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Sunday, June 10, 2012

2 out of 7: LC-MS low score on Walther (Part 4 of 7 - Collver)

This post (Part 4) continues the series of commentaries on the 7 essays from the 2011 Concordia Theological Quarterly "celebrating" the Bicentennial of the birth of C.F.W. Walther.  See the table of contents for the full listing.

The previous 3 essays (1, 2, 3) were becoming so discouraging for my Christian faith that I nearly decided to quit publishing my commentaries on the rest of them.  But then came this essay that almost completely turns around the previous judgments of Walther (and Pieper)... and this judgment by one in a leadership position in the LCMS.  Then I notice he came to that position by President Matthew C. Harrison who is the current hope by some in that synod to "turn things around".  I have already written about President Harrison who does not cut down my Christian faith at every turn like 5 out of the 7 essayists in the 2011 issue of the CTQ journal.  Further research shows Collver wrote a wonderful review of Harrison's book At Home in the House of My Fathers in

So let us listen to what Collver quotes and says, who starts out by quoting Walther:
  • "Oh, how important it is, therefore, my brethren, that we make the salvation of souls above all things the chief object of our joint labor in the kingdom of Christ," said C.F.W. Walther in the opening sermon for the Synodical Conference in 1872.  (page 275) 
  • Perhaps through ignorance rather than malicious intent, critics of the LCMS have stated that Walther and those who immediately followed him were not missional.  In fact, the allegations do not stop with those involved in the early days of the LCMS, but extend back to Luther and the Reformation.  (page 275) 
Indeed Dr. Collver, there have been and continue to be critics of Luther, Walther, and Pieper on their so-called lack "missions" spirit.  Many of them call themselves "Lutheran" and members of your LCMS!  I believe one of those was your past President Bohlmann.  Would you say he was "ignorant" rather than "malicious"?  Pieper was quite aware of these types of critics when he answered questions of why the old (German) Missouri Synod used primarily the German language.
Collver goes on to astound me with his insight of the error of these critics:
  • For many would-be missiologists, Luther and the reformers are of little help in developing a theory for mission. To make matters worse, the Lutheran Confessions seem to be of little help in this mission task, except for a few theologians. (page 275) 
  • Yet if Luther and the Confessions are not helpful in the field of missions, how did C.F.W. Walther arrive at the conclusion that the primary task of the synod was mission?   (pages 275-276) 
Collver has equated "missions" with "salvation of souls".  Not quite the same in my mind but hardly an issue to keep me away.
  • ...Walther's definition of mission and use of missiological language is different from that of 20th-century missiologists.  ... as a way forward, and freely admitting that Walther and his successors did not use this terminology, we would suggest that the early LCMS mission could be categorized or described in terms of witness, mercy, and life together.  (page 276) 
  • Generally speaking, Walther and his immediate successors did not sing the praises of or give ringing endorsements for the mission societies. (page 277) 
  • Walther in Church and Ministry builds up­on AC VII when he says, "The church in the proper sense of the term is the congregation of saints (Thesis 1)," and that the church can be recognized by "the marks of the pure preaching of God's Word and the administration of the sacraments according to Christ's institution (Thesis 5)."  For Walther and the Lutheran Confessions, the church is where believers are gathered around the Word and the Sacraments.  In contrast, the theology of missio Dei and the missional church movement believe that missions must define the ecclesiology. (page 279) 
  • This view of church and mission (focus away from creeds, confessions, preaching of God's Word, administration of sacraments, etc) is very different than that of C.F.W. Walther and the other presidents of the Missouri Synod's first seventy-five years.  (page 281) 
  • Walther did not promote mission at the expense of confession, as he saw mission (witness) as inte­grally connected to the confession of the church.  (page 282) 
  • [quotation from Pieper's presentation at Walther's Mausoleum:] "The entire Christian congregation is duty-bound to take on also the physical need of its brothers,... is given the concem for the spreading of the Church through the preaching of the Gospel...  is therefore the mission society established by Christ."  (page 283) 
Wow!  An actual quotation from Pieper!... and one that does not judge him but follows him!!  Let us read on!
  • [Quote from Walther's sermon:] "For as the tiller of the ground must be eager to obtain good seed above all things, if he wishes to reap good fruit, so must the Church care for sound doctrine above all things, if she wishes to save souls."  (page 284) ...  Even in Walther's day, people were pitting pure doctrine against the mission cause. Yet Walther rejects this false distinction and rightly points out that confession and pure doctrine ensure that the seed being planted is good seed.  Without confession and pure doctrine, the witness or mission effort will plant bad seed that will either not sprout or will produce a sickly plant. Walther clearly ties the salvation of souls to the proclamation of pure doctrine
  • (page 285) Pieper provides good insight on how to handle the charge that pure doctrine gets in the way of mission. He did this in an opinion on a situation Missouri Synod missionaries encountered in India in 1926. The missionaries there found that the church's teaching against polygamy hindered their mission work. So a request was sent back to St. Louis asking if polygamy could be permitted among converted people in India. Pieper wrote back, 
  • [Pieper]: On the contrary, we remind ourselves that our Savior is certainly more concerned with the spread of His Church than we are. Now if the insistence on monogamy were really a hindrance for mission, Christ would not have so strictly bound the church of the New Testament to monogamy, as is the case in Matthew 19.
  • Pieper's response is appropriate for handling nearly any circumstance where faithfulness to pure doctrine is alleged to hurt mission. Christ our Savior is more concerned with the growth of his church than are we; he would not give us a teaching that is harmful to his church. Once again, we see the emphasis of witness and confession working hand-in-hand.  (page 285) 
  • ... it is more important than ever to recall how the Synod in the past had a holistic view of mission that in­cluded the emphasis of witness, mercy, and life together.  (page 287) 
Quite a breath of fresh air, spiritual air that is, since Walther and Pieper are given the floor to present the pure Christian doctrine... from God's Word.

However, the last part of the 3-fold emphasis for the current LCMS mission is "Life Together".  Another term I would use for this would be Church Fellowship and Church Discipline.  Unfortunately Pieper's clear definition of these Christian doctrines precludes me from joining Collver (and President Harrison) because long ago, the LCMS became heterodox.  How so?  On the "good seed", the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification - Objective & Universal ... or the Gospel!

Part 5 is next... another surprise for me – another essayist who follows Walther and even prays for his Synod!

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