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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : SYNOD'S UN-LUTHERAN ATTITUDE CONTINUED.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


66. Decades of Indifferentism. -- After the abortive efforts at establishing a union seminary and uniting with the Reformed organically, and after her withdrawal from the General Synod in 1823, the Pennsylvania Synod passed through a long period of indifferentism before the spirit of Lutheran confessionalism once more began to manifest itself, chiefly in consequence of influences from German Lutheran immigrants and by the activity of such men as Drs. Krauth and Mann. However, even till the middle of the nineteenth century the symptoms of reviving Lutheranism in the Pennsylvania Synod were but relatively weak, few, and far between. The Agenda of 1842 still contained the union formula of distribution in the Lord's Supper and revealed a unionistic and Reformed spirit everywhere. A form of Baptism savors of Pelagianism and Rationalism. The Agenda does not contain a single clear and unequivocal confession of the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence. The second form for celebrating the Lord's Supper states: |As we are sensual creatures, He [Christ] has appointed two external, visible elements, bread and wine, as tokens (Pfaender), as it were, in order by them to assure us that with, in, and under them (mit, bei und unter denselben) we should become partakers of His body and blood, that is, of His entire grace of atonement. As surely, therefore, as a penitent communicant receives the blessed bread and the blessed cup, so surely he, in a manner invisible, will also receive from his Savior a share in His body and blood.| (Lutheraner 1844,47; 1846,61.81.) In 1848 Rev. Weyl, of Baltimore, the arch-enemy of confessional Lutheranism and unscrupulous slanderer of Wyneken, Reynolds, etc., declared in his church-paper that within the whole Synod of Pennsylvania there were hardly ten preachers who, in their faith and teaching regarding the doctrine of the Lord's Supper, deviated from the views of the General Synod. Dr. Walther remarked with respect to this statement, which he was inclined to regard as mendacious: |Since the [Pennsylvania] Synod was not ashamed to conclude its Centennial Jubilee by declaring this miserable paper [of Weyl] its organ and thereby publishing to the world its spiritual death [as a Lutheran Church], it serves her right to have this man write her epitaph.| (L.1848, 31.) Concerning the new hymn-book of the Pennsylvania Synod, Rev. Hoyer wrote in Kirchliche Mitteilungen: |After a closer inspection I found that this hymn-book was compiled for three classes of people, Orthodox, Unionists, and Supranaturalists. Here we find, besides 'Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,' also 'Religion, von Gott gegeben,' as well as a hymn for the national holiday, the 4th of July, imploring the Lord to give us the spirit of Washington.| (1850, 91; L.7, 65.) Der Lutherische Herold, which, edited by H. Ludwig, appeared since April, 1851, in New York, represented the class of German Lutherans within the Ministeriums of Pennsylvania and New York then most advanced in their protestations of Lutheranism. But what kind of Lutheranism it was that Ludwig and his paper advocated appears from the following quotation: |We expect little sympathy from the Old Lutherans; yet, our endeavor shall always be to banish from our columns everything that might increase the breach, for in doctrine we are one, we only differ in the form, of the dress, that is to say, in practise, and in the mode and manner of spreading the doctrine.| (L. 1, 151; 8, 143.) In January, 1855, the same paper was complimented by the Reformierte Kirchenzeitung as follows: |The Lutherische Herold, published by H. Ludwig, endeavors to mediate between the two extremes in the Lutheran Church of this country, and represents the milder Melanchthonian conception of the Sacraments. We read the Herold with joy, and wish it a recognition and encouragement commensurate with its services.| (L.11, 102.) As late as 1851 the Pennsylvania Synod, according to the report of the convention in that year, 51 ministers being present, maintained fraternal intercourse with the Reformed, United, Methodists, and Moravians. She admitted Reformed and Presbyterian preachers as advisory members. Synod had also received a Reformed minister as such into her ministerium. She assembled in Reformed and Presbyterian churches for union services, and attended the service in a Methodist church. She also adopted the resolution to enter into more intimate relations with the Moravians. (L.1852, 138.) In the following year Synod returned to its original confessional position in the days of Muhlenberg, though in a somewhat equivocal manner. (Spaeth, W. J. Mann, 171.) In 1853, however, at the same time appealing to all Lutheran synods to follow her example, the Pennsylvania Synod resolved, by a vote of 54 to 28, to reunite with the General Synod, then rapidly approaching its lowest water-mark, doctrinally and confessionally, its leading men openly and uninterruptedly denouncing the doctrines distinctive of Lutheranism and zealously preparing the way for the Definite Platform as a substitute for the Augsburg Confession. Indeed, the Pennsylvania Synod added to its resolution on the reunion that, |should the General Synod violate its constitution, and require of our Synod assent to anything conflicting with the old and long-established faith of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, then our delegates are hereby required to protest against such action, to withdraw from its sessions, and to report to this body.| (Penn. Minutes 1853, 18.) However, the action as such was tantamount to a violation and denial of the Lutheran Confession. Dr. Walther remarked with respect to the union: |This event will be hailed by many with great joy, a joy, however, that we are unable to share in in any measure. . . . For who does not see that the Synod [of Pennsylvania], by entering into ecclesiastical union with a body notoriously heterodox, has already departed from, and actually denied, the good Confession of our Church?| (L.9, 122.) Confirming the correctness of this statement, the Pennsylvania Synod, thirteen years later, when the ranks of her conservatives had materially increased, severed her connection with the General Synod.

67. Dr. Sihler's Estimate. -- In 1858 Dr. Sihler wrote concerning the Pennsylvania Synod: |When the writer of this article, more than fourteen years ago, came to this country and gradually informed himself on the American conditions of the Lutheran Church, he had to observe with heartfelt sorrow that the Pennsylvania Synod, then still undivided and very numerous, in whose territory or vicinity the leaders of the so-called Lutheran General Synod have their field of labor was so completely indifferent toward the shameful apostasy of the latter from the faith and the Confession of the Lutheran Church. For in vain one looked for a strong and decided testimony in any of the synodical reports of this church-body against the pseudo-Lutherans of the General Synod. Nor was there to be found within the Pennsylvania Synod, or in other synods not belonging to the General Synod, so much earnest zeal and love for the truth of God's Word and of the Confessions of the Church, nor did it have any men among its theologians who were able to expose thoroughly in the English language the error, the hollowness and shallowness of the miserable productions of a Schmucker and Kurtz, who were made Doctors of Theology by God in His wrath and by Satan as a joke and for the purpose of ridicule. On the contrary, they seemed to be not a little impressed with the theological learning and dogmatical science of these two so-called Doctors, who, in rare self-satisfaction, found life and complete happiness in Reinhard's supernaturalism. In short, these open counterfeiters, Calvinists, Methodists, and Unionists, these base traitors and destroyers of the Lutheran Church, were and always remained the dear brethren, who contributed not a little to the prosperity and welfare of the dear 'Lutheran Zion.' Accordingly, it did not require a gift of prophecy when the writer of this article, as early as 1844, foretold in the Lutherische Kirchenzeitung [edited by Schmidt in Pittsburgh] that, in differently observing, as they did, the anticonfessional, church-destroying activities of the so-called General Synod, yea, fraternizing with their leaders, they would become their prey, as was actually the case several years ago.| (Lehre u. Wehre 1858, 137.)

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