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Friday, March 9, 2018

Fick 5: Göttingen- mediating theologians; Gerhardt’s counsel; veiled Rationalism (of LC-MS)

      This continues from Part 4 (Table of Contents in Part 1), publishing an English translation of C.F.W. Walther's biography of Pastor C.J. Hermann Fick. —
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      This installment begins with somewhat humorous anecdotes of a pipe and dressing gown. But then begins a most painful chapter in the life of Fick… and also for German theology of the 1800s.  Some modern historians, such as Walter O. Forster (Zion, p. 14) and Carl Mundinger (Government, p. 17-18) minimize the Rationalism in Germany at this time… but not C.F.W. Walther.  No, Walther presents the very real attacks on the Christian faith in the classrooms… like what goes on in the seminaries at St. Louis and Ft. Wayne, today in America…
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This translation by BackToLuther (BTL), taken from Der Lutheraner, Vol. 42, Nos. 14 (July 15, 1886) to 18 (September 15, 1886). All underlining is emphasis from original. All highlighting by BTL. — This portion from vol. 42, #15, p. 113-114.
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In Memory of Our Unforgettable Fick.
(by C.F.W. Walther; Part 5, cont'd from Part 4)

Before we show the readers our Fick in his years as  student and Candidate, we can not refrain from adding yet a lovely trait to the image of school student Fick. On November 18, 1840, our Fick wrote in jest to his father the following, among other things: “Man always strives: the child wants to be a man, the pupil a student. To be a student, you need a dressing gown and — a pipe. The last wish is not so great as it was a great effort to bring it out.”  Against this request, the otherwise kindly father seems to have opposed his son, probably for health reasons.  At least, the latter writes to his master Papa in the next letter (December 1840), among other things: “I am glad that the issue of smoking has come up and that I have seriously reminded of the fulfillment of my word. The love with which you are acting on this matter compels me to give you the promise, even for the university years, as for the rest of the school, not to form a single cloud of vapor. For the sake of love, I want to fulfill this promise strictly and faithfully.  But I can defend the dressing gown.   It was my wish to spare my clothes. My working gown is torn because it was too old and would not wear on my body anymore, and now I must always wear my good skirt. Then I also wished that it worked in the cold, because it is too expensive to have a warm room all day long.” *)
At Easter 1841 our Fick finally moved to the university of his homeland, Göttingen, to complete his preparation for the holy ministry.
*) Some of our students would like to note this, who already consider themselves to be great martyrs or have too harsh of accommodations if in winter it is not warm in their room when they enter it early in the morning until late at night, which of course is only possible at great expense.

[page 113, col. 2] Unfortunately, we must report here at once that the three-year study period that he spent here [in Göttingen], as far as his Christianity is concerned, was almost a lost time for him. Not that he should have gotten here into a so-called brisk student life, and would not have diligently complied with university studies; not that he should have completely abandoned faith here and surrendered to the lust of the world: no, before that the faithful God has preserved him in grace in Göttingen. On the contrary, in the letters which he wrote to his parents and siblings from here, there are still many beautiful testimonies to the fact that the light of his faith was not altogether extinguished here by the grace of God. On May 25, 1842, he writes to his father: “I like being here" (in Göttingen), “especially since I have met a few students from Halle, able Christian people.” In a letter of December 29, 1843, describing how he celebrated Christmas in fellowship with several other students, he concludes his description with the following words: “Thereupon,” (after a solemn ceremony) “we sat around the table and Wolter said : Because we are all Christians, it is fair to read the gospel of the birth of our Savior, and read the first two chapters from Luke and then a sermon from Hofacker, where he became so soft that he had tears. It was a beautiful hour and we were deeply moved in our spirit to the crib in Bethlehem and felt that all the wonderful stories had happened for us.” But in Fick's Christian remarks from his student days, there is no longer the former earnestness and former fervor.
The cause of this decline in Fick's spiritual life is not hard to guess. Especially in the time in which Fick wanted to study theology in Göttingen, it looked very sad there in their purpose for theology. Not even one of the theological professors presented to the students the pure doctrine of the Word of God. The best among the professors wanted to take a middle ground between the old pure faith and the new utter unbelief. They belonged, as one says now, to
[page 113, col. 3] the so-called mediation theologians [Vermittelungstheologen]. These say that the doctrine of the old church itself is right; but the old theologians, they say, have not quite represented it, but have said it in a way that the world is now rightly stumbling upon it. They admit for example, that God is of course triune; that Christ was certainly not a mere human being, but the Son of God; in Christ, of course, God became a man, but in faith in him alone are holiness and salvation. Man, of course, as an impotent sinner must be born again by the Holy Spirit in order to be able to enter into the Kingdom of God: but everything also comes down to the fact that one also understands this and is right. It is necessary to use the right philosophy or worldly wisdom; then one sees that the doctrines of the Scriptures that seem so offensive to reason are not so offensive, but quite reasonable, and that it can not be otherwise than the Bible teaches. But as these modern theologians present the mysterious doctrines of the Scriptures as wholly rational, they completely annihilate them in this way.

They retain the names of the ancient Bible teachings, but they take them in a new, completely different meaning. They also speak of the reconciliation of men through the blood of Christ, of rebirth through Holy Baptism, of the enjoyment of the true body and blood of Christ in the Holy Supper, of the justification of man before God solely by faith, of the conversion of man through the Holy Spirit, etc.; but under all this, they understand something quite different from what the Bible understands, and therefore, what the true church has always understood and believed. And indeed, they often talk so eloquently and so ‘heartfeltedly’ of this, with eloquent expression, that these inexperienced men speak of the pure doctrine of our pious fathers, only in a more appealing and convincing manner. Such a mediation theologian was in Fick's student days in Göttingen, among others, a professor named Liebner []. The more learned, astute, thoughtful, eloquent, and personally lovable the same was, a greater impression he made
[page 114, col. 1] on the still unfortified heart of our Fick, and the greater damage brought to his soul by the high veneration that he cherished for Liebner. He really got on with it, looking at the new doctrine of the above for the old, pure teaching of the Lutheran Church. Therefore, on November 6, 1842, he wrote to his father: “I am very pleased that you have made such an acquaintance with Peter in Hildesheim, and I will be elated if I can think in the preaching of our Liebner and Hildebrandt also you hear the pure (!) word.” Indeed, in a letter of September 6, 1843, he writes: “I am delighted with Liebner now, he is like a brother to me – such a holy and learned man against a poor youth – I must thank God, I can not help but enclose a sermon from Liebner, so that you may meet this truly great man and have a nice enjoyment of it.” Already the day before, Fick, in a letter addressed to his father, had presented the religious-philosophical system, which, as he writes himself he “owes to Liebner.” Without doubt, he meant to have amazed his pious papa over his son's newfound profound wisdom, but the following letters [of reply] do not report this amazement. Herr Papa seems to have taken the new information rather coolly.
From this it can be seen what a dangerous venture it is when Christian parents have their sons educated in the right faith studied at universities, in which false-believing professors present their dazzling new wisdom to the students. Only a few keep the treasure that they brought from their father's home to the university. A splendid pattern for Christian parents in this regard is therefore the famous hymn writer Paul Gerhardt [Welt anniversary article.; “existential seriousness”?]. When he reached the 70th year of his age in 1676 and faced an imminent death, he set down his last will for his fourteen-year-old son. In this document he writes, among other things, as follows:
“My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God, that he should become a servant and preacher of His Holy Word; in this he should stay, and not turn back because he would like to have few good days, for then the dear God knows how to counsel and can readily replace the external tribulation with the inner heart's content and joyfulness of the spirit. Study the sacred theology in pure schools and in unadulterated universities, and beware of syncretists(unionism [Religionsmengern]) “because they seek the temporal and are neither faithful to God nor to men.
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      Someone in the LC-MS might argue that the teachers in today's LC-MS are not like the “mediation theologians” of Germany that Walther describes in great detail above.  But then why are their future pastors subjected to, and be so conversant in, the terminology of
actualization, anthropology, Aristotelian, contextualization, culture, data/datum, dialectic, encounter, enmeshed, enfleshed / enfleshment, engage / engagement, epistemology, etiology, etymological, existential / existentialism, human creatures (man?), identity, metatheological, metalinguistic, motif, nomological, ontological, paradigm/paradigmatic, personhood, postmodern, matrix, psychology, salvific, sociology, paradigm, resonate, rhythm, teleological, tradition, transsubjective,
... instead of the truth of the doctrines of
verbal inspiration”, “objective Justification”, “universal Justification”? 
... instead of
sola fide, sola scriptura, sola gratia?
Then why did Robert Kolb in his 1984 book The Christian Faith (p. 8) quote and use Harvard psychologist Erik Erikson, who psychoanalyzed  Martin Luther, to explain the Christian faith?

Why did Forster and Mundinger oppose Walther's true picture of the deplorable veiled Rationalism of the mediation theologians in the educational institutions and seminaries of Germany in the 19th century?  The “mediating theologians” were viewed as turning back Rationalism, but Walther exposes their duplicity.  Could it be that Forster and Mundinger,  the two great historians of the LC-MS, also played a part in the departure of the LC-MS from its heritage, the old (German) Missouri Synod? — In the next Part 6...

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