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Monday, August 19, 2013

Rast–Pt 3h: Pieper-Link (Conclusion- "a certain extent")

This post continues from Part 3g in a series (Table of Contents in Part 1) that reviews several essays of Prof. Lawrence A. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTS-FW).  This Part 3h covers a portion of an essay that Rast made on Franz Pieper, "A Connecting Link..." – the sub-section titled "Conclusion".  The 27-page essay, one of several essays, can be downloaded here (1 MB PDF file).
(cont'd from Part 3g)
***  A review by BackToLuther of  ***
Franz August Otto Pieper (1852-1931): 
“A Connecting Link ...” 
by Lawrence R. Rast Jr.
37th Annual Reformation Lectures, (download here==>> LSQ 45:1, pgs 5-31)

"Conclusion" (pgs 24-27)

In this section, Prof. Rast steps out of his "beat reporter" role of just telling us about Pieper, what Pieper believed and taught.  He begins to give more of his own comments on, his lamentations of, his recommendations for... what is going on "in the Missouri Synod and beyond".  It is revealing.  One wonders that Rast began to appear sheepish in front of this audience since he uses the word "perhaps" at one point...

On pages 24-25, Rast reveals that Prof. David Scaer is a major source of information for how things use to be in his LC-MS in the 1960's and 1970s:
Pieper was relegated to simply being read, rather than studied, and, again according to David Scaer, the message offered in the classroom was one quite contrary to that of Pieper. After the confrontation over the doctrine of Scripture in the 60s and 70s, Pieper regained his earlier position—at least to a certain extent.
Rast reports that "Pieper regained his earlier position", but immediately qualifies this with "at least to a certain extent".  This begs the question: to what extent did Pieper not regain his earlier position "in the classroom" of the "Missouri Synod"? – Rast lists his lamentations on page 25:
  • today Pieper has his critics
  • Few read Pieper beyond the Brief Statement and the Dogmatics, which is an unfortunate reality
  • they [critics] tend to focus on what is lacking in the text.
I wonder if Rast is admitting that Pieper's "critics" are also members of his LC-MS.  He does not reveal this.  (Is he secretly trying to avoid being a "critic" of Pieper himself?)
Rast makes an unfortunate telling statement at this point:
Or perhaps he spent so much time on Christology and the means of grace because he was so intimately bound up in his context and his time. He clearly knew that the “Lutheran difference” lies in these areas.
One wonders from this statement that Pieper's Christian Dogmatics does not speak at all about the Doctrine of Justification.  But Rast misunderstands Pieper.  Although Pieper certainly gave importance to "Christology" and "The Means of Grace", yet Pieper clearly stated the following in summing up Walther's teaching, a teaching he followed in his Christian Dogmatics:
All praise of Christ, of grace, and of the means of grace, without the right doctrine of justification, is nothing.
Dr. Rast, have you not read Pieper's great book What Is Christianity? and noticed that in his essay The Open Heaven, that he emphasized the vicarious satisfaction, for example when he writes against the Unitarians:
The Unitarians reject the eternal, essential deity of Christ and as a logical consequence also the reconciliation of the world through Christ's vicarious satisfaction, or atonement...
Would you say the Unitarians are condemned because they mainly reject the "eternal, essential deity of Christ" or because they primarily reject the "reconciliation of the world through Christ's vicarious satisfaction"?  If you say the Unitarians are condemned because they reject the vicarious satisfaction, would you then say that Pieper ignored "Christology" and "the means of grace" in this essay that spoke of the true Lutheran (Christian) difference against all religions in America thought to be "Christian"?

Dr. Rast – do you not see that in his essays on The Open Heaven Pieper vehemently attacked the error of Calvin's particular grace with gratia universalis and the error of synergism with sola gratia?  Hardly any mention is given to "Christology" or "the means of grace" in these defenses of Christian teaching by Pieper.  And yet you say "He clearly knew that the "Lutheran difference" lies in these areas".  Why do you shift the central focus of Pieper away from the Doctrine of Justification – Universal and Objective?  Is it because you have been listening to Prof. Scaer too much?

And Dr. Rast... what is engraved on Pieper's gravestone as a testimony of his teaching?  Is it a cluster of grapes and a shock of wheat signifying the Lord's Supper?  No, it is the words "SOLA GRATIA".
Rast later says on pages 26-27:
When Pieper tells us of the tension between the religion of the law and the religion of the Gospel, he makes a worthy point.
"The tension"?...   "a worthy point"?  Maybe it is just an important point among many "worthy points" to Rast?  But Dr. Rast... it is more than a "tension", it is "The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel"... it is more than "a worthy point", it is THE CENTRAL POINT.

So what does this say about Rast's understanding of "the Lutheran difference"?

I wonder.... Dr. Rast, were you one of the professors who taught some of the authors of the CPH book The Lutheran Difference?  I wonder if perhaps there is a connection to you in the misunderstanding of what the "Lutheran Difference" actually is?  Could it be that because the teaching of Pieper was returned only to "a certain extent" in today's LC-MS after the "walkout", that it did not fully return to the old (German) Missouri Synod... that it never fully came back to what really distinguishes the Lutheran Church, indeed what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions?  Is this maybe the reason one of your teachers, Prof. David Scaer, could say that "salvation by grace is not unknown in Hinduism", the same "salvation by grace" that Christianity teaches?

Dr. Rast, I too am lamenting the state of the "Missouri Synod and beyond", lamenting that there is a "vacuum" among those who long to be called the "Missouri Synod" but cannot seem to figure out what "the Lutheran Difference" is, nay, what the Christian difference is.  But there is now a website devoted to providing the resources and commentary to rectify this problem and bring Franz Pieper fully, not just "a certain extent", back to his proper high standing... it's called BackToLuther.  There you can direct those who need to read more of Pieper "beyond the Brief Statement and the Dogmatics".  May I suggest they read Pieper's entire series on C.F.W. Walther as Theologian, including the portions on Church and Ministry?  And then Pieper's essay Luther's Doctrine of Inspiration?  And then Pieper's... oh, just have them read my whole blog.

Rast makes a bold statement on page 25:
At Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, there is no intention of “doing away with” Pieper.
Dear God!  Dr. Rast, may I suggest that you have this statement of yours engraved in the largest stone that you can find and have it planted at the entrance to your seminary?  May I suggest that you have this emblazoned on the home page of your seminary's website?  Do you not have the power to do this?  Don't you?

Then maybe you could expound true Church History and Historical Theology instead of "Church History" and "Historical Theology".  Maybe you could, instead of listening to Prof. Scaer, begin to focus solely on the heart of the Reformation – The Doctrine of Justification, the true focus of Pieper's Dogmatics,... and how all other doctrines serve this doctrine?  Then you could see just how important are the Doctrines of Scripture, the Church, the Ministry, Christology, the Means of Grace, etc., since these doctrines all serve
The Doctrine of Justification.
For if these satellite doctrines do not serve this doctrine, they are nothing.
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In the next Part 4a, I begin reviewing the last of the planned 4 essays of Rast – The Doctrine of Justification in American Lutheranism. (When all reviews are finished, I will build a Table of Contents).

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