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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Matthew Carver’s response – Walther’s Hymnal; a challenge

Walther's Hymnal
translated by
Matthew Carver

I received a response yesterday from Matthew Carver to my questions that I publicly posed to him in my 2015 blog post “The Most Controversial Protestant Hymn”. (see that blog post for his replies)  Mr. Carver is the translator of Walther’s Hymnal, and his response is important enough to merit a full blog post to give notice of it and my replies to him here:
Mr. Carver:

Your reply to me was most welcome!... and a bit surprising.  It surely is not lost on you that I am persona non grata in today’s LC-MS.  But I sense in your reply a tone that indicates that you too are interested in the truth, both factual truth, and the Truth. (John 14:6)  And so perhaps you sense that my polemics against today’s LC-MS, the church body I was born into, are directed to show it the way back to the truth, the truth that was taught in its history, that was sung in its worship services.
Before I go on, I must proclaim how wonderful your book has been (and is!) for the Church!  It was truly breathtaking to see the words of these German Lutheran hymns come to life for the English-only Lutherans of today.  Dear God! how the two World Wars stripped away practically all common knowledge of the German language.  Both my parents could speak German but they only used it to speak to each other to keep their their children in the dark on certain topics.  They made no effort to teach us children…. German.  I have no knowledge of languages except … English.  (sigh)
But you have shown by your responses that you would be guileless.  You did not take offense at my questions.  (Others have.)  No, you straightforwardly answered my questions:  
#1: I will accept your answer, but could part of the reason for your answer be from what you reported in question #2? (see next item).
#2: If I understand your response, someone (unnamed) suggested that you change Luther’s original words (murd’rous Pope and Turk) into what was essentially the changed wording of the 1941 TLH hymnal, i.e. “the generalized version” = “those who fain by craft and sword”.  But you avoided the “fear of objections” by publishing Luther’s/Walther’s actual words that make this hymn “the most controversial Protestant hymn”.  
#3: “Historical artifact”:  “I certainly don't mean an obsolete thing”:
The world can see by news reports from around the world that the “Turk” ( i.e. Islamics, Muslims, Mohammedans) still carries out its “murd’rous” physical acts against Christians, even when the news media minimizes all but the most heinous acts.  But what about the Pope?  The Inquisition by the Papists that murdered the Lutheran martyrs would seem to be over, and so the Papacy is a “kinder, gentler” church body willing to get along with other churches.  Can we really sing in our hearts about the “murd’rous Pope” now? … now that CPH’s book editor of The Lutheran Difference says that Vatican II made substantive changes?  To that I can only ask: Where has Roman Catholicism rescinded its anathemas from the Council of Trent against all Christianity?  It has not.  It continues to teach “faith and works”.  And so I say that the Papacy does not have to be physically “murd’rous” anymore because external “Lutheranism” no longer identifies the Pope in Rome as the Anti-Christ, no longer cries out its defining shibboleth “SOLA FIDEI!” against the Romanists.  Today’s Lutheran teachers look at those slain Magdeburg children and say that they should have changed the words of Luther’s children’s hymn to say the same as what the 1941 LC-MS TLH hymnal said, to avoid the offense… and so “saved” the lives of the children.  To this I say that there will be no Hollywood movie depicting the death of these Magdeburg children singing Luther’s hymn… they will only be honored by the true Church.  I honor them… today, here and now, more than as a “historical artifact”.
I challenge you, Matthew Carver, as you say that Walther’s Hymnal is not “an obsolete thing”, that you would do nearly equal work for the Church if you would consider translating Walther’s “Foreword” (Vorwort) to the 1886 Lehre und Wehre (LuW) journal (full digital text file here).  This is one of the greatest writings concerning the Inspiration of Holy Scripture by the greatest defender of Christian doctrine since… Martin Luther.  But… it probably would not be publishable by today’s LC-MS because I’ve heard that…. “Walther isn’t popular right now”.   But that does not mean that this is not important for the Church.  In fact the Church is gasping for a breath of fresh air regarding the truth and reliability of the Scriptures for our Christian faith.  Another translator, Andrew Boomhower,  took up my challenge to translate the 1886 Synodical Conference essay entitled “Theses on the Divinity of Holy Scripture” and what a glorious work that was!  But Walther’s 1886 “Foreword” to LuW preceded this and I think was partially the basis for it. (Dr. Robert Preus recognized the significance of this essay..)  Walther was the restorer of the Scriptures as the Christian’s only “Touchstone” for our modern world.  And his 1886 Vorwort was his great plea to all of Christianity to come back,... back, … Back to the Bible.  —  Show me, Matthew Carver, prove to me that Walther’s Hymnal is indeed not “an obsolete thing”.  If you should decide to proceed with this project, let me know.  As you see above, I am offering full assistance in seeing a project like this through – it is about 45 pages long.  If I do not hear from you, I will assume that you have declined.  And so I will then be working diligently to find someone else to do it.  But if you do proceed with it, I would be honored to publish it on my blog, assuming no one else will.  (Andrew Boomhower allowed me to publish his work.)
Now, I say to you, Matthew Carver, that the next step up for this masterful translation work of yours would be to have it set to music so that the laity in their homes can sing it.  Dare I say, it could be a major work in restoring true Lutheranism?...  How I would love to memorize German Lutheran hymn verses set to music so that I can block out the constant bombardment that a Christian receives daily, every hour, wherever he goes in this world.  I would like to have this hymn stanza, Luther’s “Erhalt uns, HErr, bei deinem Wort” (Preserve us, Lord, by Thy Word.) readily available to memorize so that I can recall it when I need it. (I try to sing "Chief Of Sinners Though I Be" in my mind when today's "music" blasts in my ears – YouTube hymn sung here by The Lutheran Quartet)  Isn’t this what the apostle Paul admonishes us to do? (Eph 5:19)
With my original blog post, I wanted to honor the parents of the children of Magdeburg who deemed their loss as giving back to the Lord the gift He had originally given to them in the first place.  And so the great pain of the parents at the loss of their children would have the divine comfort of the Lord of Hosts.  I strongly suspect that you, Matthew Carver, can find the very words of comfort from our Savior for these parents – Matthew 16:25 comes to my mind (that's Matthew, your namesake).
Matthew Carver!  Your book is evidently popular for I cannot seem to find it being sold second hand cheaply or on sale by CPH… it seems to be in demand.  I would like to buy more copies of it, but I have to pay full price!  I’m cheap and avoid having to pay full price, but this book is worth its weight in gold.  It is the gold standard in Christian hymns for today.  It truly provides the greatest hymns to celebrate the 500th Anniversary year of Luther’s Reformation, bar none.   Now I challenge you to put it to music.
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I would make note here of two things related to my original blog post, but not necessarily to Matthew Carver’s reply:
1) I have updated a broken link in item #8 referring to a 2010 letter published in Christian News.  This letter indicated to me that true Lutherans lament the passing of its former strong defense of Christianity.
2) I recently ran across a reference to an indication of the offense that this hymn of Luther had in a more recent times, albeit 1-1/2 centuries ago.  It was recorded in the book The History of the Wisconsin Synod, p. 115 and comes from a Wisconsin Synod periodical from Nov. 15, 1867:
“... followed up by another article under the heading: “What ‘to show one’s colors’ means”, in which he tells about one of the popular Reformation jubilee processions of the Missourians; he relates that one of the banners had its legend: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort und steur des Papsts und Tuerken Mord! (Lord, keep us in Thy word and work, Restrain the murd’rous Pope and Turk) concealed by a red drape, presumably for fear of the Irish and German Catholics. … In answer the Lutheraner (Jan. 15, 1868) carried an article by Lochner of Milwaukee …  The draped-banner matter he brushes aside as trivial, local, and incorrect.”
Whatever the facts of this incident are (see Der Lutheraner paragraph on p. 76 in response, text file here), it shows that 150 years ago, during 350th Reformation anniversary, this hymn of Luther was certainly not unknown for its offense to the world, especially to “Irish and German Catholics”.  
Yes, Matthew Carver, I shall dedicate this blog post to your translation effort for Walther’s Hymnal and especially for your
  • presentation of Luther’s words “without fear of objections” and
  • purpose to convey that Walther’s Hymnal is not “an obsolete thing”.
May God bless this work to His glory!  May it bring honor to Him during this year 2017 of the 500th Reformation Anniversary!  Amen!

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