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Monday, April 27, 2015

Pieper's Dogmatics: the Great Rumbling in America (Bente's book review for the ages) Part 1

Prof. Friedrich Bente
     The previous series on Franz Pieper's Brief Statement ("his Theses"), with the wonderful ensuing comments (here, here, here), serves as the perfect lead-in for a book review from October 1917 of Pieper's first published volume of his Christian Dogmatics series.  I have highlighted previously Ludwig Fuerbringer's comments on Pieper and his Dogmatics books.  But I ran across a much better book review than Fuerbringer's – it was made by Pieper's colleague, Prof. Friedrich Bente.  Bente is the author of the Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books, American Lutheranism (2 volumes), and the essay Following the Faith of Our Fathers.  He was the chief editor of the Concordia Triglotta.  He was a prolific writer for Lehre und Wehre – in fact he was the chief spokesman for the Missouri Synod during Pieper's convalescence from exhaustion.  Bente was Pieper's main colleague in many discussions with other American Lutheran synods outside the Synodical Conference.  Although Fuerbringer praises Pieper's work, Bente...... oh, I will first let him speak for himself, in this book review for the ages:

From Lehre und Wehre vol. 63, pgs 468-469 (October 1917); translated by BackToLuther.
Highlighting added; hyperlinks added for reference. Text in square brackets [ ] added by translator.
Christian Dogmatics. By Dr. Franz Pieper. Second volume. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo., 672 pages, bound in linen with title on spine and cover. Price: $4.00.
This work, which thousands will welcome with pleasure, is already sufficiently characterized in "Lehre und Wehre." [pgs 387-394] Nevertheless we do not want to fail to make some remarks.  Admittedly not every Lutheran can write a dogmatics, but only a Lutheran can write a truly Christian dogmatics.  Why?  Because he does not only stand merely according to his heart faith, but also according to his knowledge in the center of Christianity.  Whoever does not take up his position in the center, he neither sees everything nor rightly sees and judges what he does see.  In theology, this position is that you just actually sit in the Scriptures, see everything through Scripture and judge according to the Scriptures.  Actually no one is by any means true to Scripture who deals with its words and surrounds himself with a scholarly exegetical atmosphere, but only he who has taken his position in the very heart of Scripture.   However, this heart of Christianity is nothing else than the Scripture doctrine of the grace of God in Christ Jesus, after which only faith justifies, brings new birth, and makes blessed.  And now in the middle of this grace doctrine, Dr. Pieper’s Dogmatics takes its firm, over-arching, [page 469] all dominant position.  It is therefore also quite fitting and logical that the second volume of this Dogmatics, in which the Christian doctrine of grace is the real question, is the first volume published.  In the doctrines that are discussed in this volume, all threads of theology come together and tie themselves into a knot in the doctrines of justification and conversion.  This reveals a theologian at every turn, whether he really dominates the whole situation, if he really grasps not only all kinds of Christian doctrines and truths, but has grasped the Christian doctrine, the truth of the Gospel to which everything else behaves like antecedens and consequens, and can lay it out properly on all sides and is able to defend it.  Thus everyone can then immediately convince themselves, by this second volume which treats of the doctrine of grace, of the fact that he has here a Dogmatics before him which actually stands in the center of the Scriptures. The Scripture, the teaching of Scripture in its innermost center – just this is what Pieper’s Dogmatics offers.  —  A peculiarity of the [old German] Missouri Synod is also that it has remained faithful to the theological point of view which it has assumed from the outset.  Still today [1917] Walther's position is the position of the [old German] Missouri Synod.  What Walther taught, what now Dr. Pieper has taught continuously nearly forty years as a professor at the seminary in St. Louis, this Dogmatics brings appropriate expression.  Missouri has found so far no sufficient reason to move away from his position.  And the fact that no reason exists for it even today, everyone can convince himself of it who takes this volume in hand.  He leads right into the heart of the struggles that Missouri has been in for more than seventy-five years. [1842!]  Then in the end it is his doctrine of Grace with which Missouri has caused the great rumbling [Rumor] in America.  Even the Missourian fight for the doctrine of Church and Ministry finally is nothing other  than the underlying doctrine of justification. Romanism in the doctrine of Church and Ministry runs consistently every time out of a falsification of the Lutheran doctrine of "faith alone." With pleasure we admit: Walther and Missouri are essentially only the "Repristination" of Luther and his doctrine of grace.  And no attentive Lutheran will put aside this volume of Pieper’s Dogmatics without gaining this impression: the battle of Missouri for the Lutheran truth – it was a great, glorious, holy, victorious war!  And the clarity, certainty, strength and determination with which D. Pieper moved in the presentation of the doctrine of Scripture, as well as in refuting the antitheses, generated confidence that here a master in Israel speaks, an approved leader, whom nobody can follow in his arguments without reaching at the same time certainty for themselves.  Over the decades, many of the strange prejudices against Walther and his theology have fallen.  And whoever wants to lose the last remnants of his distrust of Missouri, and to satisfy himself that in Walther and the theologians and congregations that have gathered around him, have seen in fact an American resurrection of Luther’s Lutheranism in the reading of this second volume of Dr. Pieper’s Dogmatics. F[riedrich]. B[ente].

This book review is far too significant so that "we do not want to fail to make some remarks"... in my next Part 2.

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