Monday, January 25, 2010

Wyneken: "Theses on the Rights, Privileges, and Duties of the Free Church"

From Wyneken in "At Home of the House of My Fathers". There is a lot of material here from pages 437 to 477 divided into 18 Theses.

Essentially, Wyneken is making a defense of the free church model as established in the Lutheran church in America, contrasting it to the state church in Europe.  This was no small matter for people on either side of the Atlantic.  The churches in Germany were ridiculing the free churches and failing to see the domination they were under and where it was leading.  This was very serious business for Walther and Wyneken involving them in trips and innumerable discussions and labors all the while organizing the Missouri synod.

Wyneken  is establishing in this essay how the free church is the biblically correct model, as well as in line with the reformation and Luther.

Harrison introduces the document including these sentences:

The essay is a tutorial on the rationale for Missouri's high view of the rights of the congregation, the nature of the office and the priesthood, and --I believe--our fathers' correct interpretation of Luther on the issue of church and state.  Affairs in European Lutheranism since Wyneken wrote this only confirm his thesis.

I am going to quote from Thesis 5, pages 447,448, because it pushed a button with me:  man's stupidity vs. God's will.

Thesis V

God's providence has nothing more to do with this than with any other stupidity of men.

The preceding theses have made it clear that the entanglement of the Church with the stat is stupidity and, indeed, contrary to God.  But today, precisely where the evil consequences of this union of Church and state are being felt, there are those who remain in the territorial church and excuse it by saying:  "This was also brought about by God.  All of it developed gradually under divine providence.  God willed it, and now we must not tear the bonds that hold Church and state together."  But what has God's providence to do with the origin of the state church?  Not everything that happens does so according to God's strict will.  God also allows many things out of fate and punishment for infidelity.

On the same grounds, the sons of Jacob could excuse their selling of their brother Joseph:  "You see indeed, we sold Joseph.  But this is how we have been brought to Egypt, and our entire tribe has been saved.  Through it, the evil act does not become good.  God rather demonstrates His great goodness and wisdom when He so works it that something good still comes out of it.

It is horrible how in recent times, the doctrine of divine providence is misused.  One hears it said for instance "You Lutherans speak so intensely against the pope.  Are you blind?  Have you not learned from church history that the dear God established the papacy for this reason, that by it the wild peoples be converted by the strong arm of the pope?  Was it not divine providence that Charlemagne drove the pagan Saxons into the River Elbe and forced them to be baptized?  What glorious consequences that had!  The pagans became Christians."  Indeed, the Jesuits grant that the consequences were not so great after all! But they do not say "wild peoples" were struck dead like dumb dogs in order to convert them.  Is it not blasphemy when what such wicked men perpetrate is ascribed to the providence of God?  Indeed, God allows that devil to rage and murder in this world.  But He has him bridled so that he must only do what God can use for the glorification of His name.  He also allowed the devil to enter the heart of Judas, so that he betrayed Jesus.  But would it not be horrible to say, "How can you blame the betrayer?  Has not a good deed, namely, Christ's redemptive death, come out of the betrayal?"  It is just as horrible to declare that the binding together of the state with the Church is a work of God.  There is no denying that in the territorial church, much good has happened and bountiful blessings have been poured out.  But these blessings came indeed only through the Word and through God's great goodness and wisdom.  He who would justify or excuse the evil matter of the entanglement of state and church on the basis of these wonderful gifts of God says thereby that God would deal according to the Jesuit principle that evil means are sanctified by good ends.

A few things could be pulled out.

One of them, which peeves me a lot, and this is why I quote this section, is when "God's will" or the "Holy Spirit" are made responsible for man's thoughtless actions, poor or hurried decisions, lack of due diligence, administrative bungling, lack of consultation, laziness or manipulation.  Worse yet can be the lack of consultation of the Bible or Confessions.  Or as Wyneken simply says: "stupidity".  It is indeed blasphemous.  He is right.

The other point is regarding the matter he is really trying to deal with:  which way should the church be organized?  When I go to Germany, I covet the beautiful buildings, the choirs, the organs, the cantors, the entire church infrastructure.  It is beautiful.  And there is much Gospel in the hymns and Bach cantatas, Bible studies and so on.  There are the diaconical works in both the RC and ev. Luth. Church.  There are the government supported schools, the "gymnasiums" (grammar schools), etc. which makes what we have look completely bush league and neglected and with the children not reared carefully and richly enough.  Yet, when I think about North America, and I had for a long time felt exiled to it, I am grateful for the correct teaching which I found here, never mind the sorry state of some of the congregations.

Still, neither here nor in Germany, (I just can't get my head around it) do you ever find anything written by Martin Luther easily available for anybody.  It's like the pearl of great price duly buried in the ground for no one to find.

When I go into a bookstore, I often ask if there is anything there by Martin Luther.  There never is.  The only place, and this is where I made my "serendipitous" find of Luther's commentary on Galatians, was the University of Alberta bookstore.  There I chanced upon it.  Never again have I seen a volume by him in any store.  Why is this?

Of course, now you can find anything online.  What an opportunity.

So, about the state church:  many of my friends are leaving it.  My husband's relatives are all in the free Lutheran church.  My friends are in brand new free churches, reinventing every theological wheel, as they go, not wanting any advice from any "theologian", having been burned by so called "theologians" in the state church, so that no decent person can go by the label "theologian".  However, there seemed to me to be enough good men around to give guidance.  I attended a service, that was just fabulously Gospel oriented, warning people to stay away from a legalistically oriented interpretation.  The preacher laid out things in classic Lutheran Law/Gospel fashion.  He was from Marburg and had had great teachers, whom he talked about.  That was indeed hopeful.  And Wyneken would call this a remaining blessing from the reformation.

My relatives are in the fellowships, which are gradually breaking away more and more, having started out within the state church but breaking bonds more and more, now performing their own baptisms, etc.  I also heard the Gospel in the fellowship meeting I attended.

Twice, I attended state church services, where, though scripture was handled, I heard nothing solid preached.
So, from my last visit, I'd have to agree.  If you want to hear the Gospel preached, you won't be as likely to hear it preached in the state church, except in its music and readings. 

So much for all that.  Matthew Harrison should also bring out this book in German.  He'd only have to translate his introductions.!!!!!!

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