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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rejoin the LC-MS? ... (Pieper speaks to me)

Since my last post, I have been devouring the translations of Walther and Pieper in the (Kindle) book At Home in the House of My Fathers by Matthew Harrison, current president of the LC-MS. Harrison spent some time researching the publications of the old German Missouri Synod and found among the many untranslated articles and essays a few that caught his attention.  I commend Harrison especially for bringing to light at least some of these works.  I'm now reading Pieper's article The Offense of Divisions in the Church and getting immense encouragement from it but...

But also in my last post, I raised the rhetorical question of whether I should consider re-joining my old synod, the LC-MS.  After all, here is now a president who seems to uphold the beauty of the father's doctrine, teaching and lives. President Harrison even says today's LC-MS is "orthodox" in his prefatory remarks to Pieper's essay to the 1905 Delegate Synod titled The Difficult Path of Holding Forth for the Truth.

But is it so?  Is today's LC-MS "orthodox", i.e. true to the Bible in all it's teaching? I could give a hundred refutations of this statement, but the one doctrine that covers it all is this: The Lutheran Doctrine Of Justification. It is this basic doctrine of Christianity that has been left behind!  How so?

  • In dealings with other church bodies
  • In actual public teaching
  • In it's writings
I could tell President Harrison that his synod should start teaching creation, geocentrism, and warn against modern Dance and Theater.  ... that his synod should start teaching the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the authority of God's Word...  his synod should retract it's denouncement of Martin Luther in his writings against the Jews.... that his synod should warn against unionism.

But I won't.  What do I tell President Harrison that he should do?  Get down on your knees with all your synod and ask God's forgiveness for allowing doubt in his synod on the very Gospel itself.  (Read Jonah 3: 6-10 and Matthew 12:41.) How did his synod do this?  I will repeat it here as I recorded it earlier. In the December 1939 issue of the American Lutheran, (vol. 22, pgs 3796-3797), Professor Theodore Graebner wrote this:
One of the statements in the A.L.C. declaration has been criticized as hiding a denial of objective justification – when this doctrine is accepted by the American Lutheran Church (because it has accepted our Brief Statement) and when both Ohio and Iowa Synods for generations past have taught correctly this same doctrine.  As long ago as 1872 and as recently as 1938 the public doctrine in the areas here placed under suspicion has been the plain doctrine of Scripture as we teach it ourselves. - Theodore Graebner
When I first read this quote of Theodore Graebner, I caught my breath.  I could hardly believe what I was reading, for Professor Graebner publicly directly contradicted Walther and Pieper who so carefully warned against the error of the opponent "Lutherans" who denied the teaching of Objective, Universal Justification.  Theodore Graebner had "come out" of the closet and showed that he was at best confused about the Gospel, at worst, did not know it. I have not seen any indication that Professor Graebner was reprimanded on this.

And so it is, President Harrison, that you are now the president of the "Graebner Synod" that teaches the doctrine of Justification just as the Ohio and Iowa synods did and still do today... that is the ALC, later to become the ELCA.  How so?  By allowing doubt on the Gospel itself!

No, I know who you are, today's LC-MS.  Your house is on fire!  You have lost the Word and you don't know how to find it again!

The enormity of this topic causes me to continue it in my next posts with quotes of Walther on The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Convention Essays from the old German Missouri Synod...

[2017-08-06: added direct link to spreadsheet, see below]
A commentator on my "translators" post pointed out a recent publication from the LC-MS that had me a bit stunned, because it surprised me that any writer of today's LC-MS would hold up the fathers of the old German Missouri Synod. The book is titled "At Home in the House of My Fathers". (Also Kindle edition.)
But the real stunner is that the author/editor is the current President of the LC-MS, "Matt" Harrison (Matthew C. Harrison). If I find that there is sufficient new material translated that I don't already have, I may actually buy the book! Some essays were from the 1840s which I have not seen yet. But this stirs up my old feelings about today's LC-MS. Maybe I should re-join my old synod because, there it is, an actual modern writer holding up the fathers! But I will say more about this later.
In response to this notice and to honor the fathers of the Missouri Synod, I am publishing the following extensive listing (prepared in the 1990s) of most doctrinal essays from the old German Missouri Synod (and beyond), most of which have much spiritual content. The listing goes from 1855 to 1956 so scroll down to see all the line items. But the real gems in this listing are the essays from C.F.W. Walther and Franz Pieper (F. Pieper). You will find their names among many others. But they are the ones who "gathered the luminous rays" of the Gospel the best. (My apologies for the poor English translation of some of the titles; I will update them and the spreadsheet "ConventionEssays" with time. See German titles for actual wording of the titles.)
[April 21, 2014 - see this post for downloads of scans and some text files]

2017-08-06: Direct link to this spreadsheet >>>  HERE <<<.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Most translators of the German Missouri Synod were not faithful...

As my masthead says, I came back (by God's mercy) to my old Christian faith, the Missouri Synod.  Not just to today's LCMS, but back further.  Back to the old German Missouri Synod, which led me to the true spiritual Luther, something today's modern world knows little about.

How could I go back so far since they communicated almost exclusively in German?  Well I first devoured all their works that had been translated into English.  That meant reading the translations of the likes of W.H.T. Dau, Theodore Graebner, J.T. Müller, William Arndt, Carl S. Meyer, August Suelflow and Kurt Marquart.  These translators would sometimes complement the German authors, but these complements were hollow because they either were silent about the true glory of their subject matter (true Christian teaching, the Gospel) or they actually tore down the authors. August Suelflow would omit portions of the original material where brevity was not needed, especially when I was hanging on every word the German author wrote!

But there were a few translators who were exceptions: Theodore Engelder, Walter Albrecht and Wallace McLaughlin.  These translators did not just translate, they sat at the feet of the giants of theology - C.F.W. Walther and Franz Pieper.  They are what I would call true Christian translators, not translating for translations sake, but for spiritual reasons... to proclaim the true Gospel!

It took me awhile to realize the shakiness of most translators... and to throw them off.  They are now in my side room. I want the good stuff... the pure Lutheran teaching. And I get it now partially by going directly to the German writings and using the tools of today to translate them directly.

But I would not leave this subject except to say there is one English translation that stands above all others: The 3-volume Christian Dogmatics by Franz Pieper (or Francis Pieper), translated primarily by Theodore Engelder. It is the greatest "book" by a human author in the English language.  How so?  Because
  • Theodore Engelder, the translator, sat at the feet of:
  • Franz Pieper, who beautifully quoted the Lutheran (Christian) doctrine of
    • C.F.W. Walther, The American Luther and 
      • Martin Luther, the reformer of the Church, Rev. 14:6-7

All Engelder's writings that were not translations are also faithful to the Word of God, building the Christian faith. What is significant is that he was faithful in the face of the horrible hot breath of the unionism spearheaded by Prof. Theodore Graebner.  As I stated elsewhere, Prof. Engelder was looked on as "not a yes man".  And it was reported that there was one man that left the room when there was to be a joint prayer in a unionistic meeting of the new modern LCMS and the other American Lutheran church bodies around 1943.  I believe that one man was Theodore Engelder.  And so Theodore Engelder is among the very few that I let out of that side room and read him without hesitation.
May the name of Theodore Engelder be remembered for his spiritually faithful translations and writings!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Walther's advice to struggling students: read Lutheran Doctrine of Justification

In the book Prairie School of the Prophets - The Anatomy of a Seminary 1846 - 1976 (CPH, 1989), Erich Heintzen wrote of the Missouri Synod practical seminary that eventually became what is today the Fort Wayne Seminary.  On page 63, he wrote of the early days of this institution when it resided in St. Louis from 1861 - 1874 during Walther's tenure there.  The practical seminarians attempted to initiate discussions on independent topics of interest among themselves.  Here I quote Heintzen:
In a desperation move, the Kollegium presented talks on the subject of the Kollegium itself and finally fell to discussing the catechism of the Methodist Epis­copal church. At this point, Dr. Walther was consulted. He sug­gested that they lay aside the catechism for a while in order to study something more basic, an essay on justification that had been pre­sented to the Western District convention of 1859.
And so Walther knew what advice to give struggling students who seemed to get bored with their chosen topics... study the basics of Christianity --- the Gospel itself.  And so the advise would be the same today for the LCMS if it were ever to return to it's foundation... study Walther's writings on the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.  And Franz Pieper paraphrased Walther when he wrote:
All praise of Christ, of grace, and of the means of grace, without the right doctrine of justification, is nothing.  All teaching in the Church must serve this article.  Not as though one should or could urge only this article.  All revealed doctrines must be taught with the greatest care.  But even when one is treating of hell the goal must be to show the hearers the deliverance from hell.
Would to God all people knew and believed the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification (LDJ)!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Reformed teachers on Martin Luther... not quite there, but not all bad

I ran across another blogger, James Swan, (, and (archived))  who defends Luther in some instances against attacks from Roman Catholics and others.  But he admits he is Reformed in his belief.  He speaks of hearing a talk of R.C. Sproul on Luther's commentary on the book of Romans that strengthened his faith immensely and has since studied Luther extensively.  Good for Mr. Swan! He somewhat defends Luther in his writings against the Jews but still condemns Luther in what are considered his harshest writings against the Jews.

Franz Pieper quoted many Reformed theologians approvingly where they defended the authority of Scripture, the Word of God.  Some so-called Lutherans today attempt to refute the Reformed only on their doctrines of the Sacraments, the Lord's Supper and Baptism.  But the difference between the Reformed and Lutherans is much deeper... it involves the heart of the Gospel itself.

So for those who want to know Martin Luther, they will read not only Luther's writings but also the writings of "The American Luther" and the "The Twentieth Century Luther" --> C.F.W. Walther and Franz Pieper.  All the Reformed teachings stop short of the pure Gospel either in synergism or limited atonement.  Only the true Lutheran faith (and Martin Luther's!) preached the full, free, complete pardon won by Christ on the cross. There is nothing we can do but believe it... and it is available for all because none have been excluded from the universal, objective Justification won by Christ! This the Reformed have difficulty swallowing... but it is the plain teaching of Scripture.  And it is this Gospel that has been commanded to be preached and is enveloped by the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments of the Lord's Supper and Baptism -->> the Means of Grace.

May all the Reformed who speak well of Martin Luther forget their aberrations of the Gospel and cling only to the simple word of the Gospel.

Ken Ham and his Answers In Genesis teaching on Creation

Mr. Ham enjoys some notoriety in the world today because of his teaching of a literal six-day Creation.  I recall having my faith strengthened by this and other so-called creation ministries.  I just received a mailing from him lamenting the sad state of the external church bodies today that have given up the literal teaching of Creation.  But Ken Ham also teaches a doctrine of salvation that is close to the Lutheran teaching... his reformed leanings have not led him too strongly to espouse a "decision for Christ" synergism.
Ken Ham is a vocal advocate for the authority of God's Word which pleases me.  He even praises Martin Luther on occasion... something that a few Reformed teachers do. Again, this pushes him into the Lutheran camp... except he falls on occasion. When there was some talk of evidence of life outside our Earth, he made a statement to the effect that "we must not be dogmatic" about the teaching of only life on Earth, which is Biblical teaching.
But the real difficulty for Mr. Ham is the issue of church denominations.  He attempts to stay above the differences among external church bodies.  But there is a church called the Lutheran Church which is the denomination that stands alone on the Word of God. And I am not speaking about today's external church bodies that claim the Lutheran name... but rather those who teach the true Lutheran (that is the true Christian) doctrine.  And those are few and far between.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Was Walther too strict warning against the Theater? Part 2

In Part 1, I gave the full section of Ewald Plass' book This Is Luther on the subject of Theater. I have attempted to verify Plass's sources but have been frustrated on his first reference about theatrical presentations presenting the Gospel in Lower Germany.  Even though I found the book by Julius Koestlin on Google Books, it seems that Mr. Plass must have erred because the page that he references, page 504, does not speak about the theater but about the Mass, papists, and the power of God's Word.  So I must take his assessment at face value.
But I did find his reference for "secular drama" or comedy by cross referencing the Erlangen citation with the St. Louis edition:
Erlangen Edition 62: 336 f. <<==>> St. Louis Edition 22: 1558-1561
And here is what Luther says:

2. On the Comedies.
(Cordatus. No. 1709)
Comedies need to be recited by the boys mainly that they have practice in the Latin language:  after that people will be trained by the fictitious persons and everyone is reminded of his duties.  In addition they set out the wiles of immoral women, and how the parents should receive their children with honour, and how the children should obey their parents. And if the comedies should not be performed because of some objectionable [obscoena] things for Christians, even the Bible would not be read. But anyone who takes offense at such things, takes the scandal where no one gives it.
(This paragraph in Lauterbach, 29 May 1538, p. 89)
I like the comedies of the Romans very well, the main purpose of which was that they want to appeal to the young people to enter the marriage estate. For the government of the world cannot exist without matrimony. Therefore, those insightful people attracted the youth by comedies, just as through images, in the best way to marriage, for fornication and celibate life are the bane of the state.
Let us examine what Luther says here.  What does Luther identify as the purpose of these theater comedies?
1) for student boys to learn Latin language
2) to warn against immoral women
3) parents should receive their children with honor
4) children should obey their parents
5) young people should enter marriage estate rather than fornication and celibacy

Now let us see how we can quote Luther against Luther.  The perfect example of this Luther's position on the Jews: he changed from sympathizing with the Jews to blasting them for their unbelief.  In the same way, one can quote the Bible against the Bible, but it is all the devil's play since Jesus said: "... the Scripture cannot be broken". (John 10:35)

Luther admitted in his later years that he was naive in his younger years concerning the papacy and other matters.  And he showed that he would seemingly change his position on Dance when the circumstances showed the practice had become worldly.

And so I, BackToLuther, must say that even though Walther did not take the time in his book to explain Luther's comments on the theater, yet Luther's pro-theater comments in no way impair Walther's warnings against the theater. I would say that Walther's warnings are the voice of a later Luther who would fully understand Goethe when he said the plays can neither promote or want to promote morality (see Walther pg 106).

Ewald Plass presumes too much when he says "There was certainly nothing prudish or puritanical about Martin Luther."  Indeed God's Word does speak plainly about the immoralities of people and about the human anatomy, but these are warnings and words from the Creator, the One who made them "male and female".  Indeed Luther was "prudish and puritanical" in the sense the modern world uses it.  Luther criticized Lucas Cranach for one of his paintings depicting a nude woman even though it was to attack the papacy.  His criticism was because of embarrassment over what was to be said to wives and mothers in view of this painting.

No!  Walther, not Ewald Plass (and the modern English LC-MS), must be listened to because Walther's warnings are the same as from Scripture:
...whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:23
Flee fornication. 1 Cor. 6:18
Much more could be written about this but this is a "blog" and so I will end it here, at least for now. I have been on this subject since my post of December 29, 2011 where Pieper raised the subject again in 1927. May this be to the glory of the One who paid the price... that we might be free from sin. SDG.