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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Walther, the "arch-enemy and mob protector"! – Pastor Grabau

As I copied and scanned most of the German publications of the old (German) Missouri Synod over 10 years ago, I would on occasion transcribe and machine translate portions of interest.  One place I stopped to dig out a diamond was in Prof. Martin Günther's book Dr. C.F.W. Walther - Lebensbild. [or Dr. C.F.W. Walther - Life Portrait].  There was a story that Walther loved to repeat... it spoke of the Doctrine of Absolution.  On page 97 of this book is recorded this story:
Walther once had occasion to hear Pastor Grabau preach and be absolved by him.  He was in the habit to tell this more often. Pastor Hochstetter writes: He (Walther) first told me at the meeting in the autumn of 1866 the following: When he, accompanied by student Hugo Hanser, traveled to Rainham, Ontario, to win the local pastor for his work (in the winter of 1855 to 1856), he stayed over on Sunday in Buffalo and was led by a befriended church member, Peter Schulz, to Pastor Grabau's church in the morning.  No sooner had the two taken a seat that one saw Grabau's churchwarden go to Pastor Grabau in the sacristy; which is why Peter Schulz said to Prof. Walther: 'You are already announced to Pastor Grabau.'  Grabau preached on John 8: 46-59. 'I wondered,' said Walther, 'how slow and dull Pastor Grabau began to preach as if he was too weak to get to the end of the sermon. But all at once, he shouted:  Are they dead, those who pick up stones against the Buffalo Synod? They are not far from here, the arch-enemy and mob protector!  – After the end of this sermon however' Walther continued, 'followed the public confession and absolution. There I also knelt myself down with the other listeners and thought while Grabau spoke the absolution: Now see, nevertheless, my old Grabau, now you must speak to me the absolution of my sins even when you hold me to be a mob protector!'”
 Why would Pastor J.A.A. Grabau, leader of the old Buffalo Synod (see CHIQ article) call Walther an "arch-enemy" and a "mob protector"?  You can purchase the new book by CPH The Church & The Office of The Ministry (the new translation from President Matthew Harrison) or the old version Church and Ministry and find out.

But what is Walther's main point in this story that he loved to tell and repeat often?  It is this: that even a pastor who taught a conditional Absolution and considered that Walther's teaching of Absolution would make the "mob" too secure would in the end knowingly pronounce the public Absolution even on him.  This teaching of Walther is beautifully brought out in his book "The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel" on page 376, 36th Evening Lecture, (see also new book Law & Gospel):
To some people this [Absolution] looks like a horrible doctrine, but it is the most comforting doctrine imaginable and is firmly established on the blood of God that was shed on the cross. Sin really has been forgiven, and all that God is now concerned about is that we believe this fact. We absolve men from their sins for no other purpose than to strengthen the faith of those who ask absolution in what they have heard proclaimed from the pulpit. Accordingly, none of them can say: “How can the minister know the condition of my heart? What is absolution to profit me when I am impenitent? Answer: “Indeed, in that case it is of no benefit, but it is of benefit when it is believed. However, this is certain that you have been absolved. Your eternal punishment will be all the more grievous because you did not believe the absolution which God Himself has pronounced to all sinners and which He has ordered His ministers to continue to pronounce to them.”
C.F.W. Walther.

C.F.W. Walther

"Arch-enemy", "Mob protector"

Defender of the Christian Faith!

I plan to stay in that "mob" that is protected by Walther's teaching (the Lutheran teaching) on Absolution!

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