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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dr. F. Pieper als Theolog (Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian)

I stated on my other website the following:
Who was it that Concordia Publishing House chose to write the biography of Dr. Franz Pieper at his death in 1931? Professor Theodore Graebner, the one who now charges in 1938 (and 1936 privately) Pieper with writing a "meaningless" letter and bringing "injustice" to Preus and Torrison...
However after studying the articles in Concordia Theological Monthly after Pieper's death, I must say there is an article by Prof. Ludwig Fuerbringer (Fürbringer), his successor as Concordia Seminary president, that does some justice to Dr. Pieper.  If only he had been stronger in resisting the poison of unionism being pounded into the Missouri Synod by his fellow professor Theodore Graebner.  Here is the English translation of Fuerbringer's German language article from CTM, volume 2, October, 1931, pages 721-723 [updated link]:
Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian
(by L. Fürbringer)
     In 1888, almost a year after the death of Dr Walther on May 7, 1887, began a series of articles under the headline "Dr. C.F.W. Walther as Theologian" (vol. 34, pg 97) in the April issue of "Lehre und Wehre" (Doctrine and Defense, ed.) by Professor F. Pieper, the fine young colleague and successor to the presidency of the seminary at St. Louis. These articles went through four years – five appeared in 1888, five in 1889, nine in 1890 and two in 1891, a total of twenty-one articles.  These masterful articles, which probably deserve to be reprinted,  present by Professor Pieper Walther's entire theological position on the basis of careful research through his entire literary activity, and Walther's position treated on every major point of Christian doctrine. Such an article should really appear, now that Dr. Pieper has gone home on June 3, and bring his position in all parts of Christian doctrine to representation. But such an article would require, as just the series of articles about Walther shows, longer, more detailed study of the publications of Dr. Pieper in books and magazines in his more than 50-year public activity from 1878 to 1931, and therefore could appear only after a long time and would also, if it should be fairly complete, extend over yearsHowever, even apart from that just mentioned, it seems that such a series of articles is not so necessary, as was the case for Walther, for from Pieper was to come – and we say with heartfelt gratitude to God and in grateful remembrance of the departed what had not come from Walther in spite of his eminent and many-sided activities, namely the preparation of a detailed dogmatics. Though Walther did have a new edition of J.G. Baier Compendium Theologiae Positiva procured, in fact, an editio auctior et emendatio (new, improved edition, ed.), as the title says, because he had so many of the most precious additions added in quotations from ancient and modern times, these so-called additamenta (additions, ed.) are more extensive than the original compendium and are in some sense a dogmatics of Walther and can retain their value over time for all.  (page 722) It was interesting to me as I looked to see that the first post of Pieper to "Lehre und Wehre" (Doctrine and Defense", ed.) was a display and recommendation of just this first issue of this work of Walther (vol. 24, p. 371). Dr Pieper, however, was fated to present his own independent presentation of Christian doctrine, and his three-volume "Christian Dogmatics" in the years 1917 to 1924 appeared (also including the 1928 detailed index volume almost indispensable for the right use of the work) which brought his position on every single point of Christian doctrine, and that is in all points the biblical - Lutheran doctrine. The work displays all the qualities that always distinguished Pieper's oral and written presentation: first make clear, definite, and intelligible exposition comprehensible; because Pieper was always vigorously for the principle that anyone who is clear in doctrine, can and must also clearly explain this doctrine; that Christian doctrine is not only the property of scholars, but Christians, and that in order to understand the truth, one must stand in the truth.  This educational presentation is then demonstrated sharply, clearly and certainly from God's word as the sole source and norm of all doctrine and confirmed as Lutheran with evidence from the confessions of the Lutheran Church and the writings of it's fathers. Here also the academic nature does not fall short, but rather, anyone who knows and uses this work must recognize that even all the necessary text-critical, exegetical, historical and doctrinal historical explanations, especially in the comments, are presented. And finally, we say of this work of imperishable glory, that the whole presentation is not only a reason theology but also a heart theology, practical in the full and best sense of the word, and so meets the purpose of each correct Dogmatics like all true theology, namely, to speak by Pieper with the words of our old, so esteemed and thoroughly studied theologians, ad sensum sacrae Scripturae inveniendum atque aliis demonstrandum .... salutem ad hominum Deique honorem (to discover the sense of Sacred Scripture and the other to  demonstrate.... for man's salvation and God's honor, ed.). I may probably say at this point that I have perused Pieper's dogmatics when each volume appeared after the other to make from beginning to end word-by-word with the pencil in the hand, in order to make notes carefully to myself with the greatest interest and benefit; and if there are found repetitions frequently, then it is partly due to the emergence of the work from very different periods, and partly due to impress with deliberate effort certain basic truths in ever-changing connections. What has been said here has also been expressed by theologians outside of our own Synod.  (page 723)  In 1924, a German university professor in Systematics, who belongs to the sharpest theological-philosophical thinkers of the present, but is definitely not on our theological position, wrote me: "The Dogmatics of Dr Pieper is already known and valuable to me. I find many thoughts that are familiar and meaningful. I am particularly pleased of an extensive agreement in the doctrine of the sacraments. But especially important to me is that the principle controlling the whole dogmatics is to go back to Luther. This has also been for my theology the determining point of view. We stand, however, in different historical connections than the American Lutherans, so that in detail probably some differences show; but nevertheless it is also with us a deepening in Luther's thoughts the longer, to notice all the more." And recently a German-American theologian, who has struggled through in hot battles with the Lutheran doctrine, wrote me:  "The last nine months were the hardest of my life. Augustine's interpretation of John chapter 6 about the spiritual enjoyment of the sacred meal used the evil enemy, to drive me into such confusion, that I almost would have told the Lutheran church Valet (or be my servant? ed.). However, God's good Spirit bothered me again to get Dr Pieper's Dogmatics and to compare the teaching at the hands of Scripture, Luther and the Confessions. Saying heartfelt thanks to God, I have come through his grace now to achieve clarity and inner peace.Whoever looks honestly, today also finds, I have learnt literally.... .... Next to the grace of God, Dr. Pieper's incomparable dogmatic theology has helped me to full peace and clarity. All my doubts and concerns have disappeared."
Yet if we are preparing now to publish here a short article about Dr. Pieper as a theologian, we want to emphasize just two points, but just the main points of right biblical-Lutheran theology; and anyone who has read and heard something of Dr. Pieper knows that he arrived at his theology especially on those two points. They are in truth the principles and therefore also the hallmarks of genuine Lutheran theology. These are the two basic truths, that Pieper pronounced as a true Lutheran theologian (who knows how many times) and laid to the heart in old, known ways yet ever new connections of the Church: sola scriptura and sola gratia.
I have omitted several pages at this point that quote from Pieper's various writings on these points because they are sufficiently covered in his volumes of Christian Dogmatics and in the Brief Statement of 1932.
As I read Fürbringer's article, I decided to search his other published writings.  But I could not find that he continued with the spiritual strength of Pieper and he wrote more of reminiscing of the old Missouri Synod.  Unfortunately this allowed the spirit of unionism to gain a foothold and brought the downfall of this once beautiful church body.  Dear God! ... how beautiful it was!
Lord have mercy on us and send teachers as Luther, Walther, and Pieper again!  Thank thee for giving us tools to unlock their many untranslated German writings so that we may feast more on thy doctrine as thou hast given us in thy Scriptures!  In Jesus precious name I pray.  Amen!

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