Dr. David Scaer Gives Matt Harrison’s New Book High Marks

Review: “Reconnect with Synod’s Noble Past”                                                               Thursday, 29 October 2009 20:05

For all of his failings Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher saw the church was at least a community with its own culture. With the passing of every year, our pastors and people are removed farther and farther away from the men who defined who we were and still are as a church. Casting a line into the Missouri Synod ¹s past, Matthew C. Harrison has garnered the writings of the men who set the tone for the synod’s theology in the first century of its existence in an 826 page volume fittingly entitled At Home in the House of My Fathers. The subtitle says it all: Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters and Addresses from the Missouri Synod’s Great Era of Unity and Growth.      

House Of My FathersDuring my seminary days in the 1950s, hardly any students were at home in German, the language of the founding fathers. Except for C.F.W. Walther’s Law and Gospel and Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics, their other writings and those of Loehe, Schwan, and Pfottenhauer were inaccessible to us. In a church that was rapidly enmeshed into its American environment, pastors and people began using materials emitting from Reformed and Methodist publishing houses.        

Harrison’s collection of essays reconnects the synod with its noble past by making the writings of these fathers available in English. The writings of each synod father constitutes its own subsection, so for example, all of Walther ¹s writings are placed together as are the writings of the others. Within each subsection the writings are arranged in the order in which they were written. Some selections are very personal, e.g., Walther describing his own breakdown in 1860 to his congregation. Other writings are theological, e.g., ones on justification, and still others encourage pastors in their difficult situations. Depending on an essay ¹s purpose, the style can be homiletical, narrative, theological or historical, particularly with the funeral sermons, in which the reader can see how one era came to a close and a new one began. These are the links in the chain that holds the synod together.                

Several translators were employed for this task, but striking is that editor Matthew C. Harrison did the bulk of this drudgery. He is not alone in doing this kind of mind breaking work. J.A.O. Preus and Fred Kramer made the Lutheran heritage available to us in their translations of Martin Chemnitz. What they did with a 16th, Harrison has done with our late 19th and early 20th century fathers. I belong to a generation that cut off from its past by language. Harrison ¹s At Home in the House of My Fathers provides a bridge to our past. We are no longer linguistically isolated from the men who made us what we are today. At an initial offering price of $20, even those who are mildly inquisitive can afford t going back in time. By any estimate, [this is] a bargain theologically and financially.

David P. Scaer, Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne, IN

For more details on the book and for ordering information click here.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Dr. David Scaer Gives Matt Harrison’s New Book High Marks — 5 Comments

  1. As I noted in another post at BJS, this book by Harrison includes Walther’s enormously important 1858 essay on confessional subscription. You can purchase Harrison’s book today at the Logia bookstore at:


    Go to the books tab, then to “Other Books” heading.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. I was given a copy today as a gift and have already enjoyed reading two of the many excellent essays contained in this volume. It will be part of my devotional reading for the next several weeks.

    Pastor Harrison has done a great service to the church by translating these works, and I encourage all the brothers (and sisters) of John the Steadfast to read this book. A superb collection!

  3. Having bought the book last week, I am now reading Walther’s address to the First Iowa District Convention (August 1879).

    2010 Convention Delegates – Throw away all the propaganda Synod sends you between now & July 2010. Instead, read what Walther said to the First Iowa District Convention in 1879.

    * Church Growth:
    “It is better for the synod to remain small and stand correctly than to be large and have in its midst those who mess around and do not bring the bread of life. That results in damnable false teachers…” (p.239)

    * DELTO, SMP, etc:
    “…the apostle Paul expressly says, ‘Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others’ (I Tim 5:22). In other words, no one should be ordained unless he has first been tested and you are satisfied that he intends to and is capable of proclaiming the pure Word of God.” “…when a synod promotes into the office [of the ministry] someone of whom it knows in advance that he does not have a firm grasp of sound doctrine, and when that person subsequently misleads a congregation, then the synod is the temptress, and not only the heretic but the synod will be held accountable for those poor souls.” (p.238 & 239)

    * $$$ for Synod:
    “[The Synod]…cannot impose taxes, not even a penny. If our Synod would ever say, ‘Every congregation must contribute one cent every year,’ then the congregation should say, ‘Not even [half a cent].'” “…if we have conceded you a penney this year, you can demand a dollar next year, and even more in two years; for we would have then given you the right, the power, to tell us what to do.” (p.271)

    * The Convention Agenda:
    “Here in America, we also use the arrangement of a synod [or council] to carry on the business of the Church; God forbid that we ever get to the point where we merely put on a big show and then have a convention in which we discuss all sorts of peripheral piffle about ceremonies, rules, and insignificant trifles. Instead of that, may we always concentrate on the study of doctrine.” (p.299)

    * Church Unity:
    “When we had our convention in New York two years ago, a renown man from the synods of the General Council was present and observed how we studied doctrine. That led him to write in the ‘Lutheran Missionary’: ‘Now I understand why the Missourians are so unified. The reason is that they always spend a great deal of time in the thorough study of doctrine. They don’t merely discuss it on the basis of Scripture. That is the secret of the Missourians. With that kind of approach, they cannot help being unified.” (p.299)

    * Burdens that Synod Lays on Congregations:
    “But if the synod would say, ‘We have decided it; we are the highest court: You must obey us, or we shall excommunicate you,’ then the congregation would have to say, ‘Farewell, synod. It was nice knowing you. You see, you are assuming the role of Christ; you are an assembly of outright popes. We want to be and remain free. That is what it means to be Lutheran.'” (p.268)

    * More Power for Larger Congregations:
    “Let everyone who is in such a tiny little congregation take note and know that church matters are not like worldly matters.” “…it is different in the kingdom of God. The smallest congregation is just as important as the largest one, and the largest is no important than the smallest, because every congregaton is great only because Christ is present in it.” (p.265)

    * Blue Ribbon Task Force on Whatever:
    In his preface to Walther’s address to the Iowa District Convention, our own Rev. Harrison says “…in the face of potential radical constitutional change, we would do well to understand the beliefs, motives, and intention behind the formation of the Synod.” (p.224)

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