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Thursday, August 21, 2014

God's change of heart-4: Pieper's hammer falls–"New relationship" or God's action; anthropopathy; problem?

     This continues from Part 3 (Table of Contents in Part 1) presenting my (BTL) translation of J.T. Mueller's 1934 CTM essay defending Franz Pieper's seminal teaching on God's change of heart.  But who is he defending against?  Read on...
Ludwig Ihmels
"new relationship only"

     Change in relationship without an action by God?  That is the best that Germany's theology had to offer, but Franz Pieper knew better.   Ludwig Ihmels was a leader for this type of thinking in Germany.  And Ihmels was thought to be on the "conservative" side or "inclined towards orthodox Lutheranism" (per Christian Cyclopedia).  Pieper has little or no praise for those who have a mixed theology.  He warned his Missouri Synod of this just before he died with his Last Words.

     Why do you suppose Dietrich Bonhoeffer never visited a Missouri Synod church when he traveled to America?  Could it be that he knew very well of Missouri's theology and the disdain of it by Germany's theologians?  Could it be that he followed those who criticized Dr. Pieper's (and Walther's) theology?  (The answer appears to be... yes.)

Underlining follows author's emphasis, highlighting is mine. Hyperlinks added for reference.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =   Part 4: Pages 901-902   = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
God's Change of Heart 
in Christ's Work of Reconciliation. 
[by Prof. John Theodore Mueller] 
Dr. Pieper then lets fall the sharp, but well justified judgment: "Psychologically he explains his Yes- and No-stance by a double-aimed goal.  [Ludwig] Ihmels is aiming to remain in line with the modern theology, inaugurated by Schleiermacher, that now just wants, instead of on the words of Scripture, to stand rather on the impression of reality and the experience; on the other hand he feels but also the need to seek harmony with the scriptural statements and ‘classify’ the testimony of Scripture under the historical ‘impressions’ experienced." (cp. Christian Dogmatics, vol. 2, pg. 367; Christliche Dogmatik, Bande II, page 436 ff).
This abundantly sharp judgment stems from the fact that Dr. Pieper as Lutheran theologian depends so hard on the Scripture principle and nothing in theology will have validity as just the clear word of Scripture.  Dr. Pieper denies not with a single word that through the reconciliation "peace between God and man" was brought about, also denies not the "verdict of justification" that came in place of the "condemnation judgment".   But it is also that "God’s change of heart in the work of Christ" or "God’s change of disposition" is a clearly testified doctrine of Scripture, and just this change in the disposition of God is for him, according to Scripture, the essence of reconciliation.  That is precisely the reconciliation, that through Christ's death God is reconciled to man who was lying under the curse, no longer imputing their sins, so has He forgiven them all.  And so – and only so – it has come to a relationship of peace between a holy God and sinful man.  Thanks to the changed disposition towards the prodigal man, God could pronounce the verdict of justification over the whole sinful world.
However, Dr. Pieper is clearly aware that this is an "anthropopathy".  He writes: "The Scripture demands our entering into these anthropopathies", and he explains: "Scripture well testifies to the ‘eternal immutability’ of God (Psalm 102: 25-28), and it must certainly be retained.  But because we people can not fathom the ‘eternal immutability’ of God due to the finiteness of our comprehension, all our thoughts need to move rather in time and space, so that Scripture itself guides us to think about things in the unchanging God as one before another and as one after another.  We must, on the basis of Scripture, think of the wrath of God against mankind not before, but after the sin of mankind, and must think (in puncto rationis) of the forgiveness of the sins let follow after the reconciliation through Christ.  Scripture speaks throughout by a starting and stopping both of anger as well as the grace of God.  This happens in divine condescension to our human comprehension.  And if we humans do not want to get ourselves involved with these conceptions presented  by God Himself, citing God's [page 902] 'eternal immutability', so we deprive ourselves of the comprehension assessed to the revelation of God in Scripture and are gone astray.  The old theologians have very carefully worked through, on the basis of Scripture, the 'problem' of the eternity and immutability of God on the one hand and 'God's entrance into history’ on the other hand.  They summarise the result thus: In Deo non dantur causae formaliter causantes (which is God in his immutability, for us incomprehensible Majesty) , dantur tamen causae virtualiter sive in puncto rationis (conceptually) causantes (that is God, as he presents himself to human conception in Scripture) Compare Baier, Compendium  II, page 33; Joh. P. Reusch,  Annotationes, p 175 ff.  
"So must we on the one hand hold fast, on the basis of Scripture, that the decree of the world’s reconciliation through Christ belongs to the immutable eternity; on the other hand, the Scriptures direct us to think of a change of heart of his anger [439] into grace, that through Christ's obedience and suffering in the fullness of time of 1900 years ago [now 2000 years] is brought about.  The Scripture provides the matter, in condescension to our human comprehension, this way: At that time, as the righteous for the unrighteous suffered and died, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.  At that time, as Christ, who was given among men, satisfied the law of God and fulfilled it in the place of mankind, it has for all men through the righteousness of one come to justification of life.   At that time, as God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, he (God) reckoned not to the world of men their sins, that is, he has by himself, before "his forum," let step in the place of wrath grace toward the human world.  Whoever now relies on the immutability of God, as Ihmels does, to call these thoughts "misleading", even feels 'embarrassingly' touched from such thoughts, thereby renounces the scriptural thoughts of redemption, which is come in the fullness of time through Christ." (Christliche Dogmatik, vol. 2, pg 438-439, Christian Dogmatics, vol. 2,  page 367).
Dr. Pieper moreover remarks still expressly, that whoever theologizes over these "anthropopathies" of Scripture, exercises "a direct criticism of the speech of the Holy Spirit" and thus also abandons the Scripture principle.  We must agree with Dr. Pieper in this; for God has now simply bound us to the word of Scripture, 1 Peter 4:11.  If we let our talk of theology be something other than the λόγια Θεον [the Word of God], so we no longer talk about something divine, but only about something human, namely our own words and thoughts about God and his actions.  Then we but no longer stand on the rock solid foundation of Scripture but swim in the sea of subjectivism, as Dr. Pieper puts it, or we wade in the swamp water of a Schleiermacher, Ritschl and Hofmann.    Luther rightly says: "The Scripture presents God thus: to see, hear, [page 903] walk, stand, talk, be quiet, sleep and wake, that we may find Him, and so that I may crossover between me and Him, although otherwise God's nature remains unchanged.  But everything is to be done for the sake of faith.” (St. L ed., vol. 3, col. 202-203 paragr. 12; not in Am. Ed.)  
- - - - - - - - - - - continued in Part 5  - - - - - - - - - - -

     Prof. Mueller characterizes Pieper's response to the limitation of God's grace as an "abundantly sharp judgment"... and Pieper lets it fall...  BANG!  Did you hear the sharp "BANG"?  It was Pieper lowering the boom... just as he said at another time (as I posted before): "Nein Nein, no, no!..." —
     Anthropopathy – "...the attribution of human emotion to a non-human being, generally a god." – Google Definitions.  God condescends to our comprehension and demands that we follow His way of knowing Him, by His Word, and believing Him at His Word.  This is not just one thing among many, it is a matter of spiritual life or death.  —
   There is mention of a "problem" above – what problem?  An assumed "problem" between the immutability, or unchangeableness of God versus the Scripture presentation of changes in God.  There was another German theologian who frequently used the word "problem" when he spoke of Scripture: Hermann Sasse.  It seemed that Sasse was often trying to solve another "problem" of Scripture or he was "confronted with problems in the fields of science and historical research".  But Christians are not confronted with "problems" by God's Word, rather they are presented with a God who condescends to our comprehension so that we might believe Him. —
     Although today's LC-MS gives lip service to the Brief Statement of 1932, (some professors want to be rid of it) yet the heart of this document is the heart of Dr. Franz Pieper which is the heart of ... God. —
    This section ends with the beginning of "What Luther Says" on this subject and so in the next Part 5, we will hear much more from Martin Luther.  But before that, I must pause this series to next post an excursus...

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