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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pieper– praised by Walther, divides Law and Gospel (anniversary of Pieper's passing)

— June 3, 1931 — 
the passing of Prof. Franz Pieper from this earthly life

Perhaps many other things were noted for this date in world history.  But in Church History, it marks a silencing of the pen and voice of the greatest Christian theologian of the Twentieth Century.

How may I honor Pieper on this day?  With 2 examples.  There was a major Pastoral Conference in 1880 in the old (German) Missouri Synod, and all pastors were urgently requested to attend this conference to be held in Chicago.  Proceedings were published by Concordia here.  This was the major gathering to attempt to settle within the Missouri Synod the Great Election Controversy.  In the middle of the great debate, the opponents were using every means they could to attempt to prove that a Christian's election (or predestination) was caused "in view of their faith", or in Latin intuitu fidei.  I will cover other aspects of it soon, but I want to extract 2 things that occurred there to honor this great teacher of the Lutheran Church:

1) The "admirable" young professor, at age 28

As the writings of Martin Chemnitz were drawn into the debate, Prof. Franz Pieper properly clarified Chemnitz' position on this doctrine. (see especially page 78).  And on page 81, Walther compliments the young Prof. Franz Pieper against the opponents:
Prof. Pieper has already admirably proved that you [opponents] also cannot begin with anything at all for your cause...
Walther, although a gracious theologian, was in a heated battle and had little time for niceties.  But this compliment from Walther was the sign that the old theologian could see that this young man was no ordinary theologian, for he could properly understand the great Martin Chemnitz, chief author of the Formula of Concord.

2) the Distinction of Law and Gospel — by Walther's successor

A little later in the debate (pages 87-88), Prof. Pieper addresses the confusion of the opponents by saying:
The doctrine of election is a very delicate thing. There one cannot get by with mere dogmatic formulas. ... And I mean, here is proposed through observing a distinction, namely the distinction between Law and Gospel.  Whoever does not distinguish Law and Gospel here in this case [Election], will spoil all possible Scriptural passages, those of certainty, as well as those reminders dealing with the struggles. Whoever does not distinguish here between Law and Gospel, stirs a general mash together from the admonitions to certainty and to fear; there is half fear, half certainty, i.e. just no certainty.
Here sat the young professor, before the great Walther (who had already given his earlier lectures on Law and Gospel in 1878), before hundreds of Missouri Synod pastors, before many other Synodical Conference members, and proposed to use Walther's own specialty of properly distinguishing Law and Gospel to answer the mysteries of the Doctrine of Election!  I can just see the dear Walther's eyes almost come to tears as he saw his Theses come to life!  Walther would later go on in 1884-85 to deliver a more complete series of "Luther Hours" lectures on The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel, the lectures being the basis of Concordia's later publishing of the same name.  —

— Could it be that Franz Pieper was partially the cause for Walther to produce his most well known lectures?
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Pieper's time would come as the great Walther passed into his eternal rest in 1887.  And he would carry that torch just as well as his teacher, until the day he died on

June 3, 1931

84 years ago today.

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