Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Luther, Chemnitz,… Walther! (not Gerhard in Big 3)

[2017-05-31: added item #6 to Gerhard's weaknesses]
[Updated August 14, 2015 in green text; July 29, 2015 – added red text]
I have previously highlighted (see also here) the following statement made by Franz Pieper, but I want to repeat it again because it is so striking in the face of many of today's theologians:
We believe we are not asserting too much when we say that after Luther and Chemnitz probably no teacher of our Church has given more vital witness of the doctrine of justification than Walther.  Walther had Luther as his teacher especially also in this doctrine, and gathered the luminous rays which the later teachers shed upon this doctrine into one beam of brilliant light.
Franz Pieper (LuW 36-1890, pg 10)(German text)
Franz Pieper knew very well the teachings of John Gerhard, another great teacher of the Lutheran Church from the 17th century.  He quoted Gerhard over 125 times in his Christian Dogmatics books.  But Franz Pieper boldly sets Walther ahead of John Gerhard in this statement!  And Pieper knew exactly what he was doing.  Walther himself would never have set himself above Gerhard as he highly praised Gerhard's work, even concerning the Doctrine of Justification, even (somewhere) setting Gerhard just behind Luther and Chemnitz.  But Franz Pieper was no ordinary judge of Church History, for he could see that the "luminous rays" of the Gospel had not been so well gathered "into one beam of brilliant light" since the Reformation century than by ... C.F.W. Walther.

So why reassert this today?  Because it directly refutes what many modern theologians are attempting to do:

1) Repristination Press, Sacred Meditations, pg 9 (James Heiser?, as Nathaniel Biebert of WELS repeats):
“Gerhard is the third (Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard) in that series of Lutheran theologians in which there is no fourth” 
Repristination Press would slam the door in Walther's face!  But Franz Pieper not only kept that door open, he proclaims to the face of Repristination Press that Walther is right behind Luther and Chemnitz, indeed implicitly ahead of Gerhard on the Doctrine of Justification.  Anyone who has read both Walther and Pieper would know that this certainly is not out of disregard for Gerhard!  Rather it reflects the beauty of the pure Gospel, the Gospel that Walther set back on its pedestal, reflected in the beautiful descriptive terminology of "Universal, Objective Justification".


2) Concordia Publishing House is following in these same footsteps in parts of its praise for John Gerhard.  Matthew Harrison joins those who would so praise Gerhard as to forget Walther and Franz Pieper:
“Gerhard’s Loci is the greatest doctrinal text in the entire history of Lutheranism."
What these moderns mean by their elevation of John Gerhard today is to obscure C.F.W. Walther.  They propose to know Lutheranism better than the father of the Missouri Synod, better than his successor Franz Pieper.  They purposely take the focus away from the many writings of C.F.W. Walther (including his Baieri Compendium, but also implicitly place Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics out of view.  They do not expose (Distinguendem Est) the weaknesses of John Gerhard who:
  1. Disagreed with Luther's translation of Gen. 4:1b
  2. Attempted to rationalize the doctrine of Election with the phrase intuitu fidei (in view of faith)
  3. Was not as forceful in directly proclaiming the universality of God's justification 
  4. "... some later Lutheran dogmaticians [e.g. Gerhard] differentiated, as to the object of faith, between Christ's merit as the thing that justifies ... and justification, or remission of sins, itself, presenting only Christ or Christ's merit and not the forgiveness of sins, or justification itself, as the object of faith." - De iustificatione, § 179 (ref. Christian Dogmatics Vol. 2, pgs 539-540
  5. Deviated from Scripture and Confessions on teaching of Sunday (per Christliche Dogmatik v. 1, pg 637, n. 1570 #2, Baier-Walther III, 351-355)
  6. Showed some confusion on the distinction of Antilegomena and Homologoumena (per Christliche Dogmatik v. 1, p. 406 & n. 1127; Christian Dogmatics v. 1, p. 336 & note 139)
On point #3, I am interested in the forthcoming English translation from CPH of Gerhard's Loci - On Justification in the Fall of 2018, to see Gerhard's strengths and weak areas of expression when compared to Luther, Chemnitz, Walther and Pieper.

To those who continue to be blinded to the greatness of C.F.W. Walther in the Lutheran Church, and rather hold up John Gerhard ahead of him, they do an injustice to Gerhard.  In reality they do not properly honor him when they overlook, and maybe even follow, Gerhard's weaknesses.  The same holds true also in the case of Hermann Sasse today.

Yes, go ahead Repristination Press and CPH, heap up your praise of Gerhard, show how scholarly you are!  ... how "Lutheran" you are! ... how "theological" you are... higher than the heavens! ... so much higher than Walther and Pieper!  By this you distinguish Franz Pieper even more, you in essence betray yourself and proclaim
Franz Pieper, the Twentieth Century Luther!
... and the true Church Historian.  I will read of Gerhard's works because Walther and Pieper recommend him, certainly not because the moderns recommend him above Walther and Pieper.


  1. Take the good where you can get it. There is no need to rank one good teacher over another.

    1. Oh? Maybe I should not rank you behind Luther and Chemnitz?... or Walther?

      My faith is far too weak to accept your stance, for my return to the Christian faith demanded absolute certainty of my salvation, without one hint of caveats or conditions. Your stance implies to maybe take the bad with the good, even if you did not explicitly state this. Mixed theology is no big deal to you. But no, I am one step from HELL. If ever a hint comes to me that there is still something on my part that I must do for my salvation, then I am going to hell. You may call me naive, but I really believe this. I was (and still am) literally trembling in the face of Larry Darby (and others) who cleverly and boldly denied the teaching of Universal, Objective Justification.
      No, my blog continues to answer the apathetic sound of your comment: “Take the good where you can get it”. But I will rephrase your comment in its proper sense:
      God’s Word and Luther’s Doctrine Pure,
      Shall to Eternity Endure!

      No, this blog post is aimed directly at you – in your face. It was only the assurance of Walther, Pieper, … and Luther that grounded my faith back where it belongs, to a God who is already reconciled to me, before my faith , and also to the whole world [2 Cor. 5:19], and who will have all to come to the knowledge of the saving truth (universal Justification).

      You sound a lot like my “Jeopardy” theologians of a few years ago, and like them, I will not post another comment from you, for this is a Christian blog, not a Jeopardy training site. No, I know who you are, you probably call yourself “Lutheran”, maybe even a “confessional Lutheran”. You consider yourself to be a scholar of theology. You speak for today’s LC-MS. – But you would leave me in suspense, in jeopardy, in doubt of my soul’s salvation.

      Now go tell Repristination Press and CPH the same thing you tell me… CPH has places to give comments on their site. You could comment on Harrison’s (false?) ranking of Gerhard on one of CPH’s books by John Gerhard.

      It was C.F.W. Walther who proclaimed the true meaning of Easter better than any Christian teacher since the Reformation century, as I highlighted in my blog post of April 14, 2014:
      In another Easter sermon, Walther gave the other picture of the meaning of Easter that I will take to my grave, that Christ’s resurrection is God the Father’s receipt to all of us that the debt has been paid in full for all. – He IS Risen! He is risen INDEED! Now you know why I always answer each sales clerk who asks “Would you like your receipt?” to which I answer “Yes!”. But Walther does more than ask, he shoves the receipt in our face! He pounds the Kingdom of Heaven into our laps! And Franz Pieper repeats this same forcefulness with his essay The Open Heaven!

      THANK YOU for giving me the opportunity to repeat this divine message that Walther proclaims to the world for EASTER… today!... here and now!


Comments only accepted when directly related to the post.