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

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.






10 responses to “Concordia Journal Currents – C.F.W. Walther at 200”

  1. Jim Heinbuch Avatar
    Jim Heinbuch

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

    1. Admin Avatar

      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.

  2. David Oberdieck Avatar

    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.

  3. Norman Teigen Avatar
    Norman Teigen

    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

    1. Will Schumacher Avatar
      Will Schumacher

      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.

    2. Douglas Lattman Avatar
      Douglas Lattman

      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.

  4. Dan Avatar

    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,


    1. Ashley Avatar

      I was wondering about these questions of slavery and wrote to my LCMS pastor. Here is his response:

      “Our doctrine is public and well-established, written and confessed in the Book of Concord which contains Luther’s Small Catechism plus many other confessions. In the Small Catechism are the Six Chief Parts of Christian Doctrine.

      The Ten Commandments are explained in these confessions with proof texts provided. The Fifth Commandment states, “Thou shalt not kill” and is explained in several statements, one being, “God forbids us to hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, that is, to do or say anything which may destroy, shorten, or embitter his life.” Proof text is Romans 12:19 and the Bible narratives are: “Joseph’s brothers harmed Joseph and embittered the life of their father by their wickedness” (Gen. 37:23-35) and “The Egyptians embittered the lives of the children of Israel by hard labor” (Ex. 1).”

      This is one article of LCMS’ official confession. As one can ascertain from these interpretations they include slavery and all other kinds of personal mistreatment and body harm. “God forbids us to hurt or harm our neighbor in his body . . . “ This is our official position. We are against enslaving anyone and everyone. If someone wants to work for you on your plantation and agrees to the terms of remuneration which may include housing, food, clothing, etc. that is that person’s choice. He/she can be your employee but not your slave. You cannot in Christian love enslave him or her. God does not condone enslaving people. That would be against the Fifth Commandment as we number them. Therefore, one can easily see that LCMS does not condone slavery.

      The Lutheran Confessions gathered into the Book of Concord were ratified by over eight thousand laity, pastors, and professors in 1580 which predates slavery in the southern colonies in America. Therefore, we opposed slavery before the colonies were even formed. ”

      Hope this helps, Dan. You can also find excellent resources and information about human trafficking from the LCMS Domestic Abuse Task Force online.

  5. Rick Strickert Avatar
    Rick Strickert

    At the time of the 1841 Altenburg Debate C.F.W. Walther acknowledged the contribution of the Protestation document:

    “With deep gratitude I must here recall that document which, now almost a year and a half ago, Doctor Vehse, Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Jaeckel addressed to us. It was this document, in particular, which gave us a powerful impulse to recognize the remaining corruption more and more, and to endeavor to remove it. Without this document — I now confess it with a living conviction — we might have for a long time pursued our way of error, from which we now have made our escape. I confess this with an even greater sense of shame, because I first appeared so ungrateful toward this precious gift of God.” (William J. Schmelder, “Walther at Altenburg”, Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, Vol. 34(3), October, 1961, pp. 65-81, referring to Walter A. Baepler, A Century of Grace, CPH, 1947, pp. 47-48, quoting from J.F. Koestering, Auswanderung der saechsischen Lutheraner in Jahre 1838, ihre Niederlassung in Perry-Co., und damit zusammenhaengende interessante Nachrichten, A Wiebusch u. Sohn, 1867, pp. 43-45)

  6. Rick Strickert Avatar
    Rick Strickert

    Walter O. Forster also explained in his Zion on the Mississippi (CPH, 1953):

    “It was in these dark days [of the Altenburg Debate] that C.F.W. Walther came forward with a series of propositions which were to prove the fundamental factor in saving the colonies. The idea he advanced was by no means a new one, for it was contained in more than an embryonic state in Vehse’s writings. Walther was ready to admit his indebtedness to the Dresden archivist. Keyl and Burger joined in this acknowledgment. Later writers with a less meticulous sense of fairness, however, have given Vehse little credit.” [p. 520]

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