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Friday, June 22, 2018

2-Briggs Heresy Trial; pathetic; 8th Wonder; a 'crank'; Pieper's sarcasm

      This continues from Part 1 (Table of Contents in Part 1), a series presenting Dr. Franz Pieper's review and comments on the Great American Heresy Trial, the Briggs Heresy Trial. — In this portion, Pieper finishes his synopsis and begins his own judgment… as a Lutheran.  He is known as a particularly irenic polemicist, but those who promote this side of him would do well to see just how 'un-irenic' he is in this essay… how I love Pieper's sarcasm!
      Lutherans who are reading this series should begin to get the picture that this "Heresy Trial" foreshadows the situation in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 80 years after this trial... and even now.  And so it will be of great interest for that reason. But I get ahead of myself... we want to hear Pieper's own judgment of this matter. He begins in this post, part way down the narrative below:
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Translation by BackToLuther. Original publication in Lehre und Wehre, vol. 39 (June 1893), p. 161-166underlining follows original emphasis, comments in [ ] brackets, and all hyperlinks and highlighting are mine.

The Presbyterians and the Doctrine of the Inspiration
of the Holy Scriptures.
[by Dr. Franz Pieper, Part 2 cont'd from Part 1]

Dr. Briggs was present and had plenty of opportunity to talk. He spoke eleven hours in all, while the Prosecuting Committee had to settle for six hours. An eyewitness described Dr. Briggs’ appearance as “pale and nervous, weak of voice and delicate build, apparently suffering from the strain which he was subjected to. He had the sympathy of all. All would have loved it if he had been able to prove his orthodoxy, if that had been possible. He spoke with earnestness and strength to the end. He gave streams of rhetoric, arguments, explanations, sarcasms, citations, and interpretations of himself. His speech was in some respects a masterpiece.”
He upheld his position in all respects, and he declared that he wanted to maintain it, come what may. Even in private negotiations with him as an individual, to get him to at least make concessions, he declared himself unable to give in. The conclusion of his defense speech was very pathetic. He said: “I tried to explain my views. They are my sincere and heartfelt conviction (I hold them sincerely and with all my heart). I hope (?!) that they are taught in Scripture. I urge you before God to judge me fairly and conscientiously. I urge you before God to judge me according to the documents. I urge you before Christ Jesus to grant me justice in your judgment.”

What is one to think of Dr. Briggs? When somebody so decidedly denies Scripture's inspiration as Dr. Briggs, you have every reason to ask if he still believes in Christianity. Under Christian doctrine we naturally do not understand it to be the Law — for all the pagan religions also have parts of the Law — but the Gospel, that is, the doctrine that a man by grace for the sake of Christ is saved by faith, and not by his own works.

If someone really believes the Gospel, believes that God has saved men from eternal damnation by the vicarious suffering and death through His Son, then he has little inclination to doubt that God has in addition also given to man the Holy Scripture as His infallible Word. Those who believe the doctrine of justification may be temporarily challenged with doubts on the divinity of Scripture, but that he can persistently deny it while retaining the Christian doctrine of the remission of sins by believing in Christ's merit is difficult to accept.
This is certainly not the case with Dr. Briggs. He has — [page 164] according to his clear explanation — completely thrown the Christian faith overboard. He no longer believes the Christian, but rather the completely heathen way of salvation. He expresses this clearly in the more detailed exposition of “progressive sanctification” which he has adopted. He justifies his teaching that the “sanctification” of the soul must evolve still after death, so that he says, one can nevertheless not possibly assume that “father and child, mother and baby, the teacher and the disciple, the sacrificial missionary and the new convert, the zealous evangelist and the thief and murderer who returns to Christ from the gallows in his final hour, — that all should be treated equally”. This argument is based on the denial of Christianity, namely the denial of the doctrine: “For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely [ohne Verdienst = without merit] by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” [Rom. 3:22-24]
Dr. Briggs does not want the thief on the cross to go into paradise at the same time and immediately with the “zealous evangelist”, but only let’s him go first through the “progressive sanctification” because he does not believe that the forgiveness of sins comes about solely for the sake of Christ's merit and therefore for the believer, when he believes and as soon as he believes, all misdeeds are wiped out like a cloud and his sins like a fog. Briggs has thus fallen away from the center of the Christian faith. The fact that the Scriptures, which testify that Holy Scripture is the Word of God, no longer impress him is no wonder to us.
He would have fallen from the Christian faith in his teaching of the way of salvation, when he yet also externally abandoned the Scriptures as God's infallible Word. In addition, Dr. Briggs is the type who is a modern “scientific theologian”, in particular a theologian who has chosen “higher criticism” as his field of activity. This is a peculiar kind of people. The homo criticus communis [common critic] is mainly distinguished by two things.

First of all, he is a gentleman. But only as long as one submits to his eminent erudition and admires him as the eighth wonder of the world.
If one contradicts him, and one casts doubt on the “irrefutable results” of science, then he becomes impertinent and speaks of “traditionalists” who are unable to move on the heights of science. Also Dr. Briggs has not only in his polemic pamphlets treated the defenders of the inerrancy of Scripture as a lower class of people, but also in his defense speech before the Assembly treated himself as misjudged greatly by a misunderstanding public.
Briggs gives the impression that he is acting and speaking bona fide [in good faith]; but he has through “science” and in particular through the “higher criticism” — if you excuse the expression — become a “crank”. He suffers — like the majority of his fellow guild members — [page 165] from “scientifically” fixed ideas. On the other hand, the modern “scientific theologian” is characterized by a high-sounding, foggy diction in which nothing can be thought of with the best of intentions, and which can almost drive anyone desirous of clear thoughts to despair.
= = = = = = = =  Continued in Part 3  = = = = = = = = =

      How I gasped and laughed as I translated Pieper's sharp polemics against Dr. Briggs! I know that I will be coming back to this blog post many times in the future, because Pieper nails “liberal theology” right between the eyes.  He catches them in their own words and by their own words refutes them with the Word, God's Word. But he is only doing what all Christian theologians should be doing – teaching and defending God's Word:
He that is not with me is against me.” -- Matt. 12:30
In the next Part 3, we find that Pieper not only praises the Presbyterians for their action, but also issues a warning...

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