(Editor’s Note: Once in a while we get comments on posts that need to be shared for all to read. A comment this evening from BJS website reader “Bloviator Observer” is just one of those comments – actually I just wanted an excuse to say “Bloviator Observer.” He/she is commenting on yesterday’s post from Pastor Preus about the Benke apology. For many of you this comment is more detail than you care to have but I would commend even the freshest BJS newbie to dive in. Over time, reading this website and others will bring you familiarity with the jargon of these debates and will be good for you and Christ’s church as we seek to remain steadfast in Christ’s word and the Lutheran Confessions.
For those new to the discussion, several years ago Dr. Benke, the president of the Atlantic District of the LCMS, wrongly prayed at a public worship service, with non-Lutherans and non-Christians at the Yankee Stadium “Prayer for America” service. In the aftermath there were all sorts of attempts to defend Dr. Benke’s participation in this syncretistic and unionnistic worship service. One of them was the quoting of Luther from the Large Catechism. As this comment from “Bloviator Observer” – I love saying that – points out, Paul McCain who published “The Readers Edition of the Book of Concord” adds clarity to the discussion by pointing out that Dr. Benke’s use of this passage from Luther does not stand. Paul McCain is a great scholar and churchmen. It is his Book of Concord site that we promote here at the Brothers website. Here is the comment from “Bloviator Observer.” You can find the whole string of comments here.)
I’d say Rev. McCain pretty much slam-dunked the issue on the ALPB site when he posted today:
This is most certainly a truly interesting conversation and discussion. We’ve seen it go from a retraction of theological imprecision to a rehashing of some old, and still very painful, memories and emotions. Understandable. And we are back again to that interesting passage in the Large Catechism (LC II.66). Let me say first of all that I believe that remarks made in the heat of an emotionally charged moment, with the resulting errors in expression and attendant theological imprecision, certainly should be, and have been, for the most part, forgiven, even though, as this thread demonstrates, they certainly have not been forgotten. I would also, with respect, observe that such mistakes and imprecision should not be allowed to confuse or obscure Luther’s meaning in this passage from the Large Catechism. For a better understanding of this passage from Luther’s Large Catechism, I would highly recommend the following monograph:
People who are discussing this passage on various discussion lists really need to study this book before venturing any interpretations of the passage from LC II.66. I think they will really enjoy Edward Engelbrecht’s study. The study was, by the way, thoroughly reviewed by a number of theologians and, what is more, some honest-to-goodness German language scholars and linguists, who actually specialize in the more obscure forms and constructions of 16th century new early high German, including one chap who did a dissertation on the precise subjunctival form of a contrary-to-fact conditional clause found here. [Yes, there are such folks!]. The book was also reviewed carefully by a Lutheran theologian whose Ph.D. is in the precise area of Luther and Islam. The unanimous consensus of theological specialists and German linguists who reviewed this work is that Rev. Engelbrecht produced a truly superb work of scholarship and opened a new door on Luther the rhetorician and theologian , par excellence. The particular German grammatical construction of LC II.66, was, by the 20th century, quite obscure, if not entirely lost and unknown, therefore, the nuances were not captured and hence were inadequately rendered by other translations, increasingly so as time went on.
The LCMS Commission on Doctrinal Review, appointed by the Synodical president, when they examined this particular passage in the Concordia edition, at first had indicated it was to be removed, but after many months of fraternal conversation and study together they came to the conclusion that in fact the translation of “even if” should stand as a clarifying addition, so as to avoid misinterpretation of the passage, and the word “although” should be removed as inaccurate. They carefully reviewed and approved Engelbrecht’s work in this monograph and urged that it be distributed to the Synod for further study, which it was, a copy was sent to every LCMS congregation.
It all makes for fascinating reading and is quite important.