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Monday, May 19, 2014

Eberle of Germany, faithful Lutheran in 1859 (uncovered gem)

I am interrupting this LDJ series to publish the complete article that C.F.W. Walther quoted in his essay.  The article was published in the first issue of 1859 in the journal Zeitschrift für Protestantismus und Kirche, and dealt with the "Union Question", which was evidently a proposal of union between Lutherans and Reformed in Württemburg (or Wuerttemburg) Germany – article in Wikipedia here.  Notably, this church seems to still calls itself "Lutheran".

So why would I take a whole blog post to publish this article?  Because C.F.W. Walther saw in it a wonderful spark of life in his native country of Germany...  a spark that excited him enough to include portions of it in his essay on The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification, in footnotes to pages 66 and 67 of the 1880 book (pages 48 & 49 of original 1859 report).  After downloading Eberle's article and researching it a bit, I believe that Walther would have gladly included almost all of it if he had the time and space to present it to his dear Missouri Synod.  So with the advantage of the Internet at my disposal, I, BackToLuther, will publish a great German pastor/theologian's essay as it relates to
the difference between John Calvin and Martin Luther.
Who was Christian Gustav Eberle (or Chr. G. Eberle):
Eberle, Christian Gustav, a Lutheran minister of Germany, was born in 1813, and died Dec. 9, 1870, at Ochsenbach, in Würtemberg. He published, Luthers Glaubensrichtung (Stuttgard, 1858): — Luther ein Zeichen dein widersprochen wird (ibid. 1860): — Luthers Evangelien-Auslegung aus seinen homiletischen und exegetischen Werken (ibid. 1857). See Zuchold, Bibl. Theol. i, 302. (B. P.)
Because of its importance to C.F.W. Walther, I have taken a few weeks to translate the entire essay, 14 pages.  The subject matter is of no small significance.  Eberle deals with
  • certainty of salvation
  • how Luther's theology developed different than Calvin's
  • objective versus subjective, a heart faith versus a head faith
  • how modern theology loses its way
  • Germany's struggles with unionism
  • Communion fellowship issues
Below I present my full translation into English of this article (German text here):

Some quotable quotes:
  • many these days, of which you can hear the remark: they are not able to decide between Luther and Calvin in the doctrine of Communion, but feel attracted to Luther
  • Luther was "... as one who came immediately from the prayer chamber or from the battlefield: while the works of modern theology are for the most part taken in on the very first page entirely in the study and the library room
  • This more artificial way to win the truth can but not place Calvin as an equal alongside Luther, as a reformer beside reformer.
  • [the Union, or unionism] deprives objective certainty for those that search for certainty of their salvation in Christ and puts it on the vacillating ground of subjective conviction.
  •  it is a hundred times easier to believe a general truth [i.e. the Gospel] than to personally appropriate to oneself what it says
The red text in the essay indicates that there are a few areas that seemed questionable relating to Communion fellowship between Reformed and Lutherans.  These seemed a bit odd to me as most of the essay brought out the differences in doctrine quite well.  I believe Walther would have also questioned Eberle on these points.  Nevertheless Walther found wonderful passages of comfort in Eberle's essay and so wanted to include them in his own essay.  Especially his use of the term "objective certainty of salvation" sparked Walther's enthusiasm.  How Walther's heart ached over the ravages of unionism in his former country of Germany.  But Eberle remained as a watchman on the walls, Isaiah 62:6.

Indeed, Württemberg Germany, you can point not only to the famous follower of Luther, Johannes Brenz, but also to

Christian Gustav Eberle, 
defender of the Lutheran teaching of
objective certainty of our salvation.

I will return now to continue with Walther's essay The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification, Part 24, pages 69-71.

LDJ–Part 23 (p 66-68)—Gerhard, Eberle vs Calvinism; "chain of salvation"

     This continues from the previous Part 22 presenting a new translation of C.F.W. Walther's seminal essay in 1859 (see Part 1 for Table of Contents).  In this Part 23, Walther finishes Luther's great sermon on John 1:29 and then introduces not only John Gerhard against Calvinism, but also another more recent German pastor/theologian from his own time, Christian Gustav Eberle.  Both protest in the clearest terms against false Reformed teachings that were in large part initiated by John Calvin.  There is a phrase that Gerhard used that Walther borrowed from the – "chain of salvation".  A previous blog post showed Walther's use of this phrase as reported by Franz Pieper.  But as good as Gerhard and Eberle are, I believe there is an even better defender of the clear doctrines... the writer of this essay, C.F.W. Walther.
     Underlining follows Walther's emphasis in original.  Hypertext links have been copiously added for reference to original sources and on several subjects.  Highlighting is mine.
= = = = = = = = = = = =  Part 23: Pages 66-68 (1880)  = = = = = = = = = = = =
(cont'd from Part 22)
The Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.
[by C.F.W. Walther]
… Do you not hear, [1880-66] then, what St. John is saying here: This is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!  Now, you indeed cannot deny that you are also a part of the world. ... So you (now) are in the world and your sins are a part of the world’s sin, so stands here the text: All that denotes sin, world, and the world’s sin, from the beginning of the world until the end, all this rests solely on the Lamb of God; and because you are also a part of the world and remain in the world, so will you indeed enjoy thereof what is said at this place of the text.” (Walch W1 VII, 1639-1640, 1642, 1648-1650; paragrs. 385, 389, 398, 399, 400-401; StL Ed. 7, , paragrs. 385, 389, 398, 399, 400-401; [cf. Am. Ed. 22, 162-165, 168 f.])
How the Calvinists, with their doctrine of unconditional predestination and related errors, no troubled conscience can truly comfort and make certain of his salvation, shows Gerhard.  (*)  He
*) So just here the essayist read from the Erlanger Zeitschrift (in the first issue of the year 1859) the following judgement by Eberle, well known to have eagerly studied Luther: “The eternal election to salvation is what Calvin rests on; it should offer him the objective certainty of his state of grace. And what did Luther want with his doctrine of the means of grace?  ‘Christ in Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or in the preaching of the divine Word — there will I find Him’  he explains himself.  In the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper he sees the means to partake of Christ, of  becoming objectively certain of his share in Him. That is the common ground in the diversity; Calvin’s doctrine of predestination [and] Luther’s doctrine of the means of grace are only different approaches to one and the same goal: to become objectively certain of one’s state of grace. …  As to which of the two ways of arriving at objective certainty is the right one, Luther’s or Calvin’s, one could scarcely remain in doubt. If I am from eternity elected by God to salvation, then, to be sure, I have therein the strongest possible objective assurance: but if I am elected? — on that I have no immediate certainty; I can gather it only from this, that by Gods power I believe in Christ. But the vacillations to which faith is subject have been discussed above. So Calvin, while trying to lead [us] beyond subjective certainty, leads [us] back to it. ... But in order to be able to rejoice in my eternal election, I must first, by another and more direct route, be certain of my state of grace.  “Luther found precisely this more direct route to certainty with his statement cited: ‘Christ in Baptism, in Communion, or in the preaching of the divine Word— that is where I will find Him.’... Calvin demands without further ado that I should believe that I as an individual have from eternity been elected, whereas thousands of others around me are supposed to have been [cont’d on 1880-67 footnote]

[1880-67] writes:  “It is easy to see that that [W1859-49] system of an unconditional rejection is not the golden chain of salvation, but is rather the rope by which one falls into the ruin of despair.  For what can they present a man for his consolation who is distressed either because of the sense of sin, or complains of the weakness of his faith, or is troubled by the thought that he belongs to reprobate?  Maybe they will refer him to the infinite mercy of God?  But the contested one is barred by the horrible decree of rejection, as Calvin calls it, through which God’s mercy is not little or insignificantly
[cont’d from 1880-66 footnote] consigned to eternal damnation. That is overburdened; for to what should I hold to? I find in Scripture no special promise made out to my name or person  [Essays1-53] spelled out.  Here is missing is a connecting tie, if it is not, as already noted, to be a subjective but wavering faith.  Otherwise is Luther. He requires of a Christian only faith in a general truth: that wherever Word and sacrament are, there is Christ.  That is not hard, for it is a hundred times easier to believe a general truth than to personally appropriate to oneself what it says, as everyone knows.  But if I have learned the Word: Where Word and sacrament are, there is Christ — and for this statement I have a foothold in Scripture, whereas I have no evidence in Scripture for my personal election from eternity — so have I not far to go for the personal application: ‘Christ is in Word and sacrament also for me.’ …   But, there is another point to be considered, [a point] that unfortunately is usually overlooked, to which we must therefore pay all the more attention: ‘As you believe, so it comes to pass for you.’  That is a keynote in Luther’s faith, and a truth that conforms equally with Scripture and with experience.  The measure of what we receive depends on the measure of our faith. (See, e.g., 2 Kings 13:14,19; Ps. 81:10, and the word of the Lord: ‘Be it unto you according to your faith.’)  The author is not afraid to repeat the statement made elsewhere: A congregation sustained by the consciousness that God can be heard and is really present among us in Word and sacrament—such a congregation is sure to have its own Pentecost Day.  Whoever and however often one believes this: Where Word and sacrament are present, there Christ is also present, that person will possess Christ not only in the age-old faith but also in living experience—[and] with Him the direct assurance of grace. That is how Luther leads a Christian by a direct and easy way to the objective certainty of his salvation—and [he does] this in a way that protects him against carnal security, for he does not hold out for him any unconditional promise for the future, but bids him daily to renew his assurance of salvation in faith(p. 116, 123, 124-125. [cf. Zeitschrift für Protestantismus und Kirche, vol. 37-1,  “Zur Unionsfrage: Calvin's Prädestinationslehre, Luther's Lehre von den Gnadenmitteln”, PDF scan copy, marked pages in PDF here]).

[1880-68] made shaky.  –  Or to the merit of Christ?  But the contested one will object that Christ died only for the elect, but that he doesn’t know if he is in the number of the elect; indeed, because he was taught in the schools of the opponents, that only the human nature, not the person, of Christ died, he will answer from Calvin: ‘I confess that if one were to oppose the judgment of God with Christ, in and of Himself, no merit would accrue, for the worthiness that might earn God’s favor would never be found in a man!’  –  Or to the calling through the Word?  But the contested one will object that the inner call is one thing, the outward is another; that many are called outwardly by the Word, but God has inwardly rejected them by an unconditional decree, and of which he therefore did not want them to come.  –  Or to the promises of the Gospel?  But the contested one will object that they are not universal but apply only to those who are elect, that grace is effectively offered only to a few with the purpose that it be conferred on them, as Piscator writes.  –  Or to his Baptism, in which he had been washed of sins, born again through the Holy Spirit, and included into the covenant of God?  But the contested one will object from Beza, that neither all children, nor any, in deed and truth, are born again in the moment of being baptized, but that the blessing of rebirth only follows that act of baptism in due time, as God ordained it, when the children follow in their hearing of the Word; and, with Piscator, that it really is not even true of the elect that God has appropriated them in His covenant by circumcision itself.  –  Or on the use of Holy Communion, which was instituted to strengthen the faith?  But from this they have removed and outlawed the sacramental union of the body and blood [1880-69] of Christ long ago and only kept a figurative presence,
= = = = = = = = =  cont'd in Part 24  = = = = = = = = =

With the power of today's Internet, I was able to track down Walther's source material for the German writer "Eberle" who was "well known to have eagerly studied Luther".  What I found was an essay of great interest for today's Lutheranism.  But it was Eberle's usage of the terms "objective" and "subjective" that especially caught my eye, since these are largely misunderstood by today's theologians.  And so I have taken several weeks to translate Eberle's entire 14-page essay.  In the next post, I will present this essay in my English translation so that readers may see why Walther was so excited by this German pastor's writing.  Then I will return again in Part 24 to continue translating Walther's own essay.