Back To Luther... and the old (German) Missouri Synod. Below are thoughts, confessions, quotations from a Missouri Synod Lutheran (born 1952) who came back to his old faith... and found more treasures than he knew existed in the training of his youth.
The great Lutheran lineage above: Martin Luther, C.F.W. Walther, Franz Pieper.
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Sunday, March 24, 2013
Faith of Our Fathers – Bente, Part 3 (Inspiration / Inerrancy)
This continues from Part 2 of the 16-page essay from Prof. Friedrich Bente (Intro in Part 1). In this final Part 3, Bente covers another great battle fought by the fathers of the old Missouri Synod – Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures.
----------------------------- Part 3 --------------------------------
Following the Faith of Our Fathers.
Read at the Convention of the Missouri Synod
in Fort Wayne, in June, 1923,
PROF. F. BENTE.
Let Us Follow Our Fathers in Their Firm
Adherence to the
Inspiration and Inerrancy of the Bible.
When our fathers embarked for America, the old Fatherland was
still in the grip of vulgar rationalism. This demon had dethroned revelation,
subjected the Scripture to carnal reason, denied its supernaturalism,
eliminated its miracles, scrapped the creeds, rejected all doctrines
specifically Christian, ostracized Christ's atoning sacrifice, and revived the
old heathen belief that man is saved by efforts of his own in leading a decent
moral life. Such were the views also of the rationalists, by whom our fathers (Loeber,Keyl, Walther,Buenger,Sihler,
etc.) were surrounded and instructed in schools, colleges, and universities.
The well-known story of how Wyneken was examined for the holy ministry byarank
infidel who scoffed at the miracles of the Bible, illustrates the condition
then prevailing everywhere. Spiritual death reigned supreme. Only a few oases
remained, where the grace of God had kept the living waters flowing.
Our fathers were among the first to regain the old Gospel-truth.
And once having experienced its life-giving power, they loathed the teachings
of the rationalists, even as the rationalists abhorred the doctrine of grace.
When, therefore, our fathers began to live, confess, preach, and practice in
accordance with their new convictions, they met with opposition everywhere. They
were derided and ridiculed
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pietists, and hypocrites by the multitude, and harassed and persecuted as
fanatics and disturbers of the peace by rationalistic superintendents and civil
As a result the fear began to grow on our fathers that, in the
stifling atmosphere surrounding then, their faith, and especially the faith of
their children, could not survive and certainly would not be able to expand and
develop its being. They longed for a country where they might believe, and
teach, and preach, and practice, and worship according to the dictates of their
consciences, unhampered by authorities, civil or ecclesiastical.
And what was it that bound their consciences? It
was theholyBible, which they regarded as the Word of
God, inspired by the HolyGhost,
inerrant in all its statements, the, norm of faith and life, binding on every
Christian and Christian congregation. Their principle was: "To the Law
and to the Testimony!" [Isaiah 8:20]They believed even as Christ says:
"The Scripture cannot be broken." They followed the faith of Paul,
"believing all things which are written in the Law and in the
Prophets." With the Formula of Concord they declared "We receive and
embrace with all our heart the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountain of Israel, the only true
standard by which all teachers and doctrines are to be judged."
A clear word of Scripture made heaven and earth a placetoonarrow
for Luther. The same was true of our fathers. They held:"Scriptura locuta, causafinita– Scriptures having spoken, the question
is decided, settled." The fundamental premise of all their
teaching, preaching, writing, arguing, and laboring was: "The Bible is
infallible." With childlike faith they believed every fact and doctrine
there recorded: creation of heaven and earth, the miracles, the revelations,
and the prophecies; Christ's incarnation, virgin birth, atoning sacrifice, and
resurrection; supernatural regeneration, justification, and eternal salvation.
There was not a single statement of the Bible to which our fathers took
"The dearest child of faith is the miracle." This
favorite quotation fromGoethewas reversed by our fathers. Faith, they
said, does not beget, but is begotten by, the supernatural facts and truths of
Christianity. The miraculous is not the product, but the cause of faith. From
beginning to end redemption and salvation, they held, is the work, not of
natural resident forces in man, but of intervening supernatural divine grace
Indeed, as you all well know,our fathers thoroughly purged theology, notably the
doctrines of justification, conversion, and election by grace alone, from the
leaven of every kind of unbelief. Their theology was Scriptural
throughout. From rind to core it was nowhere infected with the virus
of rationalism. And this attitude they never abandoned or modified in the
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When our fathers bade farewell to the Old World, hopeful signs of
a coming revival of faith began to multiply in Germany.Hengstenberg,Claus Harms,
and other theologians were zealous in restoring the old Christian truths and
in purging the sanctuary from the desecrations wrought by the rationalists.
Christians began to rejoice, and theologians diagnosed: "Rationalism is on
its death-bed, breathing its last." Apparently a new Gospel-day was
But Satan, too, was busy. In previous centuries he had propagated
his lies chiefly by hiding or perverting the Scriptures. Now he planned to make
short work of it all. His scheme was to deal a fatal blow to
Christianity by destroying the Bible itself. The foundation blasted, the
superstructure would come down of itself, he argued. The bottom blown out of
theology, it would be a simple matter to dispose of its doctrinal cargo.
began the deadly work. He abandoned the old Scripture-method and injected into
reviving theology the serum of "science." He
fooled the theologians into believing that there was a superior, a scientific
way of establishing the Christian doctrines, viz., by theological reasoning on
the basis of facts, such subjective facts as religious feeling, experience, and
Christian consciousness. In phraseology the"new theology"resembled, or at any rate seemed to
resemble, the old. In reality, however, it wasa theology
detached from the Scriptures, devoid of the pure Gospel, and employing
disingenuously and deceptively old terms in an entirely new and erroneous
was nothing short of phenomenal. A galaxy of illustrious theologians
followed in his wake. "Scientific Theology" – that was the phrase
conjured with in every university.
The "new theology" was presented by its various
protagonists in various modifications, with different degrees of deviation from
the Christian truth. But they all abandoned and disavowed unanimously the
infallibility and absolute reliability of the Scriptures. All were enthusiastic
advocates of the new scientific method. They all pooh-poohed the old way of
establishing a doctrine by simply quoting a clear text of Scripture, – the method
employed by Christ and the apostles and restored by Luther. Theology, they
said, had advanced to a higher plane, to the scientific stage. Hence
it was no longer in need of an inspired, inerrant Bible and had no further use
for the old, crude proof-text method.
Such was their boast. But in reality the theology
inaugurated by Schleiermacher marked the beginning of the end. It
took the lid off. Before long seven demons much more radical began their work
of destruction. Everywhere the walls of schools and universities began to
reverberate with the slogans of Higher Criticism, Darwinism, Evolutionism,
Naturalism, Pan-Babylonianism, etc. With uncanny zeal and feverish haste the
modernists and radicals
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incessant stream of destructive literature into the churches. For decades,
attack after attack, broadside after broadside, was directed against the Bible
: its authenticity, integrity, authority, revelation, inspiration. inerrancy,
miracles, and supernatural doctrines.
The result was appalling. The Holy Scriptures were torn into
shreds. Not a book was left intact. Frequently nothing remained but the
empty covers of the Bible. The dogmatic cathedral reared by Lutheran
theologians of rocks quarried by Luther from the Scripture came down. Every
Christian doctrine went by the board. Religion and morality were destroyed. Materialism,
atheism, and agnosticism began to flourish. It was a spiritual world war that was
fought: Christianity pitted against modern heathenism; Scripture against
reason; faith against science falsely so called. It was a war that left the
churches devastated and the so-called Christian nations in a condition which,
in a measure, also made for the late bloody war with its cruel aftermaths.
Entire Christendom was flooded with liberalism, its farthermost
waves finally striking even the mission-fields in Japan, China, and India. The
alarming extent to which the Reformed sectarians (who, by the way, are
rationalists inherently) took to the virus is evidenced bytheFundamentalists and their frantic efforts to check the contagion– as reported daily also by our secular
Among the chief sufferers were the Lutheran churches in Germany. Even
their most conservative universities have for years not harbored a single
theologian holding a prominent chair, who dared to endorse and defend the
inerrancy of the Bible. Nor did the Lutheran Church in America
prove entirely immune against the infection. Aside from stray liberalistic
utterances some of her theologians made bold to deny the absolute inerrancy of
the Scripture. It was the first attack of American Lutherans on the foundation
of our theology since the days of the rationalistQuitman. –
What of our fathers? How were they affected by these onslaughts
on the Bible? Did theygrowfaint when they beheld even such Lutherans
asHofmann,Kahnis,Frank, andLuthardtarrayed against them? Did they make
concessions or offer quarters to the enemy?
Our fathers fully realized that – the inerrancy doctrine removed –
the entire Lutheran theology would be in the air, built in the clouds. "If
the foundations be destroyed," they said. "what can the righteous
do?" But they were not confounded. They fought many a trying
battle, but perhaps none with greater cheerfulness and equanimity than the one
for the inspiration of the Bible. When this doctrine became increasingly
the center about which the storms were brewing, they were not discomfited. They
remained calm when the
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waves ran high.
They were satisfied that the rock on which their theology was built could not
be swept away.
They were surea
priorithat their cause must come
out victorious, all portals of hell and the sophistries of human reason to the
Our fathers were in possession of the "good thing"
spoken of Heb. 13:9. Their hearts were established. "established with
grace," the grace of the Gospel. In true repentance, they, by the power
of God, clung to the Word of pardon, which carried conviction to their hearts –
conviction, divine conviction, also with respect to the words of Christ:
"The Scripture cannot be broken." Indeed, it was high ground which
they occupied: the verbal inspiration and absolute inerrancy of the Scriptures.
they knew that just such was the pinnacle upon which God Himself had placed the
Scriptures. Faith made our fathers sure that heaven and earth would
pass away rather than one iota of the Bible.
As to scientific theology, which puts aside the Word of God, our
fathers held that it was impossible for any one to arrive at any knowledge
whatsoever regarding God's gracious will toward sinners by philosophic,
scientific, or any other kind of human reasoning. Divine
revelation from above alone, they held, can supply this need. Scientific
theology, parading as Christian, yet boasting that its doctrines are neither
drawn from, nor established by, the Scriptures, our fathers viewed and
denounced as a mere satanic delusion and deception.
The same firm and definite stand they took regarding the objections
advanced against the inspiration doctrine by scientists. Our
fathers held: God is the Author of the book of nature, man, and history, as
well as of the Book of Revelation. Hence the former, correctly read and
interpreted, can never conflict with the declarations of the latter. Even when unable to solve an apparent contradiction, our fathers
felt satisfied that a future better reading of the book of nature and history
would in every case vindicate the clear Word of God. It was in keeping with the
mind of our fathers when recently an Eastern theologian remarked:
"Wherever and whenevertherehas been sufficient documentary evidence to
make an investigation, the statements of the Bible have stood the test."
Accordingly, our fathers feared nothing for the inspiration doctrine
from the sciences – nothing from philosophy, nothing from astronomy, nothing
from geology, paleontology, archeology, psychology, history, and lower,
higher, or any other kind of criticism. Our fathers were assured that nothing
ever would or could turn up anywhere that might upset the Bible – nothing that has
occurred in the past or will occur in the future; nothing that has been, or ever
will be, discovered in the heavens above or on or in the earth below.
--- Page 14 ---
"He that believeth shall not make haste." By building
on the rock, faith partakes of the nature of a rock. Faith
isadivine conviction, supernaturally wrought by the Holy Spirit, hence impregnable
against, and altogether unapproachable by, any kind of human argument, scientific
or otherwise. Such being the faith also of our fathers, they held their ground;
surrendered nothing; made no concessions; deviated not a hair's breadth from the
old Lutheran position concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
delivered to us a fortress intact – nowhere a rock torn from the foundation, nowhere
a breach, all walls strong and plumb.
Results? Down to
the present day not a solitary modernist has ever been heard on the floor of the
Synod which our fathers founded. Nor has a liberalist ever occupied a chair
in her colleges and seminaries or filled a pulpit of her congregations.Concordia Publishing
House – also founded by our fathers – in its publications, from the first issue
of theLutheranerdown to its latest book or pamphlet, there cannot
be found a single sentence endorsing Darwinism, evolution, or any other liberal
doctrine. The entire literature of our Synod does not contain a single statement
which in any way denies the incarnation, the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection,
or any other Christian miracle,nor even a single passage that charges the Bible with
any kind of error – religious, historical, chronological, astronomical.
This large convention, together with all the pastors, professors. teachers,
and laymen which it represents, believes and confesses the old creeds of Christendom
– the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed – sincerely, unanimously,
without reservation, or without taking exception to a single clause. We all, with
all our hearts, still sing all our old Lutheran hymns, including "O grosse
Not, Gott selbst ist tot," "O Haupt voll Blut and Wunden.""Christ ist erstanden yon der Marter alle,"
etc. As for the old Lutheran liturgies
and sacred forms for Baptism, the Holy Eucharist, ordination, etc., there cannot
be found among us a single pastor or congregation desiring to modify them doctrinally.
From the day of its organization in 1847 down to this convention in
1923 there have not appeared within our Synod any symptoms of doctrinal liberalism.
the grace of God all this is a fruit of the firm and faithful stand of our fathers.
And that the entire American Lutheran Church is infected in a much smaller degree
than any other large denomination, this, too, is due, in a measure, to the same
Such, dear brethren, being the blessings in the past, may we also in
the future tread where our fathers trod! As yet the last battle has not been won.
The assaults on the Bible are growing in number, virulence, and boldness. Especially in our country the churches as well as the
general public are being literally swamped with liberalism
--- Page 15 ---
The fight must be continued! Indeed, if ever, now is the time for Christians everywhere
to gird their loins and to take a decided stand. I say, "a decided stand."
modernists are merely cultured heathen with whom Christians cannot worship in the
sanctuary. In the state, in business, and as neighbors we are able to associate
and live in peace with everybody. But in the Church, harmony can no more
obtain between Christians and outspoken liberals than between God and the devil.
Wherever liberals are tolerated in Christian pews, pulpits, and chairs, the Church
has sprung a leak and must eventually go down.
The Fundamentalists, referred to above, are, in a
way, putting up a noble fight.Yet they are
bound to lose unless they sever absolutely every tie now binding them to the Darwinists,
so numerous and prominent in their churches. Brethren,Obstamus principiis! Let us
guard against surrendering the first inch of the holy ground, delivered intact
to us by our fathers. Let us continue to stand firmly and determinedly
by our old Lutheran doctrine of the inspiration and complete inerrancy of the Bible.
us never depart from the Word of Christ: "The Scripture cannot be broken."
But, mark well, we shall succeed only if we abide in the faith which
made our fathers strong. May we, therefore, realize daily and increasingly
our own sinfulness and helplessness, at the same time seeking refuge in the pardoning
grace of God! "Repent and believe!" this, as said above, is the
only road leading to Christian certainty. Faith is the God-given assurance that Christianity
is real, that the Word of God is true. Living faith alone can save us also from
the floods of modern unbelief.No amount of learning, scientific knowledge,
or apologetic reasoning (valuable as it may be) can serve as a substitute. As long
as we are firmly rooted in the saving Gospel-truth, the center of the Bible, nothing
will be able to destroy our simple trust in any other part of it. Unbelief
alone can do the deadly work.
And following the faith of our fathers also in their firm adherence
to the Scriptures, we shall be found in good and great company. In fact,
all true Christians of all ages and places are with us, at least in their hearts.
the Lutheran confessors, and the Lutheran teachers and preachers down to the days
of pietism, – they all without exception are in the throng. Still
farther ahead we hear the early Church and the Nicene fathers declaring: We believe
in the Holy Ghost, "who spake by the prophets." And the innumerable multitudes
from all countries and nations are led by the chorus of the apostles and prophets
themselves, Christ, our glorious Savior, striking the key-note : "The Scripture
cannot be broken." "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall
not pass away."
Dear brethren, there are many other points on which, in treating
--- Page 16 ---
this subject, I should
expatiate and in which we all ought to follow (or must I say, return to) the path
our fathers trod. Permit me merely to hint at some of them. Behold
our fathers continually stressing the central truths of Christianity: man's spiritual
helpless-ness, God's universal love and mercy, Christ's atoning sacrifice, unconditional
absolution, universal justification, and salvation by repentance and faith alone!
us follow them. – Behold their splendid spirit: their sincerity, seriousness, and
conscientiousness; their constant watchfulness against doctrinal indifferentism
and all forms of worldliness; their firm stand against every kind of union with
the sects, the lodges, and other ungodly societies! Let us follow them! – Remember
and consider also their untiring zeal in laboring for the Kingdom; their unflagging
efforts especiallyinbehalf of our parochial schools; their pastoral
wisdom and care for the individual soul; their spiritof sacrificeand willingness to bear the cross! – In all
these and many other points, may we always be found walking faithfully in the steps
of our sainted fathers!
"God preserveunto us
a pious ministry!" that was the constantprayerof Walther. Pious
ministersare God-fearing ministers, and
God-fearing ministers are ministers who fear the Word, the written Word of God.
and teachers have always provedtobe either the greatest boonofthe
Church or its greatest curse – the former, when theywalked in the fear of God's Word, for then they
were true builders oftheChurch; the latter, when they rejected the Word,
for then they made havocof
the Church. What qualified Luther to bring about the Reformation was the
fact that he truly feared the Word ofGod.And what, in the last analysis, was the secret
ofthemarveloussuccess of our fathers?Their
fearofthe Word of God. Onthe otherhand, the present most desperate conditionofProtestantism
everywhere: distracted, torn and tattered, outraged, dishonored, and
prostitute – what caused it? The destructive work of teachers andpreachers who, having lost the fear of God
and His Word, becametraitorstothe
faith they had sworn to uphold and defend.
May we all, therefore, follow Walther also in his prayer for a pious ministry! Nor let us fail to include our laymen, who, in exercising their Christian rights, have come to the front
as never before. May God always
mercifully preserve us both a ministry and laity that fear the Word of God! Hail Missouri
as long as the fear of God and his Word will remain her outstanding
characteristic! For thus says the Lord: "To this man will I look, even
to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit and trembleth at My Word."
------------- End of Essay -----------------------------
The statement Bente made above about the Fundamentalists, saying they would lose there battle unless the Darwinists were expelled, is perhaps a weak statement for it partially gives away the greater error of the Reformed – the Doctrine of Justification. The reality is that all error essentially is a battle against this doctrine.
The dear Prof. Bente fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Franz Pieper in the meetings and conferences with the opposing American Lutheran bodies, i.e. the ALC., the American Lutheran Church. He saw first hand how the errorists would attempt to hide their error by mixing it with truth. And by this essay he not only had to battle for the truth against the error of other Lutheran bodies, he also had to strenghthen his own brethren in the truth.