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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pieper: The Open Heaven, Part 3 (Closed by Unitarians)

In Part 2 of this blog series (Table of Contents in Part 1), Franz Pieper showed how the doctrine of The Open Heaven gives the correct world-view.
But now in Part 3, he begins to show how various groups close Heaven.  He prefaces with these comments (page 264):
But now the question confronts us, Why is it that not all men actually enter heaven? This leads us to discuss a subject that is tragic indeed - the melancholy fact that men reject the heaven which Christ has opened unto them and thus lock themselves out of it. ... Hence we must beware of all those who want to shut the open heaven.  That is the purpose of this rather depressing discussion, which we might entitle "The Closing of Heaven."
Depressing indeed!  But who would close the doors of Heaven?  Pieper describes his first group:
Heaven is being closed most flagrantly by the Unitarians and by all those religious denominations and bodies which deny that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself. The Unitarians reject the eternal, essential deity of Christ and as a logical consequence also the reconciliation of the world through Christ's vicarious satisfaction, or atonement (satisfactio vicaria).
How further do these Unitarians perversely rail against God's doctrine?
They declare that the Christian doctrine that God has reconciled the world unto Himself and thus opened heaven to all men through Christ's vicarious suffering and death is both superfluous and morally perversive. Accordingly, they – together with the Unitarian lodges – even challenge all Christians to kneel with the Jews, Buddhists, Confucianists, and other representatives of pagan religions "before a common altar."
An interesting comment indeed since the leadership of the LC-MS in recent years did just that – "...offering prayers along with assorted Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist clergy,"  Hmmm... either Pieper is completely off base, or... Heaven Is Open for all through Christ, the Saviour of the World from sin and spiritual death.
But now Pieper cites a surprising case – a noted Unitarian teacher denying his erroneous doctrine.  Pieper writes pages 267-268):
We know of a number of professed Unitarians who during their entire lifetime opposed the vicarious atonement of Christ, yet sought refuge in that doctrine when they were about to die. In our own United States, Horace Bushnell († 1876) repudiated the vicarious sacrifice of Christ as long as he lived; but in the hour of death he declared. as reported by L. W. Munhall: "I fear what I have written and said upon the moral idea of the atonement is misleading and will do great harm. O Lord Jesus, I trust for mercy only in the shed blood that Thou didst offer on Calvary." (Cf. Strong. Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 739-740.) ... we find the confession of Unitarians themselves that there is an open heaven only by virtue of Christ's vicarious atonement and that all those lock themselves out of heaven who disown this vicarious sacrifice and prefer to blaze their own trail to salvation by their merits and works.
Who else wants to close the doors of The Open Heaven?  See my next post Part 4 - Calvinists.

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