Saturday, May 10, 2008

"The Definite Platform" and The Ablaze! Movement

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge describes the Rev. Dr. Samuel Simon Schmucker in this way:

"He strove to eliminate everything distinctively Lutheran and to substitute the basis of the Evangelical Alliance for the Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism. These tendencies culminated in the Definite Platform which he published anonymously in 1855. It claimed to be an 'American Recension of the Augsburg Confession,' representing the standpoint of the General Synod. In this document twelve of the original twenty-one doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession were changed, mutilated, or entirely omitted. The seven articles on abuses (XXII. to XXVIII.) were all omitted. Dr. Schmucker's theological standpoint may be characterized as a peculiar mixture of Puritanism, Pietism, and shallow rationalism."

Schmucker was one of the leading proponents of what Missouri Synod president C.F.W. Walther described as "the hollowest so-called American Lutheranism, a concoction of rationalism and sentimentalism." (Lehre und Wehre, 1865, 61.)

Friederich Bente's work, American Lutheranism describes other men in the movement: "When Prof. Sternberg, a fanatical anti-symbolist (opponent of the Lutheran Confessions), had been removed from Hartwick Seminary, the American Lutheran [a periodical of the General Synod], June 22, 1865, wrote: 'The days when compromises with and concessions to symbolism were made are passed. If a clash between symbolism and American Lutheranism is unavoidable within the General Synod, the sooner it comes, the better it is.'" (L. u. W. 1865, 253.)

In its issue of July 20, 1865, the American Lutheran published a number of letters in which the hope is expressed that the day was near when the Lutheran Church in America would shake off the yoke of symbolism and step forward, recognized by the great Protestant world. 'The attempt' — the correspondent continues — 'to live in one and the same house with the symbolists is useless. We thank God
that we have a paper which says in its first year: No compromise any longer with symbolism! Hallelujah! May the whole Church hear it.' (L. u. W. 1865, 277.)

"Revealing both its ignorance and animus, the American Lutheran, Rev. Anstaedt, then being the editor, said in its issue of January 24, 1867: 'The difference between the symbolists [Lutherans true to their Confessions] and American Lutherans is a radical one, going down to the innermost heart of Christianity and involving eternal interests, the salvation and hope of immortal souls. The American Lutheran believes that religion is a personal and individual matter, while the symbolist believes that it is but a congregational matter.'"

The Rev. Dr. Kieschnick does not replicate the specific errors which Schmucker maintained in The Definite Platform, but his Ablaze! Movement bears many of the same fruits and has much the same character as the American Lutheranism of the mid-nineteenth century. The Ablaze! Movement ranks with the hollowest so-called American Lutheranism, a concoction of rationalism and sentimentalism. It seeks to gain recognition in general Protestantism.

Concerned "symbolic" i.e. confessional Lutherans might do well to note how men like Charles Porterfield Krauth dealt with Samuel Simon Schmucker and the other members of The General Synod. The following links will direct you to primary source documents which make for some interesting reading:

S.S. Schmucker's Portraiture of Lutheranism

S.S. Schmucker's Elements of Popular Theology

W.J. Mann's Lutheranism in America

C.P. Krauth's The Conservative Reformation

Spaeth's Biography of C.P. Krauth

Friederich Bente's American Lutheranism

If you can find a copy: Vergilius Ferm's Crisis in American Lutheran Theology

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