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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Walther: We need a publication that promotes the true faith

Paul McCain, General Editor for Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, has dutifully quoted C.F.W. Walther in the description of this book about the importance for all Lutherans to have this book.  The quote is from Essays For The Church, Volume II, page 51.  This Walther book is currently unavailable from CPH but is promised to be re-published later.  The essay was originally delivered in German to the Iowa District Convention in 1879 and the original German page is here.
And so I thank CPH Publisher McCain for pointing me to Page 51 of Essays For The Church, Volume II because in addition to the quote that McCain uses so freely, I will now give a much longer version of what Walther said with some of my comments interspersed:
    Therefore Synod is in no way fulfilling its purpose if it doesn’t see to it that the right kind of books are made available. What good would it do for the pastor to say,  "You must conduct services in the home (Hausgottesdienst)," if he doesn’t see to it that they have the necessary books to do that? That is why our Synod has, for example, published the Altenburg Bible (Altenburger Bibelwerk). Everyone who owns that edition of the Bible is equipped for the rest of his life. That book is a precious treasure indeed. It is specifically designed to meet the needs of the head of the household.
Publisher McCain would say that his CPH is making available the "right kind of books".  He has been instrumental in getting a "Reader's Edition" of the Lutheran Confessions published. And CPH has also published a "Reader's Edition" Walther's Law and Gospel. And finally, CPH has published Matthew Harrison's At Home in the House of My Fathers, offering several English translations of Walther, Pieper, and other fathers of the old (German) Missouri Synod.  Some of these books have even been put on sale recently at very reasonable cost... a good effort at putting them in the hands of the lay members.
    For the church, however, we also need good agendas and hymnals, for the schools good catechisms and readers. For those who have more time available, we need other precious books, e.g., Luther’s Writings. If Synod doesn’t see to it that books of this nature are either published or at least made available to everyone, it isn’t employing every possible means to achieve the purpose of promoting genuine Christian knowledge in its midst, thereby allowing every child to grow to full maturity in the knowledge of Christ.
Now Walther touches on areas where CPH is in trouble.  Along with Luther's Catechisms and Lutheran Confessions are hymnals and books inspired by the modern age, not Christian teaching.  And although CPH offers Luther's Works in English, many of the comments by the editors question Luther either on his facts or his theology.  The first thing I did when I bought my set of Luther's Works (used) was to cut out the prefaces/introductions by the editors and put those pages in the back!  Shame on CPH!  All of Luther's Works should be re-published with revised prefaces, introductions and footnotes that cut out all judgments of Luther by little theologians. Lay members should be led to read Luther!
    In addition to that—especially at the present time when all the sects are, without exception, publishing magazines, by means of which they enter their homes on a weekly or biweekly basis to teach their people— it is essential that the church which has the one true faith also make use of these means. We are living in a time of “reading mania.” For the most part, however, this reading-craze is being met with magazines that promote wicked partisan politics, poison the mind with wretched novels, and on top of that also slander Christ and His church, pastors, and congregations.
Who could deny the "reading mania" of today in the Internet age with things like blogs and forums.  In Walther's day, it was magazines.  The Der Lutheraner (German) and the Lutheran Witness (English) "magazines" of the old German Missouri Synod were intended to fill this need.
    That is what people are reading, whereas they should be satisfying their craving to read with instructional material for everyone whom God has blessed with the urge to read. Then people would be informed about what is happening in the kingdom of God, as well as what is happening in other churches. And it is not enough that we have just any old kind of “church magazine.” We need a publication that promotes the true faith. For example, the Methodist Apologete presents news about every conceivable kind of church activity and event. Unfortunately, they present everything in the light of their perverted Enthusiasm. Much less should a true Christian read a papistic publication! For then the Antichrist himself enters the home with his devilish smut. In place of that a Lutheran should be reading a good, doctrinally pure publication.
Here is the heart of Walther's message.  All publications should "promote the true faith" and be "doctrinally pure".  He clearly warns against publishing errors like the synergism or Enthusiasm of the Methodists or the worse yet, the "smut" of the papists. The magazines of the old (German) Missouri Synod served well until Franz Pieper died and the editors for the Lutheran Witness, especially Theodore Graebner, turned their  writings into quasi Christian stories and news and so caused confusion for the Christian faith.
    One thing more. During our discussion of the first thesis, we spoke a great deal about the Confessions. The Book of Concord should also be in every Lutheran home. For that reason Synod should provide a good, inexpensive copy, and pastors should see to it that every home has one. Because, “What I’m not told, leaves me cold.” If a person isn’t familiar with this book, he’ll think, “That old book is just for pastors. I don’t have to preach. After plowing all day, I can’t sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that’s enough.” No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, who are blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others, contradict heretics, in short, become  capable of doing the work of the office through which the body of Christ will be edified and built up” (Eph. 4:12—1 4).
And finally we come to the paragraph above that Paul McCain publishes to promote the new "Reader's Edition" to the Lutheran Confessions.  Although I would heartily recommend this book to all Christians, unfortunately the "Readers" will have to use caution wherever the editors cause them to question their faith, e.g. when the General Editor prints a quote from a woman psychologist as a testimony for lay members to read the Lutheran Confessions.  Perhaps a better recommendation would have been to put the picture (shown on page 55) of George, Margrave of Brandenburg, who offered his head to be cut off by Emperor Charles rather than to deny Christ and His Word.  In fact I'll do this now as a commemoration of the Lutheran Confessions:

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