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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Synodical Conf. on Copernicanism, Holy Scripture; Part 12 (Luther's School; Poison? Old Path for 2016 Emmaus Conference)

      This continues from Part 11, 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. [Note, April 4: see added note in italics below]
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This blog post is dedicated to the 2016 Emmaus Conference, April 14.
NOTE- August 11, 2016: This complete essay is now translated and published in English HERE
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      We have seen that the old (German) Missouri Synod did not shrink back from a world wide uproar brought on by the famous Lisco-Knak Affair of 1868.  But what about the Synodical Conference which formed in 1872?  How did this larger body, of which the Missouri Synod was a member, face the hot issue of Copernicanism?  I found a reference to this very subject in a book of Pastor F.E. Pasche and I want to devote this blog post to an excerpt from the doctrinal proceedings of the old Synodical Conference (SC). (I will return to Pasche in a later post).
      In 1886, the speaker for the doctrinal essay (pages 5-71) at the biennial meeting of the SC was Prof. A.L. Gräbner. The title for the proceedings was (translated): "Theses on the Divinity of Holy Scripture".  At these synodical conventions, the essays and subsequent proceedings often included discussions, including question and answer periods among the participants.  As I show later, since Walther was in attendance, I consider these "proceedings" to mainly have his authority.
      On pages 37-38, the doctrinal proceedings published the following portion:

Translation by BackToLuther; highlighting, hyperlinks are mine.

When now the modern theologians speak of errors in Scripture, many would like to ask: What are these mistakes? The answer is: they understand by it, among other things, that in Scripture the correct year is not always given.  When they see that there is a different year given in any human book, for example, in Herodotus or another historian, so they do not ask: What is in the Bible which is from the Holy Spirit and therefore always has the truth?  Rather this is said by them: That's not correct, because Herodotus gives another year.  So they prefer the old blind heathen over the Holy Scripture.  Or when the Bible says: "Sun, stand still!", They say: This is wrong, because Copernicus asserted that the sun stands still.  Thus it should be a false message that at the time of Christ's birth Cyrenius was governor of Syria [Luke 2:2], because that is not true with other research.  But just recently however, it has been proven again that just at this time Cyrenius was proconsul in Syria.
Things such as these are regarded as errors, although these men draw much attention as they always point out the mistakes.  They demand rather that one should admit for the time being that mistakes are possibly found in Scripture.  The search for errors comes afterwards.  And what is the result? — That the Scriptures are swarming with teaching errors.
On the question of what one is to think when many teachers look to teach the children the Copernican system in the schools, it was answered: The fact that such teachers do not dare to remain, by the Fathers, namely by the Word of Scripture, comes from the fear that they, as ones at the height of the times, do not want to be considered standing as pastor or teacher.  Add to this that of the hundreds of thousands, scarcely one has even made an attempt to check independently; one just follows blindly the men of the so-called science. So who is thus preferred, God, or rather the men of science?  What an authority for faith!  Therefore beware of this, if your reason says ‘No’ when reading the Scriptures that you give them something.  [page 38]  That should make you rather immediately suspicious and drive you to sigh: God forbid that I should condemn His Word by my reason.  But how many rather make it like Eve in paradise!  When the devil said to her: "Ye shall not surely die" etc. [Gen. 3:4], as she looked at the tree, as he was so sweet, until the evil lust was inflamed as an indelible fire in her heart.  And then she took and ate of the forbidden fruit. Thus Christians also make it this way, if they let themselves be led into a false school and not in Luther's school.  He says: That one can not so highly credit the Bible as that it can let the sun go down; it speaks in simplicity, as it has then presented the matter. Something as this to fool our children, no teacher should be permitted to do. For the Holy Spirit is nevertheless truly wiser than Copernicus.  One can admittedly not require that everyone lays out the Bible passage just as we lay them out.  But if someone can not convince himself that the passage is to be laid out so, he should hold his tongue before his students, keep the thing to himself, and not poison the children by his views.

This excerpt contains a question and answer exchange.  I cannot imagine any other person than C.F.W. Walther giving the answer in this case.  Gräbner does a credible job, Pieper was present, but this subject was very close to Walther's heart and I see Walther (the American Luther) pouring out his heart to those in attendance, and also calling on Luther, not from his Table Talk, but possibly a sermon or writing of his.  Listen to Walther as he deals with the weak in faith:
One can admittedly not require that everyone lays out the Bible passage just as we lay them out.
This is the Walther who could deal with even a weak lodge member, yet remain absolutely firm in teaching the truth of the Bible.  This is how Luther dealt with the weak... as Luther candidly wrote to the Elector Frederick of the weakness of the Elector's faith but did not look down on him (Pettegree, Brand Luther, pages 284-285; Pettegree calls Luther's writing "breathtaking rudeness", p. 284.) .
      But the last word of the Synodical Conference on this subject is this:
But if someone can not convince himself that the passage is to be laid out so, he should hold his tongue before his students, keep the thing to himself, and not poison the children by his views.” – Synodical Conference, 1886 (Emphasis mine)
Poison the children?... Copernicanism? -- Note to today's teachers of the LCMS/CTCR: this is directed at you.
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      I had previously overlooked this 1886 SC convention essay thinking it was entirely Gräbner's work.  But the more I have studied it, I believe that it is one of the major doctrinal proceedings defining the old Synodical Conference... just behind Walther's 1872 essay on The Doctrine of Justification.  Its defense of the Inspiration and Infallibility of Holy Scripture is breathtaking!  I have now included this convention essay in my downloadable list of Convention Essays.  How I would like to have this whole essay translated!  But I must be content for now to rely on Franz Pieper's section "Holy Scripture" (or Die Heilige Schrift) in his Christian Dogmatics (Christliche Dogmatik), volume 1.  Will some faithful Lutheran translate this full essay today?  It would be a treasure of inestimable value to the Church.  [Note: April 4 -- I received a notice of intent to have this essay translated today.  It is hoped that this work would be finished before the end of this year.  I also hope to make an announcement of its completion and how it may be obtained.  If someone else is considering this project, please make note of this... to possibly avoid duplicate work.]
      A link for the German original text of the complete doctrinal proceedings (pages 5-71) is available here. Then auto translate with Google Chrome/Translate.  I present below an embedded version of the 1886 SC Doctrinal Proceedings in the original German language for convenience of previewing it:


So here the old Synodical Conference points the way for the 2016 Emmaus Conference, to the "old paths":
Jeremiah 6:16 – Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
      The controversy over Copernicanism would not die down and remained a "hot topic" for years, and it remains to this day.  After Walther's death, the old (German) Missouri Synod grappled with this issue in a conference work in 1898 (and in earlier years).  I will cover that in a future blog post. – But in the next Part 13a, I return to our modern day and the most recognized authority in the world for science against Copernicanism – Dr. Gerardus Bouw.

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