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Friday, December 8, 2017

Doctrine & Life — Faith & Life (Luther); “coma” of Missourians

      While browsing through early issues of Der Lutheraner, a short blurb caught my eye.  In was in the 1852 volume 8, p. 128.  I strongly suspect that it was editor Walther who chose this short quote from Luther.  The subject was dear to his heart, as it was to Martin Luther – Doctrine vs. Life.  Since the blurb did not identify the source of this quote, I spent some time using the Index to Luther's Works on the passage of Gal. 5:17 … and finally found it on page 56 of Volume 40.  It is contained in the item “Letter to the Princes of Saxony Concerning the Rebellious Spirit” (St. L XVII:4-17, WA 15, 210-221).  So I decided to republish this short excerpt without having to re-translate it myself.  The full German text is here.  All emphasis is mine except the enlarged text which follows the same emphasis as Der Lutheraner
They claim that we do not live as we teach, and do not have the Spirit that produces such fruits. I would allow them to make this claim, for then we could plainly discern that it is not a good spirit that speaks through them. We ourselves confess (and need no heavenly voice and lofty spirit to tell us) that we regrettably do not do everything we ought to do. In fact, St. Paul tells us in Gal. 5:17 that it will never be different, as long as flesh and spirit are on earth together, and opposed to each other. I do not perceive any particular fruit of the Allstedtian [Anabaptists] spirit, except that he wants to do violence and destroy wood and stone. Love, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, have been very little in evidence so far. It doesn’t want its fruits to be that common. By the grace of God I can, however, point to much fruit of the Spirit on our part. If it is a question of boasting, I, the least and most sinful person, am willing to set myself alone over against all the fruits of all the spirits of Allstedt, no matter how greatly he [Münzer] criticizes my life. It is not a fruit of the Spirit to criticize a doctrine by the imperfect life of the teacher. For the Holy Spirit criticizes false doctrine while bearing with those who are weak in faith and life, as Paul teaches in Rom. 14:1 ff. and 15:1 and everywhere else.Martin Luther 
— — — — — — — — — — — —
J. P. Koehler

      How does this quote have application for today?  When Prof. J. P. Koehler was deposed from his professorship in the Wisconsin Synod in 1930, there was a faction that followed him.  Their chief publication was given the title Faith-Life: the periodical of the Protest'ant Conference.  Inadvertently this title exposed their error for they tended to focus on what was wrong with the "life" rather than to maintain and defend the pure doctrine.  This is mirrored by Koehler's own attempt to promote the discipline of “exegesis” at the expense of “dogmatics”, which teaches the doctrines of the Bible.  One might wonder that this would not apply to today's Wisconsin Synod, but that would be a mistake, for almost everywhere one turns to among teachers and leaders in today's WELS, with a few notable exceptions, one finds praise for J.P. Koehler, not Adolf Hoenecke, its father in the faith.
      And how did Koehler characterize the "Missourians" who faithfully defended the Bible's doctrines through their adherence to pure doctrine, while he endeavored to use "politics in the church" to create dissension?  He said (History of the Wisconsin Synod,  p. 219):
“…the Missourians… coma of orthodox infallibility”. 
Koehler's “coma” comment was like the “theological diapers” slur that the Ohio Synod's Matthias Loy hurled against Franz Pieper. — Yes, followers of this blog are subjecting their minds to being "comatose", as Koehler claimed.  But Luther says:
“…the Holy Spirit criticizes false doctrine while bearing with those who are weak in faith and life.”
No one in the church was more tolerant of a weak faith, a weak life, than Martin Luther.  And no one was greater at criticizing false doctrine in the church than Martin Luther and... the old (German) Missouri Synod.

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