Monday, April 12, 2010

Der Lutheraner Returns – In English!

Pastor Joel Basely is Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Dearborn, Michigan. In his “spare time” he translates the works of German theologians such as Luther and Walther into English, and has set up his own publishing company called Mark V Publications.

Recently, Pastor Basely has begun sending out free biweekly copies of C.F.W. Walther’s first publication Der Lutheraner, whose initial publication was on September 1, 1844. These copies are translated into English, and formatted to look identical to their original German counterpart. Accompanying each emailed pdf edition of Der Lutheraner is a cover letter which provides a very insightful commentary on that particular edition, as well as hyperlinked references for topics covered in the paper. I highly recommend subscribing. To subscribe, send your name and email address to Pastor Basely here. Pastor Basely will send you the back issues as well as the current issue so you’ll be up to date. You can also check out the corresponding facebook page.

The book Ebenezer, published in 1922, had this to say about Der Lutheraner:

Modest as was the appearance of the newcomer in the field of Lutheran journalism, there nevertheless was something about Der Lutheraner that differentiated if from other Lutheran church-papers of that day; something that at once attracted attention and called forth comment, favorable or otherwise. But what must have struck the reader as the most distinctive feature was the authoritative and decided tone in which it spoke on matters Lutheran, the firm stand it took in defense of pure Lutheranism, and the intrepid courage with which it proposed to attach error wherever found, whether with the sects or among the pseudo-Lutherans.

To give you a sense of the writing contained in Der Lutheraner, here’s a portion of the third issue, in which Walther discusses the reason for using the name Lutheran, rather than just Christian, or Catholic, or Reformed, Evangelical, Protestant, or Methodist – as timely today as it was then:

So what – now perhaps many others will say – what can you have against the name “Evangelical?” Couldn’t you and shouldn’t you fairly replace Lutheran with that name? With that name isn’t it true that you need not feel compelled to receive any doctrine you regard as false? Don’t you know that the Evangelicals are the fellowship composed of those who, in each of the articles that divide the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, grant each and every member complete freedom and leave it to each person’s conscience as to what he wants to preach as Christ’s true meaning? – Of course we know that. But just that is the reason we can no longer call ourselves Evangelical. Of course the name itself is certainly glorious and precious. Yes, the Lutheran Church is just the church that was, for quite some time, the only one called Evangelical. Two or three hundred years ago, whoever said: I am an Evangelical, was thereby confessing, as all the world knew, that he was a Lutheran. Luther was certainly the one through whom God had again placed his Gospel into everyone’s hands. But the times they are a-changin’, and with them the culture and the name. Whoever now says: ‘I am an Evangelical’ is confessing that he is a Christian of whom it cannot be known what he believes about a number of chief tenets of the Christian faith. So tell me, whoever regards what he preaches as really being true, and who does not want to shackle the truth but wants to confess completely, can that person confess it (what he regards as the truth, whatever it might be) in a church that relies on two confessional writings that cancel each other out, that is, where the one flatly rejects the other? Or to a church that thus publicly has no confessional writings, yes in which the two sorts of faith are approved, and thus, the truth and the lie? (For two contradicting doctrines still cannot both be true!) Wouldn’t you think that it would be impossible for people who regard the whole Bible as true could have come up with the thought that this new so-called ‘united’ or Evangelical Church, established by a Prussian queen, this church of tyrannized churches, compelled against their will, smuggled in through all sorts of scheming, demanded by the most nationalistic zeal, is the last bloom of the kingdom of God in the world, the vestibule of the glorious temple of a thousand year kingdom of Christ upon earth (expected only by enthusiasts)? Isn’t this church much rather the herald of another age of a Babylonian confusion of languages? Is the pinnacle of the true unity of faith and Spirit of the Christian church an externally unifying ceremonial unification of differently faithed believers? Through this new Evangelical Church will not the confusion over the points of contention between the Lutherans and Reformed be elevated to an article of faith, and the surrender of the truth made into a condition for this new supposed ‘orthodoxy’? Isn’t this new Evangelical church through this confession she is putting into practice, that various versions of this or that doctrine will be allowed to be taught, also paving the way so that finally all that is clearly declared in God’s Word must be professed to be uncertain and unclear so that the exposition of Scripture must fall prey to the whims of every charismatic and nationalist? Is this not reason to fear that when a congregation is first constituted as evangelical, without the stability of a decisive confession, that quickly a rationalistic preacher will follow that evangelical pastor? Won’t that necessarily be the next step? Won’t it be considered unjust to deny another person his rights? If the Evangelical is permitted to say: “The explanation of these passages about the sacraments, about election, etc., is left to the conscience of each individual, and no one should call another a heretic in these points over differences.” Can’t the rationalist then be granted this right of freedom in the explanation on many other points, and must he not be given permission? – In a short time, the present so-called Evangelical Church, lacking a confession of the truth in the most important articles of the Christian doctrine, can declare the same as unimportant, nonessential and apparently indifferent, and Christ’s Word uncertain. Therefore she can be seen as nothing other than the fellowship of indifference, which means, of people who evaluate true and false doctrine as the same. That is why we Lutherans cannot possibly call ourselves Evangelical nor do so any longer, in order that we not become changed into the latter and thus to deny our faith. We must much rather cry out to all the Lutherans who have deluded themselves with that beautiful name, ‘Evangelical’, and have let themselves be drawn into the net of this false union: “How long will you hang between two opinions? If the LORD is your God follow him. But if it is Baal, follow him.” (1 Kings 18.)

No comments: