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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Synodical Conf 1886– Divinity of Scripture: Docetism or Pipe organ?; on Sasse; Copernicanism Part 21

[Last updated: 2018-04-23 – several added notes at bottom in red.]
      This continues from Part 20, 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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Dedicated to the honor of the old Synodical Conference.
[2016-09-11 - added note in red at bottom]
      Today, August 11, marks the 130th anniversary of the Synodical Conference meeting in Detroit Michigan, August 11-16, 1886.  A doctrinal report was delivered at that meeting and published in the German language in its Proceedings, pages 5-71 (SCR 1886).  That essay has never been translated into English, as far as I know, and so a reader took up my challenge in an earlier blog post:
“Will some faithful Lutheran translate this full essay today?  It would be a treasure of inestimable value to the Church.” 
The translator who took up this challenge is... Andrew Boomhower.

      Some notes regarding this translation:  (1) the translator used the modern city name of Tartu for the older city name of Dorpat.  Other translations that referred to theologians of this city typically have used the older name of Dorpat;  (2) One of the errors of Germany's theologians relates to what Franz Pieper countered in paragraph 2 of his Brief Statement: "The rule of faith is not the man-made so-called “totality of Scripture” (“Ganzes der Schrift”).";  (3) The translator noted that various passages were more difficult to render than others.  One example of this is:
"Woerterinspiration" ==>> "inspiration of the words"; "Worteinspiration." ==>> "inspiration of the wording"
Elsewhere in the text, when this distinction is not being made, I rendered "Wortinspiration" as "verbal inspiration."
(4) My translation of an excerpt used in an earlier blog post was somewhat incorrect.  It regards a reference to "Luther's school".  I assumed the essay was in some way quoting Luther but it was rather paraphrasing the erring teachers. Although my translation is technically incorrect, yet it did not do violence to the intended meaning.  One should compare the passages:
  • Mine: 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.
  • Boomhower's: This is also what the Christians are doing when they can be led into a false school and not into Luther’s. They [erring teachers] say, “one cannot give the Bible much credit for letting the Sun move: they spoke naively in the way the matter was visualized back then.”
      The quality of Boomhower's translation reflects the translator's knowledge of languages in general and it is fortunate to have this kind of quality instead of mine.  Not many people today are translating works of the old Missouri Synod or the Synodical Conference.  The translator has chosen well, a jewel in the crown the Lutheran Church of America.  And, indeed, it specifically addresses the "hot topics" of... Copernicanism, astronomy, geology, etc.
      The text is fully hyperlinked -- footnotes and almost all the works of the referenced German theologians.  Most of these outside works are even linked to the original page numbers in Google Books and elsewhere.

      I want to repeat my preface given in the German language document (also here):
Although the speaker is identified as Prof. A.L. Gräbner of the Wisconsin Synod, yet just  the presence of C.F.W. Walther gives this essay a very close tie to Walther.  Some sections give quotes directly from Walther's Baieri Compendium book. No essay was ever delivered in Walther’s presence that contains any doctrinal issue against the Bible or the Lutheran Confessions.  And indeed I believe that a large amount of text of this report was actually delivered by Walther in a “discussion” setting of questions and answers  – i.e. page 37, last paragraph  –  “Auf die Frage… wurde geantwortet:”  – – >>  To the question....  was answered:.
==>>  I attribute this essay largely to Walther’s authority, but it remains official doctrine of the old Synodical Conference.
      Now I present an original translation of the 1886 Synodical Conference Doctrinal Proceedings of 1886 —  by Mr. Andrew Boomhower:
Theses on the Divinity of Holy Scripture
Speaker: Prof. A.L. Gräbner (Wisconsin Synod)
with C.F.W. Walther in attendance (Missouri Synod)

(translated from the original German by Andrew Boomhower)

[NOTE! 2017-10-04: This Google Doc suddenly quit "publishing to the web" for some technical reason contained within the formatting of this particular document.  After some trials, I seem to have gotten it to "publish" again from a different location.]

A downloadable paginated PDF version (54 pages) of this essay is available here:

     Franz Pieper referred to this doctrinal essay at least 2 times in his Christian Dogmatics textbooks: Volume 1: page 93, footnote 131; page 272, footnote 84.  On page 271-272, Pieper states:

Of the more widely known theologians in Germany it is only Philippi who in the last years of his life returned to the Scripture doctrine of in­spiration.84
84 … A complete presentation and review of the doctrine of inspiration held by modern theologians is found in the 11th report of the Synodical Conference, 1886.

So the future pastors of the old (German) Missouri Synod being trained in America under Prof. Franz Pieper were directed to this essay to get updated on the history of the doctrine of Inspiration. For the first time this essay is now available in the English language. – Unfortunately modern theologians continue their destructive work today, just as in 1886 and in 1931, Pieper's final year. But today, it seems the struggle for the Divinity of Holy Scripture is within the LCMS itself. No longer can the world look to today's St. Louis (or Fort Wayne) for the "orthodox" teaching on Inspiration. One is better served by the true teachers of the Lutheran Church. And this essay is a watering hole for those feeling parched when attempting to find faithful writings.
      There are many quotes that I could extract from this essay, but I will highlight the following extended one from pages 10-11 concerning modern theologians:
These theologians are like the enthusiasts, who cry, “the Spirit! The Spirit must teach us the truth!” Likewise, the New Theologians cry, “No, Christ is the foundation of the Faith, not Scripture!” However, with that, they completely contradict Eph. 2, [Eph. 2:20] “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” that is, upon the witness, upon the writings of the Apostles and Prophets. To this, they come right back and say, “he who teaches this misleads the youth; that is a foundation of sand. Oh, the evil Foe is very serious about robbing us of the foundation of our faith.” It really does sound nice when they say, “No! Christ is the foundation of the Christian Faith!” But this is nothing more than a superb illusion. ... 
Illusion indeed! That is "docetism" – a word meaning to seem, or an apparition, or a phantom. This term is normally used by true Christian teaching (i.e. the Nicene Creed) to combat errorists. The false teachers attempted to use this same terminology against orthodox teaching. — Herman Sasse also used this false charge against the true teaching, as Robert Preus pointed out (The Inspiration of Scripture, pg 69: "He finds in the monergism of the dogmaticians a Monophysite-Docetic concept of Scripture which destroyed the human character of the Bible."). President Matthew Harrison even admits (Letters to Lutheran Pastors, Vol. 1. p. lxxxiv) that Sasse was wrong, his attack was "disturbing", and he "never was comfortable with the Missouri Synod's doctrine on this matter nor with the doctrine of the orthodox fathers. In fact, he remained negatively concerned regarding the Missouri Synod on the doctrina de scriptura up to his last days." (Harrison then goes on to say he believes the readers of Sasse's letters are "in for a treat", and wants them all "growing in certainty of the Gospel"... all this while even he found Sasse's attacks "disturbing".) Prof. Jeffrey Kloha quoted (I believe with approval, page 363 here) Sasse's understanding of inerrancy with his words "This inerrancy, however, does not obviously exclude certain human limitations". (Is it any wonder that Sasse espoused Copernicanism in the 1967 CPH book Accents in Luther's Theology: Essays in Commemoration of the 450th Anniversary of the Reformation, page 84, – just as today's LCMS/CTCR is doing for the 500th Anniversary?) — But the Synodical Conference-1886 responds to this charge: "This warning against Docetism is a warning against a bogey." And I will turn this misuse of terminology around and use it against these errorists, just like the Synodical Conference did -- for it is "a superb illusion" where their "Christ is the foundation"... a Christ without the Scriptures. But how did Christ teach about Himself on the road to Emmaus to the two travelers?
Luke 24:27 – Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
There can be NO separation of Christ from the Holy Scriptures for they are Divinely Inspired! John 1:1,14.
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==>> To "Josh"
Read how the old Synodical Conference put the Sola Scriptura in practice.  Read about the pipe organ analogy (pg 49, search "pipe" and "organ") and the ridiculousness of saying that a tune is inspired but the notes are not.  Even Andrew Boomhower, the translator, was impressed with this wonderful metaphor.

     In the next blog post, I am hopeful to return to Pastor Pasche with Part 19b... [Part 22 here]
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2016-09-11: see also Pieper's article on Walther's teaching of Inspiraition here; also Manteufel's translation of Walther's lectures of 1885-1886 on Inspiration here.

2016-11-6: the false charge of "docetism" was also made in 1957 by J. Bodensieck, Pres. of Wartburg Seminary (#3), see p. 237 of The Struggle for Lutheran Unity...

2018-02-05: In Walther's book The True Visible Church, Theses XIII-XVIII are on the Inspiration of Scripture, pp. 50-114 (see here); Walther's last Lehre und Wehre Foreword in 1886 also was on Scripture, no English translation... yet.]

2018-04-23: In F.E. Mayer's 1949 book The Story of Bad Boll – Building Theological Bridges, reporting on the meetings between LC-MS and German theologians after WWII, the Germans firmly denied "verbal inspiration", calling it "docetic". The LC-MS theologians tried to placate the Germans by saying (page 26):
“The doctrine of verbal inspiration is not the basis of our systematic theology and is not the major premise of Christian assurance. … The doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture does not stand in the relationship of a priori, but of a posteriori to our theology. It is not the broad basis upon which the pyramid of dogmatics is built up. It is not the regulative dogma in our system
The above statements were made in the interest of "building theological bridges" across the "unbridgeable chasm", but in reality showed the LC-MS descending into the chasm, a descent that continues today. (see this later blog post for more on Bad Boll.)