Dr. David Scaer Gives Matt Harrison’s New Book High Marks

Review: “Reconnect with Synod’s Noble Past”                                                               Thursday, 29 October 2009 20:05

For all of his failings Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher saw the church was at least a community with its own culture. With the passing of every year, our pastors and people are removed farther and farther away from the men who defined who we were and still are as a church. Casting a line into the Missouri Synod ¹s past, Matthew C. Harrison has garnered the writings of the men who set the tone for the synod’s theology in the first century of its existence in an 826 page volume fittingly entitled At Home in the House of My Fathers. The subtitle says it all: Presidential Sermons, Essays, Letters and Addresses from the Missouri Synod’s Great Era of Unity and Growth.      

House Of My FathersDuring my seminary days in the 1950s, hardly any students were at home in German, the language of the founding fathers. Except for C.F.W. Walther’s Law and Gospel and Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics, their other writings and those of Loehe, Schwan, and Pfottenhauer were inaccessible to us. In a church that was rapidly enmeshed into its American environment, pastors and people began using materials emitting from Reformed and Methodist publishing houses.        

Harrison’s collection of essays reconnects the synod with its noble past by making the writings of these fathers available in English. The writings of each synod father constitutes its own subsection, so for example, all of Walther ¹s writings are placed together as are the writings of the others. Within each subsection the writings are arranged in the order in which they were written. Some selections are very personal, e.g., Walther describing his own breakdown in 1860 to his congregation. Other writings are theological, e.g., ones on justification, and still others encourage pastors in their difficult situations. Depending on an essay ¹s purpose, the style can be homiletical, narrative, theological or historical, particularly with the funeral sermons, in which the reader can see how one era came to a close and a new one began. These are the links in the chain that holds the synod together.                

Several translators were employed for this task, but striking is that editor Matthew C. Harrison did the bulk of this drudgery. He is not alone in doing this kind of mind breaking work. J.A.O. Preus and Fred Kramer made the Lutheran heritage available to us in their translations of Martin Chemnitz. What they did with a 16th, Harrison has done with our late 19th and early 20th century fathers. I belong to a generation that cut off from its past by language. Harrison ¹s At Home in the House of My Fathers provides a bridge to our past. We are no longer linguistically isolated from the men who made us what we are today. At an initial offering price of $20, even those who are mildly inquisitive can afford t going back in time. By any estimate, [this is] a bargain theologically and financially.

David P. Scaer, Concordia Theological Seminary – Fort Wayne, IN

For more details on the book and for ordering information click here.

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