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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stoeckhardt's strength-The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification (LDJ) 3 of 4

This post continues from Part 2 (on Friedrich Wyneken) about true Mental/Spiritual Health. (Table on Contents – Part 1)

     Friedrich Wyneken is not the only noted old Missouri Synod man to have suffered trials.  Some have pointed (page 11) to a similar incident in the life of Prof. George Stoeckhardt of Concordia Seminary where it was reported that he too had a "nervous disorder".  Stoeckhardt was another old Missouri leader and teacher who taught the beautiful Lutheran Doctrine of Justification – LDJ (search "Stoe" here for reference to him).  But because of a so-called "nervous disorder" after the death of his wife, Stoeckhardt was committed to the "Missouri Baptist Sanitarium in St. Louis for treatment of this disorder". According to the report (pg 10-11):
Shortly before their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary Stoeckhardt’s wife Anna died. ... Stoeckhardt dealt with his loss by immersing himself into his work to the point that he began to suffer from nervous exhaustion. In the spring of 1900 he was forced to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties at Concordia because of a nervous disorder. In the fall of that year Stoeckhardt’s concerned friends and relatives had the venerable professor committed to the Missouri Baptist Sanitarium in St. Louis for treatment of this disorder. In October of 1900, after a number of weeks at this institution, the still delirious Stoeckhardt escaped one evening from the sanitarium and after a chase of several blocks was apprehended by members of the St. Louis police force and returned. One St. Louis newspaper which covered the event sympathetically concluded: “About a year ago Mrs. Stoeckhardt died and the professor grieved over her death so intensely and applied himself so studiously to his work that his present mental affection is not entirely unexpected.”  Stoeckhardt eventually recovered from his nervous disorder. This appears to be at least partially due to the care of a woman eighteen years his junior, Mary Kohne of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania whom Stoeckhardt married in the fall of 1901. The recovered Stoeckhardt now began the final portion of his academic career. He resumed his teaching at Concordia Seminary...
Now this account presents quite a jolt to Christians in general.  Here was a great teacher of the old (German) Missouri Synod, a teacher who learned well from Walther because he left his native Germany and joined Walther in teaching a Universal (or General) Justification, a pure Gospel message.  But here it is reported that he
  • had a "nervous disorder" 
  • was "committed to the Missouri Baptist Sanitarium in St. Louis"
  • "escaped one evening from the sanitarium and after a chase of several blocks was apprehended by members of the St. Louis police force and returned"
  • "appears" to have recovered "due to the care of a woman" whom he subsequently married
Is one now to think that the LDJ, that is The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification (i.e. the Gospel), is not sufficient for our deepest needs?, when we cry out in deepest distress, in anguish of soul, when the world says "You need to see a psychiatrist/psychologist/therapist" or that "You need to check into a mental hospital"?  What is a Christian to think?

I am left with the following information:
  1. Stoeckhardt recovered and resumed teaching at Concordia Seminary
  2. Prof. Franz Pieper was his colleague before and after his recovery
  3. Pieper made extensive use of Stoeckhardt's works in his Christian Dogmatics books (Vol IV, pg 992)
Could it be that the above account of Stoeckhardt's "nervous disorder" is missing some details on the cause of Stoeckhardt's recovery?  I believe so.  I believe that Franz Pieper was not a disinterested party in Stoeckhardt's distress, but rather looked to find every opportunity to get the pure message of God's grace to Stoeckhardt.  Oh, the comfort of the younger woman (Mary Kohne) who also became his second wife should not be discounted.  Who would deny the joys and comfort from a marriage?
Dr. George Stoeckhardt

But the ultimate comfort that restored Stoeckhardt was not this, but rather he came back to the pure Lutheran Doctrine of Justification that he learned from Walther, he came back through the comforting communications with his dear colleagues, especially Franz Pieper who was an even greater teacher of the pure Gospel than he was.  I believe this to be so.  And because of this I will continue to hold up Prof. George Stoeckhardt, a wonderful teacher of the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification, before and after his "nervous disorder".  Stoeckhardt is noted by many today for his "exegesis" of Holy Scripture with his many Bible commentaries.  But they should realize his real strength was ultimately from LDJ.
(Picture updated July 9, 2013)

[2017-07-15: see also Stoeckhardt's 1888 Lehre und Wehre essay "General Justification" translated by Otto F. Stahlke and published in 1978 CTQ here.]

In the last Part 4, I draw this subject of "Mental Health" and LDJ to a close, the Christian's only hope.

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