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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lawrence Rast - Part 2a: "Collecting Autographs" (Scripture)

This post continues from Part 1 in a series (Table of Contents in Part 1) reviewing several essays of Prof. Lawrence A. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN (CTS-FW).
In Part 1, I only briefly pointed out a sharp discrepancy between what Prof. Rast "interpreted" of Walther's teaching on Church Government and the Christian congregation, and the actual teaching of Walther: "American" vs. "apostolic".  Walther followed Scripture.  But who is Dr. Rast following?  I could write a lot more – I've plastered the margins of my copy of Rast's "Demogoguery..." 1999 essay with all kinds of notes.  But since it has been (and continues to be) covered extensively by Pastor Jack Cascione (who was expelled from the LC-MS) with many articles on his website and also blogger "Carl Vehse", the commenter on my last post, I will leave it for now.

But as I replied to "Carl Vehse", I believe these defenses against Prof. Lawrence Rast (and Scaer, Pless,  etc.) do not go far enough.  And so I continue with another in a series of reviews of essays by Prof. Rast.  Unfortunately I cannot reveal the full text of the following essay from the year 2000 in a public blog for probable copyright reasons – the reader will have to follow my review for the gist of it.  But if the reader is interested in the full text, contact me privately.  This essay by Rast was intended to be read by followers of Prof. David P. Scaer...
A Review by BackToLuther of the essay

"Collecting Autographs: Missouri's Assumption of Princeton's Doctrine of the Autographa"
By Lawrence R. Rast Jr. and Grant A. Knepper

Hmmm... what is this essay about?  Rast begins his title with the words "Collecting Autographs"... what autographs?  Then one discovers he is talking about the original text of the Scriptures as written by the Apostles and Prophets.  You know, the writings that the church is built on... "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:20)  Oh...  I get it, Dr. Rast!  You made a joke there!  Ha, ha!  You are referring to the practice of "collecting autographs" as in autographed baseballs, etc.  ...
==>> But is the foundation of the church something to make a joke about?  Is your subject matter something to laugh over?  What about those poor sinners over there who need some assurance of faith, some certainty of salvation?  How are they to laugh over the subject of the source of their faith?  I don't think they get the joke...  Hmmm, this isn't a good start for you, Dr. Rast.

Is Rast intending to help Christians struggling in their faith due to the many attacks on the truthfulness of the Bible? ... attacks on creation, history, variant readings, Bible "discrepancies", etc.?  Will Christians come away refreshed and strengthened in their faith after reading this? Let us go on...

The title seems to suggest Rast will argue that the LC-MS received some of its doctrine of Scripture from the Reformed.  Is this true?  Rast speaks of (page 350):
... presuppositions and ideas of Fundamentalism that have found their way into our Synod's at least semi-official public stance–specifically of the doctrine of the inerrancy and inspiration of the autographa, the idea that the original God-breathed character of the Scriptures rests only in the "signed" copies produced by the original authors.  It is true that the doctrine of the autographa certainly does not compromise our Synod's stance on the inspiration of Scripture.  At the same time, however, it is a matter of the history of doctrine that this particular formula has a very clearly identifiable point of appearance. And so, if one accepts the technical definition of Fundamentalism as the wedding of dispensational premillennialism with Princeton's peculiar doctrine of inerrancy, it appears that a significant element of Fundamentalism, though certainly not the substance of Fundamentalism, found its way into Missouri doctrine.

So, it appears that Rast is going to attempt to show where Missouri went wrong when it let "a significant element of "Princeton's peculiar doctrine" and "Fundamentalism" into its doctrine.  I wonder how he intends to do this...  And so I ask again: Is this essay intended to help Christians struggling in their faith due to the many and varied attacks on the truth of Holy Scripture?  One could wonder that maybe he is... but then he speaks of "technical definitions" and "a clearly identifiable point of appearance".  This sounds a little more like a detective's account for a "scholarly" mystery than an essay to be helpful for Christians.  But let us go on.

At this point, Dr. Rast goes into a lengthy history of the doctrine of Scripture with Princeton, the Reformed "tradition", and then gives his analysis of Lutheran Orthodoxy (pages 350-361).  He impresses us with his great knowledge of "Princeton Theology"! – The Hodges (A.A. and Charles), B.B. Warfield, etc.  At this point he seems to give a fine description of Lutheran teaching (page 361):
Inerrancy is based on Scripture's divine origin. Because Scripture comes from God–has God as its author–it can contain no contradiction or error of fact, for it is impossible that God should lie or deceive or be deceived. This is a legitimate conclusion drawn from the very Word of God, which in the end is a matter of faith to be believed on the basis of Scripture itself.
Inerrancy applies specifically to the statements of Scripture, which are in and of themselves truth. From this it follows that the simple intention of the doctrine of inerrancy is the affirmation that Scripture always speaks the truth, that Scripture is inerrant in the sense that its statements and assertions correspond to what obtains or has taken place or what will take place.
This teaching is essentially (in-part) what Pieper teaches... and shows why I had to go back to Pieper's teaching in my series of blog posts defending against the attacks by Prof. James Barr (Vanderbilt University) against the truth of the Bible.

On page 362 Rast begins to reach the heart of his essay.  He quotes Franz Pieper's forerunner essay to the Brief Statement of 1932, written in 1897, – seemingly with approval.  But what jolts the reader is his footnote # 50 which says:
His [Pieper's] purpose in producing this document is comparable to the position taken by Hodge.

"Hodge" was a prominent theologian from Princeton.  Why would Rast make this statement?  Is he working hard (straining?) to weave "Princeton Theology" into his story?

On page 363, Rast makes this comment on the history of Pieper's writings of his Brief Statement through the years: 
Though the original Brief Statement [of 1897] was written at the end of the nineteenth century, one finds that about three decades later Pieper has not substantially changed the article on the Scriptures when he updated his work.

There is almost a note of surprise in this comment by Rast... how could anyone hold to the same theology for over 30 years as Pieper does?  Isn't there a need to keep one's theology progressive... modern... up-to-date?

Again on page 363:

Pieper clearly held to the verbal and plenary inerrancy of the Scriptures as the doctrine had been passed down to him by the Orthodox Lutherans fathers of the seventeenth century.

But Dr. Rast, Hermann Sasse did not speak the same way as your statement above.  I wonder Dr. Rast – have you also read Hermann Sasse's statement on his "doctrine on Scripture":
"We tried to overcome the old scheme of the Orthodox fathers" [on Scripture]...

Not quite the same, is it?  But I see President Rast (Concordia Theological Seminary) and Pres. Matthew Harrison (LC-MS) hold up Sasse as it's spiritual leader.....  something does not fit here.  But let us go on...

Now we reach the great "problem" that Rast's whole essay is about.  Is it about the problem that all Christians face daily, hourly – the world's constant attacks on the truth of the Bible?  Here is Rast's "question" or "problem" (on page 363): 
The question that remains, then, is what was Pieper's attitude towards the Princetonian emphasis on the inerrancy of the original autographs?  Was this concept foreign to him, did he simply ignore it, or did he incorporate it into his doctrine?

Rast is focused on trying to see if there was a "Princetonian" effect on the Missouri Synod.  Again I ask: Is this supposed to help the Christian who is battered daily, hourly with the world constantly questioning the Bible?  Let us see.

Before I go on, I want to present a quote from Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics (vol. 1, pg 345) that Rast did not include in his essay: 
It is self-evident that the original wields canonical authority also over the translations. The vernacular versions have authority only in so far as they correctly render the original text. All translations must submit to the test whether they reproduce the original correctly.

When Pieper speaks of "the original", he is speaking of the original text of the Bible.  Rast makes a big issue of his "Princetonian" phrase "original autographs" or "autographa", but isn't Pieper speaking of the same thing?  And just because Pieper is speaking of essentially the same thing, does it prove he received it from Princeton theology?  Rast says no (page 364):
... though Pieper did not explicitly refer to the autographa, ...

Dr. Rast: What is the difference between "autographa" and "original text"?  You are a great scholar... tell me.  (Or are you building a "straw man" argument?)  But let us proceed.

On page 364, Rast wants to speak for Pieper by saying the following:
Pieper, however, was not willing to grant that translations and copies were any less the word of God despite their derivative nature. Commenting on Henry Eyster Jacobs' contention that "It is only the Scriptures as written in the original languages that are inspired," Pieper says:

These words could convey the thought that Bible colporteurs could offer an English or German Bible to prospective customers not as being the Word of God, but merely as being the translator's understanding of the Word of God. Over against this view it must be maintained: Of course even the best translators of the Bible are not inspired as were the infallible Apostles and Prophets, and for that reason their translations must remain under the control of the original text and in so far are norma normata. Our dogmaticians emphasized this over against Rome. On the other hand it must not be forgotten: Whatever is God's Word in Greek, is God's Word also in German and English if only the German or English is a faithful of the Greek. We should here keep in mind the nature of the Holy Scriptures. The language of the Holy Scripture is so simple, particularly in the sedes doctrinae, that every translation, which at all serves the name of "translation", must reproduce the original. [Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, pg 346]

Well now, Dr. Rast has quoted Franz Pieper!  Very good.  Who was Pieper refuting in this quote?  An American Lutheran, Henry Eyster Jacobsnot a "Princetonian" (or a "Fundamentalist").  But Dr. Rast, your essay seems to want to present your "pressing questions", your great defense against "troubling" issues for Lutherans – that of accepting "Princetonian/Fundamentalist" phraseology, whereas Pieper here is refuting another American Lutheran, not a "Princetonian/Fundamentalist"...  why the oversight?  But let us go on...

Now on page 364, Rast makes his grand assertion:

He [Pieper] did not limit the authority and divine character of the Scriptures to the original autographs.

But again, according to Pieper (C.D., 1, 345 – see above), Pieper did limit the authority of translations – an authority limited to "only in so far as they correctly render the original text".
Now I am going to abbreviate my review here to say that Rast attempts in the remaining pages (pgs 365 - 368) to use his grand assertion against Paul E. Kretzmann with quotes from his book The Foundations Must Stand! The Inspiration of the Bible and Related Questions and against Theodore Engelder and his book Scripture Cannot Be Broken.  Engelder and Kretzmann may have made some slightly unguarded statements regarding the authority of translations and about "variant readings", but Rast overreaches against these 2 writers while appearing to stay on the higher ground with Pieper's defenses of Inspiration and Inerrancy.  Rast may say I miss the point – let him.

In the next Part 2b, I will conclude with final comments on this essay of Prof. Lawrence A. Rast Jr.

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