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Friday, February 16, 2018

Ecumenical Lutheranism (Part 4); not Charles Arand; a mystery

     This continues from Part 3 (Table of Contents in Part 1), reprinting the English translation, from the first issue of Concordia Journal, of Franz Pieper's “Vorwort” (Foreword) to the first issue of Concordia Theological Monthly.  —  There is a bit of a surprise regarding the last portion of this essay… which will be revealed below.
Prof. Charles P. Arand
      Concordia Journal's 1975 republication of Pieper's 1930 Foreword is not unknown by today's theologians, and that includes Prof. Charles Arand.  In Arand's 1997 essay “The Confessionalism of Missouri in the Early Twentieth Century”, CHIQ vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter 1997, p. 200), he quotes from this essay which actually is quoting a church news item from Lehre und Wehre in 1867 – see the green highlighted sentence below.  Prof. Arand would appear in 1997 as wanting to be seen as teaching like the old (German) Missouri Synod as he appears to compliment Friedrich Bente and Franz Pieper. But that can be shown to be questionable as Arand also allows room for the worst teaching of Prof. Arthur Carl Piepkorn in his 1995 book Testing the Boundaries.  Without one word of criticism, Arand states of the ELCA on page 265:
“Theologians in the ELCA have sought to rediscover and retrieve resources within its heritage in order to halt a slide of the denomination into mainline Protestantism. Through the periodical Lutheran Forum, some have sought to promote an evangelical-catholicism, traceable back to Piepkorn, as our best hope for the future.”
Our best hope”? Was that just a slip of the tongue or did not Prof. Arand, in 1995, expose his already indifferent theology, his unionism? How could anyone true to the Lutheran Confessions sympathize with a “back to Piepkorn” direction, with an “evangelical-catholicism”?  —  And so we will go back to the 1975 issue of Concordia Journal, where matters were much less not muddled by... Franz Pieper.
All bold words are Pieper's emphasis. All highlighting by BackToLuther.

Franz Pieper's Foreword to Concordia Theological Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 1
Translation by Paul H. F. Boecler  —  Part 4 (cont'd from Part 3)

It is imperative to be watchful at all times in order that by God’s grace we stand united in the pure Lutheran doctrine. In the year 1867 Lehre und Wehre quoted the Evangelical Lutheran (a publication advocating at that time a union of the Lutheran synods in the South on the basis of the Lutheran confessions) in the following “excellent and most pertinent” statement on the one unmatched treasure of the Lutheran Church:
If unity in the faith is in any case the real, true basis for the unification of churches, it holds true even more so with the Lutheran Church. Her only characteristic trait is her doctrine. Once this is lost, she is left with nothing. Other churches may hold together by the strong bonds of their traditions in addition to their faith, and for this reason may permit broader tolerance in doctrine. The Lutheran Church, however, knows of no such ties. She has no such striking and characteristic constitution. There is no time-hallowed usage which has come to be so sacred among us so as to become a factor to hold us together. She has nothing of which she might be proud save the truth of her confession, nothing to assure her the love of her members but the purity of her faith.
But this is quite enough to preserve her unity. In this way she can maintain her own unaltered identity in spite of the greatest variety of outward forms of church government and of divine worship. Historical circumstances may lead to an episcopal or congregational church polity. Conditions may require the Lutheran Church to be liturgical or not. But she remains, one and the same, because her faith is one.
We rejoice that this is so, that she has preserved her purity, that she binds herself only in matters where God has bound her and is free where God has set her free. We are glad that she has not forgotten the purpose of her founding, that she never allows matters of human appointment to have equal validity or importance as those which her exalted Head Himself has commanded.
To return to the issue of our own situation in the South: What can be the basis for our unification? Nothing but the great confessions of our church. The old school of theology regards every doctrine of this venerable confession to be so sacred, not because it was set up by the Reformers [of the 16th century], but because she firmly believes that every teaching is based on God’s Word. She does not thereby attribute to it any undue importance. The confession of our church has always been her great palladium [safeguard], and her loyal devotion to it her very life. Divorced from her confessions, she is no longer the Lutheran Church. We do not adhere to these confessional writings in a sinful manner. We do not attribute to them the same authority as we do to God’s Word. We have been falsely accused of that. We never refer to the confessions to support a truth. For that purpose we always refer to the Scripture alone. Whoever heard of a sensible old Lutheran referring to the confessions for any other purpose than to point to those doctrines his church holds to be teachings of Scripture? We do not claim that the authors were infallible. We concede that they might have erred. But no one has ever been able to demonstrate on the basis of this one unerring plumb line [the Scriptures] that while drafting this confession they ever deviated therefrom. Convince us that it contains something contrary to Scripture and every one of us will be quick to repudiate it.
While holding to this view, that we regard the teachings of the confessions as the teachings of the Bible, we stand ready to discard every usage which anyone might reasonably demand of us. But we can never give up any truth of our noble old confession. This is no mere individual opinion. The reminders and instructions given our authorized commissioners by the Synod prove that this is our position. (Quoted from Lehre und Wehre, XII [May 1867], 150 f.)

Finally, we ought to add one more reminder. We should never forget that “ecumenical Lutheranism,” as expressed in the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church, has never been able to maintain itself without being constantly attacked from within and from without. We must never grow weary of this struggle. The great treasure at stake here is worth the battle. When we need a comforting word in this conflict, we may and should remind ourselves that the pure Christian doctrine was assailed at all times, not only from without but also from within the ranks. That happened also in the apostolic church. When the apostle Paul was departing from  [CONCORDIA JOURNAL/January 1975, p. 19] Macedonia, he left Timothy behind in Ephesus to command certain persons to stop teaching heretical doctrines, me heterodidaskalein. (1 Tim. 1:3)
That very thing happened in Luther’s day soon after the Reformation began and even more so after Luther’s death. Therefore we ought not to be astonished that in our times, here in this country of ours as well as in other lands, the same thing is happening. For our own sake and, God willing, for the sake of others, we ought not grow weary of the struggle for the “one great treasure of the Lutheran Church.” Our River Forest church convention [of 1929] followed the right course by resolving that doctrinal discussions with other Lutheran Synods were to be continued and not terminated provided that they proceed from the status controversiae.

After these statements on “ecumenical Lutheranism” it may be most fitting to mention Luther’s confession of faith of the year 1528, which he added as a third part [Part III] of his treatise, “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper.” [St. L. XX, 1094 ff.; American edition of Luther’s Works, Vol. 37, 161 ff.] Dr. [Karl] Graul [BTL: see Graul's book on India’s ‘caste question’, similar to Walther counsel on slavery.] placed Luther’s confession of faith at the beginning of his well-known book The Distinctive Doctrines of the Various Christian Confessions in the Light of the Divine Word. After a brief introduction, this confession was drawn up in the form of theses. A number of the theses deal principally with the false teaching and practice of the Roman Church. But this fits our situation today, because Rome is still the same Rome. Luther’s confession of faith reads in part as follows: (This translation of Luther’s “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper, 1528” is taken from Luther’s Works, Vol. 37, pp. 360 ff. The reader may be willing to compare the English text with the German and note the differences. Editor [of Concordia Journal]) [2018-06-08: Luther's Confession, March, 1528" was formerly translated by M. Reu in his book The Augsburg Confession: A Collection of Sources and posted online here]
I see that schisms and errors are increasing proportionately with the passage of time, and that there is no end to the rage and fury of Satan. Hence lest any persons during my lifetime or after my death appeal to me or misuse my writings to confirm their error, as the sacramentarian and baptist fanatics are already beginning to do, I desire with this treatise to confess my faith before God and all the world, point by point. I am determined to abide by it until my death and (so help me God!) in this faith to depart from this world and to appear before the judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Should any one say after my death, “If Luther were living now, he would teach and hold this or that article differently, for he did not consider it sufficiently,” etc., let me reply once and for all that by the grace of God I have most diligently traced all these articles through the Scriptures. I have examined them again and again in the light thereof. I have been determined to defend all of them with the same certainty as I have now defended the sacrament of the altar. I am neither drunk nor irresponsible. I know what I am saying, and I well realize what this will mean for me before the Last Judgment at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let no one make this out to be a joke or idle talk; I am in dead earnest. By the grace of God I have learned to know a great deal about Satan. If he is able to pervert and to confuse the Scriptures, what will he not be able to do with my words or those of another person?
First, I believe with my whole heart the sublime article of the majesty of God, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons, are by nature one true and genuine God, the Maker of heaven and earth and of all things; in complete opposition to the Arians, Macedonians, Sabellians, and similar heretics (Gen. 1:1). All this has been maintained up to this time both in the Roman Church and among Christian churches throughout the world.
Secondly, I believe and know that Scripture teaches us that the second person in the Godhead, the Son, alone became a true human being, conceived by the Holy Spirit without the participation of man, and was born of the pure, holy Virgin Mary as of a real and natural mother, all of which St. Luke (1:26) clearly describes and the prophets foretold; so that neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit became man, as certain heretics have taught.
Also, that God the Son assumed not a body without a soul, as certain heretics have taught, but also the soul, that is, a full, complete humanity, and was born as promised the true seed or child of Abraham and of David and the natural son of Mary, in every way and form a true man, as I am myself and every other man, except that he came without sin, by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary alone.
And that this man was true God, as one eternal, indivisible person, of God and man, so that Mary, the holy Virgin, is a real, true mother not only of the man Christ, as the Nestorians teach, but also of the Son of God, [CONCORDIA JOURNAL/January 1975, p. 20] as Luke says (1:35), “The child to be born of you will be called the Son of God,” i.e. my Lord and the Lord of all, Jesus Christ, the only, true and natural Son of God and of Mary, true God and true man.
I believe also that this Son of God and of Mary, our Lord Jesus Christ, suffered for us poor sinners, was crucified, dead, and buried, in order that he might redeem us from sin, death, and the eternal wrath of God by his innocent blood; and that on the third day he arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, Lord over all lords, King over all kings and over all creatures in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, over death and life, over sin and righteousness.
For I confess, and am able to prove from Scripture, that all men have descended from one man, Adam; and from this man, through their birth, they acquire and inherit the fall, guilt and sin, which the same Adam, through the wickedness of the devil committed in paradise; and thus all men along with him are born, live, and die altogether in sin, and would necessarily be guilty of eternal death if Jesus Christ had not come to our aid and taken upon himself this guilt and sin as an innocent lamb, paid for us by his sufferings, and if he did not still intercede and plead for us as a faithful, merciful Mediator, Savior, and the only Priest and Bishop of our souls.
I herewith reject and condemn as sheer error all doctrines which glorify our free will, as diametrically contrary to the help and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ. Outside of Christ, death and sin are our masters and the devil is our god and lord, and there is no power or ability, no cleverness or reason, with which we can prepare ourselves for righteousness and life or seek after it. On the contrary, we must remain the dupes and captives of sin and the property of the devil to do and to think what pleases them and what is contrary to God and his commandments.
Thus I condemn also both the new and the old Pelagians who will not admit original sin to be sin, but make it an infirmity or defect. But since death comes to all men, original sin must be not merely an infirmity but enormous sin, as St. Paul says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), and again, “Sin is the sting of death” (1 Cor. 15:56). So also David says in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was conceived in sin, and in sin did my mother bear me.” He does not say, “My mother conceived me with sin,” but, “II myselfI was conceived in sin, and in sin did my mother bear me,” i. e. in my mother’s womb I have grown from sinful seed, as the Hebrew text signifies.

Rev. Paul Boecler, now Pastor Emeritus of Ladue Village Church, Ladue, Mo., son of the sainted Professor Boecler, grew up on this campus and returned last spring to help in the days of need and great stress.
- - - - - - - - - -   continued in Part 5   - - - - - - - - - - -
      I was not familiar with the translator Rev. Paul Boecler before and so a quick Google research turned up that he was likely, before he returned to Concordia Seminary in 1974, the pastor at Village Lutheran Church, now in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Pres. Matthew Harrison is currently assistant pastor there.)  The Editor of Concordia Journal was rather candid in revealing that Boecler played a part in assisting the Seminary in 1974 “in the days of need and great stress”.
      There is a mystery surrounding this article.  I was quite surprised to find that Concordia Journal and/or Rev. Boecler included less than half of Luther's “Confession” that Pieper quoted in full.  I have thought about this situation... could it have been an oversight?... or could it be that Concordia Publishing or Augsburg Publishing would not grant full access of Luther's essay to the Concordia Journal in 1975?  Perhaps someone living yet today might know the answer to this mystery.  But Pieper's purpose in quoting Luther's full “Part III” of his “Confession” is far too important to omit again, and so I, BackToLuther, will publish it... in Parts 5 and 6 following.
      Could it be that the Concordia Journal and Concordia Seminary again need “days of great stress”? … that Prof. Charles Arand needs to go back to what it really means to teach truly ecumenical Lutheran doctrine?

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