Friday, February 24, 2012

LHP Review: Lutheranism

Green, Lowell C. The Erlangen School of Theology: Its History, Teaching, and Practice. Fort Wayne, IN: Lutheran Legacy, 2010. 376 Pages. Paper. $ 19.95. (Hardcover available for $29.95.) (LHP)

Preuss, Eduard. Introduction by Roland Ziegler. The Justification of the Sinner Before God. Fort Wayne, IN: Lutheran Legacy, 2011. 184 Pages. Paper. $14.95. (Hardback also available.) (LHP)

Burkee, James C. Foreword by Martin E. Marty. Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011. 256 Pages. Cloth. $29.00. (LHP)

Heiser, James. Stewards of the Mysteries of God: Essays on the Office of the Holy Ministry. Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2011. 188 Pages. Paper. $13.95. (LHP)

Braaten, Carl E., Editor. Preface by Paull E. Spring. Seeking New Directions for Lutheranism: Biblical, Theological, and Churchly Perspectives. Delhi, NY: American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2010. 228 Pages. Paper. $18.00 plus postage. (LHP)

I promise to be blunt.

I want your attention.

It sometimes takes generations for theology and practice to fall into disarray. It usually takes generations to recover even part of what has been lost.

I am thankful for my theological training at seminary. I intentionally prayed for discernment. And I am thankful that the Lord is faithful even when his servants are not.

I pray for Lutheranism because I pray for the Church. I pray for faithfulness AND bold witness.

Like that of the Erlangen School...

This book fills a vacuum in English-speaking scholarship as it narrates the story of the confessional Lutheran renaissance associated with the University of Erlangen beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and reaching well into the twentieth century. Here one can read the fascinating stories of Hofmann, Harless, Loehe, Delitzsch, Seeberg, Zahn and others at the headwaters of the Erlangen School in the nineteenth century. Even more interesting are the accounts of the twentieth century theologians Elert, Althaus, Procksch, Sasse, Preuss, Maurer, von Loewenich, and Kuenneth as Green studied with many of these scholars from 1952-1955. Green's telling of their stories is delightfully punctuated with personal remembrances of his own as well as pointed and provocative applications to contemporary Lutheran theology, liturgy, and church life. It is a welcome introduction to an important part of recent Lutheran history and a wonderful supplement to his earlier book, Lutherans Against Hitler: The Untold Story.
John T. Pless
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary

  • Introduction
  • 1. A Sketch of the Bavarian Lutheran Church in the Nineteenth Century
  • 2. The Theological Faculty at Erlangen and the Emergence of the "Erlangen School of Theology"
  • 3. An Overview of the Erlangen Theological Faculty from 1743 until 1923
  • 4. The Liturgics of Erlangen and Bavaria: Development of a Confessional Lutheran Theory and Practice of Liturgics
  • 5. Johann Wilhelm Friedrich Hoefling (1802-1853)
  • 6. Gottlieb Christoph Adolf von Harless (1806-1879)
  • 7. Johann Christian Konrad von Hofmann (1810-1877)
  • 8. Gottfried Thomasius (1802-1871)
  • 9. Franz Julius Delitzsch (1813-1890)
  • 10. Theodosius Harnack (1816-1889)
  • 11. Karl Adolf Gerhard von Zezschwitz (1825-1886)
  • 12. Franz Hermann Reinhold von Frank (1827-1894)
  • 13. Theodor Zahn (1838-1933)
  • 14. Other Scholars of "The Erlangen School"
  • 15. Werner Elert: The Passionate Scholar and Long-Term Dean
  • 16. Paul Althaus: The Mediator
  • 17. Herman Sasse: The Prophet
  • 18. Walter Keunneth: The Scholarly Fighter
  • A Report by Lowell C. Green of His Experiences as an American Student at Erlangen from 1952 until 1955
  • Bibliography
  • A Selected List of English Translations of Erlangen Authors
  • Indexes
(publisher's website)
A vacuum indeed! I first heard of most of these men while at seminary. As I reviewed the names while skimming this book when it first arrived, it clicked: they were all associated with Erlangen! I sometimes amaze myself with my former ignorance. As a friend once said, "The more I hear about the Lutheran Church, the more I want to find one..."

Liturgics is near and dear to my heart.

I have commentaries by Delitzsch and Zahn.

I have read Elert.

And Sasse is one of my favorite theologians because of Eucharist and Church Fellowship.

I am very thankful to Dr. Green for helping Lutherans across the world learn and appreciate the history, teaching, and practice of a positively significant theological faculty.

Our next volume for consideration came to me as quite a surprise. Why hadn't I heard of this book and author before?

I, a poor sinful man, confess to Almighty God, my Creator and Savior, that I have sinned not only in thought, word, and deed, but also have been conceived and born in sin, so that my whole nature and all my being is guilty and is condemned before his righteousness.

Why does our Divine Service begin thus? Because no one who has not recognized his sin can receive grace, and certainly not even understand justification by faith. For the heart of man is by nature either Pharasaical or drowned in lust for sin. Either it depends upon his good works, and on that account finds the imputation of a foreign righteousness useless, or it cheers, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," and assures itself that it needs neither its own nor a foreign righteousness. To preach justification by faith to such people is known as casting pearls before the swine. He, on the other hand, who lies in water is glad when a foreign (alien) hand is lowered from a foreign (alien) ship to hoist him onto dry land. He who recognizes the walls around himself as prison walls thanks God when He breaks open its door and says to him, "You are free!"
—Eduard Preuss

Preuss' treatise shows his great exegetical knowledge and his wide reading in the Lutheran fathers. This extends not only to the classics like Chemnitz and Gerhard, but also to minor figures like Höpfner. He draws prodigiously from the age of Lutheran orthodoxy, but is also conversant with the discussion of his time, including the Roman neo-scholastic tradition of Perrone. He is a master dialectician, but his book is more than an academic treatment of the subject. It is written passionately, sometimes crossing the boundary into the sermonic, and makes ample use of the hymnody of the church. As such, it combines the scholarly and the edifying in a paradigmatic way. C.F.W. Walther called it the best book written on justification in the 19th century. As such, it is well worth reading today, and this edition makes it accessible to a new generation.
Roland F. Ziegler
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
Concordia Theological Seminary

(publisher's website)
Why hadn't I heard of this book and author before? Eduard Preuss resigned his professorship in 1871 and went to the Roman Catholic Church!

Preuss, as a Lutheran...
  • extols the hymnody of the Church (55)
  • defends infant baptism (73)
  • commends the means of grace
  • points the reader to the person and work of Christ.
He is still worth reading, as Walther claimed, because what Preuss writes here is right and comforting. It may always remain a mystery of why true comfort loses its appeal for some.

On the other hand, Burkee is not worth reading.

Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod follows the rise of two Lutheran clergymen—Herman Otten and J. A. O. Preus—who led different wings of a conservative movement that seized control of a theologically conservative but socially and politically moderate church denomination and drove "moderates" from the church in the 1970s. The schism within what was then one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States ultimately reshaped the landscape of American Lutheranism and fostered the polarization that characterizes today's Lutheran churches.

Burkee's story, supported by personal interviews with key players and church archives sealed for over twenty years, is about more than Lutheranism. The remaking of this one Lutheran denomination reflects a broader movement toward theological and political conservatism in American churches—a movement that began in the 1970s and culminated in the formation of the "Religious Right."
(publisher's website)

I wish I could be kind. I've read Zimmerman, Tietjen, Otten, the Faculty publications of the time, and the booklets and broadsides leading up to the Rivergate. James C. Burkee adds nothing new but partisan revisionism that makes the Seminex folks and AELC leaders the heroes.

Consider what the author has to say:

I couldn't disagree with the author more. This began much more than fifteen years before the events at the heart of his narrative. It began in the Garden of Eden when a voice said, "Did God really say?" That is what was at state at 801 DeMun then and in Lutheranism to this day.

The shrinkage of the LCMS could be attributed to smaller families compared to generations ago as well as challenges that face all church bodies. And if the author (and publisher) truly wish to admit "decline," the ELCA and mainline groups in fellowship with ELCA are prime examples.

The shrinkage of the mainline groups is undoubtedly due to their involvement with progressive politics and truly radical causes, the disenchantment of many Biblical Christians with the very ideas of Seminex rejected by Scripture, and the very simple fact that a "Christian" theology that rejects the inspiration of Scripture, the Creation of all things by a loving and intentional God, the Deity and virgin birth of Christ, and the physical Resurrection of Christ doesn't sell very well. I'm very happy to cling to my Bible, thank you. The "religious left" was won the mainline. Good luck with that for the long term.

Burkee's book is hack journalism, a wannabe attempt at turning Seminex into Watergate. Those that still have sour grapes after what happened in the LCMS in the 1970's have other options even today. If their congregations didn't want to leave then, would they really want to leave now with eyes opened on what the so-called Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become? Thank the Lord the LCMS didn't get caught up in the 1988 merger!

Don't waste your time, money, aggravation, or antacids on this sad piece of work.

ELDoNA Bishop, the Rt. Rev. James D. Heiser is much more optimistic about the future of Lutheranism.

Six essays are included in this volume:
• The Office of the Ministry in Nicolaus Hunnius' Epitome Credendorum
(A detailed study of the teaching of one of the Lutheran fathers from the Age of Lutheran Orthodoxy as pertains to the office of the ministry)
• The Office of the Keys in the Ecclesiology of C.F.W. Walther and the Lutheran Confessions
(A comparison of the central tenets of Walther's doctrine of the Church and that which is confessed in the Book of Concord)
• Ministry and the Ordained Diaconate in the 16th and 17th Century Lutheran Church
(The historic Lutheran understanding of the diaconate is substantially different from that of the Reformed and many modern Lutherans)
• Pastoral Responsibility and the Office of the Keys in the Book of Concord
(An examination of that aspect of the office referred to as "jurisdiction" in the Augsburg Confession)
• Bishops, Councils and Authority in the Church in the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope
(The Treatise was written in the context of an invitation to attend an Ecumenical Council and it was written as a Lutheran response to the claims of Papalists and Conciliarists regarding authority in the Church)
• The Future of Ecclesiastical Oversight among Confessional Lutherans
(The modern neglect of Visitation and Ecclesiastical Oversight is examined in light of the Reformation-era practices)
(publisher's website)
The six essays give a background in the personal journey of James Heiser from The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod to the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America. 

He makes his frustrations with the LCMS known in a gap between theology and practice in his former body. "Lay Ministry," DELTO, SMP, and District training programs are not what AC XIV had in mind, so say the least.

Reading this book gives me hope for a recovery of traditional and confessional understanding of the Office of the Holy Ministry and its oversight in American Lutheranism. And, this volume makes me all the more appreciative of our Wyoming District of the LCMS. We don't have Circuit Counselors. We have Circuit Visitors. Pray for me, as I am the CV nominee to serve our Yellowstone Circuit beginning this June. Pray for the circuit's congregations, too. :)

The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau is to be commended for sharing the story of Lutheran CORE and the NALC as the ELCA disintegrates over the issue of homosexuality (among others). 

Papers Delivered at a Theological Conference Sponsoredby Lutheran CORE

August 24-26, 2010Upper Arlington Lutheran ChurchColumbus, Ohio


Sermon: Can anything Good Come out of Columbus?
Frank C. Senn
Lutheranism at a Crossroads
Carl E. Braaten

Holy Scripture and Word of God: Biblical Authority in the Church
Stephen J. Hultgren
Speech to, for and about the Triune God
Robert W. Jenson
Authority in the Church; A Plea for Critical Dogmatics
Paul R. Hinlicky
Renewing the Moral Vision for Lutheranism
Robert Benne
No Church of Christ without Christ
Steven D. Paulson
Mission: Gospel Roots with Global Reach
Paul V. Martinson
(The unabridged texts of these papers are about twenty percent longer than the lectures as presented in Columbus.)
I appreciate the courage and significant action it takes for clergy, laity, and congregations to leave the ELCA. Property and pensions may have to be left behind. Either is a significant sacrifice. 

At long last, voices ignored at the formation of the ELCA are being heard. Quotas are bad. Ecumenism goes too far when the Gospel and the Bible are compromised. Bigger is not always better. Don't you miss the ALC?

I see progress here and have prayed for leaders like Senn, Braaten, and Paulson to be confessing Lutheran confessors.

Yet, I still weep and pray, for I see the same thing happening all over again.

CORE and the NALC have the same "rot" at the core of their founding. I have optimism for the North American Lutheran Church. If these folks can be that creative in the name of a new Lutheran church body, why can't they see that the same arguments recently used to scandalously promote gay and lesbian clergy are the same ones recycled from the unbiblical promotion and passage of the ordination of women? At best, I see a halfway house for some pastors and congregations out of the ELCA. 

I would compare my concern to being on a train. 

The AELC folks left the LCMS and became even more liberal on their own. Words can hardly describe my experiences with former Missouri folks. It seemed as if they were trying to outdo the founders of St. Olaf College, famous for its Christmas concerts. St. Olaf was founded by the anti-Missouri Brotherhood. How's that for the name of a church body? 

The AELC helped link up the ALC and the LCA in the same train, for those former LCMS types had been pursuing ALC fellowship (and LCA by extension, since they were in fellowship with ALC). ELS, SELC, and WELS wouldn't move fast enough. 

The ELCA left the station in 1988 and left much of what Luther actually did and confessed behind. "Lutheranism" is not merely challenging the next "Pope" or "Prince" or championing the next cause of the supposedly downtrodden. That's liberation theology, so-called. 

Now, instead of decoupling their "cars" from the ELCA train, I see LCMC and NALC folks just moving back a few cars, say ELCA circa 1988, before the gay clergy issue, before the ecumenical agreements. No, that will only delay another conflict 20-30 years at most.

I commend this volume to your reading pile so that you may know what truly faces our brothers and sisters in Christ post-ELCA. And I will pray for good LCMS-LCMC and LCMS-NALC interactions.

Lutheranism in the United States of America faces challenging days ahead.

There will be further fragmentation and consolidation. Both have always been part of our history in America.

Mainline pseudo-Lutheranism will wilt, merge with other wilting mainline groups into a universalist formerly-protestant "Church," send some refugees to the Confessional camp, and have other clergy, laity, and entire congregations that will be absorbed by Rome by some new "pastoral provision."

Confessional Lutherans will re-form the Evangelical Synodical Conference in North America. There will be no formal merger, but solid, Biblical, Confessional, and liturgical Lutherans in fellowship and common doctrine and practice will be part of a national super Synod.

Not all in the WELS or LCMS will like the new ESCNA. A significant minority will finally admit to what they have been for decades, revivalistic American Evangelicals. Some have long since dropped the name Lutheran. They will finally free themselves of the strictures of Lutheran doctrine and practice and embrace "eucharistic hospitality" and throw the Lord's pearls before swine.

Confessional Lutherans worldwide will take the lead in confessing the Lutheran Confessions, finishing translations of Scripture and the Book of Concord into major world languages. Indigenous missionaries will reach out to their own people, develop orthodox Lutheran hymnals and catechetical materials, and will help encourage the remaining Confessional Lutherans in North America and Europe. Expect passionate Lutheran voices from what we call the developing world. And someday, they'll send missionaries to us.

Congregations will come and go. So will church bodies--even nominally or formerly Lutheran ones. Yet, we have our Lord's promises that The Word of the Lord Endures Forever and that not even the gates of hell itself will triumph against the Church.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

View article...