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Friday, February 26, 2016

Pieper on Copernicanism (again) — Part 3

[2016-10-28: Added note at bottom]
      This continues from Part 2, a series on Copernicanism and Geocentricity (see Intro & ToC in Part 1) in response to a letter from a young person ("Josh") who asked if I believed Geocentricity ... and did not ridicule me in his question. [Note: negative comments will not be published or read]
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      After hearing Dr. Faulkner disparage geocentricity (and my faith in an infallible Scripture) in Part 2, I want to publish all the text from Franz Pieper's Christliche Dogmatik relating to this topic.  First, I will publish the material on "The Fourth Day" of creation from the English edition Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, pages 472-473.  As "Josh" indicated, he perceived that I may have wavered on the teaching of a fixed Earth based on a previous blog post.  
English edition, Volume 1 with added underline emphasis from original German.
Highlighting and hyperlinks are mine:
page 472
The Fourth Day: God created the celestial bodies, sun, moon, and stars. We are not told of what (materia ex qua) they were created, but it is stated for what purpose (finis cuius) and for whose good (finis cui) they were made. They are to serve as the dispensers of light and the indicators of the time and seasons (Gen. 1:14-18). The Bible does not teach any so-called astronomical "system," but it does teach clearly the following facts: The earth came into existence before the sun, and the light was before the sun. The earth does not serve the sun, but the sun was made to serve the earth. The existence and activity of the sun, moon, and stars are dependent on the existence of the earth. When the earth has run its course, having fulfilled its purpose, which is to provide a habitation for men to hear the Gospel of the crucified Savior of sinners, then the sun, moon, and stars will disappear with this present earth. Matt. 24:14 speaks plain language: "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." With the end of this world the end of all things, of the universe, πάντων τὸ τέλος (1 Pet. 4:7), is come. No matter what size, compared with the earth, men may ascribe to sun, moon, and stars, these celestial bodies have no independent history and no independent meaning and function, but [page 473] their history and significance or function are dependent upon the earth. These facts are positively taught in Holy Scripture.
As to the astronomical systems constructed by men, every Chris­tian, and particularly every Christian theologian, must keep these four things in mind: 1) Scripture is errorless, also in physical matters. Scripture is indeed "no textbook of the natural sciences." Its purpose is to teach the way to heaven by faith in Christ (2 Tim. 3:15; John 17:20; 20:31; Eph. 2:20-22). But when, even though only in passing, it does teach matters of natural science, its statements are the inviolable truth (John 10:35).  2) Scripture accommodates itself to our human conception of things (e. g., when it speaks of a praescientia Dei or of a descensus Dei), but never to erroneous human conceptions. We are not entitled to limit John 10:35: "The Scripture cannot be broken," and John 17:17: "Thy Word is truth" by saying that this "self-evidently" does not refer to the historical, geographic, scientific, etc., statements of Scripture.  3) our human knowledge of astronomical matters is naturally limited much by our inability to view them from a position outside this globe and the universe. Even the geographer Daniel, who is himself a Copernican, reminds us of this fact. "The cosmic systems, all of them without exception, are not based on experience, for this would demand a position outside the earth, but on conclusions and combinations. All of them therefore are and remain hypotheses." 10  4) It is unworthy of a Christian to interpret Scripture, which he knows to be God's own Word, according to human opinions (hypotheses), and that includes the Copernican cosmic system, or to have others thus to interpret Scripture to him. 11

At this point I want to present footnote 11 as my translation from the original German footnote # 1454b. found on pages 577-578.  Although the English edition's translation is quite adequate, I want to be as exact as possible:
1454 b) Especially those who consider themselves "Copernicans", have the bad habit in explaining their "world view" as a “fixed result of science”.  This also came out on the occasion of the Lisco-Knak affair (1868).  In Lehre und Wehre of the same year p. 325 [Google Translation here] was a report of the affair which provoked great excitement in America at that time, juxtaposing statements of Twesten and Ströbel.  [Page 578]  It was done as follows: The Berlin Pastor Lisco had in a "Church Report" for the Berlin District Synod asserted that natural sciences had destroyed "the worldview of the biblical writers" forever, and no "orthodox" of modern times would believe with the Bible that the earth stood fast and the sun moved around it.  To this challenge the Berlin Pastor Knak answered: "Yes, that I believe; I know of no other world view than that of the Holy Scriptures."  This statement of Knak aroused great anger among those who are considered 'scientific' Copernicans.  Lehre und Wehre cited above reports that [Ed.- Lehre und Wehre vol. 14 (1868), p. 325, under heading “In Berlin hat neulich…”; see here for Google Translation]: “The old chief consistorial councilor [Oberkonsistorialrat, August Detlev Christian] Twesten addressed in a lecture to his audience the following words: ‘Do not believe that you as theologians have the deplorable prerogative of having to be narrow-minded.'”  On this stump Ströbel, in the Zeitschrift für luth. Theologie und Kirche, 1868, p 734, set the following wedge: "As long as man keeps his head on, the dream of the rotation of the earth will appear to him not as a result of science, but as one indicating lack of thought or inability to think.”  Ströbel writes this in the review of a writing of Pastor J. L. Füller, „Das Alte Testament dem Zweifel und dem Anstoß gegenüber" [“The Old Testament  – of the Doubt and Offense Against It”].  Ströbel praises this writing, but counts it as a “rust fleck” when  Füller asserts: "We followers of the Copernican system know what Joshua and his army did not know."  To this Ströbel remarks: "But the words (Joshua 10:13) ‘The sun stood still’ do not originate from the son of Nun, and the children of Israel, but from the Holy Spirit; should He maybe also first go to school with Copernicus?  Why doesn’t Pastor Füller also yet remain true to his principle with respect to the astronomical system:  ‘No one will probably be challenged who has not yet refused their own thinking and testing and does not yet in blind simple faith accept all unproven and unprovable presuppositions and assertions as the results of science.’”  This is also what we meant when we said above: "It is unworthy of a Christian to allow interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, which he knows to be God's own Word, according to human opinions (hypotheses; cf. Dr. Daniel)."  Luther is known to be against all astronomical systems where they are beyond experience for objective truth.  (Opp. Ex.., Erl 1.35 sqq. St. L. I, 33  [Ed.- see paragr. # 67; Am. Ed. 1, p. 27]; XI, 300 ff. [Am. Ed. vol. 52,  p 164 ff.])  By the way (übrigens), about a year ago, the newspaper writers threatened that Einstein's relativity theory will take the life out of Copernicanism.

There are 2 points that I would highlight at this time (so many to pick from):
1) “Scripture [never] accommodates itself … to erroneous human conceptions.”  The Bible could have accommodated itself to Copernicanism in Joshua 10:13… it could have said the sun appeared to stand still… but it didn’t… still doesn’t.

2) But didn’t Pieper seem to leave out a defense of a “fixed earth” with the sun going around it?  Answer: Although he did not specifically address this point in the body of his text, he did address it definitively in his footnote #11 (or 1454b) by recounting the “Lisco-Knak affair (1868)”, synodical publications. And  
in response to an assertion that “no ‘orthodox’ of modern times would believe with the Bible that the earth stood fast and the sun moved around it", the Berlin Pastor Knak answered: "Yes, that I believe; I know of no other world view than that of the Holy Scriptures."

As I reviewed exactly how Pieper presented his whole case, it occurred to me that he actually did follow Walther.  How so?  Didn’t he seem to ignore the “fixed earth” teaching in his text?  Perhaps, but he made it quite clear in his footnote and the references there that the students of Concordia St. Louis were to study the events surrounding this issue, including past synodical coverage and the “Lisco-Knak affair” in Germany,  and also Luther's writings.  And in his footnote, he made it clear that he not only taught with Pastor Knak (and Walther) that “the earth stood fast and the sun moved around it”, but also how to defend against a Copernicanism which demands that its teaching be considered objective truth.  Here particularly he uses Luther.

To “Josh”:
Do you see what Pieper and Walther say to you?  … as you “accept Copernicanism”?  They say that you are “in error but not as a heretic” … but with a condition.  What condition?  That you hold to your reverence for the infallibility and divine inspiration of Holy Scripture.  – But do you also hear the strong warning issued by both Pieper and Walther to you as you “accept Copernicanism”?  That you (and all Christians) are putting your faith in jeopardy, that you are “setting up a dangerous hermeneutical principle”.  Pieper addresses those “Copernican Christians” (my term) with the serious warning that their system, carried to its logical conclusions, can lead to serious errors, dare I say it?... loss of faith  –  in that the Earth’s purpose “is to provide a habitation for men to hear the Gospel of the crucified Savior of sinners.”  –  Why don’t either Walther or Pieper call your “acceptance of Copernicanism” heresy?  Because they recognize this can be only a secondary matter in Christian doctrine.  And importantly, Walther and Pieper, as also Luther, knew how to deal with the weak in faith.  I am reminded how Walther, perhaps the strongest teacher against secret societies, would commune a lodge member … as long as that person remained instructable.  An analogy to this situation would be that Walther and Pieper would not use an error in the teaching against Usury or Life Insurance to excommunicate a person, perhaps not even disallowing communing them.  Luther considered that there were Christians also under the Papacy and would not advise one to leave the Roman church until that person could see their way by the Word of God.

Josh, this post essentially answers your question of me. I’m glad you wrote to me, for it gave me opportunity to dig deeper into not only the references that Pieper gave in his footnote, but to a host of information, such as history from the time of the Reformation and the church history of the land that Franz Pieper emigrated from, Pomerania, once in Germany, now part of Poland.  This series may run well over 1 dozen posts.  I will return to Pieper’s references to Luther and Einstein’s theory of relativity at a later time.  But what about this “Lisco-Knak affair” in 1868?  Pieper’s account hints of its magnitude it “provoked great excitement in America” and “aroused great anger” among Copernicans.  But after researching this affair, I would wonder that Pieper’s description does not do it full justice.  In the next Part 4a, I begin expanding on the great “Lisco-Knak affair”... as the dear Pastor Gustav Knak stood before the ridicule of the whole world.

[2016-10-28: I have discovered that Pieper had in 1923, one year before the above Dogmatik was published, spoke of Copernicanism and the geographer H.A. Daniels in his address "The Christian World-View" later translated into English and published in J.T. Mueller's translated book What Is Christianity? And Other Essays.]

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