in 1885 will be presented next time.

[2017-05-18: Friedrich Pfotenhauer also authored an article on the "Language Question" in the 1918 Der Lutheraner (vol. 74, No. 15, July 16) p. 237-238]

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