History of the First German-Lutheran Settlement in Altenburg, Perry County Missouri: pages 65 - 69


to obtain doctrinal freedom for a certain form of educated chiliasm and much more importantly, for freedom of conscience. The brothers of the Frohna congregation had also experienced much pain as a result of the excessive zeal of their antichiliastic brothers. Some time earlier through the arbitration of Prof. Walther, they had reached a compromise concerning the conversion of Israel which stated: "There are a few passages in holy scripture which support the notion of conversion and for those people who see it as prophecy it is necessary for them to believe in it. There are just as many passages which reject the notion that conversion can be achieved. Therefore no brother should perceive the other as a fanatic for holding the personal belief that such a conversion is possible."

Shortly before the beginning of the synodal session a vote was held to choose the representative who would accompany me to Fort Wayne. The antichiliastic contingent nominated Mr. Weinhold, one of my strongest opponents in the dispute. So as not to completely destroy the peace the other side agreed to this nominee under the specific condition that Mr. Weinhold not represent them in any discussions dealing with the sanctioning of the last Altenburg synodal resolutions or the letter in protest sent concerning them. On previous occasions members, other than the one appointed, had been allowed to represent the congregation as advisors to the synodal sessions (See the Synodal Report of the Western District, page 5.) The Synod's Constitution also permits this so it seemed appropiate and natural to make use of this custom. A second deputy would be sent with Mr. Weinhold. This deputy would have credentials so he could act as representative in any discussions pertaining to the letter in protest. The vote went to Mr. Joh. Popp, a man of gentle character and circumspection for whom this issue was a serious matter of faith and who wanted nothing more than to have the General Synod decide


that each individual should have the right to rest easy with his conscience. He received 45 votes including a few votes from certain members of the congregations from Frohna and New Wells, who considered the anathema of the previous synodal session ungodly and contrary to scripture. Mr. Popp was given the following letter of certification:

   To the Honorable Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and other States.

Since there is no provision for the respectful, undersigned members of the Altenburg and Frohna congregations to personally attend this year's sessions of the revered synod and since the letter in protest submitted to the Honorable Synod is of the greatest importance to us, we have asked our brother, Mr. John Popp, to appear on our behalf before the Synod, to represent us, and to carry on negotiations regarding this letter with the Honorable Synod in our name. We request the Honorable Synod to accept our delegate as they would fraternally accept us and allow him to attend any discussions and negotiations regarding our respectfully submitted letter in protest. We hope and pray to the Almighty that He may give His assistance to the revered heads of His church. May the Holy Spirit keep us on the path of truth, love and peace. With respect we sign, etc.
                              (45 signatures.)

Thus I traveled at the beginning of October 1857 to the General Synodal Session being held in Fort Wayne in pious hope that reasoned thought would prevail and the dangerous rift could be avoided through cautious circumspection. Unfortunately the opposite was true. The synodal address delivered by the General President made it clear what they intended. At the start of the proceedings he listed the reasons why the doctrine concerning the final days had to be the first item on the agenda for discussion. To prove his point he stated that chiliasm was devouring everything around itself and it was destroying the congregations. He held Mr. Popp's letter of certification high in the air, told the synod of its contents,


basically stating that a number of members from various congregations had joined together in rebellion. Not only that but they had incited disorder and schism in the congregations with their chiliasm and they had even dared to send a deputy here to spread their disorder and schism in the synod and force their fanatacism upon it. In response to this I declared that it would be better for me not to speak because I could see from this introduction that they had judged and prejudged people of ridiculous things. The people, whom he had called rebels, were grievously troubled in their consciences and had chosen this way to achieve peace with God's help. Didn't synodal members, and this included individuals within the synod, have the right to question verdicts made by the District Synod (all members of which were in attendance to answer questions) and bring those questions to the General Synod? Didn't they have the right to choose someone from their midst and send him to represent them in all verbal negotiations held at the General Synodal session? Even if it is against the strictest orders of the Synod, in such an importance case where the peace of so many consciences and entire congregations are at stake, couldn't the order be rescinded just once out of need and charity? All this was said in vain. Some people said no burden had been placed on people's consciences. These people were nothing but rebels and I was guilty for inciting such rebellion. The issue was not resolved at the end of the first day. On the next day influential voices spoke for Brother Popp's admission. However in the end Prof. Walther used the full weight of his authority as representative of the Synod to refuse the admission. It would be a great sin to recognize Mr. Popp as deputy. It would be a dreadful example of giving in to disorder so as to pacify the rebels. No one spoke against this declaration and Mr. Popp's letter of deputy certification was unanimously rejected. I must mention that my first testimony concerning Brother Popp's unblemished Christian character received no argument, but he was still not allowed to speak.

Pastor Schaller of St. Louis now presented his report concerning chiliasm, stating that no matter how coarse


or refined it was dangerous to the word of God, it should be rejected as contradictory to the symbolic books, and the verdict made by the district synod last year should be confirmed as appropriate. No one disagreed with the report and Pastor Schaller received thanks and applause.

Then the letter in protest from the members of the Altenburg and Frohna congregations was read. There was no debate concerning it. A unanimous vote was held and the issues raised in the letter were tabled. During the course of the synodal sessions the letter was never again mentioned and it received no response.

The next item on the agenda was a document written by old Pastor Gruber (who has since departed for blessed eternity.) I believe it is necessary to describe the contents. After a short introduction in which he excuses his absence for reasons of poor health, the letter read as follows:

"I testify here to my proper recognition of the scriptural integrity of the ecumenical symbols and the religious documents of our Lutheran church. I stand opposed to all antichristian and romanized influence in doctrine and life. I also shun the confusing, syncratic, and subtile indifference of the new Union, all forms of Zwinglianism and Calvinism, and all machinations of fanatics and flighty people. Without boasting I can attest that, with the exception of Pastor Keyl and Prof. Walther, no other brother has studied the writings of Luther, especially the works on exegesis, as much as I. I have studied them for the past 40 years. Because Dr. Luther himself would not have his own writings on holy scripture deemed synonymous with scripture, indeed he expressly warned against it, I am encouraged to honor holy scripture as something higher. The very little amount of wood, hay and tinder in Luther's writings has not in the least kept me from making use of them. In particular I recognize in the preface to Daniel that the prophetic words of scripture have been broken down into individual pieces and incorporated by the church. It has been necessary to do this because there is no traditional means of exegesis


"for the interpretation of prophetic scripture. If we were to establish one traditional means of interpretation then we would approach a papist system of doctrine. To our deficit then we negate the clear testimony of prophetic scripture in opposition to Roman antichristendom. Which of the church fathers would have thought that Christian Rome would become Babylon's whore? Thus my firm conviction in so-called chiliasm and I had given my declaration at the Synod to Altenburg as it came to me from God's word but without providing it with a complete and unerring interpretation. The word 'remaining' on page 27 * was misunderstood and took on a meaning I had never considered. As a result the revered Synod considered the entire postulation as anathematic, a lie of the devil and poison from hell. Eighteen months have now flown by and under pain of conscience I must now respectfully submit this testimony to the revered Synod:

1. Romans 14 discusses the future conversion of Israel. The entire context of the chapter and the main point of the apostle's 25th verse [?] are so clear and certain to me that no human dialog could move me to seek something else in it. The proofs of blessed J. Gerhard also fortify me in this supposition.

2. As of now I know of five different interpretations of the 1000-year imprisonment of Satan, which have been set down in the past. People date the beginning a. from the time of the Lord's ascension into heaven; b. from the time of Constantine; c. from the time when the German people entered the Christian church; d. from the beginning of the papacy; e. from the time of the Reformation, in which we are still living. None of these five interpretations has been able to change my conviction.

3. It is certain that Revelation 20, 10 is referred to in the 19th chapter.

_____

* According to Pastor Gruber's meaning the Lord would visibly appear in heaven to destroy the antichrist. The synodal report of 1856 had misinterpreted this as remaining visible. Return to text

[?] Translator's note: Could this have been a typo for Romans 14, verse 22 or 23? Return to text


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