Nothing New Under the Sun

Benjamin Kurtz, a member of the General Synod of Lutherans in the 19th century, wrote in 1859:

If we are permitted to judge from what appears in the Alt-Lutheraner and the Lehre und Wehre, we [the General Synod] would be constrained to believe that they [Missouri Synod and others] can find or see Christ nowhere but in the sacraments.  They presumptuously denounce all others who do not hold to their views, and would exclude from the Lord’s table any Lutheran who may be connected with the General Synod.  There is scarcely a week that they do not anathematize the General Synod and the [Lutheran] Observer, because it is planted upon the basis of this body.  To hope for union or fraternization with such selfish, such exclusive views, would be worse than folly.  They are a class of spiritual Ishmaelites; their appropriate place is in the Church of Rome, where men believe what they are told the church believers, and not what the Bible and the Holy Ghost teach them.  An inanimate congregation of wax or clay might be formed by passing them through the same iron mould, but a community of immortal minds, whose divinely delegated prerogative is “to search the Scriptures,” “to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good,” never, no, never!  Revolutions do not go backwards; the Reformation of the 16th century was emphatically a revolution in the sentiments and dogmas of Christendom, and you will never turn the church back into that night of barbarism and spiritual bondage out of which she emerged at the Reformation, while the Holy Spirit makes men free with the liberty of Christ.

Ten years earlier, Kurtz had written this:

Who, then, are the [Church] “Fathers”?  They have become the Children; they were the Fathers when compared with those who lived in the infancy of the Jewish dispensation; but, compared with the present and advanced age, they are the Children, and the learned and pious [!] of the nineteenth century are the Fathers.  We are three hundred years older than Luther and his noble coadjutors, and eighteen hundred years older than the primitives; theirs was the age of infancy and adolescence, and our that of full-grown manhood.  They were the children; we are the fathers; the tables are turned.

(Both are quoted in Lawrence Rast’s Introduction to the new CPH reprint of Charles Porterfield Krauth’s The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology [2007].)

Sound like anyone you know?


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