We Children Need an Old Heart

by Rev. Joshua V. Scheer

Many and various sources have said that the LCMS needs to return to the Word of God, especially in areas where we have division.  Our Synod President has rightly said that every great movement of God begins with repentance.  I think there is a lot of hope that this will happen for our church body.

I was reading volume one, book one of “The Harmony of the Four Evangelists” by Chemnitz, Leyser, and Gerhard in my preparations for the season of Advent and Christmas this week (the book is available from Repristination Press).  When the great Lutheran fathers were giving comment on Luke 1:17 they said some things that are quite timely today.  The context is that Gabriel has appeared to Zechariah and is explaining to him just who his son John will be.  The phrase translated “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” included some excellent comments (pages 88-89).

“The Jews of that time, as ‘children’ or descendants, had deviated from the doctrine, faith, religion, and worship of their fathers (that is, of the prophets) and had discovered and accepted other opinions and styles of worship.  From that developed dissension and disagreement between the faith or religion of the fathers and their children.”

Sounds familiar, especially for any of you who spend more time reading the “dead-old-guys” (dogs) than you do internet blogs.  A good suggestion would be to pick up a copy of “At Home in the House of My Fathers” compiled by President Harrison.  In that volume you will detect a difference between the children and the fathers of the LCMS.

Another quote: “In brief, Gabriel wants to say this: ‘With his ministry, John will restore harmony and mutual agreement between the faith and religion of the fathers and the children.’  This wording shows what the true and salutary reason is for cleansing doctrine and reforming religion in the Church, as well as what the real antiquity is, because the Pharisees even at that time were peddling their traditions under the title that: ‘Thus had it been said in the olden days, Mat. 5:21.’”

We should be concerned with any defense of doctrinal purity and the practices which flow out of it that does not build upon Scripture.  We do not need to resort to such tradition-based arguments, for Lutheran doctrine is the Scriptural faith of the fathers.  It is what Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all the faithful believed.

Another quote: “It also shows what the procedure is for establishing salutary harmony, consent, and union in the Church, not with the result that we seek any shared feeling in the same opinion under the pretext of the quite long prescript of time nor that we establish reconciling or covering up of errors.            Rather, its result should be that all religion in doctrine and forms of worship be renewed and called and led back to wisdom, not of the world nor of reason, but of the just, to whom Scripture attributes this witness and whom Gabriel understands in this passage to be the patriarchs and prophets.”

I refrain from further quotes which basically put John’s task of restoring the doctrine of the fathers among the children.  The right practices follow right doctrine.  John was a preacher of repentance.  He called the wayward children back to the faith of the fathers, not because it was more traditional, but because it was in accord with the Word of God.

The Church of our fathers observed dedicated days of humiliation and prayer.  If you have copies of Walther’s sermons for those occasions (Day of Humiliation and Prayer) you can read them and find out two things.  First, our fathers’ times were not always filled with right doctrine and practice.  Second, there have always been calls to repentance, for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to the children.  We need that today as well.  Pray for those who follow in John’s footsteps, most especially those given the responsibility of providing doctrinal oversight in the LCMS.  Maybe the hearts of our fathers could be restored to us selfish children.  Lord have mercy.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


We Children Need an Old Heart — 14 Comments

  1. Many and various sources have said that the LCMS needs to return to the Word of God, especially in areas where we have division.

    What part do the Lutheran Confessions have in this effort to return to the Word of God? For Lutherans, shouldn’t they, as the norma normata, provide the path?

    And, since “We children” refers in this thread to the (individual and congregational) members of the LCMS, how do previous doctrinal statements of the Missouri Synod enter into this return? Are such documents as Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt and the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod (Adopted 1932) to be used to provide light to the path we Missouri Synod Lutherans take to return to the Word of God as the norma normans?

  2. @Carl Vehse #1
    I think the Confessions should provide the path, but some claim that they are silent on certain issues (the old Open Questions debate). Some have called for a new formula of concord-like document. I think the Lutheran Manifesto was a good effort in that same spirit, and like many of the precursors to the Formula, could help shape the discussion. The work of the ACELC has also pointed out some of the main points of contention.

    I think previous doctrinal statements, or the teachings of our fathers would be helpful. I am hoping for a new translation of Walther’s Church and Ministry based upon his original text. I guess there was some funny business in the translation that we currently have.

    We could even go back further on many issues to men like Chemnitz, who was a far less “occassional” author than Luther. What I mean by that is that to understand a statement of Luther, one needs to understand a lot of the situation around it (hence how some make the distinction between early/late Luther). Chemnitz wrote more systematically. Some issues, like women in the church are not dealt with by these old fathers (maybe the lack of treatment should teach us something about what they believed).

    We have many excellent fathers in the faith, men used by God to restore and defend the true doctrine and practices of the Scriptures.

  3. Rev. Scheer,

    If your “guess there was some funny business” in John T. Mueller’s translation of Kirche und Amt is based on your own personal research, please provide your substantiation or documentation. If you read about such an attack in a publication or on the internet, please provide a reference or link so that we may read the information for ourselves. If such defamation of Prof. Mueller and his translation is somthing you were told, please provide the name of that person who told you so that we may find out what his basis is, or at least who he heard it from, and who that person heard it from, etc., etc.

    This is a reasonable request since any unsubstantiated gossip defaming the reputation of Prof. Mueller also denigrates his “funny business” co-conspirators, Dr. Lewis Spitz, Prof. Lorenz Wunderlich, and Rev. August Suelflow, whose assistance, counseling, and research are acknowledged by Prof. Mueller in the Preface to his translation of Walther’s Kirche und Amt, a book which Concordia Publishing House still offers for sale.

    The Large Catechism states:

    271] False witness, then, is everything which cannot be properly proved. 272] Therefore, what is not manifest upon sufficient evidence no one shall make public or declare for truth; and, in short, whatever is secret should be allowed to remain secret, or, at any rate, should be secretly reproved, as we shall hear. 273] Therefore, if you encounter an idle tongue which betrays and slanders some one, contradict such a one promptly to his face, that he may blush; thus many a one will hold his tongue who else would bring some poor man into bad repute, from which he would not easily extricate himself. For honor and a good name are easily taken away, but not easily restored.

    To paraphase Martin Luther, is there a roast burning in the oven, Rev. Scheer?

  4. One can easily examine five translations of C.F.W. Walther’s Nine Theses on the Church and Ten Theses on the Ministry to see that J.T. Mueller’s 1962 English translation is really not significantly different from English translations by August Graebner (1897), W.H.T. Dau (1938), Theodore G. Tappert (1972), and John Drickamer (1981).

    Readers may also compare Walther’s original German theses with the five translations in Rev. Peperkorn’s STM Thesis Appendix, or read the entire 1875 edition of Kirche und Amt in the link I provided previously.

    As for reviews of Mueller’s translation of Walther’s book, there doesn’t seem to be any recognition of any “funny business” offenses expressed in Prof. Kurt Marquart’s review in Concordia Theological Quarterly (52-4, Oct. 1988, pp. 311-313). According to Prof. Marquart (1934-2006), who was fluent in German as was Mueller, there were half a dozen minor flaws, from a sentence being dropped in the publication (p. 258) to “perhaps most worrisome” – an alleged mistranslation of the word “Gemeinschaften” as “visible congregations” rather than “visible communions” (Thesis VII, on the Church). However Marquart concluded:

    “Despite such relatively minor blemishes, [Mueller’s translation] as a whole is overwhelmingly valuable, and will result in great benefits to the church if taken seriously, especially by our public ministry today.”

    While there is no objection to the publication of another English translation of Walther’s book, it should not be preceded by scurrilous rumors about an older translation.

  5. @Carl Vehse #3
    What I was taught in seminary is that there were numerous editions of the German Church and Ministry, the one chosen to be translated into English was not the best.

    There is a post on the Wittenberg Trail, referring to a Facebook posting of President Harrison concerning his work to re-translate Walther’s work.


    I do not belong to Facebook, so I can’t tell you what exact claim was made – which is why I said nothing specific in a charge against Mueller.

    I hope this helps clarify my “funny business” comment – I should have been more specific and mentioned the above in my comment – my apologies. Thank you for calling out a further explanation.

  6. The original posting on facebook is found here (I hope that link works for other than myself).

    The facebook posting from Synod President Matthew Harrison is:

    So I’m about 2/3 through my edit/re-translation of J.T. Mueller’s translation of C.F.W. Walther’s “Kirche und Amt” (Church and Office). Mueller’s translation is filled with deliberate miss-translations of Walther, along with hundreds of homogenizing/protestantizing choices. Makes me heartsick. It has done tremendous damage.

  7. I think the Confessions should provide the path, but some claim that they are silent on certain issues (the old Open Questions debate).

    The unidentified “some,” at least if they are in the Missouri Synod, should identify what alleged doctrine the Lutheran Confessions “are silent on” and also do not fall within the Brief Statement’s Of Open Questions:

    44. Those questions in the domain of Christian doctrine may be termed open questions which Scripture answers either not at all or not clearly. Since neither an individual nor the Church as a whole is permitted to develop or augment the Christian doctrine, but are rather ordered and commanded by God to continue in the doctrine of the apostles, 2 Thess. 2:15; Acts 2:42, open questions must remain open questions. — Not to be included in the number of open questions are the following: the doctrine of the Church and the Ministry, of Sunday, of Chiliasm, and of Antichrist, these doctrines being clearly defined in Scripture.

    If there were any such doctrine absent from the Lutheran Confessions, which the unidentified “some” propose to include in a “new formula of concord-like document,” then the Article II Confession in the Missouri Synod Constitution, which all individual and congregational members agree to when they join, is false when it states, “The Synod, and every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation… All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.”

  8. It is unfortunate that this discussion went as it did. Pr. Scheer makes a very important point, in stating the need for repentance. This is constant for all of us. We constantly need to be re-examining our lives, our belief, and for pastors and teachers, our teaching. That point is well made by Pr. Scheer and one that we all need to take to heart.

  9. It is unfortunate that it took numerous requests for substantiation posted on WT, ALPB, and BJS (including some deleted by the moderator and some transferred to “awaiting moderation”) before the specific quote was posted. As to seeing the source, only the Facebook login page is displayed when I access the link.

    The statement posted in Comment #8, whether it originates with President Harrison or not, is a damning attack on the reputation and motives of the late Prof. John T. Mueller, and is not congruent with Prof. Marquart’s review of Mueller’s book, nor has such egregious and deliberate mistranslations and protestantizing choices been noted or even hinted in previous articles discussing Church and Ministry that have used Prof. Mueller’s translation.

    Such defamation of Prof. Mueller was made without any substantiation, even if only with an example or two or page references so a person can investigate for himself. And where do the mistranslations occur? Of the theses themselves? As I noted previously, one can go to the links and compare several translations, including Mueller’s with the original German to see there is no significant difference. Of the Scriptural references or excerpts from the Lutheran Confessions provided by Walther? A number of other English translations of Scripture or the Confessions were independently available when Mueller translated these. Of the writings of Walther? Many of these had also been translated into English and published by others at that time. Of other Lutheran theologians? If by this time, the support for a particular thesis was not already well established, would a deliberate mistranslation of some historical Lutheran writing by Mueller gain anything? Also, as I noted, there were other theologians involved in preparing Mueller’s book. Did none of them note such homogenizing/protestantizing?

    If the damning accusation that Mueller’s book is “filled with deliberate miss-translations of Walther, along with hundreds of homogenizing/protestantizing choices” were true (and again, there has been no evidence substantiating such a defamation), then that also is a pathetically sad statement about the quality of theological leadership in the synod and in our seminaries since 1987 when the book was certified for publication and, over the last 23 years, when no one has formally requested it be de-certified, and sales halted, for all of the false translations filling the book.

    As for who may have posted the comment on Facebook, I will comment on in a different post (if it is not deleted).

  10. @Carl Vehse #8
    I read the post you had made at the WT, and you were not treated charitably. You have obviously done a good amount of research on this – this is commendable. It may be best to wait for Pres. Harrison’s translation work to finish in order to see what changes there are.
    I would particularly ask for your opinion of Harrison’s new translation when it comes out, since you seem to be very well versed in previous translation work and other academic papers on the topic. Some of his work on it can be found at his blog.

    I can’t speak about the past years dealing with the translation, but I speak from my knowledge of the facebook quote and some other statements made by Lutherans. It sounds like a good analysis may be necessary when this all comes out.

    If you would allow – I will amend my statement made in comment #2
    “I guess there was some funny business in the translation that we currently have.”
    to instead state that “there are some concerns from very well respected theologians like Synod President Harrison about the translation we currently have.” Norm Fisher has quoted what President Harrison put on his facebook post in comment #6.

    I also apologize, at 9 am this morning, I had found the quote from Pres. Harrison and was about to post it when the power company cut our power in order to disconnect the vacant house next to ours. With the power off, I was unable to respond in a timely manner to your question. With the power restored, and my children taken care of, I hope this post will help the situation.

  11. I read the post you had made at the WT, and you were not treated charitably.”

    Rev. Scheer,

    They tried to blow me up when I was in Iraq, so snide remarks against me on blogs are relatively trivial. What I am concerned with, and am amazed that no one else seems concerned, is the unsubstantiated defamatory treatment given to Prof. Mueller, his translation, and his character.

    If I were to post an accusation on BJS that someone’s mother is a whore, and then say I’ll get around to providing the evidence at some time in the future, how fast do you think my post would get deleted from this blog? Probably faster than several very reasonable comments I have posted here earlier.

    Such an attack against Prof. Mueller does more than damage his reputation and violate the Eighth Commandment. It raises doubts among Lutheran readers, who are not familiar with Church and Ministry, to avoid studying the discussions by Walther altogether. And when you suggest, without any substantiation, that the edition “chosen to be translated into English was not the best” it further diminishes lay interest in doctrine that is very important.

    If someone says that a football bowl game contains two has-been teams and the players are recovering from injuries and will not play their best, that’s not much incentive to watch the game.

    This discussion is important in returning to the Word of God, particularly wrt Church and Ministry, because, as you brought up in your second sentence at the top of this thread:

    “Our Synod President has rightly said that every great movement of God begins with repentance.”

  12. The Facebook social network page with the original comment of Pres. Harrison and responses by various pastors and laity at the link provided in Comment #7 above is no longer available.

  13. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #5 : “What I was taught in seminary is that there were numerous editions of the German Church and Ministry, the one chosen to be translated into English was not the best.”

    It is disturbing to read that someone at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne taught that the 3rd edition, used for translation in J. T. Mueller’s Church and Ministry (CPH, 1987), was “not the best.” According to the Preface to the 2nd Edition (Mueller, p. 13; translated from p. xi, 3rd Edition), the second edition differs from the first by:

    1. the correction of errata,
    2. the deletion of repetitions found in the first edition,
    3. a number of new quotations added,
    4. an added index of Christian authors quoted, and
    5. an alphebetical subject index.

    According to the Preface to the 3rd Edition (Mueller, p.15, from p. xi, 3rd Edition), the third edition differs from the second by:

    1. the deletion of errata that were overlooked, and
    2. the addition of some Greek originals where previous editions had used Latin patristic quotations.

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