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Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Little historians" and the Brief Statement of 1932; Ludwig Fuerbringer

As I was just googling the term "Brief Statement of 1932", I ran across an essay [archived; see here, herehere for 1961 CTM essay] on it's historical context that was authored in 1961 by C.S. Meyer, the "church historian" for the new English LC-MS.  It was published in the periodical Concordia Theological Monthly (CTM, vol. 32). On page 406, Mr. Meyer said this:
In 1932 recognition was taken of the labors of the late F. Pieper, F. Bente, and George Mezger. Another generation had passed; another epoch in the history of the Missouri Synod had come to a close.  F. Pfotenhauer served one more term as President of the church body; in 1935 he became "Honorary President." But L. Fuerbringer remained active for almost another decade, a fact that protests against little historians making too pat periodizations of history.
Mr. Meyer, writing in 1961, would definitely call me a "little historian" for I have clearly periodized (actually separated) the history of the Missouri Synod.  But who is he referring to as "little historians" in his day?  Answer: All those who recognized the downfall of the old (German) Missouri Synod and ended fellowship with the new (English) LCMS... and C.S. Meyer.

All true church historians should bear this label "little historians" gladly.

Carl Meyer refers to Ludwig Fuerbringer, the successor to Franz Pieper as President of Concordia Seminary - St. Louis.  He implies that Ludwig should be counted with the old Missouri Synod, with the likes of Pieper, Bente, Mezger, and Pfotenhauer. But what about the theologian Ludwig Fuerbringer? You can find his bio info here at Concordia Historical Institute.  You can see a list of books he authored here. I recall devouring his book 80 Eventful Years: Reminiscences of Ludwig Ernest Fuerbringer to find a sign of life, a sign that he recognized the true strength of Missouri in its doctrine of justification.  I made a copy of the entire book so I could study it carefully.  A picture of Fuerbringer is included on a front page which follows:
Ludwig Ernst Fuerbringer
The man under whom the LCMS turned from "a living knowledge of the doctrine of  Justification". (Pieper II, 555)
The caption above that I have put under his picture is harsh, I admit, but it is what I wrote back in 1999.  He was considered a congenial person.  He co-authored the Concordia Cyclopedia with Theodore Engelder and Paul Kretzmann, a helpful reference book in many cases. He reminisced of the days and men of the old (German) Missouri Synod. C.F.W. Walther encouraged him as a youth to enter the seminary and not be a medical doctor (page 67-68, 80 Eventful Years). O, but it was a very heavy weight that was put on his shoulders as he was elected to follow Franz Pieper as his successor to the office of President of Concordia Seminary! I have stated elsewhere my wish that it should have been Theodore Engelder instead.

On my original web site, I mentioned Fuerbringer's name and his book but I left it blank as to what I would say about him.  After I ran across his writing this year of the article Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian, I was favorably struck by it and decided to publish it because it far surpassed the more official biography of Pieper by Theodore Graebner.  Prof. Fuerbringer admitted that he
perused Pieper's dogmatics when each volume appeared after the other to make from beginning to end word-by-word with the pencil in the hand in order to make notes carefully to myself with the greatest interest and benefit.
Elsewhere in the same article he said:
Pieper was always vigorously for the principle that anyone who is clear in doctrine, can and must also clearly explain this doctrine; that Christian doctrine is not only the property of scholars, but Christians, and that in order to understand the truth, one must stand in the truth
Ludwig Fuerbringer actually came close to doing justice to Franz Pieper.  This is Ludwig's strength... and his weakness.  I will call Ludwig Fuerbringer a "little historian", not in the sneering sense of C.S. Meyer, but in a positive sense for his historical theology is weak, but still useful.  But I will call Franz Pieper The 20th Century Luther!

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