Happy birthday, C. F. W. Walther

Belated birthday wishes, that is.  Yesterday, October 25, would have been the 200th birthday of C. F. W. Walther, the pastor/theologian who led a small band of persecuted confessional Lutherans away from the arch-liberal state church in Germany to religious freedom in America, whereupon he founded the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

Rev. Joshua Scheer pays him a tribute with a quotation showing that not all that much has changed theologically since 1856:

“We are well aware that thereby we set our course against the stream of what is currently popular. People want to be entertained rather than instructed. They repeat Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” and deride as a fool anyone who dares to assert that he had found the truth and is proclaiming it. The current taste wants to nothing but “views,” nothing but thoughts “without prejudice,” expressed in attractive form. The man of today wants his age to be celebrated as the age of maturity and enlightenment, but past centuries to be smiled at as times of childish simplicity, darkness, and superstition. What was proclaimed as truth in a former day must now be relegated to a pigeonhole of history. Let us hear no more about people or about a church that always possessed the truth.

But if the current taste wants nothing to do with teaching, it is even more averse to defense. It thinks that it is all right to wage war for things that have reality, like land, money, honor, and the like, but fight for the truth? – folly! Who would and should fight for a phantom, for something that no one has and that no one can conquer? The spirit of the age believes that truth is the riddle of a sphinx that has not yet found an Oedipus. What truth there is on earth is parceled out, if not among the different chief religions, at least among the various parties in Christendom. All the various s0-called churches are regarded as different branches of one tree, and the varieties of teaching in these churches are simply different refractions of the one sun, merely different colors of the one rainbow. They are all sisters, and only lovelessness and spiritual pride can stoke the fires of discord among them.

But however prevalent these principles have become in our day and however commonly they are expressed sometimes in veiled, sometimes in unveiled form, we cannot subscribe to them. By a divine conviction we believe that there is a truth here on earth and that this truth is contained in God’s Word, that is, in the divinely inspired writings of the apostles and prophets. We also believe that these sacred writings have the purpose of imparting the light of this one complete truth to man sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, and that therefore these writings are so clear that a human being is able to recognize and draw this one complete truth from them.

From “Selected Writings of C.F.W. Walther: Editorials from Lehre und Wehre” translated by Herbert J.A. Bouman, pages 11-12 – available from CPH here.

via Steadfast Lutherans » Walther proves our arrogance wrong….

I wonder, though, how many of us today would consider our church and our theology so important that we would pull up our roots, leave our extended families, and abandon our property to go to the other side of the world to live in a wilderness and start all over, just to be free to practice our faith.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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  • Carl Vehse

    “C. F. W. Walther, the pastor/theologian who led a small band of persecuted confessional Lutherans away from the arch-liberal state church in Germany to religious freedom in America”

    Actually the Saxon Lutherans, under the charismatic cult leadership of Martin Stephan, left their homeland in December 1838 primarily because Stephan wanted to avoid prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct, and mishandling funds and dereliction of pastoral duties in complaints from his own Dresden congregation from which he was removed. C. F.W. Walther was the youngest of several pastors who resigned or abandoned their pastoral office and congregations to join Stephan as his assistants. Despite admissions to the contrary by Walther and other pastors, as noted in books by Walter Forster and Carl Mundinger, the urban legend of Stephanites fleeing because of Prussian Union persecution persists. Stephan also left his wife and seven daughters, some of whom were handicapped. One of five ships carrying the Saxons to America sank in a storm.

    In May, 1839, after several women admitted committing adultery with Stephan, he was deposed and exiled to Illinois. Walther was eventually recognized as a leader by the Saxon Lutherans in the 1841 Altenburg Debate. In 1847 Walther and other Lutheran pastors and congregations formed what became known as the Missouri Synod. <Zion on the Mississippi provides the historical details.

  • Carl Vehse

    “C. F. W. Walther, the pastor/theologian who led a small band of persecuted confessional Lutherans away from the arch-liberal state church in Germany to religious freedom in America”

    Actually the Saxon Lutherans, under the charismatic cult leadership of Martin Stephan, left their homeland in December 1838 primarily because Stephan wanted to avoid prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct, and mishandling funds and dereliction of pastoral duties in complaints from his own Dresden congregation from which he was removed. C. F.W. Walther was the youngest of several pastors who resigned or abandoned their pastoral office and congregations to join Stephan as his assistants. Despite admissions to the contrary by Walther and other pastors, as noted in books by Walter Forster and Carl Mundinger, the urban legend of Stephanites fleeing because of Prussian Union persecution persists. Stephan also left his wife and seven daughters, some of whom were handicapped. One of five ships carrying the Saxons to America sank in a storm.

    In May, 1839, after several women admitted committing adultery with Stephan, he was deposed and exiled to Illinois. Walther was eventually recognized as a leader by the Saxon Lutherans in the 1841 Altenburg Debate. In 1847 Walther and other Lutheran pastors and congregations formed what became known as the Missouri Synod. <Zion on the Mississippi provides the historical details.

  • Joe

    Carl – I have no disagreement with your efforts to recite a more accurate factual picture of how the Saxon’s came to America, but you blend fact with opinion and speculation in a way that is most uncharitable.

    Did Walther abandon his call in Germany? I don’t know. But that is one heck of a charge against a pastor. Does a pastor abandon his call when he leaves one congregation and accepts the call of another? Does he abandon his call when perhaps it becomes clear to him that he should not be preaching and he leaves the ministry? Does he abandon his call if he believes that he is being called to go to a new country and help establish a new church free from the false doctrine of the Prussian Union? (I will leave persecution aside, but there is no doubt that the Prussian Union was a heterodox church).

  • Joe

    Carl – I have no disagreement with your efforts to recite a more accurate factual picture of how the Saxon’s came to America, but you blend fact with opinion and speculation in a way that is most uncharitable.

    Did Walther abandon his call in Germany? I don’t know. But that is one heck of a charge against a pastor. Does a pastor abandon his call when he leaves one congregation and accepts the call of another? Does he abandon his call when perhaps it becomes clear to him that he should not be preaching and he leaves the ministry? Does he abandon his call if he believes that he is being called to go to a new country and help establish a new church free from the false doctrine of the Prussian Union? (I will leave persecution aside, but there is no doubt that the Prussian Union was a heterodox church).

  • Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

    Being the youngest of the pastors, Walther was the one given the task of confronting Stephan in the early days of the Saxon settlement in Perry County. After Stephan’s ship sailed to Illinois, a man by the name of Carl Vehse began to speak out against not only the emigration, but the whole notion of the people submitting unconditionally in all things (both spiritual and temporal) to a pastor , as they had to Martin Stephan. Vehse, a very learned man, wrote a long defense of his positions citing many sources, including Luther, Johann Arndt, and Philip Spener.

    It is my contention that this document set the stage for Walther’s leadership. First, Walther took ill (maybe even a nervous breakdown brought on by his feelings of remorse), and second, Walther himself returned to these sources during his illness, and in doing, rediscovered the Lutheran teaching on the Church.

    The Altenburg Debate was between Walther and Vehse’s brother-in-law, a man by the name of Marbach, who represented Vehse’s position (that they had abandoned the Church by submitting to Stephan and leaving Germany). Walther’s argument was that, while they had sinned by forsaking their vocations and investing everything into one man, the Church remained among them because the Word of God remained among them, the sacraments remained among them.

    http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=a&word=ALTENBURGTHESES

    Also, it’s interesting to note that later in his life, Walther would credit Stephan with one thing from the early days of their relationship–for teaching him of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

  • Rev. Jacob Ehrhard

    Being the youngest of the pastors, Walther was the one given the task of confronting Stephan in the early days of the Saxon settlement in Perry County. After Stephan’s ship sailed to Illinois, a man by the name of Carl Vehse began to speak out against not only the emigration, but the whole notion of the people submitting unconditionally in all things (both spiritual and temporal) to a pastor , as they had to Martin Stephan. Vehse, a very learned man, wrote a long defense of his positions citing many sources, including Luther, Johann Arndt, and Philip Spener.

    It is my contention that this document set the stage for Walther’s leadership. First, Walther took ill (maybe even a nervous breakdown brought on by his feelings of remorse), and second, Walther himself returned to these sources during his illness, and in doing, rediscovered the Lutheran teaching on the Church.

    The Altenburg Debate was between Walther and Vehse’s brother-in-law, a man by the name of Marbach, who represented Vehse’s position (that they had abandoned the Church by submitting to Stephan and leaving Germany). Walther’s argument was that, while they had sinned by forsaking their vocations and investing everything into one man, the Church remained among them because the Word of God remained among them, the sacraments remained among them.

    http://cyclopedia.lcms.org/display.asp?t1=a&word=ALTENBURGTHESES

    Also, it’s interesting to note that later in his life, Walther would credit Stephan with one thing from the early days of their relationship–for teaching him of the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    In May, 1839, after several women admitted committing adultery with Stephan, he was deposed and exiled to Illinois.

    I can’t help but find some humor in the phrasing here, “exiled to Illinois,” as though the immigrants could keep him there. Probably not what Carl meant, but funny. Hey, were the adulterous women exiled to Illinois as well? Or were they exiled to Arkansas?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    In May, 1839, after several women admitted committing adultery with Stephan, he was deposed and exiled to Illinois.

    I can’t help but find some humor in the phrasing here, “exiled to Illinois,” as though the immigrants could keep him there. Probably not what Carl meant, but funny. Hey, were the adulterous women exiled to Illinois as well? Or were they exiled to Arkansas?

  • Michael

    “I wonder, though, how many of us today would consider our church and our theology so important that we would pull up our roots, leave our extended families, and abandon our property to go to the other side of the world to live in a wilderness and start all over, just to be free to practice our faith.”

    I agree with Dr. Veith that this would probably be almost no one (at least I think that is what he is implying), but I’d go further: I don’t think that your average person has even a basic understanding of their theology. Imagine you were to walk into your average church and ask the members questions like “Why do you believe? Why are you Lutheran and not a Catholic, Presbyterian, or Hindu? What can we know about who goes to heaven or hell?”. Do you think you’d get good answers to these questions? Do people in general understand their theology, let alone be willing to go to such great lengths to defend it?

  • Michael

    “I wonder, though, how many of us today would consider our church and our theology so important that we would pull up our roots, leave our extended families, and abandon our property to go to the other side of the world to live in a wilderness and start all over, just to be free to practice our faith.”

    I agree with Dr. Veith that this would probably be almost no one (at least I think that is what he is implying), but I’d go further: I don’t think that your average person has even a basic understanding of their theology. Imagine you were to walk into your average church and ask the members questions like “Why do you believe? Why are you Lutheran and not a Catholic, Presbyterian, or Hindu? What can we know about who goes to heaven or hell?”. Do you think you’d get good answers to these questions? Do people in general understand their theology, let alone be willing to go to such great lengths to defend it?

  • norman teigen

    It’s appropriate to honor the theological contributions of this figure in the history of American Lutheranism.

    The commemoration of the anniversary has been more celebratory than analytical. Walther’s southern partisan stance during the Civil War and his embracing of southern attitudes towards slavery has been all but ignored.

    Walther was opposed to any number of -isms and abolitionism was one of them. He, inadvertently I think, became an apologist for the morally evil institution of slavery when he condemned those who regarded slavery as a sin.

    Walther had a profound influence on the Norwegians (my group) who adopted Walther’s views on the subject of Biblical interpretation of slavery. The Norwegians were naive to have sought and accepted Walther’s views on slavery. The Norwegians disregarded better advice from their own seminarians in Oslo. This episode caused great sorrow and division within the Norwegian community.

    Now no one will defend Walther’s views on slavery. He was wrong about secession, slavery, and

  • norman teigen

    It’s appropriate to honor the theological contributions of this figure in the history of American Lutheranism.

    The commemoration of the anniversary has been more celebratory than analytical. Walther’s southern partisan stance during the Civil War and his embracing of southern attitudes towards slavery has been all but ignored.

    Walther was opposed to any number of -isms and abolitionism was one of them. He, inadvertently I think, became an apologist for the morally evil institution of slavery when he condemned those who regarded slavery as a sin.

    Walther had a profound influence on the Norwegians (my group) who adopted Walther’s views on the subject of Biblical interpretation of slavery. The Norwegians were naive to have sought and accepted Walther’s views on slavery. The Norwegians disregarded better advice from their own seminarians in Oslo. This episode caused great sorrow and division within the Norwegian community.

    Now no one will defend Walther’s views on slavery. He was wrong about secession, slavery, and

  • norman teigen

    Cont’d. The interpretation of the Bible on this issue. One may argue, I think, that he was right about a great many other issues.

    It is not slanderous toms write. Any historical figure deserves scrutiny. One need not discard the legacy of Walther bynpointing out that he off in one area.

  • norman teigen

    Cont’d. The interpretation of the Bible on this issue. One may argue, I think, that he was right about a great many other issues.

    It is not slanderous toms write. Any historical figure deserves scrutiny. One need not discard the legacy of Walther bynpointing out that he off in one area.

  • Carl Vehse

    Joe @2: “Did Walther abandon his call in Germany? I don’t know. But that is one heck of a charge against a pastor.”

    Yes, Joe, but who made that charge? I didn’t; read what I said. You also might consider what C.F.W. Walther wrote in a May 4, 1840, letter to his brother, Hermann, about his part in the Stephanite debacle:

    “Every sad look of a member from our congregations is to me like an accuser before God; my conscience blames me for all the broken marriages which occurred among us; it calls me a kidnapper, a robber of the wealthy among us, a murderer of those who lie buried in the sea and the many who were stricken down here, a member of a mob, a mercenary, an idolater, etc. I now no longer dare to say: our emigration was premature; it is a big question whether we pastors should ever have emigrated, whether we should not perhaps have tolerated all restrictions, so long as they did not require something plainly sinful, in order that we might at least as faithful shepherds have cared for, protected, and watched over the little good which was still present in the German congregation.”

    As for your other rhetorical and speculative questions, I recommend you read Walter O.Forster’s Zion on the Mississippi (CPH< 1953); the quote above is on p. 515. Also, the confessional pastors who remained in Saxony were able to resist the rationalism in the State church and, a few years after the Missouri Synod was formed in the U.S., won the right to form "free churches" in Germany.

  • Carl Vehse

    Joe @2: “Did Walther abandon his call in Germany? I don’t know. But that is one heck of a charge against a pastor.”

    Yes, Joe, but who made that charge? I didn’t; read what I said. You also might consider what C.F.W. Walther wrote in a May 4, 1840, letter to his brother, Hermann, about his part in the Stephanite debacle:

    “Every sad look of a member from our congregations is to me like an accuser before God; my conscience blames me for all the broken marriages which occurred among us; it calls me a kidnapper, a robber of the wealthy among us, a murderer of those who lie buried in the sea and the many who were stricken down here, a member of a mob, a mercenary, an idolater, etc. I now no longer dare to say: our emigration was premature; it is a big question whether we pastors should ever have emigrated, whether we should not perhaps have tolerated all restrictions, so long as they did not require something plainly sinful, in order that we might at least as faithful shepherds have cared for, protected, and watched over the little good which was still present in the German congregation.”

    As for your other rhetorical and speculative questions, I recommend you read Walter O.Forster’s Zion on the Mississippi (CPH< 1953); the quote above is on p. 515. Also, the confessional pastors who remained in Saxony were able to resist the rationalism in the State church and, a few years after the Missouri Synod was formed in the U.S., won the right to form "free churches" in Germany.

  • Carl Vehse

    Rev. Jacob Erhard @3: “Walther was the one given the task of confronting Stephan in the early days of the Saxon settlement in Perry County.”

    Prof. Walter Forster suggests in his book that, as the youngest of Stephan’s assistants, C.F.W. Walther was most expendable. There had been nothing prior to mid-May for which Walther had stood out among the assistants. And it was Gotthold Heinrich Loeber who had originally been told by the women of their affairs with Stephan.

    “The Altenburg Debate was between Walther and Vehse’s brother-in-law, a man by the name of Marbach, who represented Vehse’s position (that they had abandoned the Church by submitting to Stephan and leaving Germany).”

    This is another fairy tale that, unfortunately, has been retold, yet again, in the recent release of a DVD about Walther. Marbach represented his position, not Vehse’s. The three men, Vehse, Fischer, and Jaekel, who submitted the Protest document in 1839 were completely separate from the later group headed by Marbach and Sproede. Neither Marbach nor Sproede supported the arguments in the 1839 Protest document then or later after Vehse returned to Germany. While both groups thought the emigration was wrong, only Marbach demanded the Saxons had to return to Germany to make things right. Vehse left in December 1839 because he had no money (he borrowed money for the trip) , was disgusted with the Stephanite opposition of the pastors, and he had substantial inheritance waiting for him when he got back to Germany.

    The person who did reread the Protest document and used its arguments supported by Scripture, the Confessions, and Luther to win the 1841 Altenburg Debate was C.F.W. Walther, who admitted at Altenburg, “Without this document — I now confess it with a living conviction — we might have for a long time pursued our way of error, from which we now have made our escape. I confess this with an even greater sense of shame, because I first appeared so ungrateful toward this precious gift of God.”

  • Carl Vehse

    Rev. Jacob Erhard @3: “Walther was the one given the task of confronting Stephan in the early days of the Saxon settlement in Perry County.”

    Prof. Walter Forster suggests in his book that, as the youngest of Stephan’s assistants, C.F.W. Walther was most expendable. There had been nothing prior to mid-May for which Walther had stood out among the assistants. And it was Gotthold Heinrich Loeber who had originally been told by the women of their affairs with Stephan.

    “The Altenburg Debate was between Walther and Vehse’s brother-in-law, a man by the name of Marbach, who represented Vehse’s position (that they had abandoned the Church by submitting to Stephan and leaving Germany).”

    This is another fairy tale that, unfortunately, has been retold, yet again, in the recent release of a DVD about Walther. Marbach represented his position, not Vehse’s. The three men, Vehse, Fischer, and Jaekel, who submitted the Protest document in 1839 were completely separate from the later group headed by Marbach and Sproede. Neither Marbach nor Sproede supported the arguments in the 1839 Protest document then or later after Vehse returned to Germany. While both groups thought the emigration was wrong, only Marbach demanded the Saxons had to return to Germany to make things right. Vehse left in December 1839 because he had no money (he borrowed money for the trip) , was disgusted with the Stephanite opposition of the pastors, and he had substantial inheritance waiting for him when he got back to Germany.

    The person who did reread the Protest document and used its arguments supported by Scripture, the Confessions, and Luther to win the 1841 Altenburg Debate was C.F.W. Walther, who admitted at Altenburg, “Without this document — I now confess it with a living conviction — we might have for a long time pursued our way of error, from which we now have made our escape. I confess this with an even greater sense of shame, because I first appeared so ungrateful toward this precious gift of God.”

  • Carl Vehse

    sg @4: “I can’t help but find some humor in the phrasing here, “exiled to Illinois,” as though the immigrants could keep him there.”

    Initially Stephan was given a choice between facing criminal charges in a Missouri court, being returned to Germany, or getting a one-way rowboat trip across the Mississippi to Illinois. Stephan took the 3rd option and also agreed not to return to Missouri, but later broke that promise several time.

    “Hey, were the adulterous women exiled to Illinois as well?”

    No. But one of the women, Louise Guenther, who signed a written confession of her 8-year long affair with Stephan, fled the Saxon group shortly afterward and joined Stephan in Illinois where she remained with him until his death in 1846. She later returned to St. Louis and requested to be readmitted to Trinity Lutheran Church, where Walther was pastor.

  • Carl Vehse

    sg @4: “I can’t help but find some humor in the phrasing here, “exiled to Illinois,” as though the immigrants could keep him there.”

    Initially Stephan was given a choice between facing criminal charges in a Missouri court, being returned to Germany, or getting a one-way rowboat trip across the Mississippi to Illinois. Stephan took the 3rd option and also agreed not to return to Missouri, but later broke that promise several time.

    “Hey, were the adulterous women exiled to Illinois as well?”

    No. But one of the women, Louise Guenther, who signed a written confession of her 8-year long affair with Stephan, fled the Saxon group shortly afterward and joined Stephan in Illinois where she remained with him until his death in 1846. She later returned to St. Louis and requested to be readmitted to Trinity Lutheran Church, where Walther was pastor.

  • Joe

    Carl – I do see that you said “resigned or abandoned” I did not take the “resigned” part of your comment into consideration – as I should have. Forgive me, my quick typing.

    I am still concerned however about claims that someone has abandoned his call. It is no insignificant thing and perhaps it should not be suggested after the fact when all we have to go on are the parts of history that have been preserved. Perhaps he did- he was a sinful man after all. Perhaps he did not. Perhaps he did and repented and thus there is no possible good reason to draw attention to it.

    “Also, the confessional pastors who remained in Saxony were able to resist the rationalism in the State church and, a few years after the Missouri Synod was formed in the U.S., won the right to form “free churches” in Germany”

    That is great – but does it mean no pastor or congregant should left before this victory was won? Should we rejoin Rome and work toward fixing it?

  • Joe

    Carl – I do see that you said “resigned or abandoned” I did not take the “resigned” part of your comment into consideration – as I should have. Forgive me, my quick typing.

    I am still concerned however about claims that someone has abandoned his call. It is no insignificant thing and perhaps it should not be suggested after the fact when all we have to go on are the parts of history that have been preserved. Perhaps he did- he was a sinful man after all. Perhaps he did not. Perhaps he did and repented and thus there is no possible good reason to draw attention to it.

    “Also, the confessional pastors who remained in Saxony were able to resist the rationalism in the State church and, a few years after the Missouri Synod was formed in the U.S., won the right to form “free churches” in Germany”

    That is great – but does it mean no pastor or congregant should left before this victory was won? Should we rejoin Rome and work toward fixing it?

  • Carl Vehse

    norman teigen @6: “The Norwegians were naive to have sought and accepted Walther’s views on slavery.”

    In an article, “Was American Slavery a Sinful Institution?” (Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, 72(4) Winter, 1999, 231-250), Rev. John E. Helmke presents translations of four letters from Adolph Carl Preus and Jakob Aall Ottesen of the Norwegian Synod and C.F.W. Walther, written between December 30, 1868, and January 9, 1869, concerning the institution of slavery.

    The Norwegian Synod Lutherans had been discussing whether the institution of slavery or just the abuses were sinful. Preus believed the institution of slavery was sinful; Ottesen leaned more toward the view that only the abuses were sinful. They wrote C.F.W. Walther to ask for his opinion.

    Walther also believe that interest, insurance, dancing, theater, and heliocentrism were wrong. But Walther had some important theological writings for the Missouri Synod that were correct, including Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt and Die Rechte Unterscheidung zwischen Gesetz und Evangelium.

  • Carl Vehse

    norman teigen @6: “The Norwegians were naive to have sought and accepted Walther’s views on slavery.”

    In an article, “Was American Slavery a Sinful Institution?” (Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, 72(4) Winter, 1999, 231-250), Rev. John E. Helmke presents translations of four letters from Adolph Carl Preus and Jakob Aall Ottesen of the Norwegian Synod and C.F.W. Walther, written between December 30, 1868, and January 9, 1869, concerning the institution of slavery.

    The Norwegian Synod Lutherans had been discussing whether the institution of slavery or just the abuses were sinful. Preus believed the institution of slavery was sinful; Ottesen leaned more toward the view that only the abuses were sinful. They wrote C.F.W. Walther to ask for his opinion.

    Walther also believe that interest, insurance, dancing, theater, and heliocentrism were wrong. But Walther had some important theological writings for the Missouri Synod that were correct, including Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt and Die Rechte Unterscheidung zwischen Gesetz und Evangelium.

  • Carl Vehse

    Joe @11: “I am still concerned however about claims that someone has abandoned his call.”

    Joe, read Forster’s book, in which he points out that some of the pastors did not officially resign, but simply left their calls and came over with Stephan.

    Here’s another excerpt from C.F.W. Walther’s May 4, 1840, letter to his brother, O.H. Walther (translated by Werner Karl Wadewitz, May 11, 1963, Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis):

    “Today I dare no more to say: our emigration was too early; the great question is whether we pastors ever should have emigrated, whether we should perhaps suffered all restrictions, if they only did not command us anything openly sinful so that we might have guarded, protected, and preserved that which was yet existent in the German congregations, as faithful shepherds. (In Saxony we were not in statu confessionis, but rather ecclesia pressa, to whom Spener always offered the above advice.) In Prussia it was a different situation. There one invited and committed apostasy from the Lutheran Church as soon as one wanted to function as a public Prussian preacher.”

    The reference to Prussia brings up the example of J.A.A Grabau and those Lutherans who did leave Prussia and settled in upper New York state to form the Buffalo Synod.

  • Carl Vehse

    Joe @11: “I am still concerned however about claims that someone has abandoned his call.”

    Joe, read Forster’s book, in which he points out that some of the pastors did not officially resign, but simply left their calls and came over with Stephan.

    Here’s another excerpt from C.F.W. Walther’s May 4, 1840, letter to his brother, O.H. Walther (translated by Werner Karl Wadewitz, May 11, 1963, Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis):

    “Today I dare no more to say: our emigration was too early; the great question is whether we pastors ever should have emigrated, whether we should perhaps suffered all restrictions, if they only did not command us anything openly sinful so that we might have guarded, protected, and preserved that which was yet existent in the German congregations, as faithful shepherds. (In Saxony we were not in statu confessionis, but rather ecclesia pressa, to whom Spener always offered the above advice.) In Prussia it was a different situation. There one invited and committed apostasy from the Lutheran Church as soon as one wanted to function as a public Prussian preacher.”

    The reference to Prussia brings up the example of J.A.A Grabau and those Lutherans who did leave Prussia and settled in upper New York state to form the Buffalo Synod.

  • Norman Teigen

    Thank you Rick for listing the Helmke article for the consideration the readers. I would recommend this article highly and also encourage the readers to carefully consider Walther’s writing on the subject of slavery itself. I think that the internet stuff from Lehre und Wehre comes out to about 33 pages

    The Norwegians were naive to regard Walther’s advice on the subject of slavery more highly than that of the theologians in Oslo. For one thing, the Norwegian cultural history was quite different from the German cultural history from which Walther had left.

    I certainly hope that this exchange will make it possible for readers to get into this area of the great Walther’s life and career. I can imagine that some enterprising scholar might find a dissertation subject here.

    One might be advised to look at the evidence carefully on its own merits and to set aside the need to find conclusions which support previously established commentary.

    An honest appraisal of Walther enhances his reputation. A slavish regurgitation of previous pronouncements diminishes it.

    One can honor Walther and still look carefully at his career.

  • Norman Teigen

    Thank you Rick for listing the Helmke article for the consideration the readers. I would recommend this article highly and also encourage the readers to carefully consider Walther’s writing on the subject of slavery itself. I think that the internet stuff from Lehre und Wehre comes out to about 33 pages

    The Norwegians were naive to regard Walther’s advice on the subject of slavery more highly than that of the theologians in Oslo. For one thing, the Norwegian cultural history was quite different from the German cultural history from which Walther had left.

    I certainly hope that this exchange will make it possible for readers to get into this area of the great Walther’s life and career. I can imagine that some enterprising scholar might find a dissertation subject here.

    One might be advised to look at the evidence carefully on its own merits and to set aside the need to find conclusions which support previously established commentary.

    An honest appraisal of Walther enhances his reputation. A slavish regurgitation of previous pronouncements diminishes it.

    One can honor Walther and still look carefully at his career.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Carl, my impression had been that your namesake advocated a congregational approach to church governance over and against Stephan. But now we are told on this thread that Vehse opposed the very migration and condemned the emmigrant pastors for leaving. He sounds like he is defending the old hierarchical state church model. Am I missing something? Put another way, what can we learn from Carl Vehse (I) for today?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Carl, my impression had been that your namesake advocated a congregational approach to church governance over and against Stephan. But now we are told on this thread that Vehse opposed the very migration and condemned the emmigrant pastors for leaving. He sounds like he is defending the old hierarchical state church model. Am I missing something? Put another way, what can we learn from Carl Vehse (I) for today?

  • Carl Vehse

    Dr. Vehse admitted that he and the other Saxons emigrated for the wrong reason (following Stephan), but he realised that most of the Saxon immigrants could never afford to return to Saxony. However Vehse believed that Missouri Saxons were still a church of believers with the right to call pastors to serve in St. Louis, in Perry County, and elsewhere. In his Protest, he recommend the congregational polity based on the Confessions and Luther’s writing (e.g., Treatise on Christian Liberty) and supported by later Lutheran theologians. This was not the consistory that existed in the State church back in Germany. (Another fairy tale is that Vehse advocated “extreme congregationalism.”)

    If a person wants to learn from what Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse wrote in opposition to the rampant Stephanism of the Missouri Saxon pastors of 1839 and apply it to the Lutheran churches that make up the Missouri Synod today, then one only has to repeat what has already been done by C.F.W. Walther and written in his Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt (The Voice of Our Church Concerning the Question of the Church and the Ministry), which is the official LCMS understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry under the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

  • Carl Vehse

    Dr. Vehse admitted that he and the other Saxons emigrated for the wrong reason (following Stephan), but he realised that most of the Saxon immigrants could never afford to return to Saxony. However Vehse believed that Missouri Saxons were still a church of believers with the right to call pastors to serve in St. Louis, in Perry County, and elsewhere. In his Protest, he recommend the congregational polity based on the Confessions and Luther’s writing (e.g., Treatise on Christian Liberty) and supported by later Lutheran theologians. This was not the consistory that existed in the State church back in Germany. (Another fairy tale is that Vehse advocated “extreme congregationalism.”)

    If a person wants to learn from what Dr. Carl Eduard Vehse wrote in opposition to the rampant Stephanism of the Missouri Saxon pastors of 1839 and apply it to the Lutheran churches that make up the Missouri Synod today, then one only has to repeat what has already been done by C.F.W. Walther and written in his Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt (The Voice of Our Church Concerning the Question of the Church and the Ministry), which is the official LCMS understanding of the doctrine of church and ministry under the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Here’s a thought. Perhaps they weren’t exactly persecuted into leaving and it seems Walther wrestled with that possibility. So, even if they didn’t need to leave for their own sakes, maybe we needed them to come. In a way, perhaps it was meant to be because in many ways they affected many others here in the USA. Where would we be if not for their coming? How is the LCMS influence in the USA an essential part of the life of the greater church? What if they hadn’t come? Then what?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Here’s a thought. Perhaps they weren’t exactly persecuted into leaving and it seems Walther wrestled with that possibility. So, even if they didn’t need to leave for their own sakes, maybe we needed them to come. In a way, perhaps it was meant to be because in many ways they affected many others here in the USA. Where would we be if not for their coming? How is the LCMS influence in the USA an essential part of the life of the greater church? What if they hadn’t come? Then what?

  • Carl Vehse

    Initially the emigration question was about whether the Missouri Saxon emigration was a good idea. That answer changed among the Saxons from the time they left Germany to after the survivors arrived, and then in the months following the deposing of Stephan.

    Now the thought is raised about the benefits of the Saxon emigration which eventually led to the formation of the Missouri Synod and its influence in American Lutheranism. To that one can refer to Romans 8:28.

  • Carl Vehse

    Initially the emigration question was about whether the Missouri Saxon emigration was a good idea. That answer changed among the Saxons from the time they left Germany to after the survivors arrived, and then in the months following the deposing of Stephan.

    Now the thought is raised about the benefits of the Saxon emigration which eventually led to the formation of the Missouri Synod and its influence in American Lutheranism. To that one can refer to Romans 8:28.


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