I needed a book for the wait at the doctor's office (routine visit). I grabbed Zion on the Mississippi, by Walter O. Forster, a monumental expose of the Walther-Stephan connection with Halle University, but one needing the supplemental information from In Pursuit of Religious Freedom (sic).
I must be one of the few parsons who has read both books. I will concentrate on some insights from Zion.
In the 1800s, the overwhelming philosophy of Saxony was Rationalism. The state church was officially Lutheran, but the clergy and academics sought to impose their rationalism on the laity.
All the clergy officially swore their allegiance to the Book of Concord, but rejection of the Confessions was the norm (just like WELS and many in the LCMS today).
Rationalistic sermons treated such topics as:
- Stall feeding
- Coffee drinking
- Careless Bathing
- Tree planting
- Sanitation. (Zion, p. 12)
As most know, the modern "sermons" in the emergent churches in Lutherdom are also rationalistic. The clergy are admonished to stick to practical fix-it sermons.
The Prussian Union
A second intellectual force was the gathering strength of the Prussian Union, which sought to unite all Protestants in the same doctrine, the same worship, with no Lutheran distinctions. This Union began in 1817 and was renewed in 1830. The alternative was prison or exile.
Although Halle University began in an effort to teach Biblical studies and piety to the clergy, the school turned from Pietism to rationalism rather easily in a generation. Pietism began as a union movement, with Lutherans and Calvinists doing good works together.
World missions were unionistic too.
The Calvinistic influence suppressed Lutheran doctrine and encouraged the supremacy of Rationalism.
Rationalism in WELS, ELS, LCMS, CLC (sic), and ELCA Today
The synods reek of Rationalism today. Where to start?
"Since Christ became sin, we have to conclude that the entire world is declared righteous."
"He died for the ungodly. That means everyone is now forgiven and saved."
"Studies show..." and anything that follows is true, regardless of the Word.
"We are real, relational, and relevant." But the Bible is not?
"Having a pipe organ tells people you belong to another century."