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Thursday, June 4, 2015

New book on Luther—"the great Reformer"! J. Reston, Jr.

James Reston, Jr.
Luther's Fortress
by James Reston, Jr.
      A surprise came to me as I saw a book at a Barnes and Noble store that I had not seen before: Luther's Fortress: Martin Luther and His Reformation Under Siege by James Reston, Jr..  And Amazon confirmed that it is currently the "#1 New Release in Lutheran Christianity".  But what amazed me as I read the first sentence was this phrase:
“...the great Reformer Martin Luther.
In today's world, that is quite a bold phrase to use, given the unpopularity of its subject.  And a quick perusal confirmed that this author was not as judgmental of Luther as most of today's theologians.  I will not offer an in-depth review here.  But I would like to examine a few particulars.  

     Why did Reston write this book?  Was it because of the upcoming 500th Anniversary (in 2017) of Luther’s 95 Theses and the beginning of the Reformation?  Reston states under his “Author’s Note”  on page 235:
“The inspiration for Luther’s Fortress lies in my 2008 book, Defenders of the Faith, which covers … from 1520 to 1536.  In that age… Luther’s impact in history surpasses them all. … utterly captivated by the great Reformer: his personality, his courage, his rebellion, the drama of his life, his passion and his honesty, his grace and his coarseness, his wit and humor, and his flaws.”
Hmmm... that is quite a lot of praise... mixed in with the usual caveats.  Praise indeed! It seems James Reston, Jr.  did NOT write this book so much for the Anniversary, but because he was “captivated by the great Reformer”.  Never mind Reston's epilogue (Author's Note) talk of the “dark side” or “flaws” of Luther  – something no well known author of today could omit, something practically all “Lutheran” theologians harp at.  Reston calls Martin Luther “the great Reformer” no less than 5 times in this book.  He uses the phrase “the Reformer” no less than 45 times  – could it be that he means this in an exclusive sense?... after all he said “Luther’s impact … surpasses them all”.  If only today’s Concordia Publishing House editors could speak of Luther this way!  If only the LC-MS would inform its members of what Reston reveals on page 241 to the world:
  1. “the Roman Catholic ban on Luther ‘and all his followers’ is still in effect”
  2. The Catholic provost’s (at Worms, Germany) answer to Reston’s inquiry (plea?) that “Wasn’t it time, in the interest of ecumenicalism, after five hundred years, that the excommunication of Luther and the ban on Lutheranism be lifted?” – Answer:
The time to lift the ban has not yet come. 
Does everyone in the LC-MS know that they remain officially under the same ban as Martin Luther?... No?  Why not?  Is there not anything said by the editor of Concordia Publishing's book The Lutheran Difference?... in their Reformation Anniversary Edition?   Nothing?
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      ⇒ To James Reston, Jr.:  If you are a Christian who is “captivated” by Luther, you will find many of my blog posts to be of interest to you.  You certainly know a lot of facts about Luther, but to really know Luther, one must be a Christian first.  Then one can rightly judge the anti-Christian Roman Catholic Inquisition which spilled the blood of so many Lutheran martyrs who were their most hated and feared opponents.  It is for the sake of the true Gospel that Lutherans take the name of Luther, even if he himself protested against this in his earlier days (ref. your book, pages 135-136).
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      One of the delightful details Reston reveals regards Argula von Stauff, a dear woman who gloried in the message that Luther exposed, in the Gospel… a woman of the Reformation.
      So I can recommend Mr. Reston’s book to almost all who would desire to have a true introduction to Luther  – even with its bow to modern theology’s distaste for Luther.   But in the end, the better account of Luther comes from those who not only died because of him (i.e. the Martyrs), but those who would follow him, in spirit, in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, the Book of Concord.
      As an incentive to read this book, I quote C.F.W. Walther’s comment on Luther’s polemical writings:
“It’s all entertaining.”
Indeed, "that's entertainment"!... or as Reston says "the drama of his life".


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pieper– praised by Walther, divides Law and Gospel (anniversary of Pieper's passing)

— June 3, 1931 — 
the passing of Prof. Franz Pieper from this earthly life

Perhaps many other things were noted for this date in world history.  But in Church History, it marks a silencing of the pen and voice of the greatest Christian theologian of the Twentieth Century.

How may I honor Pieper on this day?  With 2 examples.  There was a major Pastoral Conference in 1880 in the old (German) Missouri Synod, and all pastors were urgently requested to attend this conference to be held in Chicago.  Proceedings were published by Concordia here.  This was the major gathering to attempt to settle within the Missouri Synod the Great Election Controversy.  In the middle of the great debate, the opponents were using every means they could to attempt to prove that a Christian's election (or predestination) was caused "in view of their faith", or in Latin intuitu fidei.  I will cover other aspects of it soon, but I want to extract 2 things that occurred there to honor this great teacher of the Lutheran Church:

1) The "admirable" young professor, at age 28

As the writings of Martin Chemnitz were drawn into the debate, Prof. Franz Pieper properly clarified Chemnitz' position on this doctrine. (see especially page 78).  And on page 81, Walther compliments the young Prof. Franz Pieper against the opponents:
Prof. Pieper has already admirably proved that you [opponents] also cannot begin with anything at all for your cause...
Walther, although a gracious theologian, was in a heated battle and had little time for niceties.  But this compliment from Walther was the sign that the old theologian could see that this young man was no ordinary theologian, for he could properly understand the great Martin Chemnitz, chief author of the Formula of Concord.

2) the Distinction of Law and Gospel — by Walther's successor

A little later in the debate (pages 87-88), Prof. Pieper addresses the confusion of the opponents by saying:
The doctrine of election is a very delicate thing. There one cannot get by with mere dogmatic formulas. ... And I mean, here is proposed through observing a distinction, namely the distinction between Law and Gospel.  Whoever does not distinguish Law and Gospel here in this case [Election], will spoil all possible Scriptural passages, those of certainty, as well as those reminders dealing with the struggles. Whoever does not distinguish here between Law and Gospel, stirs a general mash together from the admonitions to certainty and to fear; there is half fear, half certainty, i.e. just no certainty.
Here sat the young professor, before the great Walther (who had already given his earlier lectures on Law and Gospel in 1878), before hundreds of Missouri Synod pastors, before many other Synodical Conference members, and proposed to use Walther's own specialty of properly distinguishing Law and Gospel to answer the mysteries of the Doctrine of Election!  I can just see the dear Walther's eyes almost come to tears as he saw his Theses come to life!  Walther would later go on in 1884-85 to deliver a more complete series of "Luther Hours" lectures on The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel, the lectures being the basis of Concordia's later publishing of the same name.  —

— Could it be that Franz Pieper was partially the cause for Walther to produce his most well known lectures?
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Pieper's time would come as the great Walther passed into his eternal rest in 1887.  And he would carry that torch just as well as his teacher, until the day he died on

June 3, 1931

84 years ago today.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Walther's Epistel Postille—scanned German original (not in Google Books)

Epistel Postille

by C.F.W. Walther
      To followup my recent posting of Walther's book of sermons Year of Grace, I mentioned that there were 2 remaining sermon books yet to be widely published in English: (1) Epistel Postille (or Standard Epistles) and (2) Licht des Lebens, or Light of Life.  (There is of course a 3rd book of sermons with no English translation listed in my original post that listed Walther's works: Predigtentwürfe und nicht ganz ausgeführte Predigten und Casualreden, or Sermon Notes and Not Completely Delivered Sermons and Casual Speeches.)
      But I was surprised to notice that, although all other sermon books of Walther are in Google Books, his 2nd most important sermon book is not available online anywhere — not in Google Books, HathiTrust, or  So to rectify this shortcoming, I want to provide a download for a scanned copy of the complete German original.
Download complete high-resolution (400dpi) scanned copy
file: Walther-Epistel Postille_000-496.PDF (68MB)
==>>>  here  <<<==  (68MB)
The original book is quite large weighing almost 4-1/2 pounds.  On the title page is a picture of the open Bible with the sword of the Spirit lying on it.  And what does the page read that it is open to... what is the verse written on it?  In Luther's Bibel, it says:
Römer 3.28 – So halten wir es nun, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes Werke, allein durch den Glauben. | Google Translation: So we conclude that a man is justified without works of the law, by faith alone.
In the King James Version it is rendered:
Romans 3:28 — Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Perhaps this will stimulate some interest in re-publishing the English translation by Pastor Donald E. Heck of this work very soon!  But the wise reader would do well to purchase a copy now of Heck's typewritten version by calling CTS-FW Bookstore... they last quoted about $41 to have it copied and bound.  Note well: that gets you both Parts 1 and 2 together, not just half the original volume, as CPH has re-published Walther's Gospel Sermons in 2 volumes.  That is quite a good value.
     Now to finish this post, I want to present just one of Heck's translations – Walther's Pentecost sermon dedicated to this coming Sunday, May 24, 2015. Page headers are retained:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Luther's coarse talk… exceeds our purity of heart?

     Martin Luther is fair game for all of today's theologians.  He is typically vilified for his polemical writings, sometimes smiled at for his connection to bowling (I even heard reference to this on an old Perry Mason TV show).  But he is rather well known for his so-called coarse or crude language.  This was also true during Franz Pieper's lifetime.  And as it is today, so many tried to explain away, or apologize, for Luther's talk.  So Franz Pieper, the Twentieth Century Luther, took it on himself to explain to his Missouri Synod, and a critical (and largely unbelieving) world, how Luther should be read.  The following short article appeared in Lehre und Wehre volume 63, May 1917, pages 230-231:

Underlining follows emphasis in original.  Highlighting and info inside square brackets [ ] added by BackToLuther.

The necessary caution with the apologies for Luther.
In the use of writings about Luther which come from foreign camps, caution is necessary.  This is especially true of those writings which are well-intentioned, include some apt remarks and also deserve to be read.  But since the author stands far from the great cause of the Reformation, namely the peace of one’s conscience before God’s Law, and does not have the right understanding to walk in life completely in God’s Word, so he cannot fail to fully or partially err in his judgments.  We think here first only of somewhat more external things, namely the apologies which one states for the fact that Luther uses such crude expressions against the false teachers and speaks about marriage and generally about sexual things so openly and bluntly.   One very often states the apology for Luther that it was only the crudeness of the age in which Luther lived.  Now it is certainly true that Luther was also a representative of his time in speech and expression. And with good reason it is to be pointed out that Luther's opponents not only equaled Luther in bluntness of expression, but often surpassed him.  But one does not conclude his judgment on this point before one has brought to mind how the Holy Scripture, which admittedly has validity for all times, speaks about [page 231] these things.  Regarding the use of coarse expressions in relation to false teachers, compare for example only the 23rd chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, also Galatians (Gal 1:6-9; 5:12) and the "fine" Letter to Philippians (Phil. 3:1-2). As for the open and straight talk in terms of natural and sexual matters, so also here you do not miss to compare the Scriptures.  When one has been thrust into passages in the New Testament like Matthew 15:17; Phil 3:8. Luke 1:41; Luk. 2:5, he wants  to partially help the decorum with veiled translations.  And now only the ample description of marital relations and such things in the Old Testament!  In his commentary on the book of Genesis even Luther expresses again his astonishment, that "the Holy Spirit who has indeed a very pure mouth, may speak  of these things with so great diligence, which the Holy Father, the Pope, wanted to remember grudgingly with his chaste monks and nuns, as such things are even foul-mouthed and carnal" (St. L. II , col. 538, parag. 29) [Am. Ed. vol. 5, pg 329:  “Why does the Holy Spirit, whose mouth is completely pure, speak about these things with such zeal? The very saintly pope, together with the chaste monks and nuns, does not even deign to think about them, since such things are completely sordid and carnal.”]  Luther reminds us over and over again of the fact that in accord with the will of the Holy Spirit, to the pure all things are pure [Titus 1:15], and always should be pure. Even if we find such open talk about these things now with Luther, then that can probably suggest to us the question whether or not perhaps Luther exceeded us by action of the Holy Spirit in purity of the heart. F[ranz]. P[ieper].

Who were the "foreign camps" Pieper speaks about at the beginning?  I have no doubt that he is referring in part to other American Lutherans, or the opponents of Missouri that he spoke about in his Last Words.  These Lutherans were erring in the basic doctrines of Conversion and Justification.  And Pieper reminds us that one cannot understand Luther if one does not have the central doctrines of Christianity.  The most important counsel to glean from Pieper's article is how to judge all theologians of today (and from any time in the history of the world):
...the author stands far from the great cause of the Reformation, namely the peace of one’s conscience before God’s Law, and does not have the right understanding to walk in life completely in God’s Word, so he cannot fail to fully or partially err in his judgments.
The world feels justified in "trash talk"... since Martin Luther used it!  Ah, but the world's coarse/crude/trash talk is just that – trash!  Martin Luther spoke by faith... against the true Antichrist, and for the Gospel that has never "entered into the heart of man" (1 Cor. 2:9).  And dare I say that the same thinking came to mind when I wrote "Of Whoredoms and Hemorroids (modern LCMS)" in 1995 as I came back to my Christian faith?

I discovered Luther by a return to my Christian faith... and in no other way.  Back To Luther!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Walther's sermon book Year of Grace Part 3 (Gnadenjahr)

     This continues and concludes from Part 2, the series publishing Walther's Gnadenjahr, or Year of Grace translation by Pastor Donald E. Heck.  —  In this concluding Part 3, I offer a small sampling, not a full index, of topics and terms that caught my eye... and my heart.

     I invite the reader to not only read Walther's sermons in a devotional time (as I have in a family setting), but also search for some specific topics he has covered in this book.  I made two listings below as I went through Walther's Year of Grace book: 1) Quotes and (2) Search Terms.  Neither of these are exhaustive.  Please note that Part 1 contains pages 1-180, while Part 2 contains pages 181-362.
p. 63: "According to Scripture the doctrine of Christ's person is the first, the most important, the main and fundamental doctrine of all Christianity. ... On this very point Christ's teachings are different from those of all other religions;"
p. 162: “Not the correct use of reason but the natural love of self and man's innate hatred of God it is which moves him to deny the divine origin of Holy Scripture because of the doctrines it contains which he regards as strange and incomprehensible.”
p. 254: “Where are the zealous Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians to whom St. Paul wrote? Where are the faithful Philadelphians to whom St. John wrote? Where are the glorious German congregations of whom Luther once wrote to his prince, that they were like a paradise in which young and old were provided with God’s Word, and from whom we have received our precious confessional writings and all the glorious treasures of our church?  Once they were full, of earnestness and zeal for God’s Word but now that is gone.”
p 288: "But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?" V.29 [From "The Good Samaritan", and the lawyer who tried to tempt Jesus]
p 312: "...the more peacefully he falls asleep, the more terrible will his awakening be in eternity. We are not told that the rich man died amid great anguish"
p. 304: "The thought that there is a middle road which leads to heaven is an empty dream, and those who comfort themselves with it and remain in it are lost beyond hope of deliverance. Among the ways which lead to eternity is the middle road – the highway to hell.
p. 323: "...because of which they do not recognize their daily, hourly transgressions in their greatness and huge number, that is the real root of their unbelief; that is why they loathe the doctrine of grace, hate Christ the crucified, and his holy precious reconciliation so greatly.
p. 339: "Do not be deceived by the sectarians of our day, who lead their hearers to strive unceasingly for the sweet feeling of grace and the perceptible witness of the Holy Ghost in their hearts, and not to consider themselves children of God until they have received this. This is a completely wrong order of salvation.
p. 349: "Blessed the state whose citizens are true Christians; in the peace of the country they will be solid pillars and in war the best protecting walls of the nation.  As in a realm they protect the throne of the prince, so in a republic they as·free men nourish, guard, and protect the tree of freedom.
p. 349: " worldly kingdoms government officials, even if they are Christians, should above all provide for the welfare of this life."
p. 358: "The severest temptations which can come upon Christians are really the temptations of false doctrine; and these are the temptations, which above all God's Word predicts will come upon Christendom in the last evil times, in which we are now living.
p. 358: "The fulfillment of this prophecy began in the year 66 A.D., 36 years later; the Roman army under Gessius Florus, Roman governor at that time, appeared for the first time before the gates of the holy city. At this time, the Christians quickly fled from Palestine and sought refuge in Pella, a little city lying on the other side of the Jordan. Scarcely were the Christians safe when, as the Lord predicted in our text, tribulation without parallel in world history broke upon the Jews." -- The real "Holocaust" for the Jews.

Search Terms

In my listing of search terms below, I have added specific page numbers on some of them  – otherwise the reader may do their own “text search”.

Africa / Asia / Europe (p 254: "As richly as God once visited Asia, so poor is it now; as gloriously as congregations once bloomed in Africa, so desolate is it now spiritually; as highly as God once pardoned Europe, so ravaged is it now." – by The American Luther!)
Antinomians (p. 320 ff.)
Baptism (sermon on, see pgs Trinity Sunday, pg 192 ff.)
"Believe, teach, and confess"
Chronology, Biblical Chronology p. 332
God's anger / God's wrath
Eating and drinking (heaven on earth p 10 ff.)
Death (7th Sunday after Trinity, pgs 230 ff.)
Enthusiast ... has a false faith (p. 58; p. 352: sinners' rail, class meetings, love-feasts, panel discussions, and similar institutions)
Evangelism (12th Sunday after Trinity 1, pgs 267 ff, esp 273)
German people, German ministry (p. 236-7); Germany
Heterodox: p 294 – "even among the heterodox there are those who have experienced Christ's help and will be saved"; p 296-7: "...the Samaritan even though he was a member of a heterodox sect ... but that even they receive salvation only through true faith"
Heretics should not be killed (p. 69 ff)
Holiness ("thundering hammerblows" p. 259; Holiness sermon, 11th Sun. after Trinity -1, p. 255 ff)
Holy Scripture (God's Word - Epiphany Sunday, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany)
Jews / Jew
Justification (e.g. p. 242: "for the pure doctrine of justification permits no error" – The heart of ...; p. 262: "most important article of the entire Christian faith, that is, with the justification of a person before God"
Layman (p 216 - "every Christian layman")
Martyrs (p 357: "the godless Jews and heathen hated and considered them [Christians] not only foes of the state religion but also of men and atheists." Tertullian, Eusebius, etc.)
MERE CHRISTIANITY!!  8th Sunday after Trinity!
Military service, p 349
Luther (e.g. p 239- "Had Luther permitted love and not the truth to rule in matters of doctrine, we would indeed all still be papists..."; pg 346- "Luther... publicly accused of rebellion...)
Means of grace (esp 193- "Here you have incontestable proof that whoever denies the saving power of Baptism bases salvation upon man's work and thus undermines the main pillars of Christianity, our justification alone by grace through faith."
Natural love of self,  p. 164
Protestant (so-called Protestant churches) NOTE! Trinity Sunday (p 192) directly refutes C.S. Lewis "ecumenism".; p. 293: Protestantism
Roman Catholic Church (p. 68 ff)
Holy Supper
Sacraments (esp. pg 193 against "Protestant")
Sects: p 351-- "As far as the sects are concerned, they are always speaking of faith so that one would suppose that they are not the foes of the doctrine of faith and of salvation by grace; but do not be deceived just because they repeatedly use the word faith."
Sectarians, p 339
Slaves (p. 61)
Sodom (p. 294)
So, so! (God so loved the world...)
Sunday-Christians, p. 318 ff
State, United States, government, citizenship: p. 346 ff.
Unbelief: p 164: "Is unbelief, therefore, according to the judgment of the Holy Spirit the only sin of the world? In a certain sense, yes!"; p. 337 ff. " Unbelief found in Christians".
Universal reconciliation (pg 60: "God has revealed in his Word that all men, all, even the greatest sinner, are reconciled with him through Christ")
"Universalism" - p. 295 -- "They think that one religion is as good as the next; and just as long as a person is earnest about his religion and acts as his conscience directs, he will be saved.  A heathen who zealously serves his gods, a Mohammedan who lives strictly by the Koran, and a Jew who clings scrupulously to his Jewish laws will enter heaven just as well as a Christian."
Witnessing (4th Sunday in Advent)
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May God bless the reader's use of Walther's sermons!