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Monday, May 14, 2012

Pieper & Walther on... Luther and his writings (Part 1) — "The Fruitful Reading of Luther's Writings"

[August 10, 2015: added note in red at bottom]
Today's (English) LC-MS says this about Luther and his writings:
It is widely ... assumed that Luther's personal writings and opinions have some official status among us (thus, sometimes implying the responsibility of contemporary Lutheranism for those statements, if not complicity in them) ...  we deplore and disassociate ourselves from Luther's negative statements about the Jewish people...
So today's LC-MS has, despite some statements of it's theologians and representatives, condemned Luther, at least in some of his writings.

Unlike today's modern theologians and even most Lutherans, the old German Missouri Synod viewed the writings of Luther as unique over all other theologians.  In February 1930 (CTM volume 1, pgs 81-84), Franz Pieper summarized a paper that C.F.W. Walther submitted for a conference of pastors about the writings of Luther:

“The fruitful reading of Luther's writings.”
Under this title is located in volume 33 of “Lehre und Wehre a paper that Dr. Walther submitted and discussed at that time [about 1887] to the pastoral conference of Missouri.  The purpose of the paper was to encourage the pastors to earnestly read Luther's writings.  The writer of these lines remembers that Walther nearly obliged the members of the conference that they would bring “a marvellous passage” from Luther in which they had encountered with their reading of Luther “to the next conference” and thus also allow other members to enjoy their "finding". 
Walther's paper is written in thesis form, and already the first thesis points out that a unique meaning comes with Luther's writings in comparison with all other theological writings. The first thesis is:  "To desire and love the reading and studying of Luther's writings, it is necessary before all things that one visualises vividly that Luther is to be reckoned not with the usual pure theologians, but the reformer selected by God of the church and was the revealer and slayer of the Antichrist.”  In carrying out this thesis, it states: "Luther is the only theologian who is prophesied in Scripture. He is beyond all doubt, the angel that Revelation 14:6 speaks of. He is no doubt the one who after 2 Thess. 2 reveals the Antichrist and should destroy him. . . . . Through Luther, God has opened the eyes that previously honored the pope in blindness as Successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ for thousands and millions. Luther does not have anyone comparable with him after the apostles and prophets in the church.  One can name not one single doctrine which Luther did not formulate in the clearest and most splendid way.  Would it not now be unspeakable ingratitude against God, who has sent us this man, if we did not want to listen to his voice?  Then we would not have recognized the time that God us has visited us.
How I love to "re-hash the in-house" theology (a term Kurt Marquart used) of the old German Missouri Synod!   And as Pieper pointed to Walther who pointed to Luther, so I point to Pieper as the last true speaker for the true Lutheran Church today.  Virtually all theologians outside the Synodical Conference and the old Missouri Synod did not know Luther.  This exclusion especially means modern German theologians! Walther touches on this later...

Because of the importance of Pieper's article, I will continue it in the next post, Part 2.
The series totals 8 parts – see Part 8 for a Table of Contents for all 8 posts.
[August 10, 2015: See also Matthew Harrison's translation of Walther's original essay in his book At Home..., pgs 333-343)]

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