Do Non-Christians Believe In and Worship the True God?

Consider the argument settled. The Latin version settles it—as it often does . . .

AdFontesWAfter the Yankee Stadium “Prayer for America” in September 2001, in which a district president of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod joined together in a worship service with non-Christian clergy, a defense of his participation was made. The argument came from the Lutheran Confessions, of all places! The argument was made on the basis of Large Catechism II [i.e., the Creed,], 66, which reads: All who are outside the Christian church, whether heathens, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, even though they believe in and worship only the one, true God, nevertheless do not know what his attitude is toward them. (Tappert edition, p. 419; you can read the original text here — zoom in, then scroll down to the last paragraph on the page).

In brief, the double-jointed defense argued that it is okay for LC-MS pastors to pray together with non-Christian clergy, since these non-Christian clergy believe in and worship the true God, therefore we can ignore LC-MS Constitution Article VI.2., which prohibits syncretistic activity of all types.

I remember sitting in my office, reading about this argument, and thinking, “That’s ridiculous! I bet the German text settles that argument.” I pulled down off the shelf both my Bekenntnisschriften and my Triglotta to check the German. These books are, respectively, German-Latin and German-Latin-English versions of the Lutheran Confessions. I looked mainly at the German, since I have used that frequently since my high school days.

I observed that the Triglotta emphasized the word “one” in “one, true God” with the double-spacing of letters, known as “Sperrdruck.” This emphasis was not in the original text (see link above). The editors of the Triglotta thus wanted to emphasize that the definite article was missing. Thus the translation should read “believe in and worship only one true God,” without the definite article “the” found in Tappert, which can mislead the reader.

I also noted a discrepancy in the grammatical mood. For the word “believe in,” the Triglotta had “glauben” which is the indicative mood. But the Bekennnisschriften has “gläuben” which is the subjunctive mood, which is also found in the original with the older spelling “gleuben” (see link above). One umlaut makes the difference here. The subjunctive mood meant Luther was setting forth a hypothetical case for the sake of argument, NOT asserting that heathens, Turks, and Jews believe in the true God as a matter of fact.

A bit later a few people asked me what the Large Catechism means in II, 66. I told them what I had found. For the Latin, I recommended that they talk to some of our best Classicists, such as: Dr. James A. Kellerman, a professor of Latin at Concordia University–Chicago; Dr. Carl Springer, a professor and coordinator of Classical Studies at Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville; Dr. James Voelz, professor at Concordia Seminary-Saint Louis; and Dr. John Nordling, professor at Concordia Theological Seminary-Fort Wayne.

Soon a number of scholars brought forward very helpful articles about this translation problem: Dr. John Wohlrabe, then an LC-MS Navy chaplain (now the LC-MS 2nd Vice President); Dr. John Nordling and Dr. Roland Ziegler, professors at Concordia Theological Seminary–Fort Wayne; Dr. Charles Arand, Dr. James Voelz, and Dr. Thomas Manteufel, professors at Concordia Seminary–Saint Louis; Dr. E. Christian Kopff, a professor of Classics and Associate Director of the Honors Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Dr. Jon Steffen Bruss, at that time a professor of Classics and the Honors Program at University of Kansas at Topeka. Most extensive of all was the discussion provided by the Rev. Edward Engelbrecht (M.Div., S.T.M.), Senior Editor for Professional and Academic Books at Concordia Publishing House, in his monograph One True God: Understanding Large Catechism II.66 (CPH: 2007.) All these scholars agreed that Luther was not asserting that non-Christians worship the true God or believe in Him.

In spite of all these excellent articles and treatises, there were still a few who defended the notion that non-Christians worship the true God and believe in Him–at least they defended that idea for a time. Their names are not worth repeating here or in the comments section of this blog–so please don’t do that! Their complaints and influence led to a “recall” of the new CPH edition of the Lutheran Confessions. CPH then spent almost a year in careful negotiations with the LCMS Commission for Doctrinal Review (aka D.R.), with the result that D.R. withdrew all of it objections to the 2005 edition. CPH then issued a second edition, as well as an Addendum for the 2005 edition, both of which strengthened the translation of the passage in question.

It was a very odd time, when the same people who usually claim they are the chief proponents for “missions,” were furiously defending an idea that eliminates the purpose of missions. If Buddhists believe in and worship the true God, then attempting to convert them to Christianity is, in fact, a form of “sheep stealing” from the Buddhist monks who allegedly “believe in and worship the true God.” I could not believe the contrary-to-logic rhetoric I heard from people’s mouths in those days.

Fortunately, we now live in better days, where good logic and good grammar are heard and respected in the LC-MS. Proof of this is the essay by the Rev. Larry Myers, “A Case for Latin: A Linguistic Note on Large Catechism II, 66.” This essay is found in the paperback book: James A. Kellerman and Carl P. E. Springer, eds., Ad Fontes Witebergenses: Select Proceedings of ‘Lutheranism and the Classics II: Reading the Church Fathers’ Concordia Theological Seminary, September 28-29, 2012 (Fort Wayne: Lutheran Legacy Press, 2014) [order from CTS bookstore; or through LULU here ; available in both hardback and paperback, with many other essays from the conference]

Pastor Myers is Associate Pastor of Elm Grove Lutheran Church, Elm Grove, Wisconsin. He spent his entire career in the USAF Reserve. His ministry included service in Frankfurt am Main in Germany, he served as the first-ever Reserve chaplain on the Joint Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1998-2001), and he retired in 2002 with the rank of Colonel. He received his Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in 1987 in Classical Languages. In the essay mentioned, he proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Latin mood in the controversial phrase is subjunctive. Myers states “[Luther] was not presenting a statement of fact; he was merely being hypothetical, at best, for the sake of argument” (p. 173).

Buy the book and read the article yourself, if you don’t believe me or Pastor Myers. Don’t try to argue the case before reading Myers and the related literature he cites, or you will make a fool of yourself. The first edition of the CPH Concordia (2005 edition) had the correct translation. Case closed.


Comments

Do Non-Christians Believe In and Worship the True God? — 27 Comments

  1. An excellent elucidation, Pr. Noland. I count myself fortunate to have never encountered this fallacious argument propped up on the good name of Luther and his catechism, but am now better prepared should I.

    Many thanks!

  2. Having for many years practiced Hinduism, and being told that it was just another way of worshipping the same God, I became increasingly uncomfortable because the characteristics, description and teachings and instructions on salvation of vishnu or shiva, for example, were incompatible with those of Yahweh. For example the avatars of vishnu lied, stole, and seemed to have no problem with sin and taught self improvement through various spiritual practices. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never lies, teaches it is sin to steal and teaches that He alone can make us holy. The Indian gods teach that there are many lifetimes. Jesus said there is only one. This is just a few of the multitude of differences. I finally realized that I could no longer consider that I was worshipping the same god and that I could no longer “go limping between two different opinions.” To perpetuate the lie that there are many paths and that all worship the same god is to condemn the lost by confirming them in their delusion and to impugn the holy character of the true God and the necessity of the sacrifice of Christ for our redemption.

  3. Thank you for this interesting article. I am primarily interested in the German, since I don’t know Latin. I am not a theologian; I studied German and used to work as a translator. I am sure you are correct that Luther did not think the Turks and Jews believed in the true God, but I think you are mistaken about the German. According to this: http://ds.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/viewer/toc/1873343/0/LOG_0000/ (Theil 2, p. 704), “gläuben” is an antiquated form used in theological works, not the subjunctive of “glauben”. “Gläuben für glauben ist eine im Hochdeutschen veraltete Form, welche im theologischen Verstande in der Deutschen Bibel häufig vorkommt.” In fact, “glauben” is a regular verb (also called a weak or t-verb). In modern German, at least, the subjunctive is “glaubten”, not “gläuben”. I was not able to find out if there was a different subjunctive in the 16th century. Looking at my Triglotta, I also see the verb “anbeten”. That would also have to be in the subjunctive if “glauben” were, and it is also a regular verb.
    I once was asked to translate this passage in the past. I think it could also be translated, “even if they believe there is only one true god”. To be sure, that leaves the verb “anbeten” dangling out there.
    I agree with you that the word “the” is misleading and should not have been used in the translation into English. It is not in the original. However, double-spacing “e i n e n” means this is to be understood as “one”, not “a” or “an”. This is a common practice in the German language.
    Anyway, I am glad the Latin makes it clear. Another way to show what Luther believed is to simply look at the context. The very first sentence of that paragraph states: “These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth.”

  4. Anybody catch pope Francis on Pentecost praying in the vatican gardens with a Muslim & Jewish delegation?

    Luther still speaks …

  5. @Unikat #3

    I concur, as a native speakter. “Gläuben” and “glauben” are one and the same (e. g, see also LC II,51 or II, 27, which also use “gläuben” to articulate the things we actually believe). That doesn’t change the fact that Luther does not say that all people believe in the same true god; he discusses a hypothetical case.

    To understand Luther’s words about the natural knowledge of God even heathen can have compare his lecture about the prophet Jona from 1526, esp. his commentary to Jona 1,5 (WA 19, 205-211: http://archive.org/stream/werkekritischege19luthuoft#page/204/mode/2up; = AE 19).

  6. @Unikat #3

    Dear Unikat (comment #3),

    Thanks for your comments. I did not want to confuse the readers with too many technical linguistic details, but I certainly appreciate your added insights and corrections about the German language of the passage in question.

    One of the reasons I did not submit an article myself on the topic, ca. 2002-03, was that I was not sure about the changes in the German language in these areas of grammar over 500 years, so your comments are illuminating and helpful to me.

    Latin has been much more stable, so its grammatical study is always more conclusive–it is the preferred technical language for theology.

    I am not sure that your point about “anbeten” is correct. I think that can be either indicative or subjunctive. And the question on “glauben” is not how we use it today, but how it was used in Luther’s day and by the Germans in his “linguistic sphere.” You make that point yourself, with the reference to the 1801 Worterbuch, but that quote doesn’t quite answer our question here. I would defer to an expert (or professor) in the history of the German language, who had studied Luther’s “linguistic sphere.”

    Maybe this discussion may help our readers understand how there would be some confusion about the translation of the passage in question, and that even among people with excellent linguistic skills. It would explain how Dau/Bente and Tappert had different results in their English versions, since they had preference for and expertise in German; and how translators still get confused by the German passage today.

    As Pastor Myers observes in his essay (p. 173), “This makes the case for Latin.” 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. Dear Pastor Noland,

    Thank you for your reply. Before responding I’d like to state that I really liked your point that “the same people who usually claim they are the chief proponents for “missions,” were furiously defending an idea that eliminates the purpose of missions.”

    Regarding Latin, of course it has been more stable, it’s dead :). I’ll make a case for German:
    1. It was the native language of Luther, Melanchthon, etc. I’m sure they knew Latin very well, but probably not as well as their native tongue.
    2. There are many excellent works that were written only in German, hymns, for example. 3. It’s not dead :).
    Of course, it is good for a pastor to know both.

    I had a look at the prefaces of Dau/Bente and Tappert, and it seems both translations used both the Latin and the German. Is this correct? I’m guessing, though, that all three were native speakers of German.

    Regarding “anbeten”, if “glauben” is subjunctive I think it would have to be subjunctive as well, because it has the same object.

    The reason I provided the quote from the Wörterbuch is to show that “gläuben” is merely an alternate way that “glauben” was spelled in theological texts. Sven #4 also concurs on that. Sorry if I was not clear on that. Another point is that German only adds an Umlaut to form the subjunctive of strong verbs, and it is added to the simple past, not the infinitive. Even though I don’t know the grammar of 16th century German, I just can’t believe this could be a subjunctive. I don’t think the grammar could have changed that much.

    Regarding joint worship services, I can’t understand how any clergy of any religion want to get involved, since it seems like in these services no god is worshiped at all. They seem to be more about praising human resilience, the sacrifice and bravery of individuals who lost their lives, or American ideals, or our common humanity, sort of a form of “American civil religion”.

    God’s blessings on your work.

    Unikat

  8. @John Rixe #7
    This is a good and timely topic IMO.

    Where were you when it was chewed to shreds? 🙁

    For this, I have two copies of Book of Concord, which vary not a jot on this “disputed” (by non theologians, and apparently non-linguists) passage.
    [CPH did clear up a bunch of typos and other punctuation but missed some fuzzy thinking in the notes.] And rearranged the pagination to give problems to Bible classes with both versions represented.

    Unfortunately many (maybe most?) “Christians” believe in a sentimental universal god.

    “Many are called but few are chosen.”

    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” [that is to say, ‘in My face’ (or presence)]

    The “sentimentalists” [if that’s what you think it is] had better consider their souls.

  9. @Unikat #9
    Regarding joint worship services, I can’t understand how any clergy of any religion want to get involved, since it seems like in these services no god is worshiped at all.

    It was an opportunity to be seen on TV with record ratings.
    The god worshiped is closest to their own hearts. ;\

  10. To say that Christians and non-Christians worship the same God is like saying that, if one person describes a 5’5″ European blonde with blue eyes and another describes a 6’2″ dark-complected brunette with brown eyes, both people are describing the same woman.

    Even a cursory reading of the gods of other religions makes it very plain that they are not the same as the God of the Bible.

  11. Dear BJS Bloggers and Readers,

    A number of you have commented here and privately, for which I am very grateful. The following statements need to be changed in my article posted above:

    9th paragraph, last sentence

    Presently reads: “CPH promptly did what it was ordered to do by the Commission for Doctrinal Review, issued a second edition, and produced an Addendum for owners of the 2005 edition.”

    Should be corrected to read: “CPH spent almost a year in careful negotiations with the LCMS Commission for Doctrinal Review (aka DR), with the result that DR withdrew all of its objections to the 2005 edition. CPH then issued a second edition and Addendum for the 2005 edition that strengthened the passage in question.”

    12th paragaph, 2nd sentence

    Presently reads: “He was formerly an LC-MS US Air Force chaplain in Germany, retiring with the rank of Colonel.”

    Should be corrected to read: “He served his entire career in the USAF Reserve, including service in Frankfurt am Main in Germany, and he served as the first-ever Reserve chaplain on the Joint Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1998-2001). He retired from the Reserve chaplaincy in 2002 with the rank of Colonel.”

    6th paragraph

    Presently reads: “I also noted a discrepancy in the grammatical mood. For the word “believe in,” the Triglotta had “glauben” which is the indicative mood. But the Bekennnisschriften has “gläuben” which is the subjunctive mood, which is also found in the original with the older spelling “gleuben” (see link above). One umlaut makes the difference here. The subjunctive mood meant Luther was setting forth a hypothetical case for the sake of argument, NOT asserting that heathens, Turks, and Jews believe in the true God as a matter of fact.”

    Should be corrected to read: “I also noted what appeared to me to be a discrepancy in the grammatical mood. For the word “believe in,” the Triglotta had “glauben” which is in the indicative. But the Bekenntisschriften has “gläuben” which is also found in the original with the older spelling “gleuben” (see link above). In modern German, some verbs in the past subjunctive add an umlaut to the verb stem, but I didn’t know if that rule applied in the 16th century to Luther’s dialect. If “gläuben” was in the subjunctive mood, it meant Luther was setting forth a hypothetical case for the sake of argument, NOT asserting that heathens, Turks, and Jews believe in the true God as a matter of fact.”

    I hope this adds some clarity. I’ll ask the editors to make the changes when they have time. Thanks again for your very helpful comments.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  12. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Here are just a few final comments on this subject, before I have to turn my attention elsewhere.

    First, regarding the changes in the German language, the Wikipedia articles are a good introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_language and its link to the “History of German” main article. Please note in these articles that it was not until about 1800 that German began to be standardized, so literature written prior to then has both historical-developmental and dialetical issues for modern readers.

    Second, I looked through my copy of Engelbrecht’s monograph last night. On page 70, note 6, he judges that the umlaut in the “glauben” is “probably” due to a dialect difference and so the umlaut does not necessarily indicate a subjunctive (for Engelbrecht’s treatise, order here: http://www.cph.org/p-670-one-true-god-understanding-the-large-catechism-ii-66.aspx?SearchTerm=engelbrecht ). I’d say that is an excellent guess, but not for sure, as he admits.

    Third, Engelbrecht also notes that modern German has replaced the subjunctive mood with modals (p. 70 n. 2), which is correct, and explains why modern speakers may be unfamiliar with its use.

    Fourth, Engelbrecht uses the proper methodology in his treatise to answer the problems. We cannot use modern German grammars to determine what a person was writing or saying in the 16th century, since they did not follow those rules. You can use German grammars reliably to determine meaning in modern German and that is a deductive method. Engelbrecht uses the inductive method, following many examples, to determine how Luther used the language of his day–and that is the only reliable way to determine meaning when it is problematic.

    Fifth, one of the principles of translating the Lutheran Confessions is that both languages can be used to determine meaning, especially where there are problems. Since the Latin is in the subjunctive in LC II.66, it is most probable that the translator took that mood from the original German in the Large Catechism. Here the Latin helps determine the German meaning. This is why the Triglotta (or Bekenntnisschriften) continues to be so useful to students of the Confessions.

    Finally, to demonstrate the dialectical differences in German even into the mid 19th century, I give a local example. The congregation I presently serve was split into two (sometime in the 1850s I think), because the preacher of our church was a Loehe Sendlinge speaking Upper German, and many of the immigrants moving into town were speaking Lower German (i.e., “platdeutsch”). The Lower-German-speakers could not understand our pastor, so they started their own church two blocks away, and joined the Ohio Synod (which is now in the ELCA).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  13. Martin R. Noland :Finally, to demonstrate the dialectical differences in German even into the mid 19th century, I give a local example. The congregation I presently serve was split into two (sometime in the 1850s I think), because the preacher of our church was a Loehe Sendlinge speaking Upper German, and many of the immigrants moving into town were speaking Lower German (i.e., “platdeutsch”). The Lower-German-speakers could not understand our pastor, so they started their own church two blocks away, and joined the Ohio Synod (which is now in the ELCA).
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

    I can remember visiting my great-grandmother in Altenburg, MO many years ago, which we usually did for Christmas and Summer vacations. The wife of the local grocer who had moved there from out of state made fun of the local dialect used, saying to me that they didn’t know how to speak proper German in this town. I responded that this was the German that was spoken in the 1800s, not what was taught in German classes today. I’m sure that the modern German edition of the Luther Bibel sold by CPH today doesn’t match the German from the Book of Concord either, although the Luther Bibel sold by CPH a hundred years ago probably did.

  14. Just a small correction. Dr Jon Bruss was teaching at the University of Kansas in Lawrence Kansas, not Topeka Kansas. I believe Dr. Bruss is now pastor at St. John’s Lutheran in Topeka, KS.

  15. @Martin R. Noland #14
    Pastor Noland,

    I heard you on Issues,etc. yesterday and your explanation was very good. I read the above article several times to try and understand the issue, but hearing you explain it helped me immensely. Thank you. Just one question, why did it take thirteen years to get a definitive answer?

    In Christ,
    Diane

  16. @Diane #17
    Just one question, why did it take thirteen years to get a definitive answer

    It really didn’t, Diane. The matter was settled before the second edition of the BOC was printed. “Correction” of this statement was the intended object of the recall but several German linguists determined that no change in the [Readers] BOC’s wording was needed. It was correct as it stood.
    [See Rev. Noland’s correction to his 9th paragraph, last sentence at #13 (which I have just now read).]

    Don’t ask the editors to change the original. It’s such a beautiful example of “tact and diplomacy on second thought”. Some of us need the lesson (so we don’t get erased so often). 🙂

  17. QUOTE FOR THE DAY

    Martin R. Noland :
    CPH spent almost a year in careful negotiations with the LCMS Commission for Doctrinal Review (aka DR), with the result that DR withdrew all of its objections to the 2005 edition. CPH then issued a second edition [of the new CPH edition of the Lutheran Confessions] and Addendum for the 2005 edition that strengthened the passage in question.

    Strengthened it!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W84-59pc7Tc

  18. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I’ll address the previous comments since my last comment in one instead of individually.

    First, regarding Dr. Jon Bruss, I have on record from an article he wrote for LOGIA (Reformation 2008) that he was serving at U of K in Topeka in 2008; then that he was serving at U of K in Lawrence, KS in early 2010 when he gave a lecture for the first Lutheranism and Classics conference. You are correct, “Gaius,” to note that he presently serves as a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Topeka. Of course, Dr. Bruss would know when he served where, so I would accept correction by him . . . 🙂

    Second, “Diane” mentions my half-hour program on this topic on June 18th at Issues, etc. This program might especially help folks who are not familiar with the 2001-2008 debate. Go here and download or play the podcast: http://issuesetc.org/2014/06/18/1-did-martin-luther-teach-that-non-christians-worship-the-true-god-dr-martin-noland-61814/

    Third, “Diane,” Helen answers correctly your question. When the Engelbrecht monograph was published in 2007, it settled the issue; that is why that little book is worth reading and referring to in the future. The district president involved retracted his statement when the Engelbrecht monograph was published. So the period of debate was really ca. 2001 to 2008.

    Where Dr. Myers’ essay gets my approbation of “definitive” is that he argues from the Latin mood, i.e., the subjunctive, which the others did not argue from. In my opinion, the Latin subjunctive mood is the strongest argument. In rhetoric, you start from the strongest argument, and repeat it at the end–which is what Myers does. Myers’ essay also incorporates and refers to all the previous literature, so it is the best place to start in studying the subject.

    Fourth, as to the 2000 Fortress Press edition, it does not incorporate this scholarship, because it preceded the debate, and I don’t think has been revised since that time. Regarding the passage in question, it simply follows Tappert.

    Fifth, as to whether the Fortress Press edition is viable: yes, it is! If you own it, you might make some notes in the margins at page 440 with regard to this matter. My Tappert edition has various notes added over the years in various places, indicating the original language, problems, etc. Dr. Norman Nagel of the Saint Louis seminary wrote an excellent article years ago in the Concordia Journal regarding Treatise, 70 (Tappert, p. 332), and I put his correction in that margin. The Triglotta had an extra column on the right side of the right-hand page that encouraged such notations (and cross-references) by a previous generation of LCMS, WELS, and ELS pastors.

    Sixth, as to the implied question of “What is the best version?” If you are looking for the cheapest version, CPH has a small paperback of the 2nd edition (2009) of “Concordia The Lutheran Confessions” for $17 here: http://www.cph.org/p-2939-concordia-the-lutheran-confessions-pocket-edition.aspx It also has a Kindle version for $10 and ePub version for $17 to put on your iPhone, Tablet, etc. The full book version is $32, which I recommend for laymen, because it has loads of indices, helps, and pictures in the back, which is very helpful for self-study.

    Pastors or students who can read some German or Latin will definitely want to purchase the Triglotta or the Bekenntnisschriften–and this discussion demonstrates why! 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  19. Dr. Noland,

    Using the fourth column of the old Triglotta for making notes was a good suggestion. I know that CPH has a special edition of the Small Catechism with blank pages for making notes. I had thought the fourth column in the old Triglotta was merely because there was an extra column left after putting the three languages in parallel columns. Thanks for clearing that up.

    The “pocket” edition of the Concordia Reader’s Edition is great. Sometimes you can find it on sale for less than $17.00. Not only is that edition available on Kindle but the Triglotta (1922 Bente/Dau English portion) is also on Kindle for a couple of dollars…basically what you’d find on the .pdf version at http://bookofconcord.org .

  20. helen :@Diane #17 Just one question, why did it take thirteen years to get a definitive answer
    It really didn’t, Diane. The matter was settled before the second edition of the BOC was printed. “Correction” of this statement was the intended object of the recall but several German linguists determined that no change in the [Readers] BOC’s wording was needed. It was correct as it stood.[See Rev. Noland’s correction to his 9th paragraph, last sentence at #13 (which I have just now read).]

    Helen,

    There was also an objection that the original brackets from the Triglotta were removed for the first edition of the Concordia Reader’s Edition. In the Trilotta, the brackets denoted passages from the other language that weren’t present. The brackets were a method to include both the German and the Latin differences in the English translation. I didn’t understand their objection, considering that both languages were “official”.

  21. “Buy the book and read the article yourself, if you don’t believe me or Pastor Myers. Don’t try to argue the case before reading Myers and the related literature he cites, or you will make a fool of yourself. The first edition of the CPH Concordia (2005 edition) had the correct translation. Case closed.”

    It would be nice if Synod developed some alternate system (like patronage or stipend) for CPH rather than mirror the secular system for written works on matters of doctrine.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased at how many materials are published free on the web. This would be another one of those things I’d like to see without the 20 dollar paywall.

  22. Dear Quasicelsus,

    One thing you can do to reduce your personal cost of books and a theological library is to convince your local LCMS congregation to form its own library, with an annual budget for purchases to add to that library. It does not require a lot of money, or a lot of work, but someone needs to maintain it.

    The advantage of this is that, for most people, they will read a book once and then won’t ever use it again. That is not a good use of resources, so it is much better when one book has many readers. The disadvantage of this is that people are not good about returning books, whether from a church library or personal library. I know that from personal experience . . .

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    People who use the web get used to free stuff, and I understand that. The downside of free stuff, unless it has hefty financial backing (like Wikipedia), is that it may be either just opinion or unreliable-info-posing-as-facts.

    The upside of paid stuff, like books, DVDs, and paywalls, is that some editor (or competent peer reviwer) has scrutinized everything for potential damage (slander, etc.), factuality, evidence, and coherence of argument. In other words, reading paid stuff is worth your time and effort; reading free stuff often is not.

    The editor (or peer reviewer) is what makes the material reliable and useful. Even when an author is well-known and an authority on the subject, he/she may produce a draft that is slipshod, poorly argued, even incomprehensible. I won’t mention individual cases, but I have had to edit more than my fair share of these in my career.

    The editor’s goal is to make the author look and sound great. I really appreciate the quality of editorial and book-work-manship that we have at CPH. You might notice that CPH gets national awards for this almost every year!

    You should see a book purchase as a lifetime investment, and only purchase books that you will use later in life. Take care of your books, and they will be there on your shelf when you need them again. Pastors should do the same with their professional journals (like CTQ, CJ, and LOGIA).

    All newspapers and text media are going through a transitional phase, as they figure out what needs to be paid for and what can be free on the web. Even what is “free on the web” is not entirely free, since someone has to pay for the Internet fees and a webmaster, and maybe other expenses too.

    So that is a good reason to send in a check on occasion to “Brothers of John the Steadfast” or “Issues, etc.” If the users of these services do not pay for them, and the bills start piling up, they will eventually go away like so many other non-profit agencies.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  23. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    A reader let me know I have another point that needs clarification, and he’s right.

    At comment #21 above, the “Third” point, mentions that ” The district president involved retracted his statement when the Engelbrecht monograph was published.” That could be understood to mean he retracted everything he did or said in this controversy, which is not true.

    What I was referring to was the district president’s unofficial online statement “I retract the statement ‘The Muslim God is also the True God,’ because it is theologically imprecise” (see http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=1677.0; accessed December 2008). So he did retract that statement, at least unofficially.

    As far as I know the district president involved, and all of his defenders, have never retracted the other statements that they made on this topic or admitted that they were false doctrine. I vaguely remember that he apologized to the convention, and that sort of ended the debate in a non-doctrinal way. That would be in the convention proceedings, but I can’t remember where.

    I hope this clarifies matters, as best as I can do with my memory and limited resources. I do not intend to rejuvenate those debates; I wanted to end them–and besides, this post will be falling off the bottom of the front page in a day or two . . . 🙂

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Martin R. Noland #25
    Thank you for speaking to my post. I definitely do not disagree with anything you presented. At the same time, I’d like to see Synod having it’s own digital library and move away from a royalty based institution regarding doctrinal materials (particularly things like the book at hand, and the Concordia commentaries.)

    Definitely aware that everything has a cost. And that there’s more more than one way to back such things.

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