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Home » Concordia Journal Currents

Concordia Journal Currents – C.F.W. Walther at 200

Submitted by on August 15, 2011 – 3:01 pm7 Comments

In this faculty roundtable, Dr. William Schumacher, Dr. Gerhard Bode, and Dr. Tom Egger discuss LC-MS founder C.F.W. Walther and his impact 200 years after his birth.

7 Comments »

  • Jim Heinbuch says:

    The video gets about 2 min in and then quits. What could be wrong?

    • Admin says:

      Hi, Jim. I can’t seem to duplicate this error on my end. It is a rather long video, so – as with any streaming media – it may be a connection speed issue. I’ll keep looking into it, but you may try reloading the page or try viewing the video on a different computer. This video is also available for download on the CSL iTunes U site here if you want to forego streaming altogether. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • 1. Is the seminary still on track for sending out the Walther DVD in September?

    2. One of the panel members on this video spoke about Walther and the healthy use of emotion. Would anyone of them care to expound on this?

    Thanks for the video post.

  • Norman Teigen says:

    Thank you for posting this very interesting discussion. I had no technical problems.

    I have always admired Walther but in the past year or so I have become quite troubled with Walther and the issue of slavery. I believe that the historical record shows that Walther was a southern partisan. I think that the evidence is pretty solid on this point.

    There were lots of southern partisans, of course, and one shouldn’t be too hard on these followers of the cause that was lost. What is troubling to me is how Walther justified slavery on an argument based on his interpretation of Scripture, an argument which I feel does not stand so much on Lutheranism as it does on culture.

    Walther’s argument on slavery closely follows the standard Southern defense of the institution. Walther’s argument that he only cares about Scripture and not about civil matters seems to cloud the picture rather than clarify.

    Walther’s influence on other Lutherans was profound as the professors discuss. I am of the Norwegian branch of Lutheranism and my spiritual ancestors sought advice from Walther on the topic of slavery. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the Norwegians accepted Walther’s views on the subject rather than the better advice which they received from theologians in Oslo. The Waltherian view caused, I think the historical record will show, great sorrow within the Norwegian branch of the faith.

    The theological battles of the Civil War, as Professor Mark Noll has written, were settled by the two eminent theologians Ulysses Simpson Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. What has prevailed, I think, is that Walther’s explanation of the slavery question is the biblically based, solidly Lutheran explanation.

    I think that that question is open to serious discussion and I would like to hear from the professors about this over-all issue of the slavery problem and Walther’s explanation. I won’t ask the professors to resolve our Norwegian interpretations of these historical events but would like a clarification of the slavery problem.

    Incidentally, the Missouri Synod is still getting beaten up on slavery in recent days as a writer demonstrated earlier this summer in a local paper, The Metro Lutheran.

    Thank you,

    Norman Teigen
    Hopkins MN

    • Will Schumacher says:

      Norman,
      I’m finally getting back to your comment. It’s true that C.F.W. Walther (and a few others in the Missouri Synod) argued that slavery was not unbiblical. I would describe the position as “anti-abolitionist” rather than “pro-slavery,” because in fact neither Walther nor any of the other Saxons of his community ever owned slaves, as far as I know. Walther thought the Abolitionist movement went beyond the clear statements of Scripture when they made the abolition of slavery a religious crusade.
      I’m glad you mention Mark Noll, because his monumental book, America’s God, helps us understand that the question of how to think *biblically* about slavery ultimately shattered the broad (cross-denominational) “evangelical” consensus in American Christianity. At least formally, almost all evangelical Protestants in America shared the same same hermeneutical presuppositions prior to the Civil War, yet they arrived at opposite answers to the greatest moral question of their century. And all the while both sides were trying to be faithful to the Scriptures. The theological complexity is better reflected in Abraham Lincoln (especially in his profound Second Inaugural address) than by such generals as Grant or Sherman (with whom my great-grandfather fought).
      Walther himself had southern sympathies, at least partly based on his esteem for the rights of the States and his loyalty to his adopted Fatherland (i.e., Missouri!). Remember that Missouri was a deeply divided border state, remaining with the Union but with legal slavery until 1863 (with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation). But those views were apparently not shared by a majority of people in the Missouri Synod at the time. Most German immigrants (including most Missouri Synod folks) were pro-Union and unambiguously anti-slavery. (This was true of most of the Wendish Lutherans in Texas, too, not just the Germans living in northern States.)
      Walther was wrong about slavery, even though he perhaps had reason to criticize religious fanaticism in support of Abolitionism. And yet I think his mistaken ideas on that weighty issue remind us that sound theological reasoning cannot be reduced to the application of a “pure” hermeneutical method.

    • Douglas Lattman says:

      Will,
      One item I would like to correct. The Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation did not affect slave states such as Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virgina, and Maryland.
      The Presidential Order, could only be executed in those states under Marshal Law, because they withdrew from the Union. Slavery was not abolished the 5 states until the 13th US Constitutional Ammendment prohibiting Slavery.

  • Dan says:

    Good evening,

    My wife and I send our children to an LCMS school and are one of the major donors to the school. One of our daughters was adopted from East Africa and we have been tireless advocates to end trafficking and slavery on a global level. We were recently told by one LCMS pastor that the LCMS did not denounce American colonial slavery because the position of the Church is that colonial slavery was not then and is not now, considered wrong in the eyes of scripture.

    We have struggled to find statements by the LCMS that condemn colonial slavery. Surely this cannot be the case? There must be some statement that that unequivocally condemns colonial slavery as patently un-Biblical. Can you point us to any resources?

    Thank you,

    Dan

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