Christian Fellowship and “Psychiatric Flu” by + Pr. Kurt Marquart +

On September 19th, 2006, a true doctor of the Church “went into the nearer presence of his Father” (his own words). Professor Kurt Marquart was a beloved teacher and pastor of our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and of Lutherans throughout the world (Australia, Siberia, the Baltics, etc.). Today marks the sixth year since his passing and in what better way could he be honored than the posting of his writings for the benefit of the Church which he loved so dearly.

Below is a paper which he gave on this very date, September 19th in 1970. while he served as pastor of Redeemer & Good Shepherd Parishes at Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia. Also for those who may be unfamiliar with the life and works of Professor Marquart, below is the biographical sketch which was prepared for his funeral.

As one who has been working with the archives of Professor Marquart for over a year now, it is a great privilege and honor to make them of use to the Church at large. Stay tuned to BJS for more of these great articles.  These articles and essays are made public with full permission of the family of Kurt E. Marquart.

-Robert W. Paul

Christian Fellowship and “Psychiatric Flu”

Pastor Kurt E. Marquart, 19 September, 1970

1. The Problem

The basic idea behind this paper arose out of various discussions of pastoral counseling. Without in the least wishing to belittle the value of real pastoral counseling, guided by God’s Word, I merely suggest that the problem which “counselling” is usually supposed to meet is in fact far too big for this sort of approach.

It is reported that in New South Wales one half of all the hospital beds are occupied by mental patients. Mental and emotional disturbances of all kinds are extremely common, and surely also in our parishes, including the ministry. Indeed a lecturer at a recent seminar at the Baillie-Henderson Special Hospital in Toowoomba, used the charming phrase “psychiatric flu” to describe so-called “crisis-reactions,” i.e. temporary mental-emotional disturbances brought on by the stresses and strains of crises. This sort of “psychiatric flu” is very common compared to the more permanent neurotic or psychotic conditions.

Now, I would suggest that the Christian Church has a far more effective remedy (prevention as well as cure!) for the “psychiatric flu” type of ailment than “counseling”, and that is Christian fellowship and friendship. I am convinced that the supportive security of meaningful and wholesome human relationships plays a far greater and more fundamental role in the preservation and restoration of mental health and balance than do the verbalisings of formal counselling sessions (although these of course have their place too!). But if what is wanted is real, time-consuming human involvement, then this challenge can be met only by the Church in each place acting as God’s Family—never by the ministry alone, who are hopelessly outnumbered statistically.

I cannot conclude this section without drawing attention to the fact that much of the “mental-health-and-counselling” enterprise rests on the unquestioned acceptance of psychiatric notions which are open to serious objections, both medical-scientific and theological. The claims for psychotherapy are rather ambitious:

“Statements and proclamations made at international meetings often suggest that psychiatric discoveries can now be relied upon to replace or reshape basic spiritual values and that a vast reorganisation of the world must be confidently and immediately undertaken to implement this transformation.”

The same author goes on to quote Dr. Brock Chisholm, a former head of the World Health Organisation, as follows:

“If the race is to be freed from its crippling burden of good and evil, it must be psychiatrists who take the original responsibility. …The reinterpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong…are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy…most psychiatrists and psychologists and many other respectable people have escaped from these moral chains and are able to observe and think freely. …With the other human sciences, psychiatry must now decide what is to be the immediate future of the human race. No one else can. And this is the prime responsibility of psychiatry”.

Yet statistical studies comparing the progress of neurotic patients receiving psychiatric treatment with that of similar patients not receiving it, show that about the same proportion (about two out of three) recover or improve in both cases!

2. The Remedy

1. A native once said to his missionary friend:

“How odd that you take away our tribal life to civilise us, and then you white people look for a tribe to join!”

We have increasingly atomised the human race, so that the individual stands isolated and alone. Perhaps this is why the spiritually rootless and homeless intellectuals of our time are so attracted to socialistic collectivisms, which begin with bloodless abstractions and end in bloody oppression!

The Bible, on the other hand, does not treat men as isolated individuals. As sons of Adam, men share a common inheritance of sin and death, Rom. 5. And when Christ, the Second Adam, creates the new humanity, this too consists not of separate individuals here and there, but of one family, the Church, which shares common blessings and a common destiny. This oneness of the Church in her Lord—which of course is an article of faith and not of sight—is beautifully described in such texts as I Cor. 12 (one body with its many and various members), Eph. 2 and 4 (“One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism”), and I Peter 4:8-11 (sharing the gifts). The unity in Christ overcomes even the deep hostility between Jew and Gentile:

“But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is the peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart… This was to create one single New Man in himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the cross, to unite them both in a single Body and reconcile them with God” (Eph. 2:13-15).

How much more does Christian unity overcome our modern racial, class, and cultural differences, or generation-gaps, real and imagined! Christians are not simply people, but  a people, the holy nation, the chosen people, the spiritual Israel, the People:

“One you were not a people at all and now you are the People of God” (I Peter 2:10)!

2. The New Testament does not present Christian oneness and fellowship merely as a theoretical ideal. It is something real and practical, and not merely “spiritual” in the vaguer sense of that term:

“These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers…The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed. They went as a body to the Temple every day but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved” (Acts 2:42-47). (See also Acts 4:32-35).

The practice of holding their property in common does not seem to have survived long, nor was it ever insisted on as necessary (Acts 5:4). But the responsibility of caring for one another is permanent. The first deacons were appointed specifically for the task of looking after a fair distribution of the daily food for the widows (Acts 6:1ff.). To the Galatians St. Paul wrote: “let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (6:10); and to the Romans: “receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (15:7). And St. John writes: “This has taught us love—that he gave up his life for us; and we, too, ought ot give up our lives for our brothers. If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active” (I John 3:16-18).

How tragic, by contrast, the modern situation in all too many cases! So many people seem to experience the Church as a kind of threatening force which makes them feel uncomfortable. They would speak about their real troubles and problems much more openly and freely at the pub, than among their fellow church-members. Perhaps a few experiences with gossip, and a hard, condemning attitude have convinced them that it isn’t safe to let one’s problems be known in a congregation!

In conscious rebellion against this Pharisaic unbrotherliness, some churches now go to the opposite extreme, and throw God’s revealed will to the winds. And so we have pathetic scenes like a couple being admitted to Holy Communion in the nude, in an American Lutheran Church! In San Francisco there are churches which think it is their duty to organise dances for homosexuals! And only the other day the Rev. Alan Walker of Sydney announced a vast Christian public relations campaign in New South Wales which will feature the following:

“The accent will be on youth; there will be meetings all over the State, a youth parliament, pop plays, bands, dancers, singers, radio trailers, records and a TV show. Jingles and slogans are on the way. The climax will be a four-day pop festival in a 67-acre valley at Arcadia, north of Sydney… We’ll put tents up, bring in the pop stars, and have gaiety and abandon in a Christian setting… It will be a Christian Woodstock” (The Australian, Sept. 17, 1970).

And so the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme. The New Testament teaches us not to be extremely careless about sin, but to be loving, compassionate, and brotherly toward the sinner:

“Brother, if one of you misbehaves, the more spiritual of you who set him right should do so in a spirit of gentleness, not forgetting that you may be tempted yourselves. You should carry each other’s troubles and fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1.2).

In this atmosphere of sincere Christian brotherhood, spiritual and mental wholeness and soundness can be nurtured. But a masquerade of disguises, suspicions, and judgment strain and erode mental and spiritual health!

3. Fellowship in the New testament is not simply an easy-going camaraderie, which develops just anyhow; but it is a gift that comes with supernatural, divine life, and its centre of gravity is the New Testament congregational worship service, in which the Risen Lord meets His People in His Gospel and Sacrament, Acts 20:7ff. Gospel and Sacrament belong together. And here at the Altar is the source and the chief expression of Christian unity: “The fact that there is only one loaf means that, though there are many of us, we form one single body because we all have a share in this one loaf” (I Cor. 10:17).

Today many people regard the Liturgy, the Service of Word and Sacrament, as dry, routine formality surrounding a sermon! From this cold formality some seek to escape into Pentecostal frenzy, others into shallow, “with-it” fads. The point is that we do not need to turn meaningful—it needs merely to be seriously understood and appreciated. The connection between Gospel and Sacrament is primary—the particular wordings, rituals, forms, and so on are secondary.

To recapture the fullness and richness of New Testament worship we Lutherans ought to study, for instance, Article 24 of the Augsburg Confession and of the Apology (also Art. XV of the latter), which set forth the place of the Sacrament in the life of the Church.

If Christian worship and fellowship are not to be mere official formalities, we need, as individuals and as congregations, to beg the Lord of the Church to let us appropriate anew in every generation that which is basic, crucial, and central in the practice of New Testament Christianity.

And if the reception of the Sacrament has implications for bodily health (I Cor. 11:30), is this holy mystery not even more closely related to spiritual and mental health?

A Biography of Rev. Dr. Kurt Marquart

The Rev. Dr. Kurt E. Marquart, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, died September 19, 2006. He served the seminary from 1975 to the time of his death.

Kurt Erik Marquart was born Tallinn (Reval), Estonia, on June 20, 1934, to Kurt Arved and Margarita Angelica (nee Ulk) Marquart. He was reborn into God’s kingdom through holy baptism in the year of his birth. In 1941 the family moved to Vienna, Austria, and, having spent time in the DP Camps in North Germany (1945), ultimately made its way to the United States. He was confirmed in Nyack, New York, in 1952.

Dr. Marquart’s education was decidedly international in character. Having received his primary and secondary education first in German and Russian exile schools in Europe and then Nyack High School, he received the Associate of Arts degree from Concordia Collegiate Institute in Bronxville, New York, in 1954. He then entered Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, from which he received the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Divinity in 1959, having written a thesis comparing Gustav Aulen and Francis Pieper on Prolegomena. At the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, his major paper was titled “Bio-Teleology Reconsidered: Prolegomena to Some  Future Metaphysical ‘Episteme’-Shift.” He received the Master of Arts from this institution in 1982. In recognition of his lifelong service to Christ and his church, Concordia University Wisconsin awarded him an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2001.

After serving a vicarage at Redeemer Lutheran Church in North Tonawanda, New York (1957-1958), and completing seminary, Dr. Marquart received a call to Trinity Lutheran Church, Weatherford, Texas. He was ordained on July 19, 1959. He served Trinity until 1961, when he accepted a call to Redeemer and Good Shepherd congregations, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia. While in Australia he served the church in various capacities beyond the congregation, including the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, Queensland District Church Council, and Concordia College (Toowoomba) Council.

In 1975 Dr. Marquart was called to the Department of Systematic Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, then in Springfield, Illinois. Always a popular professor, his classroom style engaged students in the lively study of theology and instilled in them a love for the Lutheran Confessions. He extended his influence through numerous scholarly articles in the seminary journal, Concordia Theological Quarterly. His faculty peers elected him to represent them three times on the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (1976-1981, 1983-1992, 2001-2007). He also served on the ALC – LCMS Fellowship Commission (1978-1981).

Even previous to his coming to the seminary, Dr. Marquart had the pen of a ready writer. Articles in the official and popular press of the Lutheran Church of Australia and The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod extends his bibliography to many pages. Books include his examination of the controversy in the LCMS in the 1960s and 1970s, Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict (1977), as well as “Church Growth” as a Mission Paradigm (1994). He also authored The Church and Her Ministry, Fellowship, and Governance for the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series (1990) and was preparing the volume on Prolegomena for this series at the time of his death.

Dr. Marquart is survived by his wife, Barbara (nee Martens), and five children – Danny, Cynthia (Johnson), Barry, Angela (Hill), and Anthony – along with 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Widely sought after as a speaker at pastoral conferences, district meetings, and congregational events, Dr. Marquart will be remembered for his incisive mind, quick wit, gentlemanliness, and genuine concern. Faculty colleagues will especially miss his thoughtful and cordial presence, recalling his particularly gracious words at the 2006 Fall Faculty Forum, only two weeks before his death. Still, we mark his passing not as those without hope, but confident in the unfailing promises of the very Christ that Dr. Marquart himself confessed and is confessing. “My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But it is good for me to draw near to God. I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Thy works.” (Psalm 73:26-28)

Associate Editor’s Note:  Dr. Marquart often worked for the strengthening of Lutherans in Haiti.  The Marquart Fund was started by the 2007 Class of Concordia Theological Seminary to assist in theological education in Haiti.  Their website is found here.


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