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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Walther's sermon book Year of Grace Part 1 (Gnadenjahr)

     In an earlier blogpost, I published a listing of C.F.W. Walther's works in German, and their corresponding translations in English.  As I was compiling that listing in 2013, I noticed that Concordia Publishing House had added a copyright notice to one of the English translations by Pastor Donald Heck, Old Standard Gospels.  This English translation had been available for about 50 years until CPH decided to publish it – it was only available from the Concordia Theological Seminary Press bookstore.  Although it is commendable that CPH decided to do this (now available as Gospel Sermons, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), one notices two astonishing things:
  1. there are 3 more sermon books of Walther still unpublished in English, and
  2. 2 of these have long ago been translated by Pastor Heck and yet unpublished by CPH
At the time that CPH copyrighted the Old Standard Gospels, I thought they would also begin the work of getting Pastor Heck's 2 other major translations, Standard Epistles and Year of Grace, out to the public... but still there is no sign that they plan to do this.  There is no listing for them in CPH's "Walther's Works".  Why?  They would not have to hire a O. Marc Tangner, or Christian Tiews, or Kenneth Howes, or Joel Baseley, or another translator to produce this for it has already been done by the dear Pastor Donald E. Heck 50 years ago!  Oh, they would surely say that there is a tremendous amount of editorial work to put these into final form – surely that is their reason for not publishing these books... surely it is not because they do not truly value the sermon books of The American Luther... or is it? (Just Sayin').
Year of Grace
by C.F.W. Walther
Tr. by Pr. Donald Heck
     So, what to do with the copy I made of Heck's translation of Year of Grace sitting on my bookshelf for the last 15 years?  It is not available to purchase anywhere in the world, not even at CTS-FW bookstore (even if you ask them).  Why not give it away to the world?  Why make the world wait longer for the most beautiful Christian sermons the world has ever seen since the Reformation century?  Why make the work of the dear Pastor Heck sit on a library shelf (in only 2 places in the world) when the English speaking world can benefit from it now?  Why indeed...
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     ==>> What do you say, Dr. Joel Heck, eldest son of the dear Pastor Donald E. Heck?  I noticed your father stated the following in his "Translator's Preface" to this work:
"May you benefit from the study of these sermons [of Walther] as certainly the translator benefited." – Rev. Donald E. Heck
It seems your father highly valued Walther's sermon books, so much that, as you say in your "Foreword" (page x) to Gospel Sermons of Walther, your mother was kept busy "keeping us five children from getting underfoot while Dad was doing his work".  — 
To: Dr. Joel Heck: 
  • You say in your "Foreword": "In these sermons one will read the author of The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel..." (from 1929).  Now since that English translation has been available for over 80 years, and made Walther known to his "English" descendants in the LC-MS – that Walther was truly the spiritual father of the Missouri Synod, why is it that none of Walther's many sermon books in German were translated and published like his "The Proper Distinction..." during those same 80 years?
  • I wonder Dr. Heck, did your father (Rev. Donald E. Heck (1916–1991) ever openly question why his Concordia Publishing House never published any of his translations of Walther (or Stoeckhardt) during his lifetime? 
  • You stated in your "Foreword": 
  • "While the sermonic style of Walther will seem quite different from the typical sermon of today, the theological content of his sermons will remain relevant, since Scripture always remains relevant." – Dr. Joel Heck
  • You said a mouthful in that statement!  Are you saying the "typical sermons of today" are not Scriptural?  Are there none today who preach Scriptural sermons?  And if so, should not all of Walther's sermon books have long ago been translated and republished by CPH so the laypeople could have Scriptural sermons to read?
  • I expected to maybe see that you would make an effort to have your father's fine translations published... maybe like Pastor Joel Baseley has done (Mark V Publications) with several other sermon books by Walther.  But it seems you are kept busy publicizing the work of C.S. Lewis.  Would you say that C.S. Lewis taught a "mere Christianity" like Walther does in these sermons?  (I could ask many more pointed questions regarding the differences between C.S. Lewis's Christianity and Walther's Christianity...)
  • And so I put it to you, Dr. Joel Heck, that if you request that I stop offering this free publication of your father's work, I will comply... but only if you specifically request this.  Otherwise, I think I will be following your father's wishes by making his love for Walther's sermons known to the world.  —  And if you should request that I stop making your father's work freely available, I might just tackle the job of making my own translation available to replace his.  I do not have the native German language abilities like your father and mother, but it would not be too difficult today with all the free translation tools available online.... 
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Now I present to the world the sermons of the greatest Christian teacher since the Reformation century, from The American Luther, in this sermon book Year of Grace, Walther's Gnadenjahr.  And if the reader should find these sermons beneficial for their Christian faith, then I would recommend that they immediately purchase the recent publications by Concordia Publishing House of Walther's Gospel Sermons, Volume 1 and Volume 2.  Then also the reader will want to purchase Pastor Baseley's translations of three other sermon books of Walther.

In the next Part 2 of this blog series, I will publish the balance of this book – Part 2...  and add further comments.

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