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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Augustine, Luther, Chemnitz vs. good Papists, poor Protestants (simple, clear Scripture) – Part 1 of 3

      Continuing my project of presenting the full text of Franz Pieper's original Christliche Dogmatik.... (Vol. 1a fully proofed, proofing Vol 1b...)
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      At the risk of over emphasizing Pieper's devotion to the bare words of Holy Scripture, I cannot pass by a thrilling portion from Volume 1 of his Dogmatik.  From pages 435-436 of Volume 1 (or pages 360-361 of English edition):
Translation by BackToLutherunderlining in original German text; highlighting is mine:

Therefore, the great teachers of the Church, as Augustine, Luther, Chemnitz, etc., have held fast to the orderly nature of Scripture given by God, which presents the entire Christian doctrine in such places which do not require the help of exegesis to remove obscurities. The proofs from Augustine, etc. were taught in the section on the perspicuity of Scripture (see p. 391, English ed. p. 324).  On this characteristic of Scripture also Luther's admonition is based: "Whoever cannot understand the dark, remain with the light." [“Wer das Dunkle nicht verstehen kann, der bleibe bei dem Lichten.” St. L. V, 338 on Psalm 37; not in Am. Ed.]  Besides, no one needs to fear that he will come up short in some doctrine of faith or life.
Against this it has been objected by good Papists and poor Protestants that the special gift of Scripture exposition, which God gives some Christians before others, could not be used.  The objection is unfounded.  The special gift of the interpretation of Scripture has a large operating area despite the utter clarity of Scripture in the sense just described.  In the first place it is as Harless puts it in his preface to Luther's exposition of the 17th chapter of the Gospel of St. Joh. [Leipzig, 1857, p. V , here?]: "If the Word of God does not need interpretation, yet our hard hearts and deaf ears require the voice of the heralds and preachers in the desert.  And this in turn is not as if the words of Christ for human senses are too high and too deep, too dark and mysterious, but because, as Luther has recognized correctly, we blind or mindless humans, in our eccentric pursuit of false heights, skim over the divine simplicity of Christ's words."  Hence, the real job of the exegete consists in capturing the erratic human mind to the simple written Word and, where he has already deviated from it, to lead him back to the simple written Word.  As Luther says of all his writings, and particularly also of his exegetical writings, that their only purpose is to lead back into the Scripture, and indeed so lead back to the Scripture in such a way that every Christian and [Page 436] every teacher stands with his faith on the mere [or bare] word of Scripture, on the nuda Scriptura, minus "glosses". Luther does not understand by "gloss" only the false exegesis, as has been thought, but also every interpretation, even the right one.  This is why Luther is known to always express the wish that he would like all his books to perish so that Christians would base their faith on the nuda Scriptura [bare, mere Scripture], without interpretation, because all interpretation is necessarily darker than Scripture itself and therefore any interpretation yet again must be examined to see whether it can stand before the brighter light of Scripture.  "There is on earth no clearer book written than the Holy Scriptures; it is, compared with all other books, the same as the Sun against all the lights." (St. L. V:334; not in Am. Ed..)  Fortunately, Luther's wish that all his books would to go down so that the nuda Scriptura [bare, mere Scripture] would keep its absolute rule, was not fulfilled.  His writings namely have not only the purpose, but are in fact such that they lead the fickle spirit of man to the bare [mere / nude] Scripture, without interpretation, and keeps it so that every Christian, and particularly also every Christian standing in a public teaching post, can say with Luther: "The Word they still shall let remain."  By this “Word” Luther understood the nuda Scriptura.  But such manuductio ad nudam Scripturam [leading to the bare Scripture] was not only required in Luther's time.  The Church needs it at all times until the Day of Judgment, because man is inclined at all times and will be inclined as "blind or mindless humans, in our eccentric pursuit of false heights, to skim over the divine simplicity of the words of Scripture".  So also our time needs such exegetes — they need not in every case be theologians by profession — who by God's grace mainly have four characteristics:
1. Hold the Scripture to be God's own Word, and treat it accordingly;  
2. Regard the Scripture as clear, according to the testimony of Scripture about itself;  
3. They let their whole activity rise to the manuductio ad nudam Scripturam;  
4. They uncover the deceit each time people want, by their human thoughts under the glow of "exegesis", to inject the necessary light into the Scripture.
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This whole section from Pieper's Dogmatik makes a Christian's heart glow.  —  But before I return to it (with some questions) in Part 3, I had to do some Internet searching on this subject which is covered it in Part 2...

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