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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Ecumenical Lutheranism (#6), CJ & Robert Preus, a mystery

[2018-04-06: addendum on 1964 Robert Preus essay at bottom]
     This concludes from Part 5 (Table of Contents in Part 1), reprinting an English translation, partially from the first issue of Concordia Journal (1975), of Franz Pieper's “Vorwort” (Foreword) to the first issue of Concordia Theological Monthly (1930).

All bold words are Pieper's emphasis. All highlighting by BackToLuther.

Franz Pieper's Foreword to Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 1
Part 6 (cont'd from Part 5 – from LW 37, 368-372; not included in 1975 Concordia Journal)

For this reason I have a high regard for private confession, for here God’s word and absolution are spoken privately and individually to each believer for the forgiveness of his sins, and as often as he desires it he may have recourse to it for this forgiveness, and also for comfort, counsel, and guidance. Thus it is a precious, useful thing for souls, as long as no one is driven to it with laws and commandments but sinners are left free to make use of it, each according to his own need, when and where he wishes; just as we are free to obtain counsel and comfort, guidance and instruction when and where our need or our inclination moves us. And as long as one is not forced to enumerate all sins but only those which oppress him most grievously, or those which a person will mention in any case, as I have discussed in my Little Book on Prayer.

But the pardons or indulgences which the papal church has and dispenses are a blasphemous deception, not only because it invents and devises a special forgiveness beyond the general forgiveness which in the whole Christian Church is bestowed through the gospel and the sacrament and thus desecrates and nullifies the general forgiveness, but also because it establishes and bases satisfaction for sins upon the works of men and the merits of saints, whereas only Christ can make and has made satisfaction for us.
As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: “Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it.” And when this has been done once or twice, let it suffice. For vigils and requiem masses and yearly celebrations of requiems are useless, and are merely the devil’s annual fair.
Nor have we anything in Scripture concerning purgatory. It too was certainly fabricated by goblins. Therefore, I maintain it is not necessary to believe in it; although all things are possible to God, and he could very well allow souls to be tormented after their departure from the body. But he has caused nothing of this to be spoken or written, therefore he does not wish to have it believed, either. I know of a purgatory, however, in another way, but it would not be proper to teach anything about it in the church, nor on the other hand, to deal with it by means of endowments or vigils.
Others before me have attacked the invocation of saints, and this pleases me. I believe, too, that Christ alone should be invoked as our Mediator, a truth which is scriptural and certain. Of the invocation of saints nothing is said in Scripture; therefore it is necessarily uncertain and not to be believed.
If unction were practiced in accordance with the gospel, Mark 6[:13] and James 5[:14], I would let it pass. But to make a sacrament out of it is nonsense. Just as, in place of vigils and masses for the dead, one might well deliver a sermon on death and eternal life, and also pray during the obsequies and meditate upon our own end, as it seems was the practice of the ancients, so it would also be good to visit the sick, pray and admonish, and if anyone wished in addition to anoint him with oil, he should be free to do in the name of God.
Neither is there any need to make sacraments out of marriage and the office of the priesthood. These orders are sufficiently holy in themselves. So, too, penance is nothing else than the practice and the power of baptism. Thus two sacraments remain, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, along with the gospel, in which the Holy Spirit richly offers, bestows, and accomplishes the forgiveness of sins.
As the greatest of all abominations I regard the mass when it is preached or sold as a sacrifice or good work, which is the basis on which all religious foundations and monasteries now stand, but, God willing, they shall soon be overthrown. Although I have been a great, grievous, despicable sinner, and wasted my youth in a thoughtless and damnable manner, yet my greatest sins were that I was so holy a monk, and so horribly angered, tortured, and plagued my dear Lord with so many masses for more than fifteen years. But praise and thanks be to his unspeakable grace in eternity, that he led me out of this abomination, and still continues to sustain and strengthen me daily in the true faith, despite my great ingratitude.
Accordingly, I have advised and still advise people to abandon religious foundations and monasteries and their vows and come forth into the true Christian orders, in order to escape these abominations of the mass and this blasphemous holiness, i.e. “chastity, poverty, and obedience,” by which men imagine they are saved. Excellent as it was in the early days of the Christian Church to maintain the state of virginity, so abominable is it now when it is used to deny the aid and grace of Christ. It is entirely possible to live in a state of virginity, widowhood, and chastity without these blasphemous abominations.

Images, bells, eucharistic vestments, church ornaments, altar lights, and the like I regard as things indifferent. Anyone who wishes may omit them. Images or pictures taken from the Scriptures and from good histories, however, I consider very useful yet indifferent and optional. I have no sympathy with the iconoclasts.
Finally, I believe in the resurrection of all the dead at the Last Day, both the godly and the wicked, that each may receive in his body his reward according to his merits. Thus the godly will live eternally with Christ and the wicked will perish eternally with the devil and his angels. I do not agree with those who teach that the devils also will finally be restored to salvation.
This is my faith, for so all true Christians believe and so the Holy Scriptures teach us. On subjects which I have treated too briefly here, my other writings will testify sufficiently, especially those which have been published during the last four or five years. I pray that all godly hearts will bear me witness of this, and pray for me that I may persevere firmly in this faith to the end of my life. For if in the assault of temptation or the pangs of death I should say something different—which God forbid—let it be disregarded; herewith I declare publicly that it would be incorrect, spoken under the devil’s influence. In this may my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ assist me: blessed be he for ever, Amen.
- - - - - - - - - -   End of essay   - - - - - - - - - - -

      This is my faith also, so the Holy Scriptures teach us.  Ecumenical Lutheranism is nothing more nor less that this.
      Because there are readers of this blog from around the world, some who are native German speakers, I am including a link to the above essay in a side-by-side presentation of both the German original and English translation.
 >>  CTM1-FP Vorwort and Foreword (CJ 1975)  <<
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A Psychological Mystery
      Who was it that suggested that the first issue of the Concordia Journal in 1975 should publish Franz Pieper's great Foreword from 1930 in English?  I wonder that it may have been someone other than translator Pastor Paul Boecler.  I wonder that it was either J.A.O. Preus or Robert Preus.  Why either of them and not others?  Because they came from outside the LC-MS.  Pastor Robert Preus, in 1953, while still a pastor in the “little Norwegian” Evangelical Lutheran Synod, said (A City Set on a Hillp. 180-182):
“Today we find ourselves in … a united, conservative, but also small synod within a much larger conference which, speaking truthfully, is rapidly losing its orthodox character. … Our sister synod of Missouri hands us a document called the “Common Confession,” which is supposed to settle all differences between her and the ALC, but which in reality scarcely mentions these differences, and then she says to us, Please accept this. We have no recourse but to reject the confession as settling nothing, and testify to our dear sister synodGod forbid, repent! . . .  It is not only a matter of our duty, it is a matter of our salvation.…”
It is one of the great psychological mysteries of the 20th Century why both Robert Preus and his brother J.A.O. Preus would leave their “united, conservative” synod to join the LC-MS, a synod they admitted was “rapidly losing its orthodox character”, a synod for which Robert Preus in 1953 would counsel: “God forbid, repent!”.  Nevertheless it appears that he had not completely abandoned his training under S.C. Ylvisaker and Norman A. Madson Sr. and was the major impetus in getting the teaching of Walther and Franz Pieper partially back into Concordia Seminary's program.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
2018-04-06: It has come to my attention that an essay with similar subject matter as Pieper's was authored by Robert D. Preus in 1964.  It was published first in the German language Lutherischer Rundblick (ELFK, German title), February-March 1964 issue. It was later translated into English and first published in John Warwick Montgomery's 1967 book (anthology) Crisis in Lutheran Theology, Vol. II. pp. 180 ff. under the title “The Lutheran Church and the Ecumenical Movement” (free borrow at  It is rather informative, especially on the history of the World Council of Churches and "social-gospelism", but even it has some weaknesses.  Overall, I suspect Pieper would still praise it with noted exceptions to its weaknesses.

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