Back when I taught Sunday school at Washington Prairie Lutheran Church years ago, more than a few times I marveled at the guys of old. Sometimes I’d arrive early, or if we had youth activities and I had spare time during down periods, I’d look at the photos of UV Koren, and wonder what it was like back then. I should have dug into the books of the church library as no doubt there was a wealth of info, albeit the earliest texts were likely in Norwegian. Alas, I was more interested in the teaching the subject at hand then the history, and as such never did.
Well, the wonderment continued, especially as I started to dig into “the election controversy” of the 1880’s. I had thought it was just election, until I got talking with an old housemate who had studied such as part of his discernment process. He mentioned in passing that it was not only election, but also high church, low church, slavery, and a host of other items. Guess what, virtually none of that info is online (at least from a ELCA predecessor standpoint, WELS and LCMS do have some info, however, there is a somewhat selective bias), a fair amount of it is only in Norwegian or German, and then throw in some Latin just for good measure.
Thus, its off to the library we go. Thank goodness for interlibrary loan, and a reluctance to remove old books with limited circulation by some libraries. One of the books I picked up used the old rubber date stamp and card thing. The last it was checked out was in 1988, and prior to that 1968! It was written in 1925, and be golly, those pages are old. I’m almost guessing the librarian had to clean the dust off of it, and probably was going ?????? who on earth would request this.
One of the things I found fascinating was the following from UV Koren, and I think there is a lot of wisdom today. Granted he was no fan of historical critical exegesis, but I’ll bold the key part that I think is oh so key, whether it be in matters of unity or doctrine. This is from an online resource and its a English translation of A Lecture Delivered Before the Theological Students at Luther Seminary.
One hears that it is often said that we rest on the shoulders of our fathers and that we should, therefore, have a better insight than they had. Let us see! First of all, we must be careful about whom we accept as our spiritual fathers. These must be the ones who have been obedient to the Word of God. If these are our fathers, then we must learn of them what they have learned from God’s Word. If we have, with their help, learned the same in God’s Word, then we can well climb up on their shoulders, if we desire to do so. We may then perhaps see something or other that escaped their notice. But mark well, we should not be in any great hurry, for we will not see anything that contradicts what they and we, after them, have seen in God’s Word! For this is not yea and nay, but yea and amen. And before we come so far that we have seen more than the fathers, we will find that we have become so old that we have no more time to see and search any further. We will be glad to come down from the shoulders of the elders and sit at their feet and do our best to come as far in knowledge as they. This will be the good fortune for the fewest of us. It is understood that I am here speaking of the chief parts of revelation. There may be many things in resources, archaeology, grammar and other areas of linguistics, etc., where information can be gathered which was not known to the fathers and which may give a better insight into one or another Bible passage. But whatever belongs to the basic truths, the essence of God, His will and deeds, man’s condition and salvation, the means of grace, the way and order of salvation, etc., in these truths nothing new can be uncovered. This would contradict the essence of God’s eternal Word and the essential attributes of revelation. We Christians have no use for the spirit of the age, though we should learn to know our times–the clearer the better–and to make use of this knowledge also in the form of our presentation of eternal truths