Dr Feuerhahn: Reflections of a Fanboy

RonaldFeuerhahn2006-lrBack in my pre-seminary days, as I debated which seminary to attend, tough choices had to be made. On the one hand was Fort Wayne. The Professorial staff included Weinrich, Scaer, Just, Wenthe, Marquardt, Gard, Deffner, Reuning. On the other hand was Saint Louis. They had Nagel and Feuerhahn. Theologically, it was a toss up. That’s how significant those two men were.

When either stepped foot on the Fort Wayne campus, they were given all the respect due to royalty. And well they should have been. (I pray they were given a fraction of that respect at their own seminary, although I fear such was not the case.)

Having chosen the Fort Wayne seminary, I met Dr. Feuerhahn only once. It was on vicarage in 1997. I attended the Great Commission Convocation in Saint Louis with the delegation from my vicarage parish. For whatever reason, perhaps a desire to appear balanced, perhaps they just didn’t know exactly who it was they were asking, the organizers had arranged for him to lead a sectional. It was called, “Where God Goes to Church.”

In his 45 minute presentation, Dr. Feuerhahn managed to deconstruct everything that happened in the other four days of the conference. People walked out on him. Which was a shame. Not for the disrespect shown this man of God. I don’t think it really bothered him. Rather, for the pure, sweet gospel they were missing. It was hard to find the Gospel that week. The synod’s 150th anniversary service was held at that year’s convocation. With the benefit of hindsight, and no seminary committees to worry about offending anymore, I can confidently declare that it was an affront to what our confessions say that we believe, teach and confess. And if we take those writings seriously, we must then say that it was an affront to our Lord.

I recall, after the GCC, spending a day listening to the seminary Kantorei in my study with the lights off. I was physically ill for two days. And yet, into this den of iniquity, Dr. Feuerhahn willingly entered, and spoke boldly and with winsome eloquence of the hope that is ours through Jesus Christ. He gently called the people that week to repentance. Of course, his cry went unheeded. But his words were a balm to my young soul.

After his presentation, I spoke to him for a few minutes. I do not recall what was said. I suspect on my part, it was something pretty foolish. On his part, I remember it was kind and wise.

I often thought of spending an extra year at our sister seminary, just so I could learn at the feet of Drs. Feuerhahn and Nagel. Of course, life took a different direction, and now that opportunity has passed. But the absolute steadfast graciousness of that man, even in the lion’s den of intense opposition, has always stayed with me.

I was by no means his friend. I was merely an over-eager fanboy. But he was something more than just a presenter. He was a man of God, and God’s word dripped from his tongue like honey. I am fortunate to have heard him even that one time, and I thank God for it.

As a final note of his gracious nature, years later I requested permission to duplicate his presentation from that day, and offer it as part of the recordings of the Wyoming District at our own Evangelism Convocation. Of course he said yes, asking nothing in return.

Now, thanks to his generosity of spirit, here it is. The theology of worship, like you have never heard it, unless you heard it from him. Not that the theology was original to him. Far from it. But you have likely never heard it expressed so well, and with such a note of encouragement and excitement. It will make you want to go to church to be a part of the worship he describes here.

Enjoy this, the best tribute I can give him: His own wonderful words. Just a taste:

(God’s Word) is, in the words of Saint Paul, foolish or offensive. So do we change that word so that it is accessible, popular, it is something that the newcomer will be able to grasp? The person new to the Christian community finds it strange, perhaps even foolish and offensive. After all, it speaks of sin. That is offensive. It speaks of salvation apart from works, that is foolish. It speaks of the cross as a gift. That is both foolish and offensive.

You’ll want to listen to the whole thing. And then do it again.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Feuerhahn. We met only once, but I still count you a Father in the faith. You comforted me in a time of trial, and I return to these words still today from time to time.

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One Response to Dr Feuerhahn: Reflections of a Fanboy

  1. Dr. Feuerhahn was the choice of the four representatives of those who brought charges against President Benke for his participation in the Yankee Stadium interfaith worship service on September 23, 2001, to serve as a resource person on the side of the complainants in attempted reconciliation talks with the Atlantic District president. Apparently, President Benke was intimidated by the theological acumen of Dr. Feuerhahn and so strenuously objected to his participation in the May 21-22, 2003, talks at the I.C. in St. Louis. In a genuine attempt to give the accused every advantage, VP Wallace Schulz agreed to eliminate Dr. Feuerhahn from the talks. One can only wonder what Dr. Feuerhahn’s reaction would have been to President Benke’s absolute refusal during those discussions to address either Holy Scripture or the Lutheran Confessions unless the charges against him were first dropped by the complainants. One is also left to wonder how different those talks might have ended if Dr. Feuerhahn’s gentle, but Godly counsel might have been given voice during those days. His clear voice of truth might have resulted in a far different result than the two day waste of time that meeting turned out to be. Following that meeting Dr. Schulz make his clear and biblical findings to suspend Benke from his office as Atlantic District DP only to have it overturned by the DRP panel on purely administrative grounds. Dr. Feuerhahn’s voice will be greatly missed in our troubled Synod.

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