Today, May 7, is the Commemoration of C. F. W. Walther, Theologian–and really, the leading figure in the history of the Missouri Synod–who died on this date in 1887. It’s fitting on this day, therefore, to listen to some Walther!
Pastor Matt Harrison has done a great service to the church by compiling, translating, and editing an impressive volume of materials from the Missouri Synod’s first five presidents, Walther, Wyneken, Schwan, Pieper, and Pfotenhauer. The book is called “At Home in the House of My Fathers,” and I highly recommend it. (It can be ordered from logia.org.) Over the weeks to come, I plan to run some excerpts here on an occasional basis, to whet your appetite for the whole thing and to apply the wisdom of our fathers to our situation today.
Before each text in the book, Harrison gives a little introduction. Here are his comments introducing the first piece:
Today our life together in the Synod seems to be dominated by bylaws, CCM rulings, and sometimes even lawyers and civil court decisions, or at least the fear of civil action–all to our shame. Are we still the Church of the Word of God? Do we still believe the Word of God? Are we the Church of the Lutheran Reformation? Do we believe in sola scriptura, or rather sola structura? After so many years of strife, political activity, and division, our only hope for unity is to regain Walther’s vision of a synod that knows no unity by compulsion, by human regulations and laws. The Synod has only the power of the Word of God. Where the Word is silent on a matter, there is freedom ruled by love. God grant us repentance so that the endless wrangling over bylaws gives way to a never-ending love for God’s inerrant Word. We shall find unity again as we humbly and avidly join together in deep repentance and reverent consideration of the Word of God. (At Home, p. 1)
Here then is an excerpt from Walther’s 1848 Synodical Address, under the title, “The Synod Has No Power But the Word of God”:
Even though we possess no power but that of the Word, we nevertheless can and should carry on our work joyfully. Let us, therefore, esteemed sirs and brethren, use this power properly. Let us above all and in all matters be concerned about this, that the pure doctrine of our dear Evangelical Lutheran Church may become known more and more completely among us, that it may be in vogue in all of our congregations, and that it may be preserved from all adulteration and held fast as the most precious treasure. Let us not surrender one iota of the demands of the Word. Let us bring about its complete rule in our congregations and set aside nothing of it, even though for this reason things may happen to us, as God wills. Here let us be inflexible, here let us be adamant. If we do this, we need not worry about the success of our labor. Even though it should seem to us to be in vain, it cannot then be in vain, for the Word does not return void but prospers in the thing whereto to the Lord sent it [Isaiah 55:11]. By the Word alone, without any other power, the Church was founded. By the Word alone, all the great deeds recorded in Church history were accomplished. By the Word alone, the Church will most assuredly stand also in these last days of sore distress, to the end of days. Even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (At Home, p. 9)