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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.
A Paper
Read at the Convention of the Missouri Synod
 in Fort Wayne, in June, 1923,

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 by a rank 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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as muckers, pietists, and hypocrites by the multitude, and harassed and persecuted as fanatics and disturbers of the peace by rationalistic superintendents and civil magistrates.
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 the holy Bible, which they regarded as the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Ghost, 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 place too narrow for Luther. The same was true of our fathers. They held: "Scriptura locuta, causa finita – 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 exception.
"The dearest child of faith is the miracle." This favorite quo­tation from Goethe was 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 and power.
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 least.

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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 dawning.
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.
It was Schleiermacher who 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 was a theology detached from the Scriptures, devoid of the pure Gospel, and employing disingenuously and deceptively old terms in an en­tirely new and erroneous sense. Schleiermacher's success 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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poured an 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 by the Fundamentalists and their frantic efforts to check the contagion – as reported daily also by our secular press.
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 rationalist Quitman. –
What of our fathers?  How were they affected by these on­slaughts on the Bible?  Did they grow faint when they beheld even such Lutherans as Hofmann, Kahnis, Frank, and Luthardt arrayed 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 sure a priori that their cause must come out vic­torious, all portals of hell and the sophistries of human reason to the contrary notwithstanding.
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.  But 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 whenever there has 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.

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"He that believeth shall not make haste."  By building on the rock, faith partakes of the nature of a rock.  Faith is a divine 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.  They 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 the Lutheraner down 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.  By 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 cause.
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

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and evolutionism. 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."  For 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.  Let 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.  Luther, 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

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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!  Let 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 especially in behalf of our paro­chial schools; their pastoral wisdom and care for the individual soul; their spirit of sacrifice and 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 preserve unto us a pious ministry!" that was the constant prayer of Walther.  Pious ministers are God-fearing ministers, and God-fearing ministers are ministers who fear the Word, the written Word of God.  Pastors and teachers have always proved to be either the greatest boon of the Church or its greatest curse – the former, when they walked in the fear of God's Word, for then they were true builders of the Church; the latter, when they rejected the Word, for then they made havoc of the Church.  What qualified Luther to bring about the Reformation was the fact that he truly feared the Word of God. And what, in the last analysis, was the secret of the marvelous success of our fathers? Their fear of the Word of God. On the other hand, the present most desperate condition of Protestantism every­where: distracted, torn and tattered, outraged, dishonored, and prostitute – what caused it?  The destructive work of teachers and preachers who, having lost the fear of God and His Word, became traitors to the 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." Isaiah 66:2.
-------------  End of Essay  -----------------------------

Prof. Friedrich Bente
This topic of Bente was perhaps the most hotly contested doctrine at the time the walkout occurred at Concordia Seminary in 1974 to form Seminex.  And Franz Pieper defends Inspiration and Inerrancy of Holy Scriptures masterfully in his Christian Dogmatics... as I covered in these blog posts: "Variant Readings" and "Contradictions, Errors".

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.

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