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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pieper sermons-3c: Christian scholarship

      This continues from Part 3b (Table of Contents in Part 1), a short series on the sermons of Franz Pieper.  — This part concludes the second of 2 sermons, or “golden apples” published by Prof. Theodore Laetsch after Pieper's “going home” in 1931.  We hear in this portion the great warning for scholars, of their “danger of becoming proud and arrogant so that they do not live in Christ but in themselves”.  I believe Pieper was not only warning of those outside the Missouri Synod, but was also giving a warning to the teachers within, that "scholarship" does not prevent one from falling away, but actually can present some of the greatest challenges to one's own Christian faith.
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Translation by BackToLutherhighlighting and bolding is mine; hyperlinks added for reference. Text extracted from Concordia Theological Monthly, October, 1931, pp. 761-771. (German text here)
Part 3c of 3

But does the preaching of the Gospel require as much scholarship as we have in our colleges? We teach here not only five and more languages, not only newer languages and the Latin language, but also Greek and Hebrew. Why also Greek and Hebrew? There have been some enthusiasts here and there who thought that all Christians should learn Greek and Hebrew, because these are the basic languages ​​of Scripture. That is a folly. From Scripture itself, especially from the history of Pentecost, we see that it is our Savior's will that the Gospel be preached to the hearers in the language that they understand or best understand. And it is true that every Christian and also each pastor from translations of Scripture may well recognize and teach Christian doctrine. But it is also true that the enemies of the Gospel, if we disprove them from translations, invoke the basic languages ​​of Scripture, that is, the Greek and Hebrew languages, for their heresies. There it serves the teaching of the Christian truth that on our side and in our midst we have such people who know the basic languages ​​of Scripture. Luther, too, confesses that without the knowledge of these languages ​​he would not have been sufficiently prepared against the enemies of truth.

Therefore, we find in Luther, in his work “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools,” the following admonition: “In proportion then as we value the Gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his Word, then we too ought to honor them above all others.” [StL 10, 470, § 27; LW 45, p. 359]
CSL / CTS-FW: “Becoming proud and arrogant
so that they do not live in Christ but in themselves?
... misuse of the glorious natural gifts of God.”

But, as Luther reminds us, too, are not the people who have great knowledge and, above all, language skills before others, in danger of becoming proud and arrogant so that they do not live in Christ but in themselves?

Indeed, there is danger, and many have succumbed to this danger at all times.  Therefore the saying is: The scholars are the wrong ones. But their scholarship is not to blame but their evil, corrupted heart that they follow, and their misuse of the glorious natural gifts of God.
The Scripture teaches us by some examples, and records the following: Moses was learned in all wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22. And yet the Scriptures report the same [Page 770] Moses in Heb. 11:24-26: “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to be evil entreated with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he looked unto the recompense of reward..”  Paul was a very learned man. Not only had he gone through the Jewish high school of Gamaliel, but he was also acquainted with the writings of the highly educated Greeks. We see this from the fact that he mentions passages from the writings of the Greeks. And yet, what faithfulness in the service of his Savior Paul possessed. He writes in the Epistle to the Galatians: “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” [Gal. 2:20]
And Luther would not have become the Reformer of the Church, translating the Bible and even overcoming the papist theologians so victoriously if he had not known the basic languages ​​of Scripture.  Rightly he said that he knew all the arts of his opponents well and even better than they themselves. And yet he was so faithful in the service of his Savior that he could say that by God's grace he was ready to die a thousand deaths for the Gospel, if it would please God.  Let us also look at the fathers of our Synod. They could not have transplanted the 16th century Reformation to American soil as they did, unless a number of them had the so-called scientific education.
Briefly, language and all worldly sciences are powerless in the kingdom of God, if in the hearts of those who possess them not also the knowledge of the love of Christ dwells and as a result, the holy desire to live not to themselves, but to the One who died for our sakes and rose again.
But if these spiritual gifts are present, then languages ​​and other sciences are not merely an external adornment, but very useful and necessary gifts in the Kingdom of God.
The blessed Dr. Walther used to recommend two things to the students. First, ask God to strengthen and sustain the living knowledge of Christ as your Savior of sin and death in you. We need a faithful ministry from the heart. On the other hand, do not be content with a minimum of knowledge in languages and other mundane things, but rather seek the highest degree. There is scarcely an area of secular knowledge that cannot be put into the service of the Gospel.
Dear fathers and brothers, I'll come to the end. By God's grace we want to follow the example of our fathers. The establishment and maintenance of Christian educational institutions is associated with a lot of work and costs. But we do not want that to be felt as a complaint. [Page 771]

We have recognized the love of Christ in our own hearts through which we have the forgiveness of our sins and a home in heaven. The love of Christ urges us the longer, the more, that here on earth we live not to our own selves, but to our dear Savior. The love of Christ urges all our Christians to carry our Christian schools, the lower and the higher, on a praying heart, and to offer their earthly goods according to the abundance of their wealth.
The love of Christ urges all teachers in our schools to hold on with ever renewed joy for their busy office. The love of Christ also urges all pupils and students, that for their part they learn and study with complete diligence. Help, dear Savior, let it well prosper! Thine, Thine alone, shall be all glory. Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
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      One hears in our day “Get a good education”.  But Luther and Pieper proclaimed “Get a Christian education”.  There is a difference.  One cannot get a Christian education in a public school.  A “public” education today will at best constantly challenge a Christian's faith.  In my case, it destroyed my faith.  I look back at my youth and wonder “what were the people of the LC-MS thinking?” as they allowed the demise of their Christian schools?  How Franz Pieper's heart ached for the schools.
      Soon to follow will by my translations of Ludwig Fuerbringer's full essays “Memories of Dr. Franz Pieper” and “Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian”.

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