Walther proves our arrogance wrong…

October 25th, 2011 Post by

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.

 

 






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  1. Ariel
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:08 | #1

    So…being self-assured of our righteousness enough to shut out any chance of hearing input from anyone else than our own group isn’t arrogance in itself?

  2. Matthew Mills
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:18 | #2

    @Ariel #1
    It is arrogance if your righteousness, or truth is based on your own choice. If it’s based on God’s Word it is not.

  3. Ariel
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:28 | #3

    So…that means I can go to my local Lutheran congregation that has a contemporary worship service and tell everyone off because we’re right and they’re wrong?

  4. Johannes
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:39 | #4

    Ariel :
    So…that means I can go to my local Lutheran congregation that has a contemporary worship service and tell everyone off because we’re right and they’re wrong?

    For one thing, that is hardly “speaking the truth in love.” And for another thing, it’s not “my righteousness” but Christ’s righteousness. It’s easy to confuse the terms “righteousness” and “self-righteousness.” I don’t think Walther can be accused of “self-righteousness”, especially if one knows the personal struggles he went thru, the crises of faith, and burdens of his office. If anyone knew he was a “poor miserable sinner” it was Walther.

    Johannes

  5. Johannes
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:42 | #5
  6. Johannes
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:48 | #6

    Ariel :
    So…being self-assured of our righteousness enough to shut out any chance of hearing input from anyone else than our own group isn’t arrogance in itself?

    From Dr. MacKenzie’s presentation in #5 above:

    “But why was this doctrinal unity, this unity in the Word, so important to the founders of the Missouri Synod? It was precise-ly because of the churchly character of the synod. You will recall that in describing the church, we have remarked more than once upon the marks of the church, the Word and the sacraments. According to the Lutheran Confessions, the Word of God and the sacraments are the marks of the Church because they are the only means by which the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith.(A.C. V & VII). Synod’s commitment to maintaining the right preaching of the gospel and the correct administration of the sacraments arises, therefore, out of a concern for the salvation of those for whom the means of grace are intended. For false doctrine dishonors God’s name and endangers salvation by leading people away from God’s grace in Christ. Our Lord Himself said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). ”

    Johannes

  7. Matthew Mills
    October 25th, 2011 at 16:50 | #7

    @Ariel #3
    If it’s the only Lutheran church w/ in a reasonable commute, perhaps, but for my money I avoid Lutheran Churches w/ non-Lutheran worship services, like I avoid cheep beer and robusta coffee.

  8. October 25th, 2011 at 21:10 | #8

    You know, we just recycle the same old stuff with every generation, calling it by a different name and promoted by different faces. The true doctrine handed down from the apostles and the Lord is fairly simple. It’s what men have done embellishing it that has obfuscated the true meat of the message.

    Walther was instrumental for me in my conversion from there to here, he was able to get through my thick skull that to confuse law and gospel leads to hopelessness and despair. I look forward to reading more of his work as time goes on. He was able to articulate the divide so clearly and cleanly that it left no doubt where one ended and the other began.

    Yes, we are fighting again (or is that still) the same battle for doctrinal purity and to not dismiss what was so precious to attain some 500 years ago. We do the fighting in love, but with firmness and conviction that doesn’t seek to tear down, but to point to the error that has come up from the pit, again. It’s not being unloving, or arrogant, it’s preventing the slide into heterodoxy that encircles us now.

    We need more Walthers and Melanchthon’s and Chemnitz’s and Luther’s today. Men who are determined to stand fast and strong for what is the pure gospel. The change must happen from within and from both top and bottom. The only way the people will support the fight is to be instructed as to the difference of doctrine. That onus lies on the pastors to make clear our heritage and why doctrine matters. Most average Joe’s out there wouldn’t know the difference even if they’ve been catechized.

  9. Johannes
    October 25th, 2011 at 22:20 | #9

    @Mary Johnson #8

    Mary, you presented an eloquent defense of the faith. Your post should be sent to every DP in the LCMS. Permit a quote from the LCMS constitution, which is also the constitution of each district:

    “The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall—
    1. Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor.1:10),work
    through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies,
    and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and
    heresy;

    2010 Handbook, p. 13.

    In case anyone is wondering about the “true faith” our quia confessional subscription should make that very clear. The “unity of the true faith” has been the #1 priority of Synod since its inception in 1847.

    Thank-you, Mary!

    Johannes

    p.s. You can find a fine collection of Walther sermons at Mark V publications, Rev. Joel Baseley (Emmanuel, Dearborn, Michigan). markvpublications.com

  10. Jason
    October 25th, 2011 at 23:18 | #10

    What was true 150 years ago is true today. What was true 500 years ago is true today. What was true 1700 years ago ( Nicene Creed), 2000 years (NT canon) and 3500 years (Sanai) is still true. Nothing new under the sun. This is partially why I reject the notion we need a new “Augsburg Confession” written today. I think AC did pretty well, and often times the over-reaching situations that might prompt a new confession was handled by the FC. (plus I’d be worried of the political process of trying to get all “Lutherans” involved and how it would affect the results) So I think our Confessions adequately handle why we left Rome, and why we didn’t go off the deep end.

    @Ariel #3
    Interesting scenario. It’s wrong first because of a loveless arrogance. love the sinner hate the sin. One would want to help and correct a brother or sister because we love them while we abhor the false notions they have because of the Devil’s whispers. I would argue it’s wrong secondly because the CoWo is a new novelty, and right off the bat Walther rails against the current age always thinking it is (arrogantly) so much smarter than the volume of generations that came before it.

  11. Johannes
    October 26th, 2011 at 07:22 | #11

    Ariel :So…being self-assured of our righteousness enough to shut out any chance of hearing input from anyone else than our own group isn’t arrogance in itself?

    First of all, I don’t remember seeing the word “righteousness” in the quote, yet your words seem to imply that Walther was somehow “self-righteous.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
    Second, Walther’s assurance (and ours) is not “self-assurance” but assurance from the Word of God–external–extra nos: it comes from outside of our selves.
    Third, I’d appreciate some examples of people outside of our group that we should hear from. Give a listen to IssuesEtc., and you’ll find many non-Lutheran guests. Attend a symposium at one of our seminaries and you’ll probably hear from some non-Lutherans speakers. Look at the bookshelves in any LCMS pastor’s office, and I’m willing to bet you’ll find a number of non-Lutheran authors represented there.

    However, in the quote above, Walther says, “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.” The question is not one of hearing what others outside of the LCMS have to say, but subscribing to them. In fact, we should know what is being said outside of our denomination. But subscribe to them? Hardly.
    As far as subscription is concerned, we make an unconditional “quia” subscription to the Lutheran Confessions–that is “because” (“quia”) they are a true exposition of the Word of God. So, subscribing to the doctrines of others that conflict with the Lutheran Confessions is out of the question.

    I’ll go so far as to say that it’s pretty obvious that too many of our laity and clergy have been listening to others “outside our group” too much, and from what I’ve seen, the unity of the true faith has been severely eroded in the LCMS. It seems our DP’s have a lot of work to do.

    Respectfully,

    Johannes

  12. October 26th, 2011 at 09:02 | #12

    “In our day, men have become merged in skepticism to such an extent that they regard any one who claims: ‘I have found the truth; I am certain concerning every doctrine of revelation.’ as a semilunatic.” (C.F.W. Walther, Law and Gospel)

  13. helen
    October 26th, 2011 at 10:59 | #13

    @Johannes #11
    I’ll go so far as to say that it’s pretty obvious that too many of our laity and clergy have been listening to others “outside our group” too much, and from what I’ve seen, the unity of the true faith has been severely eroded in the LCMS. It seems our DP’s have a lot of work to do.

    They would have, if too many DP’s (and pastors), too, were not too immersed in ‘willowcreek’ and similar “programs” to want to defend Lutheran theology…. Bill Hybels admits willowcreek is not reaching people to teach them the faith. How many LCMS churches dropped their membership?

  14. Ariel
    October 26th, 2011 at 11:51 | #14

    >>However, in the quote above, Walther says, “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.” The question is not one of hearing what others outside of the LCMS have to say, but subscribing to them. In fact, we should know what is being said outside of our denomination. But subscribe to them? Hardly.

    Okay, you’re right about that, I’ll agree to that. But my point that I attempted to get across, and maybe got more than a bit defensive and vitriolic about, is that by secluding ourselves within our own little insular world of Lutheran doctrine and theology and writings, we risk becoming completely cut-off from the real and pertinent issues and questions that exist in the secular world.

    We Lutherans have a lot to offer both believers and non-believers. We know that. There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in Biblically and confessionally-grounded Lutheranism. But what good is it when we’re not even ready to enter any productive dialogue with anyone other than “our people”? We’ve got the message right. Now we need to get it out, and part of that is being cognizant and being able to respond to what’s going on in the outside world.

    “Arrogance” is a really strong word, especially when you’re using it to refer to people who you already agree with and that you believe get stuff right. But when all we do is break our own back patting ourselves on it for being the best and most right Lutherans there are and how much better we are than everyone else, not a lot of people are gonna see a viable option in confessional Lutheranism. Even though we’re really good at getting both doctrine and practice, a lot of people are gonna misinterpret our viewpoint that “we get it right, all the time, every time” as simple arrogance. I have too much of a stake in confessional Lutheranism to let our message get out in the wrong way.

  15. October 26th, 2011 at 12:30 | #15

    @Ariel #14

    Ariel,

    Do you realize that in the above quotations Walther uses words such as “we” and “us”? The title of the thread includes the plural possessive “our.”

    OUR arrogance is to voice the truth as if it is opinion. Our arrogance is to twist the truth and pass it off as something novel, hip, and cool in the name of mission.

    Walther states above, concerning errors, etc., “…we cannot subscribe to them.” He humbly includes himself. There is no “secluding ourselves whithin our own little insular world of Luther doctrine” going on, or being advocated in what Walther says.

    When we engage the world, we can only do so as “salt” or as a “beacon” of the truth Christ has granted to us. That is not arrogance, but faithfulness. If we do anything other than faithfully present the truth of God’s word to the world as our Lord has given it to us, then we are indeed being arrogant, prideful, and otherwise sinful. That is what Walther is getting at in the above. The message is one of repentance for us all.

  16. helen
    October 26th, 2011 at 12:54 | #16

    I don’t think any Confessional Lutheran would say s/he “got it all right, all the time, every time” because there is still original sin, and we are willing to admit we are sinners.

    “Arrogance” is only one of the handy words thrown at confessionals by people who don’t want to defend their position, or listen to the confessionals’ arguments either.

    [They don't dwell on sin a lot in a "praise service" or where the Sacrament of the Altar is tucked away on a mid week evening, so the "forgiveness of sins" doesn't disturb the Sunday morning "customers".]

    We get a good deal of the “outside Lutheranism” POV from eloquent posters who have found Christ “inside”, often after some pretty hair raising journeys as “seekers” (if we must use the abused word). I have a new friend, a grad student who came to Christianity under Pastor Marcus Zill at Wyoming U. He is an eloquent testimony to the need for a confessional Lutheran witness on our college campuses! One brother preceded him into the LCMS; the rest of his family has no interest in his joy or his faith. That is sad.

    And without being devoted to TVangelists, or addicted to radio “Christian” music, you can be aware of major trends in the rest of the world. Many of us read enough not to have our heads in the sand! Issues, Etc. and Pirate Christian Radio contribute, too.

  17. October 26th, 2011 at 15:26 | #17

    @helen #16

    Helen, you are so very correct in your assessment. I never cease to be amazed at the never ending back and forth between the factions in the LCMS. I guess I was very lucky to pick a confessional congregation on my first stab at a church in the LCMS. Perhaps it was God at work as well. Either way, had I run into a carbon copy of a Willow Creek or Praise Me I would have not stayed for the benediction (if there was one).

    I just don’t see the draw for a confessional Lutheran to go out into the world to try and fill in supposed holes the liturgy or practice might have. Declining numbers and visions of a packed church might drive some pastors to think it’s a better way, but still… what you lose is incredible. I wish you could peer into my mind, my countless friends minds and see the damage done by a lifetime of mainline Protestantism. Those that still participate are hooked into the “make it a better tomorrow” Wayne Dyer sermon series; at least until they realize it won’t and they can’t.

    So, I look around and see this huge dichotomy that revolves around two areas; women’s ordination and the other, contemporary worship – neither of which can happen if a church wants to remain confessional. By confessional, I mean word and sacraments, confession and absolution, law and gospel, baptism and communion, and last but surely not least, doctrinally sound.

    Issues Etc. and Pirate Christian Radio do a huge service for the community at large in disseminating proper practice and doctrine. There are multitudes of podcasts from faithful pastors available. We have a President who is committed to maintaining historical worship and practice. There are countless others who support and sustain those who hold these views. I just refuse to give up easily after spending 50+ years wandering in the desert to have at last found the oasis in the midst of the sand dunes.

  18. ready to lose it
    October 28th, 2011 at 18:16 | #18

    <to .
    “the Sacrament of the Altar is tucked away on a mid week evening, so the “forgiveness of sins” doesn’t disturb the Sunday morning “customers”.]
    <
    Helen, I will try this quote function. Is this really going on? I find this very disturbing. Please tell me you are using poetic license.

    I won't waste my time in a church that doesn't offer holy communion and forgiveness every week. How could this possbily offend anyone?

  19. Johannes
    October 28th, 2011 at 19:50 | #19

    @ready to lose it #18
    “I won’t waste my time in a church that doesn’t offer holy communion and forgiveness every week. How could this possbily offend anyone?”

    How about the lady who visited our church once, and as she left, told our pastor, “I’m not a sinner.”

    Or Joyce Meyer: “I am not poor, I am not miserable, I am not a sinner.”

    The cross, and our need for it, are indeed offenses. As others have, said, “Sad.”

    J

  20. helen
    October 30th, 2011 at 18:07 | #20

    @ready to lose it #18
    “Tell me it isn’t so”
    I read a lot of Lutheran material on line, so I can’t quote chapter and verse w/o spending a lot of time in archives, but I have several times read other posters who said that the Supper was not used on Sunday in their churches, but rather some midweek night. I believe the practice was mentioned on BJS sometime back.
    Surveying church web pages might verify this, if someone reading does not.
    I’d start with the cute names with an ‘e’ at the end: Crosspointe, etc.

    The Lord’s Supper is celebrated every Sunday at both services in my present congregation. [However, I do know Pastors in the area who argue that providing it once or twice a month is all that is necessary. On Sunday; I'll credit them for that.]

  21. helen
    October 30th, 2011 at 18:23 | #21

    @Johannes #19
    I have had another member, in a previous city/Lutheran congregation, ask me why we had to have the confession of sins and absolution more than once.
    (I’m serious!)

    A woman (not a Lutheran) once told me she didn’t need to go to church because she wasn’t a sinner.
    It happens.

    @ready to lose it #18
    I won’t waste my time in a church that doesn’t offer holy communion and forgiveness every week. How could this possbily offend anyone?

    I sit near the front and do not spend communion time watching to see who goes.
    I was told recently that some of our members will not go more than once or twice a month. (“Every service” is a couple of years old now.) That is, of course, quite Lutheran. Luther didn’t say everyone had to go every time; he said that the Supper had to be provided at all the major services for those who did want to go.
    I have twice had communion after the service closed, in other churches, because someone wanted it, and anyone within earshot was invited to join them.

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