Search This Blog

Friday, November 11, 2016

Walther on Copernicus’s epitaph and his faith; Part 26a

      This continues from Part 25 (or 19c), 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.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
      15 years ago I made a discovery as I was examining the July 1, 1880 issue of C.F.W. Walther's Der Lutheraner magazine.  On the last page of feature articles, page 102, the following page filler blurb appeared, just before the news and announcements pages.  I recall that it caused me such joy that I paused to fully investigate it.  I typed out the German text and then had it machine translated.  The German/Latin text may be found >> here <<.  But here is my translation from the German (and Latin):
Copernicus, 
N. Copernicus epitaph
(inset in picture)
born 10 years before Luther and died 3 years before him, taught, as is well known,  that the sun does not move about the earth, but stands still.  That is why he is now highly praised by the unbelieving world. They remark namely that Copernicus has clearly shown that it is not true what the Bible says that the sun had stood still at Joshua's prayer (Joshua. 10, 12-14).  But if this is not true, so also is the whole Bible not true.  But if the world knew Copernicus more precisely, it would not like to look at and admire one like him.  For Copernicus was from the heart a man of faith.  A proof for this is that he himself made the following epitaph:
            Not the grace that Paul received, covet I,
             Still the favor with which Peter you forgave;
             Only that, which you granted to the thief at the cross,
                        That only do I crave.           W.[alther]

On Sunday, August 25, 2001, I printed this out and taped it onto the wall of my office and it has been hanging there, in my face for the past 15 years.  I did not want to publish it earlier because I figured it would be ridiculed as an erroneous account...  but now I want the whole world to read not only Copernicus's epitaph but also C.F.W. Walther's judgment of  Copernicus.  C.F.W. Walther, the 19th Century Luther and the greatest defender against Copernicanism in our day... eulogizes Copernicus's faith!
      But contrary to Walther's judgment, Pastor F.E. Pasche was harsher.  He states in his Christliche Weltanschauung book, p 78:
Copernicus worked for almost thirty years on his book and dedicated it finally the Pope Paul III., to protect himself by his reputation. It was later printed in Nuremberg under the supervision of his disciple Rheticus. But when the first printed copy was given to him in the hand, he was already deranged in his mind and he never came to a clear mind. He died in 1543. He remained throughout his life sitting in Popish darkness.
So we see a contrast in the judgments of Walther and Pasche on Copernicus's faith.

      There are 2 points that I would make on Walther's statement:
1)  Walther flatly states that if the sun had not stood still as recorded in the Joshua 10 passages, then the whole Bible is not true!  Walther is willing to put his whole faith on the line... on the teaching of the "inerrancy" of the Sacred Scriptures.  Either the Bible is INERRANT or it is NOT!  There is no middle ground!  Period.  When God says it, it is a priori or "automatically" true.  And the forcefulness with which Walther makes this point only reinforces the fact that it was C.F.W. Walther who is the most responsible in the whole world in the 19th Century for bringing honor back to the Holy Scriptures which had been suffering from a long night of rationalism and falsification by Schleiermacher in Germany and almost all other theologians.

2)  Oh, but Walther went out on a limb when he stated that Copernicus "himself made the following epitaph", for history now shows that this epitaph was not placed until several years after his death.  Uh-oh, did Walther, the Luther of the 19th century, perhaps bring ridicule upon his Missouri Synod for stating this?
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

      Copernicus's epitaph is in Latin and if you Google the first few words of it, "Non parem Pauli gratiam requiro", you will come across several Christian websites which quote this epitaph as a great Christian confession.  What a wonderful Christian testimony!  However practically all of them also admit the teaching of Copernicanism without question.  Among those I found were 2 Wisconsin Synod websites: (1) Principal Jeff Inniger of Trinity Lutheran Church school in Waukesha in this newsletter and (2) Rev. Roger Rockoff in this 2009 sermon. (Interestingly, this sermon states that Copernicus dictated his own epitaph)  So there seems to be contrary evidence to Dr. Bouw's notion that the WELS still defends against Copernicanism.  In my research, I did not find any LCMS pastors even mentioning Copernicus or his epitaph.  At least they could keep the epitaph alive...  but the poor LCMS!... too bad.
      Pastor Pasche rendered quite a different judgment than Walther on Copernicus's own Christian faith or lack of it as we saw above.  I did not find anywhere that Pasche made mention of Copernicus's epitaph.  So practically everyone disagrees with Walther's assessment of Copernicus to some extent, either on his faith or his authorship of his own epitaph or... on Copernicanism.
      In the next Part 26b, I want to expand on the epitaph... what it says itself and who was responsible for it.  Then in Part 26c, I will review the matter of Copernicus's own faith.