Dear friends in Christ,
We continue our survey of Church History from the book by Professor E.A.W. Krauss of our St. Louis seminary of a century ago. We conclude our look at this sad period of Church History for Lutherans: the scourge of Pietism, which places the emphasis on feeling and emotion.
This month we see that with Pietism’s emphasis on feelings and emotions, it did not emphasize learning and teaching. But without being taught the faith—catechesis—and being well grounded in the faith, Satan can have a field day with the Christian. The more well-grounded the faith, the harder it is for Satan to destroy. Our faith holds on to the objective facts of Christ’s word and work; and faith receives the blessings Christ, which He offers and gives us in His holy Word and Sacraments. As you read through this, also notice many of the errors of the Pietists are still found in Christian, even Lutheran, circles today—all the more reason to study the word—read, mark, learn, inwardly digest it—and hold to that rather than what our fickle feelings may be telling us.
38.4 Pietism And Theological Literature
The Pietists had found much fault with the Orthodox Lutherans. Not only did they talk a lot about “Dead Orthodoxy” in general, but they specifically often criticized the “dead knowledge” that the orthodox Lutherans studied at their higher schools, starting already at the secondary schools. As the Pietists kept on clamoring for more spiritual life and more practical piety that was to be aroused and achieved, they at the same time made a lot of disparaging comments about the orthodox Lutherans’ theoretical knowledge. The Pietists sang constantly in every key clearly that knowledge puffs up and that they had little interest in learning because they did not think it would advance any practical piety. Although Spener and several other heads of the Pietist party, like A.H. Francke, certainly did not despise learning, and were even at home in it, they still did not really consider it their duty to encourage it. Spener lamented that the simple knowledge that serves to build up the congregation might be easily jettisoned in favor of acquiring education at the university. Even Halle, the true Pietistic university, did not take up the task of cultivating theological knowledge. Only the study of language and Bible was recommended and carried on there with great zeal; other theological subjects, however, were neglected under the pretext that the main thing was to train the students to be pious, practical servants of the church.
Under such conditions… a spirituality grew up that was greatly lacking scholarship.
V.E. Loescher lamented: “When important positions are to be filled, it is all too often discovered that there is a lack of well prepared and courageous theologians.” And the orthodox were not the only ones lamenting…
Since the Pietists so greatly lament the unfruitful scholarship of the orthodox, one would think they would replace the unfruitful scholarship with their own fruitful scholarship. But that certainly did not happen. And so Pietism was a marked step backward in almost every theological disciplines…
It is necessary to go into some of the particulars in order to show that Pietism actually produced a literal step backward in theology.
This is especially immediately obvious in the main discipline, dogmatics or the teaching of the faith. What rich and significant literature the Age of Orthodoxy had to list! In his comprehensive work, didn’t Johann Gerhard always painstakingly show evidence from Holy Scripture for each individual doctrine and make a point of discussing, also exegetically, the individual verses so that their conclusion must be clear? Doesn’t J. Gerhard compile an entire history of dogma? And wasn’t his dogmatics edifying in the noblest sense, as it applied all Scripture for doctrine, for reproof, for correcting, for comfort for instruction in righteousness? And standing on his shoulders, how many worked in this area after him: Calov, Quenstedt, Hollaz, and many others not mentioned. If the Pietists found these authors too Scholastic, how come they did not go back to M. Chemnitz and L. Hutter? Pietism work in dogmatics is just plain miserable…
It is not surprising that Pietism did absolutely nothing of any significance in the field of polemics [the principles and methods of argument as applied to controversy within the Christian Church—Concordia Cyclopedia]. Pietism hated polemics. The Pietists thought that the Lutheran fathers had already done enough, and, in fact, more than enough, so that there was already too much….
In the first quarter of the 18th Century, when the House of Hohenzollern [the German royal family ruling Brandenburg, Prussia and Germany. It was the result of the “Prussian Union” in 1817 which by royal decree of this ruling family that forced the Lutherans and Reformed into one “church.” This ultimately led many faithful Lutherans to leave Germany for the Americas and Australia and paved the way for our own Missouri Synod] tried to bring about union between the Lutherans and Reformed there were no significant opponents to this from the Pietists, but there certainly were from their orthodox opponents… Instead, the Pietists preferred to circulate among Lutheran Christians devotional books written by French or English authors and translated into German; and for long time not all of them even tried in their comments to warn the readers against the incorrect Reformed statements... Neither was there any confession of faith coming from Pietist circles, not even a worthwhile start of one.
There is a little more benefit, though, when it come to the study of Scripture, exegesis and textual criticism. Johann Heinrich Michaelis (1720) was truly valuable to textual criticism by his edition of the Old Testament with comments. Yet Pietism cannot take credit for what J. A. Bengel did in his Apparatus criticus to the New Testament and in his Gnomon...
Yet what a great host of excellent commentaries on Holy Scripture and its individual books appeared in the Age of Orthodoxy! The Scriptural commentary of Luther and Johann Brenz was held to and used in the powerful harmony of the Gospels of Chemnitz, Leyser and Gerhard. Aegidius Hunnius, Fr. Balduin, J. Gerhard, M. Geier, Seb. Schmid and many others, thoroughly explained Holy Scripture—with some works in Latin and others in German. The Osianderian Bible and the Weimar Bible were the much-consulted adviser and teacher in many thousands of German families. On the contrary, Pietist exegesis offered a host of edifying meditations and observations with often very artificial applications. Treating the grammar, and the careful exegesis of the Scriptural sense, were certainly not their strong point. Not once with [the Pietists] …was the understanding of Holy Scripture advanced...
When we consider Practical Theology, especially pastoral theology in the narrow sense, it has certainly been said that no better and more complete instruction can be found than the wisdom presented in both German and Latin in Spener’s Theological Reflections. I cannot at all agree with this judgment. It is true that whoever reads the Reflections will find in it a whole host of questions relating to the field of pastoral theology, some of which are fully answered and some only alluded to. Yet its lectures do not really move it forward. Often in the last part of the sentence Spener again takes back half or three-quarters what he had granted in the first part of the sentence; and throughout one learns less of how Holy Scripture decides a matter than what Spener’s own Christian musings are. When this Reflections is used in its entirety, it is quite unsatisfactory. It has a certain timidity and uncertainty that is easily passed on in the lectures. It has an exactness that is far removed from the firm, clear tone that sounds from Luther’s pastoral theology, and even far removed from the precision of [later orthodox Lutherans]. All this shows a man who, in theology, prefers that there be nothing definite, rather than something clear.
In its literature on preaching, Pietism had indeed produced a mass of volumes that may be a match for the volumes and importance of those of the orthodox; but that the sermon actually teach anything (J.J. Rambach and a few others excepted) was relegated to the background while exhortation [that is, more law preaching] was at the fore; the teaching of the faith receded into the background behind the teaching of morals. The Pietist preaching books tended to focus with more detail on the obvious and hidden sins of the world instead of on the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In catechesis, Spener’s catechism tables that endlessly unraveled the catechetical material into many small parts did not work well. From [another Pietist’s writings] one learns more about communicating to the children in a pleasant way and getting on their good side than about the correct way of instructing them so that they learn something by using all the faculties of their mind. However Pietism is to be given credit for more widely adopting Bible History in the schools. Other than that, Pietism did not make any progress in the history of education and instruction...
But in the field of devotional literature, in the narrow sense, what could you compare to the works of Johann Arnd, Christian Scriver and Heinrich Mueller - not to mention other admirable men who are orthodox Lutherans? If Johann Arnd (+1621) in his often republished book, True Christianity, wanted to insist more upon right faith than upon right faith and because of that the Pietists had preferred to spread it, rather than Luther’s writings, among the people… [nevertheless] Arnd’s sermon book, his sermons on the psalms and catechism, bring incalculable blessings in thousands upon thousands of Lutheran houses. Christian Scriver, who died in 1603, was chief court preacher in Quedlinburg. He was a famous preacher, whose Spirit anointed and life-warming testimonies from the pulpit touched hearts. He gave the Lutheran churcha devotional book of enduring worth. He proceeds in these sermons from the worth of the soul, deals with its wretched fall, its comforting redemption and restoration and its future glory. Another of his fine works contains 400 exceedingly thoughtful, and some very lovely, images. He knew how to combine spiritual teachings and pious mediations with everything he saw and heard in nature and in daily life.
And Heinrich Mueller (who died in 1675 as professor and superintendent in Rostock) likewise showed himself in his sermon books… as well as in other devotion books, to be a godly theologian whose speech was always lovely and seasoned with salt. The Pietist literature had nothing that approached Scriver and Heinrich Mueller, let alone that surpassed them.
Finally, that hymns—with the exception of a few gems—had degenerated and deteriorated in Pietistic hands has already been shown in the short discussion of its history. We put up with the gems wherever we find them. However we want our hymnbooks for church, school and house to be closed at all times to the Pietist décor and completely shut to the Pietist rubbish.
Pietism was a huge movement that made history in practically every large and small city. Its catchword was: born-again; its constant claim: practical Christianity. Although the conditions of the time may have justified the accent that Pietism cast upon life, it was still highly objectionable because of its disregard of pure doctrine. Therefore the opposition that Pietism called forth from the camp of the orthodox was essentially completely justified.
So far Professor Krauss
STEWARDSHIP THOUGHT FROM THE APOCRYPHA: Glorify the Lord generously and do not stint the firstfruits of your hands. With every gift show a cheerful face and dedicate your tithe with gladness. Give to the Most high as he has given and as generously as you are able. For the Lord is the one who repays, and he will repay you sevenfold. [Ecclesiasticus 35.10-13]
LWML News: We had to cancel our meeting this past month due to juggling our Voters’ Meeting around people’s vacation schedules.
Our Fifth Sunday Lunch is our Church picnic scheduled for Sunday, 30 August at Cowanesque Lake in PA. We will be at the SOUTHSHORE RECEREATION AREA at SITE: Oneida 003. Make plans to join us that afternoon for a time of fellowship. We will get there when we get there after service.
We are looking for suggestions for our Ladies’ Day Out on October 12th.
Have a blessed month! Carol, President
SUNDAY SCHOOL AND CONFIRMATION INSTRUCTION STARTS ON 13 SEPTEMBER. Please keep our students and teachers in your prayers as they teach and learn our holy Christian faith.
Dear Lord may You give children joy in learning about Jesus, teachers eagerness to share the Gospel, and parents motivation to bring their children to Sunday School and to participate in adult Bible study. May many be gathered into Your Church; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.
WE ARE ALSO LOOKING FOR SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHERS! PLEASE CONSIDER SERVING THE LORD AS YOU FEED HIS LAMBS WITH HIS HOLY WORD
AN ANNIVERSARY DATE IN LUTHERAN HISTORY: 04 June 1536, Pope Paul III issued a formal decree for a general council to be held in Mantua, Italy beginning 23 May 1537. Although Luther encouraged the Lutheran rulers to attend to confess the faith, they dragged their heels. In anticipation of this meeting, Luther was commissioned to prepare a statement of faith on what articles of faith we as Lutherans cannot give up. What Luther wrote became known as the Smalcald Articles, which are part of our Lutheran Confessions. So what’s the anniversary? On 23 September 1536 Pope Paul III made clear the purpose of the council was “the utter extirpation of the poisonous, pestilential Lutheran heresy.” The council, though, was never held.
AN EXCELLENT NEW WEBSITE TO CHECK OUT:
SEVERAL JEWISH HOLIDAYS FALL DURING THIS MONTH—the 14TH ROSH HASHANAH, AND the 23RD YOM KIPPUR. ON THESE DAYS IT DOES US WELL ESPECIALLY TO PRAY FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS. “Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root supports you.” [Rom. 11.18] Luther writes: I hope when the Jews are treated in a friendly way and are well instructed from the Holy Scripture, many of them will become proper Christians and again walk in the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs. They are only all the more frightened away from it when they are rejected and neglected and treated only with arrogance and contempt. If the Apostles, who were also Jews, would have treated us Gentiles the way we Gentiles treat the Jews, no Gentile would have become a Christian. —If we boast about ourselves so greatly, we are still Gentiles, but the Jews are from the race of Christ. We are guests and foreigners; they are friends of blood, cousins and brothers of our Lord. Therefore, if someone wants to boast of flesh and blood, the Jews are closer to Christ than we are.
THE HISTORY OF OUR CHURCH BUILDING: From the archivist of our crack research division:
The Friday, 03 June 1853 edition of the Corning Journal reports:
The foundations are being prepared for the erection of a large and commodious stone Church edifice for the use of the Episcopal Society in this village. The cost will be six thousand dollars, very nearly all of which has been subscribed. The location is upon the corner of Walnut St. and Erie Avenue, north of J. Hazelton’s residence. The Committee deserve credit for the energy displayed in securing a sufficient fund to construct a building, and for the adoption of such a plan as to size and general appearance, as will render it an orment [sic] to the village.
The Thursday, 04 April 1889 edition of the Corning Journal reports:
While the fire was in progress Saturday morning at the Episcopal Church, a young man who is one of the oldest and most enthusiastic of the Volunteer Firemen and one who in his Sunday School days was always to be seen at the Church, (at the building of which his grandfather was the most liberal donor,) saw the fire breaking through the ceiling and he shouted for water to stop its progress. A voice behind him said: “Don’t throw water there; it will ruin the books and upholstery.” The young man vehemently replied: “Better have the ----property wet than burned up.” He then turned and saw he was addressing the remarks to the Rector.
THE GOSPEL READING FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY [13 SEPTEMBER THIS YEAR] IS PART OF OUR LORD’S SERMON ON THE MOUNT REMINDING US THAT THE LORD PROVIDES FOR US.
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:31, 33 (ESV)
With these words a person could easily get the impression that Christians should live as an ascetic, or that they should stop working for wages and bread and instead wait until God has something edible fly into their mouth.
But Jesus does not say that we should completely forego food, clothing and money. Instead He desires that we “do not be anxious”; that our thoughts and actions do not first of all revolve around getting and spending money. Jesus promises much more—He promises that He Himself will provide for us.
One almost wants to say: Dear Lord Jesus, the times have changed. Today we live in a market economy in which people have to earn wages and bread. Here one has to use muscles and brain because a person doesn’t get anything for nothing.”
But Jesus is not a stranger to the world. Certainly food and clothing are to be acquired. But Jesus knows that every striving for prosperity can be unnecessary ballast on our journey to the goal of life. The meaning of life is not even to be healthy and satisfied as long as possible. Rather, the goal is the kingdom of God. The way there we find only in Christ on the cross who wants to give us eternal life and peace with God. On our life journey, then, the Kingdom of God is to be the main thing. About everything else the Creator and Preserver will take care of in His wisdom. He gives us what we need. He gives to us or takes from us and by it always deals with us in love.
Lord, strengthen me in this confidence that I leave to You all worries of life. Grant that my gaze be firmly fixed on the eternal goal. Amen.
[From: God Is For Us, Pr. Andreas Heyn, 20 July 2015]
A “Lifetime Plan for Giving” Provides Multiplying Impact
Generous people are attracted to the notion of giving twice. This can occur when a Christian steward structures an estate and financial plan that gives first to people they love and then to ministries they care about. It doesn’t have to be an either or proposition. Family and ministry both benefit when you discover effective ways to provide for your loved ones and the Lord’s Work – such a plan multiplies the impact of your gifts.
Putting one’s affairs in order can be a daunting task. There are important issues to know. “Should I give lump sums? Income benefits? Or both?” “How much control should I retain on the management of estate gifts?” “Do I need a will or revocable living trust?” “How do I know that my beneficiary designations are effectively structured for cost and tax conservation?” “What about durable powers of attorney?” “Why might I want to take a closer look at tools freely available to me - charitable trusts, charitable gift annuities or donor advised funds?”
These and other questions can be explored in a confidential and trustworthy way as you discover your own “Lifetime Plan for Giving”. If you are including your congregation or other LCMS ministries in your plan, learn options to protect your intended purposes, claim tax benefits and increase the impact of your generosity.
Start by asking God’s will for how He would have you structure your lifetime plan to bless your God-given family and further His earthly work. Share your faith as a part of your estate plan. Discover what tools and techniques are right for you as you look at material facts with spiritual stewardship eyes.
Create a “Lifetime Plan for Giving” that blesses family and ministry. Ask an LCMS professionally trained guide to help. For more information contact Robert Wirth, LCMS Foundation Gift Planner @ email@example.com or 716-863-4427.
FROM OUR MISSOURI SYNOD:
What is most striking about the rich man and Lazarus is not their differences but their similarities (Luke 16:19–31). Both men die because both men are sinners, and the wages of sin is death. Both men are beggars, for all men are beggars. But, here is where the most striking difference between them takes shape. Lazarus knows it and lives it. The rich man, however, does not.
Lazarus was a beggar in thought, word, and deed. But, he was God’s beggar. He relied upon God for all that he had and all that he was. He looked to God for all things, in good times and in bad. He went to God in all trouble, sought Him for all help, and trusted in His Word and promises to provide for all that he needed for this life and the next. This is, after all, what his name means: God is my help.
The rich man, too, was a beggar. But he didn’t realize it. His status, his wealth, his clothing and his food all came from God’s gracious hand. But the rich man didn’t recognize it. He thought he had earned it, and that he deserved it. And thus, his trust is not in God, who by His Word and promise gives it, but rather in himself, in what he has done, and in what he has.
And so it is that when death comes to Lazarus and the rich man—as it does for all of us because we have all sinned, and death is no respecter of persons—Lazarus is carried by the holy angels to Abraham’s side; while the rich man is in torment in hell. The rich man forgot God. He despised being a beggar, and thus, despised Lazarus. He despised God and His Word, and refused to have mercy on those whom God placed at his doorstep.
Now, the tables were turned. What the rich man didn’t realize or recognize on earth, he now lived out in torment in hell. He knew what it was to beg. But he still didn’t see himself as a beggar of God. He still didn’t look to His Father in heaven for all good and help in every time of need. He instead appealed to His status as a descendant of Abraham, calling out Father Abraham and not “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15).
We are all beggars. We brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it (1 Tim 6:7). Everything we have and everything we are comes from God’s fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in us, for He gives everything to us by grace. Thus, we are to love one another and be generous to one another in thought, word, and deed. For you cannot love God and hate your brother. And hating your brother means not to forgive as you’ve been forgiven, to give as you’ve been given to, to love as you’ve been loved.
We are all beggars. This is true. But we, like Lazarus, are God’s beggars. He not only gives us what we need for this body and life—food and clothes, house and home, husband, wife, and children—but He also blesses us with His Word and Spirit, so that we will enter into paradise in the life to come. He claims us as His own by water and the Word in Holy Baptism. In this washing, rich in grace, He gives to us what His Son, Jesus Christ, won for us on His cross: forgiveness of sins. And where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. He puts His own name on us, thereby giving to us the right of children, the right to call Him Father and the right to His inheritance as His beloved sons. He gives us a seat at His table, in His house, in His kingdom, which has no end.
Yes, indeed, we are beggars. This is true. But we are beggars of the God who loves us, the God who created us from His love, the God who redeemed us by His love in the sending of His Son to die so that we would live and have life to the full. This is His promise. It’s what Moses and the prophets longed to see and of what they spoke. They see it now, not in a mirror dimly, but face to face, just as you shall on the last day.
And as God’s beggars, we have mercy on those who would be beggars of us, who rely upon our giving, even as we rely upon the gracious giving of God. We give to our family, our society, our church. He gives; we receive. Thanks be to God. We give; they receive. Thanks be to God. We count it all a joy to give as He has given to us.
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