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Pastor Johann Kilian: 'Where Is The Love?'

Have you ever heard of Rev. Johann Kilian? Me neither. Well, at least not until today anyway.

Pastor Kilian came from Prussia in Germany in the 1800s to escape the forced union of Lutheran and Reformed churches by the state, and he ended up becoming the framer of Confessional Lutheranism in Texas.


 
It was during the year 1854 that about 558 Wendish Lutherans from Kilian's congregations in Prussia and also from Saxony called him to lead them to Texas. Many people in Kilian's congregation were dissatisfied with the philosophy of rationalism spreading through Europe. Some viewed rationalism as an attempt to replace religion with science. With growing religious discontent, economic hardship and Kilian's desire to be a missionary in a foreign country, Kilian brought his followers to Galveston and eventually settled about 55 miles east of Austin in Lee County. 
On March 25, 1854, a new Lutheran congregation was organized at Dauban, to become the cornerstone of a large Wendish emigration. Rev. Kilian was called as Pastor. This move resulted in the establishment of Low Pin Oak Settlement later renamed Serbin.One of the first acts accomplished by Rev. Kilian was to apply for membership in the fledgling Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Serbin became the first of many Missouri Synod churches in Texas, and it had the only Wendish language speaking school in America. 
The legacy of John Kilian is apparent at the campus of the Concordia University Texas where you will find Kilian Road and the over-150-year-old bell at the entrance of Building A which Kilian and his followers brought on their journey to Texas. At its old campus, the university's first building was named Kilian Hall.


In "A Texan With A German Accent," Scott Diekmann wrote about how LCMS President, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, on his It's Time website several years ago, had provided copies of a sermon and a statement of Rev. Johann Kilian's which he translated from the original German, as well as a very interesting historical background piece.


They say: “We regard you as a sect because you place Luther and the old Lutheran Confessions over the Bible and hold too much to the writings of men, who were certainly subject to error.” 
But perhaps this perception, like the texts we preach, is a result of the Bible itself. Has anyone heard us preach something different from what is in the Gospels, Epistles, or other passages of Scripture? Don’t we demonstrate everything that we teach, above all, out of the Bible? Who can convince us that we get our doctrine out of any writings other than the Scriptures? So what we are accused of cannot be true. Our difference with others who also claim the Bible [for what they teach and confess] cannot be that we somehow revere the Bible any less than they do. No, we completely agree with those who believe and assert that the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testaments should be the sole doctrinal basis for the Christian. But what happens when the most divergent of people claim that their views are in the Bible, and men of various differing views of the faith [Glaubensrichtungen] each proves his own presumptions from the Bible and adorns and arms himself against orthodox Christians with the Bible? What then? Is the Bible contradictory because each party drags something different out of it? No, that certainly is not and cannot be the case. The Bible does not contradict itself. The difference, the disunity, is not found in the Bible itself, but in those who explicate and explain the Bible. This difference has no other cause than that the Bible is explained according to differing principles of faith [Glaubensgrunde]. The one approach is new, the other accords with a certain faith which has been passed down. The new understanding, animated by a fraudulent spirit, views the very letters and words of the Bible in a different way than they are actually to be understood according to a sound understanding of human language. The other approach judges each passage with a healthy grasp of Holy Scripture, and with regard to its connection with the entire Bible. The controversy here is not whether Christian doctrine is to be taken from the Bible or not, but how and according to what [standard] the Holy Scriptures are to be explicated and which are the chief parts of the contents of the Bible. 
…It is certainly true that there was a time when many Lutherans made mere inflated head knowledge [Wissen] out of the true faith and correct doctrine. In their often very fleshly zeal for correct doctrine, they had fallen into a hardness of heart. Love grew so cold that Lutheran and Reformed [theologians] wrote and fought against each other with terrible anger and hatred. In our time, we must be careful to avoid this terrible and incorrect path. But in our time, love is spoken of so much, and purity and certainty of faith and love are so little regarded, that nearly all opinions regarding faith are considered as equal. This is also a very dangerous and incorrect path. True, holy love is so constituted that it is as zealous for the correct faith as for pure life. True love bears witness against erring spirits, should they but teach against the Scriptures in one point, just as much as it also bears witness against immoral [persons] who steal, drink heavily, do wrong, or carry on in other sinful ways. For sin is everything that is contrary to God’s Word. It includes false, useless doctrine as much as useless living. It is as much a wrong relationship over against God as a wrong relationship over against men. But where in our time is a love for God that detests false doctrine as much as lazy and useless living? Where is the love which courageously says with Paul, “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9)? Where is the love which delivered Hymenaeus over to Satan, as it is written in 2 Timothy 2:17–18, because he taught falsely regarding the resurrection (1 Timothy 1:20)? Where is the love which writes to Titus, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10–11). Where is the burning love of Paul in our time, which expresses not merely its own judgment but God’s judgment against godless doctrine just as much as over godless life? We are to love God above all things [Small Catechism, First Commandment], in order to rightly love the neighbor. From the first table of the Law of God precedes the second table. So for us, right faith and right doctrine (devotion toward God [Gottseligkeit]) are first, and the love of neighbor (devotion toward people [Leutseligkeit]) second. Only if it proceeds from faith will it be right before God. Here then, all love that is commanded and praised by men, even if it only denies and nullifies right faith and right doctrine in just one point, is a godless love. Therefore we should not enter into church fellowship [Kirchengemeinschaft] with those who teach falsely in various parts [of the faith]. We must rather bear witness against them so that they not be pacified in their sins, that they recognize their guilt, and so give God the honor!


Boy, it sure sounds like Pastor Kilian could've been writing to Christ's Church today, doesn't it? The kind of "love" he was looking for is still missing today, in my humble opinion.

No one wants to hear anything about legitimate doctrinal differences among fellow believers, especially when "Deeds Not Creeds!" is every Christian's "Mission Statement" for life in the 21st Century.

"Where is the love?"

As edifying as Pastor Kilian's words were to my soul while reading them, I have to point out that I also think he gets it right when he cautioned...


"...It is certainly true that there was a time when many Lutherans made mere inflated head knowledge [Wissen] out of the true faith and correct doctrine. In their often very fleshly zeal for correct doctrine, they had fallen into a hardness of heart. Love grew so cold that Lutheran and Reformed [theologians] wrote and fought against each other with terrible anger and hatred. In our time, we must be careful to avoid this terrible and incorrect path. But in our time, love is spoken of so much, and purity and certainty of faith and love are so little regarded, that nearly all opinions regarding faith are considered as equal. This is also a very dangerous and incorrect path."


Sadly, that "fleshly zeal for correct doctrine" applied to me only a short while ago since I "had fallen into a hardness of heart" that I'm sure made me quite unbearable to be around.

Praise be to God that He chastened me and humbled me when He did, and in the manner He did, to the point where I now recognize that there is a risk of spewing nothing but sinful arrogance and pride under the guise of "being doctrinally sound" if I'm not careful.

Yes, there's a way to speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), my dear friends.

Pastor Kilian was correct to point out that what we Lutherans believe is exactly what the Bible says and that "the difference, the disunity, is not found in the Bible itself, but in those who explicate and explain the Bible."

The Bible, God's Word, never contradicts itself.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, how can we not echo the sentiments of Rev. Kilian by also asking, "Where is the love?" Remember, "So for us, right faith and right doctrine (devotion toward God [Gottseligkeit]) are first, and the love of neighbor (devotion toward people [Leutseligkeit]) second."


NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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