Thursday, August 5, 2010
Who's Your Daddy?
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?"