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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Walther– even if problem not solved until Last Day; Copernicanism Part 6

      This continues from Part 5, a series on Copernicanism and Geocentricity (see Intro & Contents 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.
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      From the "science" aspect of Dr. North's document, I return again to the theological aspect.  In an earlier blog (December 7, 2011) I published Walther's writings specific to Copernicanism at the Eastern District gathering of pastors in 1868, held beginning August 26 in Richmond Virginia, but I did not include his full text.  I want to rectify that shortcoming in this blog post.  It is notable that the year is 1868, the same as when the world-wide furor broke out over Pastor Knak's famous statement in response to the "scientifically" disproven Bible which teaches that the sun goes around the earth:
"Yes, that I do, I know only the worldview of the Holy Scriptures!"
      So these Eastern District pastors were surely familiar with the furor spreading around the world regarding Pastor Knak's confession.  In October, Lehre und Wehre (p. 325 under "In Berlin hat neulich...") would report on what other German theologians were saying against (and for) Pastor Knak's position.  But I want to highlight a further statement that Walther makes which is in the final paragraph below:
Translation by BackToLuther; Emphasis in original; highlighting is mine

Copernican System.
It was asked whether it was to be held as an article of faith that which is illuminated from Joshua 10:12—14, that the sun goes around the earth, and thus whether they must reject the Copernican system.
C.F.W. Walther
Joshua 10: 12-14
Answer: This is a part, not an article of the doctrinal structure.  Now, if one can not see that the Holy Scriptures would this teach at this and at other locations, that one can thereby well be a believing Christian; but whoever believes that the author of the book of Joshua wanted to write how things stood with the path of the sun but was in error, he makes the basis of all faith, the Holy Scriptures themselves, uncertain and so assaults the foundation.  But whoever thinks Joshua speaks optically, as also the Copernicans do when they say that the sun rises, the sun sets, that one can not be condemned.  
Here, once again, was raised the question whether it was possible to admit that the Bible uses the optical mode of speech?
Answer. Because this doctrine, whether the sun goes around the earth or the earth around the sun, is not an article of faith but is at most only an object of faith, a part of the doctrinal structure of Holy Scriptures, so we must from this point of view, because such (optical) way of speaking is unworthy of God where He would be using a human form of speech that contains an error, even so consider such a one as erring, but not as a heretic.  But on the other hand it is also certain that such a one sets up a dangerous hermeneutical principle in that indeed this speech is not only put in the mouth of Joshua, but is also used by the author of this writing as well (verse 13), a principle whose consequences makes the Bible uncertain for him.  
It should be noted that recently some astronomers acknowledge that the Copernican system is only a hypothesis (assumption), and that some have returned to this, that the sun goes around the Earth, for example Schelling, and Carol Grande in his Welt-Gebäude, Leipzig, 1857.  In the Bible we have divine thoughts and truths which proceed, as it were, physically in words from God.  He indeed uses human speech, but it is impossible that it may contain an error.  This is actually a problem and will probably be resolved only on the Last Day; meanwhile one goes the safest way if one keeps simply (einfältig, or naively) to the Scripture, rather than to human authorities, since we mostly cannot investigate the matter ourselves, even so most stick to authorities.  In summary, one can well deny anything in such teachings that are not in organic connection with the doctrinal struc­ture of Holy Scriptures, as long as one does not recognize that it is revealed in the Bible; once you recognize that and also deny it, so one thereby rejects the Bible.
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Walther, in the highlighted statements above, indicates that even though a scientific problem occurs, one is to take the route of believing the Bible over "science".  He says "it is impossible that it (the Bible) may contain an error".  Now we moderns may look at the second highlighted statement and think that if Walther were living today, he might not make such a strong stand against Copernicanism, especially with all the 'science' that refutes it... but that would contradict what he said earlier: "This is actually a problem (of 'science') and will probably be resolved only on the Last Day".  Walther is willing to wait until the Last Day when all will be made known, even if science cannot properly explain that the sun goes around the earth.
      There is another notable point that Walther makes in the last paragraph – he appeals to secular philosophers and teachers (Schelling and Carol Grande) who at least question Copernicanism.  In a later blog post, I will show that Walther was not alone in this kind of appeal.  Indeed, Dr. Alexander Frantz in Germany used these same names in his defense against Copernicanism... but I get ahead of myself -- this will come later.
      In the earlier 1992 CPH publication of Walther's essay (Essays for the Church, Vol. 1, pg 89), Prof. Charles Arand's Foreword says:
"...the reader may find of passing interest Walther’s view of the Copernican system (he rejects it) and his approach to dealing with those who hold otherwise."
It appears by Arand's comment that he may have had only a "passing interest" and rejected "Walther's view of the Copernican system" even in 1992 and essentially taught then what the CTCR/LC-MS formalized in its document 23 years later in 2015 -- see Part 1.
       I am not done presenting Walther on Copernicanism.  I will revisit his commentary (see my earlier blog) on J. C. W. Lindemann's brochure caricaturing the 'science' of Copernicanism.   Later I will publish a striking statement he makes in 1880 about Copernicus himself ... sending me on a month of research.  Again, this will be presented later.  —  In the next Part 7, I want to go back, back to Luther, on this subject of the new Astronomy.

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