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Monday, April 27, 2015

Pieper's Dogmatics: A Master in Israel Speaks! (Bente’s book review of the "Extended Statement", Part 2)

Christian DogmaticsVolume 2
      This concludes from Part 1 presenting Friedrich Bente's book review of Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, volume 2.  (Downloads of scanned copies of the German Dogmatik available here; also Mueller's abridged version.) —  This book review was for me a great antidote to the faith destroying work of the Provost of Concordia Seminary, Prof. Jeffrey J. Kloha, for whom the Bible is a "plastic text".  Franz Pieper had very high praise for Friedrich Bente's Historical Introduction to the Book of Concord when the Concordia Triglotta was first published...  very high praise indeed since Pieper was the best judge of Church History in the Twentieth Century.  But the high praise also went in the other direction, especially when the first volume of Pieper's Christian Dogmatics, volume 2, appeared.
     Bente's review is so packed with wisdom, I could not fail to speak up about it.  And so below I repeat most of it in sections with my detailed comments, indented and in red text below each quote:

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.
…  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.
Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics is not a Christian dogmatics, no matter how many volumes he wrote, no matter how many accolades it receives.   According to the recent book Strange Glory, page 136: “Karl Barth … the Swiss theologian had moved from Münster ... to assume Bonn’s post in Reformed Theology, which was being funded by American Presbyterians eager to promote Calvinism in the land of Luther.”  So why is Barth a non-entity in Christian dogmatics?  Read on...

Actually no one is by any means true to Scripture who ... 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.
There are a lot of theologians who “surround themselves with a scholarly exegetical atmosphere”.  Many of today’s theologians gain notoriety by having higher degrees from Cambridge, Oxford, University of Chicago, Princeton, Yale, etc.  Concordia Publishing House can’t get enough of its Bible commentators and the positive reviews for their books by these “scholarly exegetes”.  Their editors love this scholarly atmosphere, the “scholarly exegetical atmosphere”.  But yet they are either weak in or have lost the Doctrine of Grace.  Walter Albrecht, in his Foreword to Volume III of Pieper’s Dogmatics, highlighted Pieper’s statement from Volume I (pg 101), that “Only dogmatics is edifying”.  That is, it is for doctrine that the Bible was given to man.  As Pieper says on page 101: “Exegetical theology deals exclusively with the words of Holy Scripture…. [It] loses its theological character if the exegete does not adhere throughout to the maxims “Scriptura Scripturam interpretatur” [Scripture interprets Scripture] and “Scriptura sua luce radiat.” [Scripture shines its own light]  —  This is how I was led back to my Christian faith, as Pieper (and Walther) held my nose to the bare Scripture of 2 Cor. 5:19 and said “See?”  can you read?... that God IS already reconciled to you?...  now you know what grace is.

And now in the middle of this grace doctrine Dr. Pieper’s Dogmatics takes its firm, over-arching, all dominant position.
Over-arching?  Yes.  All dominant position?  Check.  How my copy of this volume 2 is marked up in so many places!  How many noon-hour breaks I spent quietly reading (and praising God for) this volume.

In the doctrines that are discussed in this [second] volume, all threads of theology come together and tie themselves into a knot in the doctrines of justification and conversion.
Pieper polished the diamond that Walther uncovered again, and likewise … 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.

This reveals a theologian [who]…
•  really dominates the whole situation,
•  really grasps all kinds of Christian doctrines and truths,
• 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.
Bente’s summary of the benefits of Pieper’s theology is the best… better than Ludwig Fuerbriner’s, better than the Foreword written by Missouri’s Synodical Centennial Committee, even better than J.T. Mueller’s and Walter Albrecht’s Forewords to Volumes II and III, although Albrecht includes some high praise.  Bente elevates all their praise to the highest level and announces to the whole Twentieth Century: “Here is your Christian textbook for the century!

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.
The Scripture that today’s LC-MS calls a “plastic text”.  How Jeffrey Kloha (among many) hates Pieper because Pieper places the Christian on a Solid Rock (1 Cor. 10:4), not a “plastic text”.  There is a seething hatred of Pieper by modern theologians because he flatly refutes their un-Scriptural teaching.

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.  
Bente is certainly speaking for the year 1917 when he says his Missouri Synod “has remained faithful”.  And it most certainly now has not been true for some time.  Ah, but surprisingly, by God’s grace, Pieper’s Dogmatics remains in print and readily available so that the true Missouri Synod can still be seen… no, not today’s LC-MS, rather the Missouri Synod from above.  —  And Bente specifically states that what Dr. Pieper taught was the same as C.F.W. Walther.  Indeed we may say that Pieper’s Dogmatics is the one that Walther would have written  – we may even call it “Walther’s Dogmatics”!

He [Pieper] leads right into the heart of the struggles that Missouri has been in for more than seventy-five years. [since 1842!]  Then in the end it is his doctrine of Grace with which Missouri has caused the great rumbling in America.
The “GREAT RUMBLING IN AMERICA”... by what?  Franz Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics!  How the opponents hated Pieper’s pure teaching!  They sneered and laughed at him!  (They still do.  And Bonhoeffer drove right past St. Louis...)

Even the Missourian fight for the doctrine of Church and Ministry finally is nothing other  than the underlying doctrine of justification.
Those who contend that differences between the LC-MS and the Wisconsin Synod is chiefly “Church and Ministry” would do well to ponder this statement.  When there is truly a difference, it means that there is a deeper problem with the Doctrine of Justification… something the Wisconsin Synod has denied in the past.

With pleasure we admit: Walther and Missouri are essentially only the "Repristination" of Luther and his doctrine of grace.
The opponents within the LC-MS against its teaching of the past knew this and so they thought to put on a mask of being especially Lutheran by putting out portions of the American Edition of Luther’s Works.  Jaroslav Pelikan and Arthur Carl Piepkorn joined with the erring Theodore Tappert to produce his Book of Concord and also in collaborating on the American Edition.  The situation is the same today as the LC-MS’s Robert Kolb joined with ELCA’s Timothy Wengert for their unionistic Book of Concord.  Yes indeed, they call themselves “confessional”, Luther scholars!  But it is all a mask, for it was C.F.W. Walther who spearheaded the true Confessionalism and the greatest Back To Luther movement since the Reformation Century!

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!
Truly a Battle Royal!  Lehre und Wehre, or “Doctrine and Defense”, is filled with faith strengthening essays and reports on this battle.

And the clarity, certainty, strength and determination with which Dr. 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.  
… “Here a Master in Israel [Franz Pieper] speaks!”  
– Friedrich Bente – a true Church Historian!
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 wants to satisfy himself that in Walther and the theologians and congregations that have gathered around him, in the reading of this second volume of Dr. Pieper’s Dogmatics they will have seen in fact an American resurrection of Luther’s Lutheranism. F[riedrich]. B[ente].
“An American resurrection of Luther’s Lutheranism.”  –  Bente said a mouthful!  He pronounces Pieper’s Dogmatics to be not only the heart of Walther’s teaching and that of the Missouri Synod, but also the heart of Martin Luther.  Even more, Bente implies that Luther’s teaching had been largely covered up for some time and had experienced a resurrection.  Where?  In America.
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Far from Matthias Loy's charge that Pieper was in "theological diapers", didn't Friedrich Bente just say that Pieper is the...
The Twentieth Century Luther?

If one is truly interested in "The Lutheran Difference", he will get his answer in Pieper's Dogmatics volume 2, rather than from the mixed theology in the current "Reformation Anniversary Edition" of the book of the same name put out by Concordia Publishing House.  And by the way, wouldn't you know it, it refers exclusively to the Concordia Triglotta!  —  Hmmm... maybe I should publish the hyperlinks to all of Pieper's references to the Lutheran Confessions...  I wonder how much time that would take?
==>> Steve Born, maybe you should take up this challenge even though you removed your Table of Contents?

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