Friday, November 24, 2023

"Brief Paragraphs on the Question: When does the New Testament Economy Begin?" by William F. Beck

William F. Beck is best known for An American Translation, or, as it is often called, the "Beck Bible" and other projects involving presenting the Bible to young and old. If you want to know a little more about Beck, his son Reu wrote an article on him in 2003. Beck also wrote several articles and shorter studies for the synodical seminaries' journals. Brief Paragraphs on the Question: When does the New Testament Economy Begin? in the March 1938 Concordia Theological Monthly was his earliest academic article as far as I can determine. It was written when Beck was a parish pastor in Clayton, IL. The article takes up a question that is natural, and frequently comes up in the mind of anyone who has read the Bible--how and when did the church shift from being under, or following, the particularities of the Old Testament's rites and rituals (economy) to the New Testament rites and rituals (economy)?

He begins by stating what Christians believe and is readily understood concerning the matter: 

Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. 3:5,6; 8:6-13; 12:24), set aside the Old Covenant by means of His work of redemption during the thirty-three years of His humiliation (Gal. 4:4,5). In this period He fulfilled the Moral Law by keeping it (Rom. 5:19; 10:4), and by His suffering He freed us from its curse (Gal. 3:13). In this time He also substituted the reality of His atonement for the shadow of the Ceremonial Law and thus made the observance of its ordinances unnecessary (Col. 2:16, 17).

While the basic point is simple to understand, how this transition, or working out, unfolded is a little more complicated, as Beck points out:

The displacement of the old economy by the new nevertheless was not an instantaneous happening. The divine revelations of the abrogation of the whole Covenant and of the individual elements which make up the complex aggregate of the Covenant came at various times. Furthermore, the Covenant was to be eternal. It was difficult, therefore, for a people in whom this Covenant had been inbred to understand that part of it could be set aside, that an act which once was a sin of disobedience punishable by death might by divine direction become a good work. It was also difficult to find the clear line of demarcation between the ceremonial and the moral laws and then to maintain liberty, in the face of great opposition, in regard to the Ceremonial Law. Doubt in regard to the will of God and fear of sinning (e. g., Acts 10:14) lingered in the hearts of God's people and rendered the adoption of the change in practise a gradual one.

He first structures his discussion around the major events in the earthly ministry of Christ: His birth, relation to John the Baptist, baptism, public ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. He then subjects particular practices of the Old Testament to two questions: "When did God expressly set it aside? At what time did His people become emancipated from it?" He covers the following topics:

Friday, January 20, 2023

"Freemasonry" by Rev. William Dallmann (Tract)

In the tract "Freemasonry," William Dallmann discusses the false teaching and anti-Christian nature of freemasonry. He doesn't get bogged down in broader theories about the masons but rather focuses on hanging their own words around them. This resulted in a brief, helpful summary of the problems and false doctrine of freemasonry.

The full tract is below.

Note: For another tract by Dallmann and a brief introduction to this new series, "Tracts of the old Missouri Synod," click here

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"Why I Am a 'Missourian'" by Rev. William Dallmann and an Introduction to Tracts of Old Missouri

Tracts have always been a powerful form of popularly "getting the word out." During the Reformation, pamphleteers shaped the public's perception of innumerable topics. While perhaps memes have surpassed the paper tract or pamphlet today, they are still used and are of great use. 

I have seen hundreds of Lutheran tracts and am fascinated by them. They help us see what our forefathers thought was essential to say about particular subjects to a popular audience. Summarization betrays much about how a person, or a Synod, thinks and thus I'd like to share some of the tracts of "Old Missouri." 

Note: When posting tracts, I plan on keeping my commentary brief and posting the complete tract/s.

The first tract is "Why I Am a 'Missourian'" by William Dallmann

Thursday, October 13, 2022

President Pfotenhauer's Address to the 1917 Convention of The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States in Milwaukee

Rev. Johann Friedrich Pfotenhauer was the fifth president of the Missouri Synod and the last one who was born in Germany. He served as president from 1911-1935. 

Below is his address to the 1917 Synodical Convention. The convention was held June 20-29 in Milwaukee. You can find the Proceedings of the 1917 Convention here. Pfotenhauer's address was given in German, but the English translation is given below. 

Though given a little over a hundred years ago, the address is incredibly timely for our current situation--pestilence, wars and rumors of wars, the anniversary of the Reformation, the temptations of unionism and laxity. 

Pfotenhauer understood the dangers surrounding the Synod and directed the Christian men who were at the convention to cling to the treasure of the Gospel which they had received from the mercies of Christ.

Alas, it cannot be denied that in some respects we are not as our fathers were, that there has been a let-up in confessional definiteness and earnestness, in the love to God’s Word, in indoctrination, in the thorough instruction of the youth in the Catechism, and in the life of godliness. Oh, that we, as a synod might remain faithful and hold fast that which we have! Against us are the devil, the world, and our own evil flesh, as also the history of the Church, which shows that the Gospel did not continue in any one place for more than a few generations. For us are the mercy and grace of God, through which He, without our merit or worthiness, desires to retain among us the treasures of the Reformation.

It is certainly worth reading in full:

Monday, October 3, 2022

The Abiding Word: Volume I Part 1 "The Doctrine of Creation" by Prof. Gotthold Viehweg


As mentioned in the introductory post in this series, The Abiding Word was a project for the centennial celebration of the founding of the Missouri Synod. The essays were based upon convention essays and other works in German to preserve "the father's faith in the children's language."

Each essay reworks the treasures from the German speaking Missouri Synod in differing ways. Some summarize, some essays extensively quote, and others more extensively rework and synthesize previous essays. For each essay, I will try to provide some information about the author and give a brief review of the essay.

BTW, here are some some interesting links regarding the publication of The Abiding Word: Volume I:

-J .T. Mueller complaining about an unfair review in the ALC's periodical (scroll to page 624)  

1. The Doctrine of Creation by G. Viehweg was a 1945 convention essay of the Southern Nebraska District.

Pr. Gotthold Moritz Viehweg was a professor at Concordia College in Austin, Texas from 1928-1964. He was born in Planitz, Saxony on October 13, 1891. After coming to America, he went to Concordia College--Milwaukee and Concordia Seminary--St. Louis, graduating in 1914. He served as a pastor to congregations in Wellfleet, NE, Winfield, KS, and Arapahoe, NE. He died on August 19, 1977. (details found through CHI)

You can find some interesting correspondence of and about Viehweg and the beginning of his time at Concordia--Austin here.

The essays which form the background of Viehweg's work are:
    a. District Convention Essays 

        Atlantic, 1909, Chr. Merkel.
        Canada, 1898, F. Bente; 1901, H. Wente; 1903, Wm. Moll.
        Central, 1878, E. W. Kaehler; 1885, C. Gross.
        Illinois, 1885, A Brauer.
        Michigan, 1901, Th. Engelder.
        Nebraska, 1894, A. Graebner.
        South Dakota (and, it seems from the text of the essay, Southern), 1910, 1912, R. Pieper.
    b. Articles

        Lehre und Wehre22: 97, 240; 23: 273, 335, 362; 46: 8, 39, 135, 164, 217; "Die Evolutionismus und die Wissenschaften" by F. Bente. 55: 289, 351, 454, 499, 546; "Die Evolution und die Bibel" by J. Hoeness.
        Theological Quarterly, 9: 271, A. Graebner; 14: 78, 155, Th. Graebner. 

    c. Other References in the Text

        Christliche Dogmatik, F. Pieper. 
        Notes on Genesis, W. A. Maier.
        Evolution; an Investigation and a Criticism, Th. Graebner.
        Christliche Dogmatik, J. T. Mueller.
        Genesis, H. C. Leupold
        various quotes from Luther.

Viehweg strongly and hilariously condemns both the unbiblical and unscientific view of those who reject the biblical account of creation:

If we men presume to correct God's account of creation through inferences from the present condition of the world, we are indulging in unscientific conceit and pretense which does not become a Christian or any man for that matter. The disagreement between geologists concerning the age of the earth a man is so great that they can speak of the assured results of geology only if they completely give up the use of that small amount of reason which we still have after the Fall. Some are satisfied with a few hundred thousand years, other demand millions of years. Among these gentlemen a million of years is a mere trifle. They are very generous; a million more or less does not matter, but is that scientific?
He also relates the differing opinions of R. Pieper and some of the delegates of the Southern District concerning the firmament (which is actually a long running debate, z. B. Luther and Baier disagree on this):
R. Pieper, South. Distr., 1910, pp. 26, 27, claims that the waters beyond the firmament are nothing but the clouds...Some of the delegates of the Southern District   did not agree with R. Pieper's views on the firmament. They did not think that the firmament was the atmosphere surrounding the earth, but the star-spangled vault of the sky, that the clouds were not the waters beyond, but rather under firmament. The waters beyond the firmament were, in their opinion, not fog or vapor, but water whose nature is unknown to us.
Our forefathers also had quite a robust understanding of the natural knowledge of God. Concerning the birds of creation declaring the glory of God, Viehweg writes:

R. Pieper mentions especially the meadowlark and the nightingale. If a man has an ear for these voices, they sing into his heart the wisdom and goodness of his Creator, and admonish him to join them in the praises of the Creator, forgetting useless, heathenish cares and worries.
The essay is definitely worth reading in full. 

Need to Get Level: 10/10 for pastors; 3/10 for laymen [For the Abiding Word Set in General]

If you are a Lutheran pastor, particularly a Missouri Synod pastor, and do not have this on your shelf, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Bear the proper fruit of repentance and get a copy. If you are a layman who is very interested in studying dogmatics or digging into a particular doctrinal topic, these essays will give you an English survey of what our early Missouri forefathers taught.

You can get new paperbacks from CPH, or find original hardbacks on Amazon and other online booksellers.

Other Posts in the Series on The Abiding Word

The Abiding Word: Volume I
The Abiding Word: Volume II
The Abiding Word: Volume III

Contents of Volume One

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Abiding Word: Introduction and Overview

The Abiding Word is a classic collection of doctrinal essays produced in honor of the Missouri Synod's centennial in 1947 and edited by Theodore Laetsch. The original collection included the only the first two volumes, which were district convention essays from 1945 published in 1946 and 1947. The third volume was a later continuation published in 1960 that included additional convention essays from the years 1955 and 1956. This also explains why the first two volumes are usually found in hardback and the last is, unfortunately, usually found in paperback. 

The essays in The Abiding Word are organized by doctrinal topic. The essays were the result of a deliberate plan to take from the best of the early convention essays (and other works) in the Missouri Synod, written in German, and rework and preserve those gems in English language essays. In the back of the first two volumes, there in an appendix that lists the works each author drew upon for his essay.

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Story of Our Church in America by Theodore Graebner

The Story of Our Church in America is a brief survey (33 pages) of the history of the Missouri Synod. While it is certainly not comprehensive, it offers a overview of the Missouri Synod's first 75 years. Of special note are the first three chapters which give a brief sketch of Lutheranism in North America before the founding of the Synod. Attention is given to the work of the Synod in education, publishing, and both home and foreign missions. The book has a wealth of pictures of the principle founders and leaders of the Synod as well as hand drawn maps that add a nice touch. Though originally published in 1922, the last chapter (of the version I have) includes an Addenda of supplementary material from 1932.

Thedore Graebner goes out of his way to thank a Mr. Bendix Taenzer of St. Louis, the artist of the maps. Graebner states that, "No such maps illustrating the history of American Lutheranism, and especially the work and development of our Synod, have ever been printed before." (The maps from the booklet are included as pictures below.) As a lover of maps myself, and a firm believer in their importance in teaching, I cannot help but echo Graebner's exhortation concerning their usefulness: "They deserve earnest study, and, once their meaning is well grasped, will deepen our realization of divine favors conferred upon our Church."