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Friday, September 30, 2016

Warfield to Pieper: on Walther, Luther, Inspiration; Copernicanism Part 25

[2018-06-14: updated links to Adolf Zahn's book]
      This continues from Part 24, 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 James Swan and his BeggarsAllReformation blog.

      Again I am compelled to concentrate on the importance of the doctrine of the Bible's Inspiration, even though this post does not specifically address "Copernicanism".  —  On several blog posts, I have pointed out the importance of Inspiration and inerrancy to a well known early Princeton Seminary professor: Dr. B. B. Warfield.  Warfield is highly regarded by conservative Reformed people even today.  As I noted on this blog, Franz Pieper also highly regarded Warfield for his defense of the Inspiration of the Bible.  Even Prof. Mark Noll, who seems to enjoy pointing out certain weaknesses in Warfield, says Warfield was "the nation’s strongest supporter for ... biblical inerrancy".  But when I posted Pieper's essay "Luther’s Doctrine of the Inspiration" that was originally published in Warfield's The Presbyterian and Reformed Review journal (Volume 4, 1893), I could only guess that it was actually Warfield himself who requested this essay from Pieper.  But now I have come across proof positive, personal letters from Warfield to Pieper which were postumously published in Concordia Theological Monthly (CTM) in 1933 (after Pieper's passing in 1931).  These letters show not only the specific request by Warfield for the essay on Luther, but they also show that Warfield even requested more information on... C.F.W. Walther!  Remarkable!  Below I re-publish Warfield's letters to Franz Pieper from CTM.  The first and last paragraphs are remarks by the then President of Concordia Seminary, Prof. Ludwig Fürbringer. Highlighting and hyperlinks are mine:

Three Letters of Prof. B. B.Warfield Addressed to Prof. F. Pieper.
[From Concordia Theological Monthly vol. 4, no. 7 (1933), pp. 537-538; CTS-FW]
Dr. B.B. Warfield
"how grateful we are"
Undoubtedly it will interest our readers to read the following letters of the distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology in the Princeton Theological Seminary Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. The articles which appeared from his pen in the Presbyterian and Reformed Review, the Princeton Theological Review, and other reviews are now being published in ten volumes by the Oxford University Press. Prof. L. Blankenbuehler of St. Paul, Minnesota, has kindly placed these letters at our disposal.

My Dear Sir: Princeton, N.J., January 28, 1890.
Professor Weidner of the Augustana Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois, has directed me to you in order to learn where the works and life of the late Rev. Dr. Walther can be had and at what prices. I should like very much to make the opinions and life-work of Dr. Walther a study for my theological classes. I am also editor of the Presbyterian and Reformed Review and should like to have the publications of the St. Louis Lutheran Publishing House sent to our journal for notice. Especially should I wish to have their new and splendid edition of Luther’s Works for review in our magazine. Presbyterians and the Reformed Church in general should know more of the good work done by this house. Will you kindly inform me to whom I should have our business house apply in order to obtain these books for review?
I am
Sincerely yours
B. B. Warfield.

My Dear Sir: Princeton, N.J., February 24, 1890.
Thank you very much for sending the books, which have just reached me. I shall at once set about making the near acquaintance of Dr. Walther, and I perceive that your distinguished kindness has quite bountifully supplied me with materials for understanding him.
The volume of Luther’s Works will be at once reviewed for our Review,— probably for the July number, as the April number is already in press. I hope our Review will reach you regularly. If not, please inform me that I may have it sent.
It will be my study to discover some way in which I may partly meet your kindness.
I am
Sincerely yours
B. B. Warfield.

My Dear Sir: Princeton, N.J., May 13, 1892.
I thank you very much for undertaking so readily the paper we ask of you on Luther’s Inspirationslehre. I wish we had space to ask of you three papers covering, respectively, the ground you outline. But we are so crowded that that is for the present impossible. We shall have to beg you therefore to compress the matter which would fall under all three heads, — Luther’s direct statements, Luther’s dealing with apparent inconsistencies, and historico-critical examination of Luther’s statements often misinterpreted as favoring a free attitude over against the Scriptures, — into one paper of say 10,000 words maximum. This is the limit we set to our longest articles; and it covers twenty pages of our Review. The MS. will not be needed until the late autumn.
I cannot tell you how grateful we are for this paper. Every man who desires to attack the strict doctrine of inspiration falls back on the collection of passages former writers have made from the writings of the Reformers and pleads their example for loose views. It has become necessary in our Church to present the doctrines of the Reformers over, from the sources, in order to guard the Church from deception.
It is a great blessing to the German element of our people that your Church has occupied so firm a position on inspiration and against all synergism in salvation. Since Schleiermacher the whole world has been soiled with the synergistic leaven; and we have watched the efforts of your Church to retain the ancient truth as to sola Scriptura and sola gratia with the intensest sympathy.  May God give you ever-increased success!
I am
Yours most truly
B. B. Warfield.

Dr. Pieper had devoted much time and study to the subject, and his article on “Luther’s Doctrine of Inspiration” was published in the Presbyterian and Reformed Review, Vol. 4, p. 249. Some time later it was translated and published in Germany by Dr. Adolf Zahn in Ernste Blicke in den Wahn der modernen Kritik. Neue Folge, p. 127 [link updated]. L. F. [Ludwig Fürbringer]
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      The manner that Warfield corresponded with Pieper is strikingly cordial... certainly not condescending.  And we see that Pieper responded in kind by furnishing Warfield with the requested materials.  One result was that Warfield received a surprisingly favorable mention in Pieper's Christian Dogmatics book (as previously published; German edition pgs 327-328, footnote 902):
Because of this stand [on inspiration and absolute infallibility of Scripture] he had to endure opposition and derision from many in his own church body; in these trials he found much comfort in the fact that "an entire Lutheran Synod" unanimously subscribed to the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.
      What is notable in Fürbringer's postscript is that he thought that Pieper's English essay had been translated into German, but subsequent research of Adolf Zahn's book (see here, pgs 127-128, title in English: Serious Attention to the Madness of Modern Criticism of the Old Testament. New Series.) shows that Zahn only published a summary and review, not a translation.  So apparently Fürbringer did not have a copy of Zahn's book.  — Adolph Zahn, a German "Evangelical Reformed", is well regarded among conservative Reformed and he gave a glowing review of Pieper's essay, calling Pieper "a good Missourian".  Zahn, like Pieper, fought against the "scientific theologians" of Germany.
      Ah, if only today's LC-MS had the respect for the teaching of Franz Pieper and C.F.W. Walther that B.B. Warfield (and Adolph Zahn) had.  What was it that Warfield said?
...your Church has occupied so firm a position on inspiration and against all synergism in salvation. 
– B.B. Warfield on the Missouri Synod
Indeed, I wonder that if Warfield were asked who was the greatest supporter of biblical inerrancy in America in his day, he might disagree with Prof. Mark Noll's assessment today.  And James Swan of the blog BeggarsAllReformation continues the tradition where the conservative Reformed honor Luther's Reformation... sometimes more than today's LC-MS.
[Next Part 26a here]


  1. Thank you for your kind words. This correspondence was interesting.

    1. Mr. Swan:
      Sorry that it took me four years to get around to my promised honoring of you.
      I believe Pieper's assessment that Warfield suffered attacks for his stand on Inspiration. And Warfield's apparent stand in the above correspondence also against synergism is defended by the naming of your blog, isn't it? -> Luther's phrase "We are Beggars All", i.e. we can only rely on God's grace, nothing in ourselves.


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