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Sunday, June 9, 2013

What is a sect? (Rev. Schaum against Walther/Pieper)

I want to address another area that Walther covered in my recent post in Part 6b where he gave the definition of a "sect" in his Die Rechte Gestalt... book (The Form of a Christian Congregation):
C.F.W. Walther
The communions which have become guilty of a partial falling away from the pure doctrine of the Word of God are rightly called heterodox churches.  Such heterodox communions are called both churches and also sects, but in a different respect.  They  are called churches insofar as God’s Word and Sacrament are not entirely denied in their midst, but both are still essentially present, and hence true children of God are still to be found also in these communions.  But insofar as these communions persistently err in fundamental doctrines of God’s Word and have caused divisions in Christendom they are called sects, i.e., heretical communions.
The term "sect" is used quite frequently in the world.  News agencies like to toss around the words "sect", "fundamentalists", or "fundamentalism" in their reporting of various "religious" news happenings around the world, whether it is about Christianity or not.  But Walther's use has little to do with the way the world understands these terms.  Walther is quite clear about the terms heterodox and sect.  A sect is clearly all those churches who left the true Evangelical/Protestants (i.e. Lutherans) of Luther's day and divided the church – all  those who deny the Gospel purely preached.

Now compare this to footnote #2 (page xxiv) of the "Historical Introduction" to Walther's For the Life of the Church: A Practical Edition of Pastor Walther's Prayers and Addresses (on sale for $5.00) by General Editor
Rev. Charles P. Schaum:
"Most of the addresses [of Walther] are based on a Bible text; they point out to the members their duties and privileges as Christians as well as the great blessings of pure doctrine and freedom of conscience that the Lutheran Church of America enjoys as compared with the American sects2 and the state churches of Europe. That very fact assures to these addresses permanent worth; and if they are used, they will be of far-reaching blessing to our congregations.

[footnote] #2.  It was common in the Missouri Synod to refer to churches outside the sphere of Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, German Evangelicals, and Dutch Reformed as sects on the basis of their doctrinal errors. Such included the myriad offshoots of Methodism, various sorts of Baptists, and the generic Arminian religiosity of revivalists. The LCMS still regarded them as Christians despite their errors because they retained the basic doctrines of the Trinity, the person and work of Jesus Christ, and the need for salvation from the sinful human condition. Cults and heretics like Unitarians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others were rejected as false religions whose adherents could not hope to be saved unless they were converted to Christianity."

Rev. Schaum, who is quite a scholar, claims the term "sect" used by Walther (and Pieper) did not include those who call themselves "Episcopalians, Presbyterians, German Evangelicals, and Dutch Reformed".  I would think that with all his reading in theology, with his great knowledge of "early Missouri" and with his knowledge of languages, he would know better, for nowhere does Walther or Pieper hint at excluding these church bodies from the term "sect".  In fact they lamented all the "sects" of America ("the land of the sects") who caused great confusion.  How the sects bothered Pieper when they wanted to produce movies about the Bible and asked his advice.

Perhaps Rev. Schaum should re-write the Wikipedia article on Arminianism to say that it wasn't based on a Dutch Reformed theologian... surely not because the Dutch Reformed are not a "sect" according to him.

Rev. Schaum represents himself, yes all CPH, as masters of the theology of Walther.  Unfortunately he has a gaping hole in his true knowledge of Walther... and so the readers of several recent CPH publications of translated Walther's works have to cut through a minefield of confusion on Lutheranism.  My suggestion is that readers gloss over every attempt by editors or translators to judge Walther ... and just read Walther!

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