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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Letter to Prof. Kurt Marquart (Objective Justification), Part 1

In the 1990s, the Doctrine of Justification was a very hot topic for me because my salvation depended on it and I had to be sure. The decade later culminated in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) between ELCA Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church.
I obtained a copy of Prof. Kurt Marquart's English translation of an essay on Justification delivered at the founding of the Synodical Conference in 1872 (abbreviated SCR).  The book is still sold at CTS bookstore in Fort Wayne.  I carefully read and digested this magnificent essay, then became puzzled when in Note 1. after the essay, Prof. Marquart said :
Written probably by F.A. Schmidt, who later became virulently anti-Missourian, ...
I was puzzled because after reading several other related publications, I understood the author to be C.F.W. Walther.  So I wrote a letter to Prof. Marquart:
Professor Kurt Marquart
Concordia Theological Seminary
6600 N. Clinton St.
Fort Wayne, IN  46825
I have obtained a copy of your paper "JUSTIFICATION - OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE: A Translation".  I read at the end in your note #1 your suggestion that F.A. Schmidt was probably the author.  I did not think any more about this until I recently read a translation of F. Pieper's paper "Dr. C. F. W. Walther as Theologian" by J. T. Mueller in Concordia Theological Monthly December 1955 and January 1956.  In this paper, F. Pieper identifies the author of the 1872 Syndodical Conference essay as Walther.  I thought to write you to find out how you arrived at your suggestion of F.A. Schmidt.  I also read in the book "Ebenezer" edited by W.H.T. Dau on page 331 that Walther was excited about the practical, satisfying nature of the content of the essay.  Though this is not a direct reference to Walther as author, it does show his close familiarity with it.  The other evidence would be again in Pieper's paper which ties the teaching of this essay to several others by Walther:
1) The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification - Essay at Fifth Western District Convention, Addison, IL  beginning May 5, 1859 translated in "Essays for the Church" - CPH vol 1, page 31ff - (LDJ)
2) Report of the Western District, 1874; translated in "Convention Essays" by August Suelflow, CPH, page 64ff (RWD)
3) Brosamen, page 138; translated in "The Word of His Grace - Sermon Selections" ELS page 229ff
According to Pieper, this was the heart of Walther's teaching.  I am interested in your findings on the authorship.
Signed, Xxx Xxx (BackToLuther)
 The basic question is: Who wrote the founding doctrine of Justification for the Synodical Conference?
  1. F.A. Schmidt or
  2. C.F.W. Walther
Why did this matter to me?  Because the teaching in this essay is not only one of the clearest proclamations of the Gospel since the days of Martin Luther but also the basis for the Missouri Synod and the Synodical Conference that it helped to found.
I cannot today find Prof. Marquart's response that I received from him but I recall that he did not argue my suggestion that the essay was actually written by C.F.W. Walther, saying he took his idea of F.A. Schmidt from some of the published sources.

In Part 2 of this series, I present my extended response to this question which was used in several communications with others who defended "Objective Justification".

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