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22 May 2016
  + Johannes Quenstedt, Theologian +
22 May AD 1688

Johann Quenstedt After Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt may have been the ablest theologian of the Lutheran church in the period following the death of Martin Luther. A shining light during the period of Lutheran orthodoxy, Quenstedt still offers much to the Church of our day.

Born on 13 August 1617 in Quedlinburg, Germany (modern Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt), Quenstedt was nephew to Johann Gerhard. His mother was the noted theologian's sister.

During his early school days, Quenstedt hoped to study under his uncle at the university at Jena. Unfortunately for young Johannes, Gerhard died before he could enroll at the university. Because of this, Quenstedt's mother changed plans and sent her son to Helmstedt. Many Lutherans had doubts about the overall orthodoxy of Helmstedt. However, its fifty mile distance from Quedlinburg allowed his mother to keep him closer to home.

Quenstedt spent six years in his university studies before moving on to Wittenberg in 1644 to continue his education. In spite of his new school's misgivings over his time at Helmstedt, Quenstedt excelled in Wittenberg. As various faculty members began to support and encourage him, he became ever more convinced of the correctness of Lutheran doctrine and gradually developed his own personal style of theological teaching.

As he delved into the Scriptures, the Confessions, and other Lutheran writings, Quenstedt publicly asserted the claims of Lutheran orthodoxy. Therefore, as he began his own career as author and lecturer, he was no mere parrot of his famous uncle. He set forth and defended his own convictions, firmly convinced that they rested on Biblical truth.

Quenstedt received an appointment from Wittenberg University as a lecturer in October 1644. At various times during his career he served as professor of theology, logic, and metaphysics. During his early years as lecturer, he continued his studies and received his Doctorate in Theology in 1650.

Despite the seeming ease with which Quenstedt's career progressed, much of his life was difficult. From childhood, he suffered ongoing illnesses and various physical ailments. Joined in marriage in 1651, he saw his wife die before their first wedding anniversary. He remarried in 1653 but his second wife died after only three years. Soon thereafter, Quenstedt married Anna Sabina Scharf. This 1556 union was long and successful, blessed by God with 12 children.

Friedrich August Tholuck referred to Quenstedt as the "bookkeeper and secretary" (Buchhalter und Schriftführer) of Lutheran orthodoxy. This verdict, however, disagrees with the facts and sells a great man short. Although he did much to catalog, organize, and disseminate that which came before him, he also expanded the scope of Lutheran teaching. Well-read and devout, he lived the life that his works espoused, ever displaying a keen intellect and deep understanding of Holy Scripture and Lutheran theology. For all his bold confession, Quenstedt was a quiet, pious, and somewhat private man.

Without question, Quenstedt's Theologia Didactico-Polemica Sive Systema Theologicum (Didactic-Polemic Theology or Systematic Theology) remains his great contribution to the Church. The Systema is no tidy compendium but a massive volume. When published, it would have cost most pastors several weeks' salary — if not more.

Despite the cost, the Systema underwent several printings, testifying to the book's value and the strong demand from clergy and university instructors. Unfortunately, most of the volume remains unavailable in English translation.

The Systema carefully outlines and expounds upon almost all debated and controverted doctrines from the period. Each section is divided into two portions, one didactic, the other polemic. Quenstedt's "polemic," however, differs from many others stemming from the period of Orthodoxy or elsewhere during Church history. Neither harsh or bombastic, his polemics thoughtfully and gently respond to contemporary critics of Lutheranism.

Since the attacks of earlier ages vary little from those of subsequent times, the Systema remains a valuable resource for present-day Lutherans beset by misguided assaults on our teachings and practices.

Suggested Lection

Psalm 46
Isaiah 55:6-11
Romans 10:5-17
John 15:1-11

Collect

O Lord God, heavenly Father, pour out Your Holy Spirit upon Your faithful people, keep them steadfast in Your grace and truth, protect and comfort them in all temptation, defend them against all enemies of Your Word, and bestow on Christ's Church Militant Your saving peace; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word!

Sources

   Studium (written by Caleb Bassett)
   Christian Cyclopedia (Lueker, Poellot, Jackson, eds.)
   Wikipedia

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