* IN OUR VIEW: A SAD ANNIVERSARY
Those in the know in the world of Lutheranism are aware that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 1997. No history of Lutheranism in America could ignore the significant role played by the LC-MS. Indeed, that synod was used by God to establish conservative, orthodox Lutheranism in the United States.
The synod organized in Chicago in 1847 with Dr. C. F. W. Walther (1811-1887) as its first President. Walther, often called the “American Luther,” was determined to resist the trends of the liberal “General Synod” centered for the most part in Pennsylvania, and to lead the newly organized church body along a path of genuine Lutheran orthodoxy.
A staunch and unwavering upholder of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, Walther “was raised up by God at a time when the majority of the theologians throughout the world were laboring to tear the Church from her moorings and set her adrift on the treacherous sea of human opinion and human authority. He was one of the few prophets of his day who raised the cry ‘To the Law and to the Testimony!’ Is. 8:20. . . .” (Walther And The Church, CPH, 1938, p. 11). The trumpet call for scriptural truth and orthodoxy sounded loud and clear in Lehre und Wehre, a long-time Missouri church magazine of which Walther was the first editor and to which he was for many years the chief contributor. Walther’s soundly biblical theology is nowhere better on display than in his classic book Law And Gospel. Law And Gospel should be on the book shelves, and the annual reading list, of every pastor who would call himself an heir of Luther and Reformation theology.
But back to the anniversary celebration. According to Christian News, Missouri is producing a set of videos of its storied history. The video guide begins: “In the spring of 1847, 12 pastors from 14 congregations signed a constitution to form . . . ” the synod. It adds: “Could they have imagined a Synod with 6,175 congregations, 8,500 pastors, 14,822 commissioned and lay teachers, and 2.6 million members? Did they imagine mission activities in more than 50 countries? . . . ” We haven’t seen the video set. Obviously it has an inspiring story to tell.
Notice that the video guide talks about what the founding fathers might have “imagined” — referring then to the synod’s impressive statistical growth. What we would here wonder out loud is what the same fathers might have imagined beyond the mere numbers.
For example, could Missouri’s founding fathers, including Dr. Walther, have imagined a synod university using a textbook promoting homosexuality and attacking Christianity (calling God a “Black Jewish Lesbian” and Jesus a “Drag Queen”)? Could the founding fathers, including Dr. Walther, have imagined a school in the synod’s university system allowing 4,000 Muslims (celebrating the hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage) to gather and worship on its campus? Could the founding fathers, including Dr. Walther, have imagined the synod’s Women’s Missionary League inviting as speaker to this year’s Convention a woman who supports the ordination of women and rejects the inerrancy of the Bible?
The information for our “imaginings” comes from front-page feature stories in the April 28, 1997 Christian News, the same issue whose lead headline promotes the anniversary videos. In other words, our “imaginings” are actual occurrences. Oh, but aren’t they the exception, you ask? Sadly, such evidences of Missouri having lost her scriptural and orthodox Lutheran moorings can be multiplied almost weekly from news stories in such publications as Christian News and Affirm.
It is sad, almost beyond words. This 150th year of Missouri’s history we would suggest the question for her and her people is not: How far have you come? It is rather: Missouri, where have you gone?
And we have no doubt that Missouri’s founding fathers, including Dr. Walther, would pose the same question, with bitter tears.
WALTHER ON REFUTING FALSE DOCTRINE
” . . . To reprove or refute false doctrine also belongs to the correct application of God’s Word. The apostle says that explicitly in 2 Tim. 3:16. We see it in the example of all prophets and apostles and of our Lord Jesus Himself. As often as we see them and the Lord Himself occupied with doctrines, so often we see them add defense, not only against coarse errors (1 Cor. 15:12ff), but also against more subtle ones (Gal. 5:9); not only in a friendly way (Gal. 4:10-12) but also in a serious, vehement way (Gal. 1:8-9, Phil. 3:2); not only with reference to the false teachings, but also with reference to the false teachers, with or without naming them and their sects (1 John 4:1, Gal. 5:10, Matt. 16:6, Rev. 2:15, 2 Tim. 2:17…). . . He who presents pure doctrine, but does not refute the contrary false doctrine, does not warn against wolves in sheep’s clothing, against false prophets (Matt. 7:15), is not a faithful steward of God’s mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1), no faithful shepherd of the sheep entrusted to him, no faithful watchman on the walls of Zion. According to God’s Word, he is an unfaithful servant, a silent watchdog. a traitor.
“It is only too clear how many souls are lost and what harm the church suffers because doctrinal reproof is not practiced. The correct doctrine is often correctly grasped only when the opposite is made clear at the same time. . . .”
— Pastoral Theology, C. F. W. Walther; Translated from the original by J. Drickhamer, for Lutheran News, Inc. New Haven, Missouri, 1995, pp. 65f.