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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

German pastor (not Bonhoeffer) in 1931: Back To Luther! Part 1

There is a lot of "buzz" in today's religious media about Bonhoeffer... just type "Dietr" into a Google search box and it returns everything about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  But it was a different pastor in Germany in 1931 that Franz Pieper took note of... one who is not popularly known.  Who was he?  In the last year of his life, 1931, Pieper wrote of this pastor in Concordia Theological Monthly (CTM, vol. 2, pgs 309-312).  I posted a blog last year in November from this same article to show Pieper's comments against modern Germany's misunderstanding of Luther.  But this time I will bring out Pieper's amazement over this German pastor in 1931.  Who was this pastor? Franz Pieper begins:
A "Back To Luther!" reputation of a German Pastor.  Pastor Ernst Herrmann of Esslingen has planned for the people an edition of Luther under the title "Martin Luthers Ausgewählte Werke" [Selected Works of Martin Luther].   The edition will comprise six volumes, of which the first has just been published.  Pastor Herrmann was not able to carry out himself what he planned. The "A.E.L.K." reported: " In a long illness, which banished him to the bedside, he was still at work... . But still he wrote an excellent preface that is pre-printed in the first volume, and it also shows what a pious and ardent spirit for God and his Church that this work was produced."
The pastor was Ernst Herrmann.  He had written the "Preface" [Geleitswort] to this new German publication of Luther's works.  And Pieper had obtained a copy:
When the first volume of this work came before us, our eyes were fixed on the "Preface"
What was it that caught Pieper's eye?  Was there yet a spark of life in Germany?  Pieper had written so much of the apostasy of Germany's "great" theological teachers such as Harnack, Ritschl, and others. But whenever something catches Pieper's eye, all Christianity should turn its attention to it.  He goes on:
It is most suitable what we have read about the unique value of Luther's writings.  Pastor Ernst Herrmann covers the points of damage to today's piety. He shows that this devotion is not for peace of conscience, nor can it lead to certainty in the truth, because it is not confined to the objective Word of God, but ultimately is based on one's own reason; and not on God's mercy in Christ, but (page 310) is based on man's own work. Of genuine biblical Lutheranism Herrmann says: “In Luther's school one learns to refrain from himself completely and rest on what is outside us.”  From the modern model the pious "never come out from the inner lie and never to a firm support for life and death".  Therefore Herrmann admonished: "Back to Luther!" and sees in the return to Luther "a vital question for our evangelical Christendom".
(continued in the next Part 2)
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1931.  In the waning years of the Weimar Republic, not long before the Nazi party gained power in Germany's government, there was a German pastor who fought against the tide of unbelief in his land of Germany and cried out:
Zurück zu Luther!... Back To Luther!
But Germany had long before thrown Luther off.  Even great German Lutheran teachers thought of today by some so-called "confessional" Lutherans, such as Hermann Sasse and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, were not the true Lutheran leaders the Germans should have listened to.  They should have listened to this Pastor Ernst Herrmann.  But just like today's LC-MS which ignores Franz Pieper, so the Germans ignored Herrmann.

I will have more to comment on Dietrich Bonhoeffer at a later time... and it will not be a comment like that of Herman Otten of Christian News, for there was at least one aspect of Bonhoeffer that a Christian cannot overlook... it was near the time of his death.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer apparently took no notice of Franz Pieper and the old (German) Missouri Synod... and neither did Franz Pieper take notice of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  But it was Franz Pieper who was the 20th Century Luther, not Bonhoeffer.

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