Gottlieb Shober - A comprehensive account of the rise and progress of the blessed reformation of the Christian church by Doctor Martin Luther : began on the thirty-first of October, A.D. 1517 ; interspersed with views of his character and doctrine, extract

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 18 2013 8:27 AM

In 1818 Gottlieb Schober (Americanized as G. Shober for this work - many names are Americanized in this work with Franke becoming Frank, for example) wrote a short history of the Reformation, how Lutherans came to North Carolina, and what they taught.  Schober, while having a Moravian background, had been ordained to serve the Lutherans there, and was the Secretary and Treasurer of the Synod of North Carolina and adjoining states.  He was also an important figure behind the formation of the General Synod in 1820.  As such, it is an important snapshot of Lutheranism of about two hundred years ago in this nation.  I give the full title in the subject line, but it is know as just Luther as well, for a short title.

This is an incredibly ambitious goal.  I cringe at the presentation of the pre-reformation church in the early chapters which at best is the product of protestant polemics rather than nuanced research.

Like just about all documents, it comes in a context.  First part of this context is the American Revolution.  When this nation cut its ties to "old Europe" many wondered why churches wondered how or even if anything from over there would be in any way normative or even worthy of study here in the new world.  To them Shober reminds them that this is where they come from, and tells them in the "new" (for Lutherans anyway) language of English instead of the German that most of the Lutherans still used.

And of since this is from the Ante-bellum south, and so there are codes about Race and Slavery.

But there is another side as well.  Gottlieb Schober had been assigned to work with a young preacher named David Henkel as a guide and mentor.  This relationship was a rocky one, and would soon lead to break within Lutheranism.  In this book, Henkel is listed as Candidate "to be consecrated next Trinity" into the full Ministerial Office. (pg 175)  He was not.  Instead he was brought up on heresy charges for alienating what would today be called ecumenical partners.  Henkel would point to specific statements in the Latin Book of Concord, but was found guilty and suspended for a few months...

That was, of course, in the future when this was written, but the tension was already there.  And to Henkel and his followers, it seems to this writer is trying to express warnings against "formalism" from the pen of Luther (pg 206-7) as well as a statement that Lutheranism is, in a sense, a generic protestantism.

This editor has more sympathy with Henkel than Shober in all this.  To describe the Augsburg Confession as "upwards of thirty articles; twenty-two only, are now necessary to be known, as the rest related only to doctrines, now entirely obstruse, and respecting Catholicism" (pg 97) is, uh, an unexpected reading of it. (We now number it as 28 articles, the first 21 of which are "doctrinal", the last seven as "abuse" articles.)  I wonder at the description of a liturgy as "symbolical" (pg. 151 and 178) and don't see how that fits with Augsburg Confession 7 which insists that Liturgical uniformity is NOT required.

But the big fight coming up is about the place and view of the sacraments.  I fear that Shober is giving them short shrift, making us depend on ourselves instead of the gifts that God has given us.

But I have to admit that I have heard views similar to Shober in both the ELCA (of which I was a member) and even a bit in the LCMS (of which I am now a member).

Source for this is I have made a few text critical corrections.  In one place when a word was broken up across a line break in the original, a syllable was repeated. It seemed silly to leave that in there, and so so the repeated syllable has been removed.  In addition, I interpreted the word "iu" as a typo for "in".  I have not regularized the spelling to modern or even consistent forms.  I have not balanced out quote marks.


Ken McGuire

The Gospel is not ... a "new law," on the contrary, ... a "new life." - William Julius Mann

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