At Home in the House of Wyneken: Put Doctrine into Practice (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

Happy 200th birthday, Friedrich Wyneken! Well, happy belated-by-a-day birthday, at least. It was 200 years ago yesterday that Wyneken was born, on May 13, 1810. Next to Walther, F. C. D. Wyneken is probably the most important figure in the history of the Missouri Synod, and he served as its second president.

Essays, sermons, letters, and addresses by Walther, Wyneken, and the next three presidents of the Missouri Synod (Schwan, Pieper, and Pfotenhauer) are included in a terrific book called “At Home in the House of My Fathers.” The book has been compiled and largely translated by Pastor Matt Harrison, and is available through logia.org. During these weeks I’m running some samples from the book, so we can hear these esteemed fathers speak to us today.

Before we get to Wyneken, though, let’s hear Harrison’s introduction to this piece:

This address shows a president and Synod wrestling with a number of issues. There were challenges of seminary personnel, school challenges, challenges in the area of worship practice, doctrinal issues, the challenge of small congregations supporting pastors and teachers. . . . Come to think of it, the Synod in 1860 was in many ways similar to the Synod today! Wyneken’s rousing encouragement to the pastors to concentrate on preaching Law and especially Gospel is a good admonition to us here and now.

Here then are two excerpts from Wyneken’s 1860 Synodical Address, under the title, “Justification: Beginning, Middle, and End.” The first excerpt concerns the need to put our doctrine into practice:

. . . we should indeed guard ourselves that we do not sit back and become secure because pure doctrine and our Synod’s banner of the true Lutheran Confessions have been planted, as if that were good enough. Many boast a lot about and know how to talk about pure doctrine (and many know all about it in theory). But they do not know how to put it into practice for themselves and others. It’s not enough that we have the doctrine in our Symbols [i.e., Lutheran Confessions] and that we confess the Symbols, that we fight for them, etc. Rather, they have to really be heard from the pulpit, and from there, enter hearts and lives. In doing this we shall be blessed, indeed blessed, and also a blessing to others.

The second excerpt focuses on the area of our worship practice:

With respect to the order for worship, as a whole, it appears to be as defective as it was previously. Now we obviously know–granted that only orthodox agendas are in use among us–this is not an essential ingredient, but it is still lamentable that such a motley jumble continues to predominate among us. Even though the liturgy itself is something neither commanded nor forbidden, the doctrine of Christian freedom–thanks be to God–is in practice everywhere. And this freedom remains well preserved in all congregations. So the congregations should all the more so consent to a uniform liturgy, in order to allow the unity in Spirit to be expressed externally. The tenacity with which the worst bad taste is frequently clung to in this matter is astonishing. May God improve the situation.

Indeed! Christian freedom, yes. But let’s not let that be an excuse for “a motley jumble” of “the worst bad taste,” as is so prevalent in our worship practice today. A better way, as Wyneken suggests, is to “consent to a uniform liturgy,” “to allow the unity in Spirit to be expressed externally.”

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