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Monday, March 4, 2013

Walther as Theologian–Justification (by F. Pieper) - Part 9

This post continues a 10-part series (see Preface for Table of Contents) from Part 8 which presents the actual text of Wallace McLaughlin's English translation of the essay C.F.W. Walther as Theologian by Franz Pieper.  This is done to honor the two commenters on Concordia Seminary's own web post publishing a different translation.
This portion can be downloaded here.
  • Pieper's text is indented in dark blue text.
  • I will add commentary at certain points in green text.
  • All underlinings are from the original.
  • Highlighting of Pieper's text is mine!
C.F.W. Walther as Theologian 
Justification – Universal, Objective (Second essay)
By Franz Pieper 
(Translated by  Wallace McLaughlin from  “Lehre und Wehre”, February, 1890, pp. 42-50: Justification- Universal),
(Continued from Part 8)
---------------  Pieper  --------------------------------
            Particularly in connection with Walther’s discussions on absolution, that is, the “preaching of the Gospel to one or more particular persons who desire the comfort of the Gospel”, the manner in which the complete redemption of all men through Christ lived in Walther’s heart came to expression.  Absolution, says Walther, is based upon the perfect redemption or universal justification.  “When the pastor absolves he distributes a treasure which is already at hand, namely the forgiveness of sins which has already been gained”. (L.c., p. 43.)   [SCR1872S.PDF, 1872: pg 185, col. 1] Walther holds only that man to be a true Lutheran preacher who holds that he by speaking the absolution has absolved all the penitents and only that man to be a true Lutheran Christian who believes that through the absolution of the pastor he has truly been absolved by God.  He adds: “Only he indeed can believe thus who believes that the world is redeemed; for if I believe that, then the absolution is only the communication to the penitents of the fact that they were redeemed 1800 (1900-)  [2000-] years ago, and the plea: Only believe that and you are saved”. [See also SCR1872S.PDF, 1873: pg 2, col. 1 – "Thesis 8"]  That so many take offense at the absolution which is customary in the Lutheran Church comes from the fact that they do not believe in the complete redemption of all men through Christ and hence suppose that we ascribe to the preachers as “ordained persons” a special authority and mysterious power.  “But we say: It is no art to absolve someone; that any ordinary Christian man, any woman, any child can do, if it can only tell that the Lord Jesus died for all, and that whoever believes in Him receives the forgiveness of sins.  For the absolution depends not upon the quality of the speaker but upon the word of the Gospel concerning the accomplished redemption”.
            In this connection Walther insists again and again that one must not make the essence of the Gospel dependent upon faith, but is to regard it as an offer of God’s grace which is valid of itself. 
----------------- Comments -----------------------------
As Walther insisted "again and again" (usque ad nauseam) on this teaching, I want to repeat this statement in the face of the whole world, and especially to those "Lutherans" who make faith a condition (i.e. a work of ours) upon which the Gospel (and our Justification) is dependent:
"...Walther insists again and again that one must not make the essence of the Gospel dependent upon faith, but is to regard it as an offer of God’s grace which is valid of itself."  —  C.F.W. Walther (and Franz Pieper)
This is where the old Ohio Synod left the orthodoxy of the Synodical Conference.  They removed themselves from the Synodical Conference and are now lost somewhere in today's ELCA, the so-called "the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States".
----------------  Pieper  ----------------------------------
“The glorious benefits of Christ have been given us; mark well! They have already been given us (in the Gospel) and indeed they are always at hand for us, even if we do not believe”.  (Western District, 1874, p. 47.) [Convention Essays, pg 79; also new CPH book here.]  If one makes the Gospel essentially dependent upon a man’s believing, or, which is the same, if one talks as though faith must first be there before the Gospel is in itself valid and effective or before the benefit of the forgiveness of sins is at hand for the sinner, he thereby both denies Christ’s all-sufficient merit, the redemption and reconciliation of the world, and then also faith is thereby made something quite different from what it properly is; it is then no more a grasping and receiving of the present forgiveness, but a work which must be furnished in order that there may be forgiveness in the Gospel; finally, faith has then simply nothing on which it can take hold.  “If the Gospel is not valid unless a man first believe it, what then shall he believer?”  Faith thus comes to be founded on itself instead of on the Gospel.  “That amounts to increasing the distress of people who are in anxiety and doubt concerning their salvation”. (L.c., pp. 57-64.)  [SCR1872S.PDF, 1873: pg 2, col. 1 to pg 3, col. 1, "Thesis 8"] Walther reminds us again and again that, with a doctrine or practice according to which faith is first demanded in order that forgiveness of sins may be there, no tempted person can be comforted.  “The tempted supposes that he cannot believe.  Such a person must despair with this doctrine, whereas one should seek to convince him that the Savior is already there for him, has already forgiven him and will receive him”. (Western District, 1875, p. 38.)  [Convention Essays, pgs 110; see also my blog post here].
----------------- Comments -----------------------------
"Anxiety", "doubt", "distress"... words that today's so-called "Christian Counseling" attempts to alleviate with its nice sounding words such as "get in touch with your feelings", or "think positive", "feel good about yourself", etc., etc.  Even Lutherans attempt to follow the sects with programs like "Doxology". But these all fall short of God's counsel of an existing forgiveness for all.  If this counsel is not believed, then there is no human counsel left... unbelief leaves a person in anxiety, doubt, and distress.  Ah, but with true faith, now the believer is comforted not by a human, but by God himself... the believer can "Taste and see that the Lord is good". Psalm 34:8

The next Part 10 presents the final portion of Pieper's essay dealing with an Objection – What about God's wrath?

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