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Friday, June 22, 2012

Pieper: The Open Heaven, Part 9 (Walther battles Am. Lutherans)

In Part 8 (Table of Contents in Part 1) of this series, Pieper recounts the great battle where Walther defended the attacks of a German Reformed teacher against the Lutheran Church.  But now it was teachers within the Lutheran Church in America who had to be faced.  Pieper introduces the participants in this battle (page 283):
     About eight years after this Reformed attack on the doctrines of God's universal grace had been repulsed, there followed a public assault upon the doctrine of "grace alone." As already stated, this assault was made by Lutheran theologians in our own country and was carried on with a vehemence heretofore unknown.
     In oft-repeated statements it was contended – and represented as Lutheran doctrine – that man's conversion and salvation depend on his right conduct, namely, on his self-determination for, and willing acceptance of, divine grace. In short, man's eternal destiny, so it was said, is rooted in his own free will; for it is entirely a matter of man's own choice as to whether he wishes God to have compassion on him or not. (Cf. Monatshefte, 1872, pp. 87. 88.)
     The additional charge was made that the Missouri Synod, which refused to accept this doctrine as truly Lutheran, had become Calvinistic, that is, it had fallen away from the doctrine of universal grace, just as Luther had denied universal grace until about the year 1527, especially in his book against Erasmus. (Monatshefte, 1872, p. 21.)
The charges in the journal Monatshefte were from Professor G. Fritschel of the old Iowa Synod, a forerunner of today's ELCA.  One has to almost laugh when someone charged the old (German) Missouri Synod of "Calvinism".  Even more serious is the idea that Luther denied universal grace until the year 1527.
Pieper recounts how Walther battled this pernicious error (page 283):
Dr. Walther made a detailed reply to this attack upon the sola gratia from within the Lutheran ranks in Vol. XVIII of Lehre and Wehre (1872), in an article entitled "Is It Really True Lutheran Doctrine that Man's Salvation in the Last Analysis Depends on His Own Free Decision?"  ... It shows most convincingly that according to the doctrine of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions man's conversion and salva­tion depend on God's grace, not only in part nor only for the greatest part, but wholly. He shows also that the contrary opinion, according to which God's counsel of grace and His compassion on man are conditioned upon man's good conduct, reduces the doctrine of God's grace in Christ to an empty phrase, so that it "goes up in smoke," thus closing to man the heaven that Christ has opened. (Lehre and Wehre, 1872, pp. 322ff. 329.)
But Pieper shows how Walther, Martin Chemnitz and the Lutheran Formula of Concord also bear witness to the distinction between true Lutheran doctrine and Rome (pgs 284-285):
     In the same volume of Lehre and Wehre Dr. Walther writes: "A theology which changes faith into a work of man and seeks to show that the reason why certain men are saved while others are lost is to be found in man's own free decision or in his conduct or in his cooperation is distinguished from the papistical doctrine of justification only as to its terminology," that is, not actually, but only nominally. (1872, p. 352.)
     As Dr. Walther, sixty-seven years ago, declared every theology to be papistical which makes man's salvation dependent on his good conduct, so Martin Chemnitz, the chief author of the Formula of Concord, also maintained this three hundred and fifty-one years ago at the Colloquy of Herzberg. The Formula of Concord, which teaches that those who are saved must plead guilty of the same evil conduct as those who are lost, since otherwise the Christian doctrine of grace would be discarded, was completed as early as 1577. However, at the Colloquy of Herzberg in August, 1578, the delegate of Anhalt asserted that he wished to adhere to the view that the difference in human conduct is the cause of conversion and salvation, just as the later Melanchthon had done. But Chemnitz countered with this reproof: "Then send your confession concerning the free will to Andradius in Spain or to Tiletanus in Louvain; indeed, send it to Rome, so that the Pope himself may give his approval to it."
 Now Pieper holds up the real champion of Christianity of "modern" times ... C.F.W. Walther!  It was C.F.W. Walther, through whom God brought back the Church from the devil's onslaughts (pgs 285-286):
     Now, God in His infinite grace has led the Lutheran Church in America back to the doctrine of the Church of the Reformation: but He has at the same time entrusted it with the duty to resist every "counter reformation," that is, every return to the camp of Romanism, which has cropped out in our country under the Lutheran label and still wields its influence.  Walther was right indeed when he said that every theology which seeks the reason why certain men are saved while others are lost in their own free choice or in their conduct or in their cooperation differs from the papistical doctrine of justification only in its terminology. Hence the actual result of this theology, reduced to practise, can only be Romanistic, that is, it can cause only doubt and despair with regard to divine grace and in that way closes the portals of heaven.
Unlike his colleague Professor Eduard Preuss who had "abrasive and uncharitable polemics" (and left the Lutheranism to become Catholic), Walther was not this way.  Pieper refers to both Walther and Luther on this this topic (pages 283-284):
     In spite of all this Dr. Walther was very careful, mild, and gracious in judging the actual personal convictions of his opponents. (L. c., p. 329.) He assumed the possibility, in a spirit of love, that his adversaries were traveling along their "dangerous path of error" against their own will and that, as far as they were Christians, they were really teaching doctrines which they themselves did not believe.
     Regarding this last statement it may be pointed out that Luther expressly states in his writings against Erasmus that even Christians are capable of such things. Erasmus had pointed out to Luther that "saints," that is, persons whose faith Luther did not deny, had attributed to man a free will in spiritual matters. Luther made this rejoinder: Those saints have indeed done this, but only inter disputandum, that is, while they were disputing among men. But when they approached God in prayer, they entirely (penitus) forgot about their free will in spiritual matters, despaired of their own righteousness, and besought for themselves "only the pure grace" of God, solam et puram gratiam. (St. L. Ed., XVIII, 1729.)
What a wonderful essay this is by Pieper!  If the reader wants to know Luther, Lutheranism, the Lutheran Confessions, Walther and indeed what Christianity is, then read this essay!  How Pieper poured his heart into this.

In the next installment of this series, Part 10, Pieper goes on to talk of The Chain of Salvation and how to keep it strong.

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