J. Michael Reu (1869-1943): Was born in Germany and immigrated to America. As an ordained Lutheran clergy, he was an educator his entire professional life, whether while teaching a class of seminarians, training lay leaders to teach Sunday School, teaching a group of confirmands, or preaching to a congregation. While he was an educator, Reu never stopped being a student. It was said of Reu, that the Bible was a love story from beginning to end, God wooing back His own and sustaining them with heavenly food. Reu understood the main task of Christian education to be telling the story of God as revealed in scripture. And for Reu, the study of scripture was more than just the pursuit of knowledge, but had to do with formation and feeding of the soul. He leaves a legacy of a man who was a teacher, pastor, student and lover of God’s word.
In his forty-three years as a professor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, IA, Johann Michael Reu taught generations of seminary students as well as lay leaders how to be teachers. His many books and articles cover a vast array of subjects including homiletics, doctrine, catechetics, and practical and thorough discourses on how to teach Sunday School. Reu founded a graduate school at Wartburg, was committed to educating lay leaders, and was one of the first religious educators to be concerned about providing continuing education programs for pastors.
“We Knew Him” We knew him and we marveled, for the years Passing him by in decades, touched him not.
We knew him and we marveled, for he bent To labors monumental and renewed At the Well of the Word daily his strength of ten.
We knew him and we marveled, for his faith, Maugre the mind’s lone eminence supreme, Was humble as flame the heart of a child may cup A-caroling sweetly forth on Holy Eve.
We knew him. Still we marvel. And we praise God for his lending who is again with God.
This poem, written in celebration of the life of J. Michael Reu, shortly after his death, bears witness to the legacy of this man, who for over forty years taught and molded people into leaders who taught the Word of God. J. Michael Reu, pastor, professor, and church leader was a person who did indeed labor monumentally at the task of not only teaching the Word, but helping future leaders develop skills as teachers themselves.
The Life of J. Michael Reu
Johann Michael Reu (pronounced “Roy”), was born on November 16, 1869, in the German village of Diebach, Bavaria. He was the youngest of ten children born to Johann Friedrich Reu and Margarete Henkelmann. Johann Friedrich was a mason and contractor, who died when Johann Michael was only two years old. Reu exhibited exceptional academic gifts at an early age, which were noticed and nourished by the village pastor. In addition to the normal confirmation instruction, this pastor took it upon himself to give Reu lessons in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.
The pastor recognized gifts for ministry in the young Reu. The amount of money and time needed to fund and partake in a normal course of studies in preparation for service in the state church was too prohibitive for the Reu family. So, at the suggestion of the pastor, Reu entered the missionhaus in nearby Neuendettelsau, an institution that was not as expensive. This school was founded by Pastor Wilhelm Loehe, to train pastors to serve the German people who had traveled to America. William Weiblen has this to say about the approach to formation for mission espoused by Loehe, and Reu’s unique giftedness to thrive in this environment:
Reu’s life is also a remarkable testimony to the validity of Wilhelm Loehe’s idea to provide another route to prepare people for the parish ministry. Loehe’s emergency arrangement, which provided hundreds of pastors for the Lutheran church on the frontier in America, Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and other places, reminds us that the way to learning and creative service need not be bound to established models. Reu stands as a superb example of Loehe’s idea that you could take a bright young student with eight to ten years of basic education, teach that student how to study and think, and the student could become a life-long learner and scholar. That is what happened to Professor Reu, for if there ever was a self-made scholar, Reu was certainly that person.
Reu studied at Neuendettelsau from 1887-1889. Reu was a superb student. He distinguished himself in biblical studies; so much so, that one of his professors appointed him as an instructor in Hebrew. In addition to being less expensive, the education that was offered at the missionhaus was considered by many to be substandard. Craig Nessan has suggested that Reu was driven by the need to prove his academic integrity. In regards to his academic abilities, William Weiblen says:
Reu was gifted with genius and discipline. It seems (he was not only gifted with a near photographic memory, but he seems to have been born with a scientific, computer-like method of classifying and organizing whatever subject he chose to research.
At the end of his studies, even though he was not even twenty years old, Reu immigrated to America to begin pastoral ministry. He was ordained and called to the “new world”-to Mendota, Illinois to be an assistant of Pastor F. Richter. After a year serving in this capacity, Reu received a call to be the solo pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Rock Falls, IL. He served in Rock Falls for nine years. On November 16, 1892, Reu married Marie Wilhelmina Schmitthenner, whom he had met in New York on arriving in America. The Reu’s were married for over fifty years and raised four children. Reu engaged whole heartedly into his call as pastor in Rock Falls. Of his time there, Pilger recalls how Reu devoted quite a bit of himself to teaching the children of the parish. Unfortunately, his earliest experiences as a teacher in the parish were not always successful:
On an especially bad day … when his nerves through overwork and too late hours [were] perhaps a little frayed, when he found nothing but stupidity, looked into nothing but vacant, uncomprehending and indifferent eyes, met with nothing but ill-will, he became so exasperated, that, tears in his eyes, he rushed out of the classroom, so that Mrs. Reu had to go over to pacify first the flustered class, then her repentant husband.
This ominous start led to Reu’s work in developing instructional material for Luther’s Small Catechism which was to be used in the parish setting. Reu grew in his abilities as a preacher during this time and by all accounts, Immanuel Lutheran Church prospered during Reu’s time as pastor.
In 1899, Reu was called to Wartburg Seminary in order to fill a position left vacant by the illness of one of the professors. Reu would remain at Wartburg for the rest of his life. Reu “hit the ground running.” He was not deterred when after he had been at Wartburg for a year or two he was named business manager of the seminary, a position he held to the end of his life.
He was criticized by some professional theologians because he was not coming up with some original nuance of theology. His answer was that he was not that kind of theologian. His calling was to collate and systematize the teachings of all the Lutheran theologians and communicate this to the lay members of Lutheran congregation by way of the students he was teaching in the seminary.
At some point, Reu would have taught every course offered in the seminary: Hebrew for two years, Greek for six, Introduction to the New Testament for four, Religious Education for sixteen, Practical Methods for ten, as well as Liturgics, Homiletics, Hebrew, and Greek exegesis, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, Ephesians, Symbolics, Life of Luther, Dogmatics, and Introduction to Theology.
In one of his letters to an admirer who observed that Dr. Reu was teaching 16 hours of class a week (which was not unusual for him) he responded “Ja, and that means sixteen preparations.”
In his call at Wartburg, Reu produced an astounding number of texts dealing with the subjects taught at seminary: Cathechetics, or Theory and Practice of Religious Instruction, Homiletics: A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Preaching, Lutheran Dogmatics, and Paedagogik. (He) was a demanding teacher, expecting much from his students, as he did of himself. Robert C. Olsen has this to say of Reu’s expectations.
He (Reu) was a very thorough exegete, and insisted that his students be the same. The text in its original meaning, context, and train of thought – these had to be recovered with great care. He [wrote] in his Homiletics: ‘If the preacher, owing to defective preparation, has no Hebrew, he may find not a substitute but a stopgap in the cross-reference Bible. As for the preacher incapable of using the Greek New Testament, he will have difficulty to prove his right to exist.
In addition to the preparation required for teaching, Reu began writing. Two early works were a collection of commentaries of Thomasius (Thomasius Old Testament Selections) and a compilation of the catechisms of The Evangelical Church of Germany from the years 1530-1600. These two works, published in 1904, marked just the beginning of a life as a prolific writer.
1904 is the year in which Reu assumed the editorial responsibility for the Kirchliche Zeitschrift, which was the theological journal of the Iowa Synod of the Lutheran church. Reu maintained this position until his death in 1943. A major part of this responsibility involved the review of books and writings. During the forty years of being editor, Reu reviewed “the astounding number of 3,631 books, almost a hundred every year, almost two a week.”
Another feature of the Kirchliche Zeitschrift was Reu’s observations of the current events taking place in the church. An example of this is an article entitled: “Why are So Many Members Lost to the Lutheran Church.” Here is an excerpt from this article.
Would that our younger pastors would study the good old German and Scandinavian sermonic literature from confessional Lutheran pastors and that they would in addition drink liberally from a linguistic standpoint from their English Bible and from a few nobler modern secular English works! This would result in much sounder Lutheran preaching in English garb than is achieved by pouncing on the Reformed sermonic literature before they had themselves become firm in the saddle. Here the English-speaking Lutheran Church, for it is of her only that we are speaking, still has much work to do if she does not want to lose her Lutheran individuality and thereby herself contribute to the transference of her members into the Reformed church.
Reu began receiving recognition for his scholarship and writing. In 1910, Erlangen University honored him by naming Reu a Doctor of Theology. And, in 1914, the University of Leipzig elected Reu to fill the position of professor of Practical Theology. Since the university was under the direction of the state, the government had to approve his appointment. It was denied on the grounds that Reu was no longer a German citizen. Reu applied for citizenship in the United States in 1902. Later, in 1926, Reu also received an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.
Reu believed that “sound theological understanding proceeds from solid exegetical and historical study,” and was “driven to demonstrate he could provide the answer for everything by connecting it to the scriptures.”
There are many stories that have become part of the lore of Reu regarding the high expectations of Reu for his seminary students. But this drive for perfection was founded on a deep respect for the Bible, the Word of God. Olsen quotes a Dr. John G. Kuethe in this regard. “It cannot be repeated too often that for Reu the Bible was a love story from beginning to end, God wooing back His own and sustaining them with heavenly food.” William Weiblen has this to say about Reu in this regard;
Professor Reu directed his scholarship to helping the pastors and teachers of the church bring the liberating message of the Bible and Reformation to people of today. In other words, Reu’s scholarship was pastorally centered. Scholarship, he believed, served the task of theology only if it was practical and applicable to the contemporary life of the people of God.
Weiblen continues this theme: “In other words, what one believes expresses itself in what one understands about oneself and what one does-Christian faith and life belong together. In this way Reu thought of himself as a ‘practical theologian.”
Reu was not a theoretical academician. He remained throughout his career a pastor, possessing a pastor’s heart and desire to see the good news of Christ, and a solid understanding of Lutheran tradition transmitted and shared with all people. Running concurrent with his duties at Wartburg was a call to serve a small congregation outside of Dubuque. Most of his works regarding how to teach Sunday School and Luther’s Small Catechism were based on practical experience gained in the congregation.
Reu was also highly attentive to the importance of providing on-going educational opportunities for pastors after seminary. As an educator Reu initiated the first graduate studies program at Wartburg in 1930’s. Reu also initiated what is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) continuing education programs for pastors in America, the Luther Academy. Now known as the Luther Academy of the Rockies, the program began by Reu in 1937.
Reu was also heavily involved in the work of the larger Lutheran church. He served on the synodical Committee on Young Peoples’ Societies and Sunday Schools. In 1920 he served as chair of the synodical Propaganda Committee, the purpose of which was to help with the German post-war relief effort. He served as delegate for the Iowa Synod to the Lutheran World Conventions in Eisenach, Germany, Copenhagen, Denmark, and Paris, France.
The Reu’s celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1943. Beginning in the summer of that same year, Reu began to experience health problems, which included loss of weight. He went to the hospitals in Rochester, MN three times for tests to determine the cause of his illness. He died, quite suddenly at Rochester on the morning of October 14. Up until this last hospitalization, Reu had been active as teacher, hoping to return as soon as possible to Wartburg.
It was said of the Reu’s house that it resembled more a library than a home, reflecting perhaps, Reu’s deep and enduring passion for learning and for the teaching of God’s word. It is quite fitting that the library at Wartburg Theological Seminary is named the Reu Memorial Library, serving as a legacy of a man who was a teacher, pastor, student, lover of God’s word.
Throughout his long and storied career at Wartburg, Reu was first and foremost an educator; of his seminary students, of the people of the congregations he served, and of others whose task it was to teach. And driving all that he was as an educator, was his deep and profound love and respect and reverence of God’s word.
William Streng said this about Reu’s understanding of scripture and the role of education; “Reu absorbed the conviction that religious education is to ‘connect the individual stories of the Bible into a connected history of salvation.'” For Reu, the study of scripture was more than just the pursuit of knowledge, but had to do with the formation and feeding of the soul. Paul Johnston cites Rue’s Grundsatze zur Herestellung;
The newer pedagogy has become more and more agreed that the ultimate purpose of all instruction is by no means the transmission of the accomplishments of the present culture to the growing new generation, but the arousal of a many sided ‘interest’ of the soul. However, ‘interest’ is a personal participation of the soul in the subject which is treated in the instruction, and inner exchange of communication of the pupil with the instructional material, an intellectual association with it, an intellectual being in between, an inner immersion in it, so that the soul learns to love this material, becomes at home in it, an prefers it to other materials. Such an interest cannot be achieved nor become permanent without positive knowledge; for this reason instruction must always be given in such a way that together with it there is connected the appropriation of a certain knowledge material, which will vary in amount according to circumstances. This is not, however, the ultimate purpose of instruction, let alone the only one. The chief thing is and remains that the soul of the pupil is stimulated, so that he becomes interested in what he is learning, so that he loves it. Of individual items of knowledge he may in the future lose and forget some; once this exchange of communication between the soul and material has taken place, he will not only find his way about in it again and again, but the material also possesses enough attraction for him that he will sometime later return to it and become more and more at home in it.
Reu understood that a student’s encounter with scripture was an ongoing process; “… a one-time running through the biblical historical materials can by no means produce that familiarity with them with which the young people should be equipped as they go forth into life …”
Reu held Martin Luther’s Small Catechism to be of great importance in this desire to feed, form, and nurture the soul. Reu believed that Luther’s understanding of God and of the central concept of being justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ was combined with how the Small Catechism was a source of profound instruction on how to respond to that grace in one’s daily life. Reu believed that the Small Catechism “teaches this truth and thereby the nature of true morality so beautifully, impressively, and forcibly as you can hardly find it anywhere else in all human literature.”
What follows is Reu’s preface to the tenth printing of his book, An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism.
In preparing this volume, I have been guided by the conviction that any explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism should merely lead the pupil into the wealth of evangelical truth contained in the Reformer’s own terse explanation. Therefore I have shunned every thought of supplementing Luther’s text with additional material from dogmatics or sacred history and have followed no design of elaborating the Five Chief Parts into a theological system, possibly by constructing an overture from one part to another. Likewise I have purposely avoided giving an independent exegesis of the Catechism text proper and have regarded not the text by Luther’s explanation of it as the source of material to be taught. Possibly the only departure from this principle is found in the treatment of the Second Chief Part, where several historical references are made and where the underlying outline followed by Luther is brought out. These in brief are the principles which have determined what material was to be included in the present treatment of the subject or excluded from it. I feel that by observing these principles one can best apply to the life of the child the material contained in the Catechism-and this touching the everyday life of the child is the important thing in our religious instruction.
The influence of Reu’s edition of the “Small Catechism” was still used by many pastors who were trained by Reu, but began to lose its influence when the Church approved different translations of the work, which spelled the death of memorization.
As mentioned previously, during his tenure at Wartburg, Reu taught in every division of the seminary. Two of his works; Cathechetics, or Theory and Practice of Religious Instruction and Homiletics: A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Preaching , became not only staples of the educational diet of Wartburg but also proved to be influential and formative for Lutheran seminary students and scholars across the Lutheran spectrum.
Paul Johnston, in his fine article (as well as his many other writings on Reu) says this about Reu’s Cathechetics, or Theory and Practice of Religious Instruction;
Reu’s Catechetics was the first and is still the only work by an American Lutheran author which attempts to survey the whole field of sacred and secular educational theory and practice and then seeks to combine these different perspectives into a systematic, scholarly whole.
Reu understood the main task of Christian education to be telling the story of God, as revealed in scripture. All of his understanding was driven by this central norm. Coupled with this was Reu’s grasp of the importance of knowing those whom educators would be bringing the knowledge of scripture. Included in this knowledge was an understanding of different abilities and levels of development, and different learning styles. Paul Johnson has this to say about Reu’s understanding of Christian education;
Reu’s educational task [was] based on emphasis on ‘arousing the pupil’s interest in new material by relating it to what he already knows, and the place which ideas or ‘concepts’ have in forming the whole content of the mind and, thus, of education.
Reu understood the importance and impact a variety of teaching styles could have on the way a student absorbed the biblical story. All the senses were important avenues for engaging the text; hearing the story, reading the story, memorization, the visual arts. Reu saw that a child approached study in different ways, with a “many-sided interest.” With this in mind, Reu saw the need to be flexible and adaptable in teaching the biblical story to children. Johnston provides a quote of Reu that summarizes this understanding;
No matter how much we emphasize that the truths for faith and life which are contained in the individual stories must be pointed out and many-sided interests aroused in the child, we know also that the story has its own reality; yes, it serves us as a means of education precisely because it is a link in the chain of the events which happened for our salvation; we would not even use them as a means for education if it were to be only the garment in which ethical thoughts are clothed; then it would be better if we used fairy tales or stories from the present.
Reu’s influence as a molder of Christian educators did not stop with seminary students. Reu provided an enormous amount of materials for those who taught in the parish; Sunday School teachers, those involved in confirmation, lay leaders of the congregations and those who were going abroad to serve as missionaries. Any aspect of Christian education was of great importance for Reu.
J. Michael Reu was an educator his entire professional life, whether while teaching a class of seminarians, training lay leaders to teach Sunday School, teaching a group of confirmands, or preaching to a congregation. While he was an educator, Reu never stopped being a student. William Streng provides this anecdote; “When one day a student (of Reu’s) prefaced his question by saying, ‘When you were a student,’ Reu interrupted, ‘I still am.'”
Central to Reu’s understanding of Christian education was the importance of sharing the biblical story of God and of God’s salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Any methodology or scholarship that did not center itself on this basic goal, or take into account where those who were to be taught were in their faith journeys, or in their educational levels, was suspect. Martin H. Scharlemann shared this story that summarizes who J. Michael Reu, Christian educator, was;
I was one of Dr. Reu’s graduate students while I was a pastor … in Athens, Wisconsin … One of the courses I took was called ‘Some Pericopes of the Church Year.’ Dr. Reu required that each study include a detailed homiletical outline. I did one on Acts 2 and entitled it, ‘Undoing Babel.’ When my manuscript came back, Dr. Reu … put a question next to this subject title. It read very simply,’Will your farmers in Athens understand this?’
- Johnston, Paul I. ed., Anthology of the Theological Writings of J. Michael Reu.(Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1997).
- Johnston, Paul I. “Christian Education in the Thought of Johann Michael Reu.” Concordia Theological Quarterly Volume 58: Numbers 2-3. (Fort Wayne:Concordia Theological Seminary, April-July 1994), 28. Citing Reu’s GrundsÃ¤tze zur Herestellung.
- Kvale, Mark. A Conversation/Interview. May 2005.
- Neumann, G. “We Knew Him.” Johann Michael Reu: A Book of Remembrance. Kirchliche Zeitschrift 1876-1943. (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1945).
- Nessan, Craig L., editor. The Air I Breathe is Wartburg Air: The Legacy of William H. Weiblen. (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003).
- Pilger, A. “Johann Michael Reu.” Johann Michael Reu: A Book of Remembrance.Kirchliche Zeitschrift 1876-1943. (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1945).
- Reu, J. Michael. An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: Together with Four Supplements, Tenth Printing. (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1959).
- Wiederaenders, Robert C. (Ed.). In Remembrance of Reu: An Evaluation of the Life and Work of J. Michael Reu, 1869-1943 on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth by Some of His Friends and Former Students. (Dubuque: Wartburg Seminary Association, 1969).
- Reu, J. Michael (1959). An Explanation of Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: Together with Four Supplements, Tenth Printing. Columbus: The Wartburg Press.
- Reu, J. Michael ( 1926).A New English Translation of Luther’s Small Catechism. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing.
- Reu, J. Michael (1952).Biblical History for School and Home. Columbus: The Wartburg Press.
- Reu, J. Michael (1931).Cathechetics, or Theory and Practice of Religious Instruction.3rd Edition.Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1935).Christian Ethics. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1930).Contributions of the Lutheran Church to American Life, Literature, and Culture. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1919). Dr. Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: Together with a Selection of Short Scripture Texts, Hymns and Prayers. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1950). Homiletics: A Manual of the Theory and Practice of Preaching. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1938). How I Tell the Bible Stories to My Sunday School. Revised Edition. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1939). How to Teach in the Sunday School: A Teacher Training Course. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1940). In the Interest of Lutheran Unity. Two Lectures: Unionism and How Can We Become Certain of Its Divine Origin? Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1951). Lutheran Dogmatics, Revised Edition. Dubuque.
- Reu, J. Michael (1935). Lutheran Faith and Life: A Manual for the Instruction of Adults. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1944). Luther and the Scriptures. Columbus: The Wartburg Press.
- Reu, J. Michael (1934). Luther’s German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with a Collection of Sources. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1906). Paedagogik. Dubuque.
- Reu, J. Michael (1933). Sunday School Teacher Training Course. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1930). The Augsburg Confession: A Collection of Sources with an Historical Introduction. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1932). The Book of Books: An Introduction to the Bible for Bible Classes in Sunday Schools, Academies and Colleges, and for the Christian Home. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1936). The Church and the Social Problem. Columbus: The Lutheran Book Concern.
- Reu, J. Michael (1917). The Life of Dr. Martin Luther for the Christian Home. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1917). Thirty-Five Years of Luther Research. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1959). Thomasius Old Testament Selections. Columbus: The Wartburg Press.
- Reu, J. Michael (1921). Topics for Young People’s Societies. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1952). Two Treatises on the Means of Grace. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House.
- Reu, J. Michael (1916). Wartburg Lesson Helps for Beginners in the Sunday School and Home. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
- >Reu, J. Michael (1916). Wartburg Lesson Helps for Lutheran Sunday Schools: Senior Department. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.
Writings about Reu
- Johnston, P. I. “Christian Education in the Thought of Johann Michael Reu.” Concordia Theological Quarterly Volume 58: Numbers 2-3. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary, April-July 1994. 93-111.
- Johnson, P. I. (1989). An Assessment of the educational philosophy of Johann Michael Reu using the the hermeneutic paradigms of J. F. Herbart and of J. C. K. Von Hofmann and the Erlangen School (German Protestant) (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, (1989). Dissertation Abstracts International, 50, 11.
- Johnston, P. I. (1993). Reu’s Understanding of the Small Catechism. Lutheran Quarterly, 7(4), 425-450. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.biola.edu
- Nessan, Craig L., editor. The Air I Breathe is Wartburg Air: The Legacy of William H. Weiblen. Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003.
- Neumann, G. “We Knew Him.” Johann Michael Reu: A Book of Remembrance. Kirchliche Zeitschrift 1876-1943. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1945. 6.
- Olsen, Robert C. Johann Michael Reu: 1869-1943. Dubuque: Wartburg Seminary Association, 1969.
- Pilger, A. “Johann Michael Reu.” Johann Michael Reu: A Book of Remembrance. Kirchliche Zeitschrift 1876-1943. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1945. 7-47. The definitive biography is in this final issue. As editor of the journal, Reu reviewed an average of about two books a week for forty years, and in every issue he commented on what was going on in the church and world.
- Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, IA, has the master file on him: over 600 written out sermons, hundreds of articles, tracts, and miscellaneous writings, and of course a full file of the journal, Kirchliche Zeitschrift, and many thousands of letters.
Excerpts from Publications
The Soul-Life of the Sunday School Children
The body of the children (eyes, ears, nerves)
The soul-life of the children:
I. The Intellectual Life
A. Sensation (in the wide sense)
1. Sensation (in the narrow sense)
3. Intuition: What it is; How important it is; How the teacher can secure it
a) By showing the objects in nature
b) By visualizing the objects by means of pictures, models and maps
c) By visualizing religious truths by means of comparison with objects of the natural world
d) By visualizing the religious truths by showing them realized in the life of men
B. Conception (in the wide sense)
1. Conception (in the narrow sense)
2. The movements and associations of concepts, and the laws according to which they associate
3. The reproduction of concepts and the laws according to which they are reproduced; memory and its importance for the training of youth; fundamental rule that is to be observed in assigning material to be memorized
4. The phantasy or imagination that forms new pictures of the concepts already in the soul
5. The apperception that interprets new concepts by means of old ones; important didactic rules based upon the fact of apperception
C. Thinking (in the narrow sense)
1. The formation of conceptions
2. The formation of judgments
3. The formation of conclusions
II. The Emotional Life
A. The functions of the emotions and their importance.
B. The various forms of emotions or feelings
1. The intellectual feelings
2. The esthetic feelings
3. The moral feelings
4. The religious feelings
5. The social feelings
6. The feelings caused by consideration of others
“The subject of religious instruction by the Church is the child or the pupil, whose instruction and education becomes her object. He must be accurately understood, and the peculiarities of his life must remain under observation if instruction and education are to be a success. The pupil is constituted of body and soul-the former his material, the latter his psychical, constituent. Materialism denies the independence of the soul, explaining psychic phenomena as mere physical, or cerebral, products. The facts of experience, however, as, for instance, the continuity of self-consciousness in face of the incessant organic changes, also in the brain; the unity of consciousness; the impossibility for a movement of material atoms to produce anything but another physical movement; the strife between soul and body and the rule of the latter by the soul,-facts such as these, and Scripture as well, require as postulate behind the motions of the brain an invisible and independent quantity, essentially different not from the brain alone but from all matter whatever, and permeating and determining the whole body. This is the being which we call soul. Accordingly two worlds essentially different from each other are merged in the pupil in wondrous union”.
“It was in his “German Mass” that Luther declared catechetical instruction of the young as a necessary part of an evangelical Divine Service. ‘One of the principal parts of a right German order of worship is a plain and good instruction of the youth,’ he said. Here he also illustrated in a remarkable manner, in which way children could be brought to a correct understanding of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer. … [We] must be astonished over the amount of time and work Luther devoted to the young and the uneducated. … He even gathered them in his house in the evening and expounded to them the meaning of these texts in such a plain and simple way that even the weakest ones could grasp the evangelical truth”.
Reu, J. Michael (1931). Cathechetics, or Theory and Practice of Religious Instruction. 3rd Edition. Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House. p. vi.
Reu writes of this text, “I can truthfully say that this textbook has grown out of scientific as well as practical study of catechetical problems extending over many years. Especially what is said concerning the various educational agencies and the distribution of material has been tested as to its practicableness either by myself or by some of my former pupils who perform all their catechetical work in English”. “By the time it appeared in its third edition in 1931 it was a 658-page manual on the history, theory, and practice of education in the Lutheran church. Reu’s “Catechetics” was the first and is still the only work by an American Lutheran author which attempts to survey the whole field of sacred and secular educational theory and practice and then seeks to combine these different perspectives into a systematic, scholarly whole” (Johnston, Christian Education in the thought, p. 93).
Johnston, P. I. “Christian Education in the Thought of Johann Michael Reu.”Concordia Theological Quarterly Volume 58: Numbers 2-3. Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary, April-July 1994. 93-111.
See this journal article for an overview of Reu’s philosophical influences and his innovative integration based upon Johnston’s extensive research.
Reu, J. Michael (1938). How I Tell the Bible Stories to My Sunday School. Revised Edition.Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House.