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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Theologian vs. layman - no contest! (scientific theologian?) Part 3

In my previous post Part 2, Pieper's citations from Luther's writings were presented in his powerful article, Foreword to the 1888 Lehre und Wehre, journal of the old (German) Missouri Synod.  (See Table of Contents with all downloads in Part 1).  Pieper was angry, angry over German theologian Albrecht Ritschl, who presumed to be master over a simple layman saying this layman (von Klencke) had "bottomless presumption" to judge him by calling out against his false doctrine.

In this Part 3, I continue translating Pieper's L.u.W. article (pages 3-5) as he expands on the modern theology that boasts of being "scientific":

(continued from Part 2)
            But also is particularly the species of theologian that is called "scientific", subject to the judgment of all Christians?  Prof. Ritschl expressly gives his academic nature as a reason why he wants to be removed from the judgment of a "layman".  He finds just the "bottomless arrogance", "that a person not professionally concerned with the science" wants to judge his, the scientific theologian, orthodoxy.  Now, the Christians of Colossa were certainly not all "personalities professionally dealing with the science", and yet the Apostle Paul bears them a judgment on the "scientific" theologians of the time, when he writes:  "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy" (Col. 2:8).  Besides: Prof. Ritschl does not possibly deal with botany in his function as a "scientific theologian", but with the doctrines of the Christian church, therefore something which concerns all Christians that their salvation hangs on, and to watch over that which all Christians have received from Christ's explicit order.  So is he also subordinated as a scientific professor to have control of all Christians.
            But are the Christians in a position to judge when scientific theologians present Christian doctrine? — Christ has put them, the Christians, as judges over all teachers of the church, so also over the scientific, and he has absolutely not made a mistake in the choice of his judges.  But that they can hold their judicial office, he has taken care of himself.  He has miraculously arranged so that the Christians also do not need to be embarrassed over the most scholarly theologians.  He has put the whole Christian doctrine to a place where "science" is not sufficient.  The place is called: Divine Revelation. And that revelation is in  [page 4]  Scripture, which presents all articles of Christian doctrine in clear, simple-minded, understandable words, not only to theologians, but to all Christians.  To this revelation is bound even the most scientific theologian with respect to any knowledge of Christian doctrine. He never goes, not even by "long-standing spiritual work", beyond even one line of this revelation.  With it's "science" – the word used once in a good sense – can the "scientific" theologian treat questions, that under certain circumstances in the forecourt, on the outer shell of Christian doctrine.  But when he presents the Christian doctrine himself, he must draw from the knowledge source that he has in common with all Christians.  As soon as he enters the actual sanctuary of the Christian faith, he must take off the shoes of science and walk in singleness of faith in divine revelation, as well as every other Christian.  He stands, as far as the knowledge of Christian doctrine, with all Christians on completely equal ground; all Christians are therefore in terms of everything that they can present on the doctrine, immediately au fait [Fr. - fully informed].  But let a scientific theologian want to get Christian doctrine by drawing from his science instead of from God's Word, so that it is incomprehensible to Christians, so have they specific instructions on how they should conduct themselves.  Then they should not marvel at such a theologian as a miracle of wisdom, but heed the judicial office ordered to them and finally flee and avoid him as a false teacher.

Did you get that?  "... flee and avoid him as a false teacher" –  i.e. Romans 16:17.  I will speak more about this aspect in Part 6 of this series.

But now Pieper pulls out some good from this muddle of "scientific theology":

            However, does not a theologian know many things that most Christians do not know, and about which they have consequently no judgment?  Without a doubt!  A theologian has historicalphilological, maybe also philosophical knowledge which is totally unknown by most so-called layman.  But all this knowledge belongs not to the area of Christian doctrine itself, but stands, rightly used, only in a serving relation to the doctrine, which is known and is certain also to simple-minded Christians by the means accessible to them.  The knowledge of the philosophical systems is under certain circumstances also of great use in the church, but by this knowledge of Christian doctrine is not able to go around one single article, yet also one single article can be thereby supported in the Christian doctrine.  The theologian who knows the history of the Christian Church, knows how the Christians and the Christian doctrine formerly fared; he knows for himself and knows how to teach Christians for their instruction how the Christian doctrine was contested in the course of the centuries and how it was defended.  But the Christian doctrine itself can he not in this way not enrich.  And regarding the knowledge of languages​​, particularly of the original languages ​​of Scripture, so is this of immense importance for the Church.  But the most linguistic theologian, what concerns the Christians brought forward and carried [page 5] forward the doctrine, never out grows to judge and control of Christians.  God has, as already above noted, by miraculous manner so furnished the Holy Scripture, that in them all articles of the Christian doctrine are expressed in the most simple-minded, clearest words.  The Scripture is in a sufficient number of points so plain and simple that any translation that deserves the name of a translation must reflect all articles of Christian doctrine, which then when reading and viewing in this translation, through the issuing of the Holy Spirit that is connected with the sense of Scripture, prove the heart and conscience of Christians as certain divine truth.  That the theologian with expertise in the base languages of Scripture [Hebrew, Greek] understands more passages of Holy Scripture and he understands them better, caeteris paribus [all things being equal], than the Christians dependent of their translation, so he now may be and should be also a teacher of Christians, but he does not gain more doctrine than the Christians faithfully using their translation.  This is the consequence of the above-mentioned miraculous nature of Scripture.  The Scripture is set up for the simple. The silly are made wise (Ps. 19:8), so wise that they examine all teaching and, as far as their faith, need be no one's servant. 
(continued in Part 4)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Pieper draws the line between good "science", and the limit of "science" in theology.  The line is drawn here: "science" must be the servant of Christian doctrine and God's Word, not their master.  Pieper beautifully points out that simple Christians cannot be controlled or judged, but rather they are the judges of their teachers.

In the next Part 4, Pieper brings out the importance of clear, understandable language for the Church.

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