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