It was a surprise to find that Professor Ziegler is a native of Germany and so it is also a surprise to read of his understanding of Walther in this wonderful essay. Could it be that Germans are not immune to the Gospel?
Ziegler quotes from Walther's Gesetz und Evangelium freely with his own English translations, not from the published translation by W.H.T. Dau or the new CPH translation Law & Gospel by Christian Tiews. He seems genuinely interested in the spiritual message that Walther actually taught, not historical contexts or backgrounds.
This essay provides a glimpse into the abyss of unbelief and the counterpoint of true Christian doctrine. Eduard Preuss, a renowned German theologian, came to St. Louis and became a professor there under C.F.W. Walther. He wrote a significant essay on the Doctrine of Justification for which Walther was impressed. But suddenly, he left the Lutheran Church and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He had suddenly converted from "faith alone" to "faith and works". There are far too many details of this situation to recount here so the reader is encouraged to download the whole essay and read it.
Ziegler is thoroughly correct to use Walther's Law and Gospel writing to see Walther's answer to the downfall of Preuss. His essay is a presentation described by this quote from page 296:
I want to present to you two topics that are pertinent to the entire affair. First, affliction in the Christian life. Second, the difference between "dead faith of reason" and true faith, and the question of experience.1) On the first point, "affliction in the Christian life" Ziegler explains Walther's teaching thus (pg 297):
... it is telling that Walther does not expect some kind of resolution in history as Preuss expected (i.e., the triumph of truth over its enemies and thus the growth of the true church in time). Walther's view of the church includes that there is never any kind of rest for the church and individual pastors.2) On the second point, Ziegler goes into Walther's magnificent teaching of true faith versus "historical faith":
(page 298-299) Walther mentions that he had for a while the suspicion that Preuss was not truly converted. Walther mentions one reason for this was his abrasive and uncharitable polemics. ... Secondly, true faith is existential faith: beyond believing the fides quae, it includes also the belief that my sins are forgiven.... Walther assumes that there are people who have a mere historical faith among the listeners of a sermon, thus the preacher has to point out this distinction as part of preaching the law. For that, though, it is necessary that the pastor himself knows this difference, not only intellectually, but personally, i.e., that he has true faith, not only historical faith.From this, Ziegler goes on to Walther's teaching against Roman Catholicism:
(page 300) But beyond that, Walther also says that real faith is connected to experience. In my view, he tries to go a middle way. On the one hand, he rejects the view which he associates with Methodism, a view that grounds the certainty of salvation on one's experience. On the other hand, he also rejects the total divorce of faith from experience (quoting Walther) :
- No, God's word calls to us: "Taste and see how friendly the Lord is." He who has never tasted how friendly the Lord is may not think that he is in the true faith.
(page 307) It is not surprising that Walther defended the traditional Lutheran view that the pope is the antichrist and that papacy is antichristianity.... Walther points out that the antichrist, since he sits in the church, has to mask himself with Christian doctrines. The papacy is antichristianity because it alone within Christendom (i.e., the churches which are trinitarian) is an enemy of free grace in Christ because it teaches that Christ is a new legislator and the gospel is a doctrine of works. ... The Preuss affair would have therefore only confirmed Walther's view of Roman Catholicism.But now Ziegler does an amazing thing by applying Walther's teaching to today's world:
(page 307) We, too, hear that saying the pope is antichrist is just being cranky and reactionary or that the papacy is not the enemy of Christianity but holds to the essentials of Christianity and is the bullwark against the foes of Christianity and the tide of immorality. ... But if the gospel of free grace is still condemned by Rome, then the papacy is what it was before.Ziegler continues his amazing essay by continuing to apply Walther to "all of us":
(page 308-309) The tragic apostasy of Preuss is a warning to all of us: "Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). No Christian ever simply "has" the gospel, because he is always also under the condemnation of the law. May God grant to all of us that when the law comes down on us with ferocity – when we hear the murderous voice of the accuser that wants to drive into despair – that then we do not try to find a solution for ourselves, but turn to someone who will tell us the gospel so that in the midst of our death we may have life. For this we pray in the sixth petition of the Lord's Prayer, And lead us not into temptation"...Indeed, Professor Ziegler, may God grant this to us all!
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But... as magnificent as Professor Ziegler's essay is, he has a major difficulty in his life. The difficulty?
Professor Ziegler – your life is a great struggle now since you are in fellowship with the other essayists who would rather find fault with Walther (and Pieper and Luther) ... Noland, Mayes, MacKenzie, Pless, and Scaer, etc, etc, etc. You are like Eduard Preuss in the sense that you are very knowledgeable... you know the languages fluently, you know the German theologians, you know of the doctrines involved. How can you stand there and be in fellowship with MacKenzie who said
We do not do either of these things today. We expect our heroes both to have weaknesses and to make mistakes – and they do. Martin Luther and oh, yes, C.F.W. Walther. But Walther is long gone and so is his whole approach to Martin Luther as hero and infallible teacher.You should go now to Prof. MacKenzie and show him his fault. You should explain to him your essay on Justification. You should personally explain to him Walther's teaching of "spiritually dead" faith.
Professor Cameron MacKenzie – maybe you should yield as Chairman of Historical Theology to Prof. Roland Ziegler and just sit at the feet of Luther, Walther, Pieper, and... Prof. Roland Ziegler... and forget modern theology and it's useless questions, it's spiritually dead heroes.
Rev. Paul T. McCain – you should replace all current editors and translators (including Mayes) of the New Series of Luther's Works with this man, Professor Roland F. Ziegler.
Dear God! There is a German native in today's world that can actually teach like Luther and Walther. But Professor Ziegler – there is another great native German man, Walther's successor