Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

Missouri's history is a bit of a soap opera (perhaps no less or no more than the history of other Lutheran denominations or even non-Lutheran ones, but it is my history and I know it better than I know the others).  History is a wonderful teacher.  In hindsight it frames our errors and mistakes so that we can see where we went wrong.  It is not so successful in explaining why other things went right but it certainly allows us to see more clearly the sides to issues and events not always so easily seen in the heat of the moment.  I like Missouri's history both for the romance of boats leaving Germany for a new home in America and for the reality of politics, argument, conflict, and division.

One thing that Missourians tend to do with their history is to identify a figure in that history and make that individual the symbol or definition of the kind of Lutheran they are.  So we have Loehe men in Missouri -- people who identify with one of the spiritual fathers of Missouri.  To be called a Loehe man means to be identified with a respect and love for the liturgy, a passion and zeal for mission, and a high view of the office of the ministry.  Loehe had a Pastor factory in Neuendettelsau, Germany, that sent tons of men, planted a seminary in Ft. Wayne, and almost reinvented the deaconness for Lutheranism.  I have sometimes been called a Loehe man.

We also have Walther men in Missouri.  These are folks who identify with the young Pastor and theologian who picked up the pieces of a broken exodus and cast much of what Missouri is today.  He guided her through an understanding of church and ministry that is still the formal Missouri position and he helped to turn a band of a few into an outpost for confessional Lutheranism in America.  He also was extremely congregational and friendly to a democratic structure for congregational governance and this too is part of the strange paradox of hierarchy and congregationalism that is Missouri.  His work called Law and Gospel is considered by many to be Missouri's premier theological work.  Though I have high regard for Walther, few would consider me a Waltherian.

Then there are others over the ages...from those who learned preaching from Caemmerer to those who learned Confessions from Piepkorn to those who learned of Lutheran orthodoxy from folks like Jack Preus to those who learned justification from his brother Robert.  We have Koehler folks and Pieper folks and many others.  We have Scaerites (we have now traversed from the dead to the living), and, well, there is not enough room to continue the list forever.

My point is that we tend to identify with an individual and that individual tends to be our spiritual father or daddy in the faith.  Interesting, though, is that we tend to identify with those in our history but seldom outside our history or prior to our identity.  While I can understand this, I tend to think that it tends to encourage a more parochial identity among us than is sometimes unhealthy.  It sometimes narrows our vision of theology and our perspective on things as if theology did not begin prior to 1847 or as if the positions of the recent Lutheran fathers (post 1847) some possessed an authority that spanned all of history.  I say this not to diminish them but to acknowledge that, for too many in Missouri, patristics is the study of the Missouri teachers prior to 1900 (and this from a denomination whose Confessions thoroughly identify with the early fathers).

So if you want to know what kind of Lutheran a Missouri guy is, ask him, "Who's your daddy?"  It may save a great deal of conversation and help you frame that Pastor's perspective rather quickly.  In fact, I would suggest that the Synod change the Pastor's Information Form and instead of describing yourselves on the spectrum from rigid to flexible, from high to low, or from conservative to moderate, just leave a blank after the question, "Who's your daddy?"


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

If you wanted to know, I would say, "Matthias Loy". What can I say, my dad was raised in the old ALC.

William Weedon said...

Where was Dr. Nagel??? And Sasse???? :)

Great post. The thing I love about Nagel, Sasse and Piepkorn in particular is that they situate their confession deep within the history of the whole church. Sasse said it best: "A Church without patristics is a cult."

Rev. Alan Kornacki, Jr. said...

Is this where I wink and answer, "Robb Hogg"? Having gone to seminary in Canada, Missouri Synod influences are more like grandfathers than fathers. Unless you count my vicarage Bishop, Kim Scharff. Of course, that would still make my theological grandfathers men like Scaer, Judisch, Resch, Reuning, and Robert Preus.

ErnestO said...

Being a sinner and a beggar - I looked at the answer sheet to find the answer for the question "Who's Your Daddy"?

To get full credit the answer is Martin Luther.

His last written words were, "Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for a hundred years with the prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles... We are beggars: this is true."

C. Randal said...

For somebody like me that is new to the LCMS, can someone draw out more of the distinctions between Loehe and Walther? What about Pieper, Koehler and Piepkorn? Its hard for me to glean much from asking "Who's your daddy?" if I don't know one German surname from the other.

Carl Vehse said...

can someone draw out more of the distinctions between Loehe and Walther?

From Walter A. Baepler, A Century of Grace: A History of the Missouri Synod 1847-1947 (Concordia Publishing House, 1947):

"The issue that separated Loehe and the Missouri Synod was that of the Church and the ministry. Like Grabau, Loehe did not believe that every Christian has all the rights and privileges of the Office of the Keys nor that the office of the Ministry is derived from the spiritual priesthood of the believers. Only in exceptional instances may a congregation call a pastor without the presence of an advising pastor, for not through the local congregation, but through the Church, that is, the congregation and the clergy, the Lord calls and ordains men for the ministry. Loehe was not satisfied to admit that ordination is merely a church ceremony which publicly attests the validity of the call. He thought the Church to be a visible institution. He, however, did not, like Grabau, hold that church members must obey their pastor in all things which are not contrary to God's Word, not did he approve of Grabau's papistic doctrine of excommunication." [pp. 144-5]

"Loehe believed that the Reformation of Dr. Luther, was not definitive but rather a progressive movement. In other words, Loehe believed that not all doctrines of Scripturehad been fixed in the Confessions, and hence no branch of the Lutheran Church can claim to be in possession of the whole truth. Doctrinal completeness, indeed, should be desired and sought after, but it has not yet attained, and hence, within limits, doctrinal differences and various theological tendencies, as represented by the different schools in the Lutheran Church, need not stand in the way of church fellowship. Absolute unity can never be attained and, therefore, should not be made the condition of church fellowship....

"Following the lead of Loehe, the Iowa Synod considered the doctrine off Sunday, the Antichrist, the millennium, the conversion of the Jews, and the resurrection of the martyrs open questions, that is, teachings or opinions not clearly stated in Scripture.

"Missouri, on the other hand, taught and still teaches on the basis of Scripture that the New Testament church has no command to set aside a special day for worship, that the Pope is the man of sin predicted in 2 Thess. 2, that there will be no 1,000 years of Christs' rule on earth before Judgement Day, that there will be no general conversion of the Jews, and that the only resurrection the Bible teaches is the resurrection on the Last Day. Hence it was inevitable that Missouri and Iowa became involved in doctrinal controversy." [pp. 146-8]