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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Seckendorf & Spitz– 2 church historians; Why no English translation? (Part 1)

Many, many books have been written on "Church History", but not many are very good at telling the true story of Church History.  I have quoted Franz Pieper previously on how one is to judge those who should write of Church History (or Historical Theology, and it bears repeating:
It is the function of historical theology not only to give a historically true picture of the events, but also to evaluate these established facts in the light of Scripture.  Historical theology is the divinely taught art of ascertaining from Scripture God's verdict on the historical events and conditions.  That is what makes church history a theological discipline.  When the church historian judges events according to his subjective view or any other extra-Biblical norm, church history is no longer a theological discipline. ...Where things are as they should be, the Church will, therefore, elect only such men as professors of church history as are thoroughly conversant with the Scripture doctrine in all its parts, well informed in dogmatics, in order that the instruction in church history will not confuse but aid Christian understanding.
Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf
So when I come across sources of true Church History, the ones that build my Christian faith, I take note of it.  In the last blog post, Pieper mentioned a quote that Lutheran historian Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf († 1692) recorded in his monumental Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo published in Latin.  But how could I get more true Lutheran history from this Seckendorf since he is apparently unavailable in English?  Maybe someone has translated his highly regarded work of Lutheran Church History into English?  So I researched this with the powerful tool of the Internet – WorldCat, Google Books, HathiTrust, Bayerishe Staats Bibliothek, etc., and current scholarship on Seckendorf such as by Solveig Strauch.  What I found was that there is no English translation of Seckendorf's work, but there are many who have probably borrowed from it. Lewis Spitz, in 1949 (CTM vol. 20, pgs 446-450), pleaded for the public to be aware of Seckendorf's work because it was becoming rare, probably from 2 World Wars, and it had never been translated into English.  I have wondered that since Lewis Spitz 
  • seemed to regard Seckendorf highly and
  • is so highly regarded as a Reformation scholar, 
...then why didn't he translate Seckendorf into English?  Sigh... another wonderful Christian writer who remains untranslated... like Antonius Margaritha.  I suppose us English speaking Lutherans will have to just content ourselves with the quotes used by others of Seckendorf, for example:
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
So along the way of researching Seckendorf, I ran into a fellow researcher, a scholar, albeit from decades ago.  And he was associated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  He was Dr. Lewis William Spitz (1922–1999).

L. W. Spitz
Dr. Lewis William Spitz
LC-MS historian
So I decided to also (once again) read some of the writings of Dr.  Spitz, a highly regarded scholar and historian – of church history and other history.  I have read much from him in the past, and I take note of the following:
  • Lewis Spitz almost never gives credit to either Walther or Pieper for any of his proper judgments of Luther or Church History.  In this respect, Spitz reflects the influence of modern theology in that he can give copious quotes from Kant or Machiavelli or Goethe or Coleridge, etc.  And yet,
  • Lewis Spitz is refreshing in that he did not totally disregard the basics of Lutheran theology: sola Scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia... he does not totally falsify Martin Luther – witness his article "Luther's Sola Scriptura" from CTM vol. 31 (1960) pgs 740-744.
In comparing the Church History taught by today's Prof. Cameron MacKenzie of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, and that of Dr. Lewis W. Spitz, there is a great difference.  And so I say that after one first becomes grounded in the true Christian doctrine from Pieper, Walther, and Luther, then some of the works of Prof. Dr. Lewis William Spitz can have some benefit.

For myself, I prefer to concentrate on the pure Church History as presented by Luther, Walther and Pieper (and Friedrich Bente).  I have set aside Lewis William Spitz because I want the pure historical theology of Luther and it is somewhat watered down by Dr. Spitz.  But it is not watered down by Walther or Pieper.

And would to God there were some true Christian scholar today who would distinguish himself and translate the entire work into English the works of Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf. so that we may read more of the history of Lutheranism and of individuals like John Frederick, the Magnanimous.

To further true Church History, I want to re-publish an obscure book of Walther's letters in my next blog post.

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