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Sunday, November 29, 2015

American Civil War and... the Missouri Synod

      Continuing my project of presenting the full text of Franz Pieper's original Christliche Dogmatik....
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      About 20 years ago, as I devoured everything I could find of the writings of the "altlutherische" Missourisynode, I wondered at times how the Civil War affected them.  As I scoured the "Convention Essays", Lehre und Wehre, and Der Lutheraner through the early years, there was almost a strange silence on the matter of the war that ravaged America.  --  Today's church historians like to spend time discussing the Civil War, but this seems more due to their lack of understanding of the old (German) Missouri Synod.  The old (German) Missouri Synod barely even mentioned the war.  Why?  Today's history treats this war as having a major impact on everyone who lived through it, so why was there almost no information on the events of the American Civil War?  --
      Then Franz Pieper largely answered that question in his Christliche Dogmatik, Vol. 1a, pg 195 (page 167, n. 228 in English edition), presented below in my translation. All highlighting is mine:

We would like to make a point relating to the unity in doctrine. This complete agreement in doctrine has given offense in this country and also in Germany, and there have often been made quite irrelevant comments and even attempts to show this as a result of submission under the authority of one man.  Nothing can be more perverse. We have known most fathers of the synod in person. They were not only fundamentally different, but partly also very strong and independent characters, so that, humanly speaking, it could be expected that they would soon move apart in different directions. That this did not happen appeared to us ever more as a testimony to the unifying power of God's Word.  The various political views  at the time of the American Civil War, which now and then strongly made itself noticeable and stood out even in public meetings, could not destroy the unity of faith, by Scripture-based working of the Holy Spirit.  They said to each other: "Politics has not brought us together, neither is it to drive us apart."

One fact stood out for me -- that Franz Pieper personally knew most of the fathers of the Missouri Synod.  Not only could he speak first-hand about Walther, but also about most the other professors, teachers, and pastors.  And so the best judge of the old Missouri Synod is... Franz Pieper.  And he fills in the blank concerning the relationship of old Missouri to the surrounding Civil War -- there was none to disturb the God-given unity in His Word.

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