In the spirit of celebration I have been trying to read more Walther lately. In the course of my reading, I found the foreward to the 1856 edition of Lehre and Wehre [which I think is the first year of it] which put me in my place but also should cause all of us who think that we are living in a special and unique time in theirs as well. For those who think the church needs to change from the kind of one that Walther embraced for the sake of the post-churched(choose your buzzword here) culture, hear Walther’s words in 1856:
From “Selected Writings of C.F.W. Walther: Editorials from Lehre und Wehre” translated by Herbert J.A. Bouman, pages 11-12 – available from CPH here.
“We are well aware that thereby we set our course against the stream of what is currently popular. People want to be entertained rather than instructed. They repeat Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” and deride as a fool anyone who dares to assert that he had found the truth and is proclaiming it. The current taste wants to nothing but “views,” nothing but thoughts “without prejudice,” expressed in attractive form. The man of today wants his age to be celebrated as the age of maturity and enlightenment, but past centuries to be smiled at as times of childish simplicity, darkness, and superstition. What was proclaimed as truth in a former day must now be relegated to a pigeonhole of history. Let us hear no more about people or about a church that always possessed the truth.
But if the current taste wants nothing to do with teaching, it is even more averse to defense. It thinks that it is all right to wage war for things that have reality, like land, money, honor, and the like, but fight for the truth? – folly! Who would and should fight for a phantom, for something that no one has and that no one can conquer? The spirit of the age believes that truth is the riddle of a sphinx that has not yet found an Oedipus. What truth there is on earth is parceled out, if not among the different chief religions, at least among the various parties in Christendom. All the various s0-called churches are regarded as different branches of one tree, and the varieties of teaching in these churches are simply different refractions of the one sun, merely different colors of the one rainbow. They are all sisters, and only lovelessness and spiritual pride can stoke the fires of discord among them.
But however prevalent these principles have become in our day and however commonly they are expressed sometimes in veiled, sometimes in unveiled form, we cannot subscribe to them. By a divine conviction we believe that there is a truth here on earth and that this truth is contained in God’s Word, that is, in the divinely inspired writings of the apostles and prophets. We also believe that these sacred writings have the purpose of imparting the light of this one complete truth to man sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, and that therefore these writings are so clear that a human being is able to recognize and draw this one complete truth from them. We are furthermore convinced that have always been people who possessed this treasure and that in particular our fathers 300 years ago were granted this unspeakable grace by God and deposited this precious treasure in the Confessions of the so-called Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
He goes on after a long quote:
“Thus we cannot voice the truth we have found as our “opinion” that is not determinative, but we must speak of it as of the one old, eternal, unchangeable truth. We must advertise and defend it as our most precious possession, on which our own salvation and that of all people depends. We must reject and condemn all contrary opinions of men as dangerous, harmful, and destructive error. If the observation of such principles will close doors to our periodical – so be it! We are not interested in editing a widely read paper. Our sole interest lies in bearing witness to what we have learned to know as the truth; in passing on what we have received; in speaking because we believe. If this magazine cannot serve to keep or gain friends for the old truth, let it in God’s name relapse into silence. There are already too many magazines that build Babel.”
The Church led by this firm, intolerant, and doctrinal man grew in such a time as his.
We could stand to sit and learn some character, courage, and conviction from that man which we celebrate today.