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Saturday, June 23, 2018

3-Briggs Trial: contradictory thoughts; 'Science!'; not majority, but God's Word; ...then the Lutherans

[2018-11-07: added note in red at bottom - ref. to the Briggs trial by Prof. Scharlemann in 1969]
      This continues from Part 2 (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 dispels any notion that he can only be “irenic” when discussing theological matters.  Unbelief in any form has no place in Christian theology. It is never “courageous”, never “loyal” to deny the Inspiration of Holy Scripture.  This denial never deserves our empathy, our “understanding”, our “kindness”, our “fairness”... as Christians.  All “Church History” by those who deny the Inspiration of Holy Scripture is suspect at best, deceptive at worst.  This is certainly not the case with Dr. Franz Pieper:
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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 3 conclusion from Part 2]

This is also the case with Briggs. He for example literally said in front of the assembly: “The doctrine of progressive sanctification after death harmonizes the Christian faith with the Christian ethic and both with the ethics of humanity and the ethics of God. It empowers us to comprehend, the whole human race, the whole history of our race from its first creation for the last day, and all acts of God in creation and preservation, under a grand concept — the divine sanctification of man.”
Further, Dr. Briggs maintains in one breath, that the Holy Scriptures are fallible, as well as that they are the infallible guide of faith and life. In his head the most contradictory thoughts seem to have space next to each other, if only the label “science” can be affixed to them. [= schizophrenia]
“Dr. Briggs” — says a writer in the Presbyterian“is no Luther or a reformer. What he stands for does not have enough pulling power to secure for him a large following. He represents the negation, not the position.” The position is indeed the weak side of modern scientific theology. Their representatives agree only in one point, namely that the theology of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries should cease to apply. But as soon as they are supposed to explain what is to replace the theology so dismissed, they diverge in all directions of the wind. The fact that they still expect other people to follow them as leaders reveals their great “modesty.”
How does it stand now in the fellowship of Presbyterians? There is no reason to doubt that the vote in the General Assembly indicates the state of the fellowship. One can therefore assume that more than three-quarters of the congregations still profess the Holy Scripture as the Word of God. It is significantly better in this respect among the Presbyterians than among the other American sects. We knew that Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, and Episcopalians had gone sharply backwards in recent decades, with a dense moral teaching taking the place of Christian doctrine in more and more circles.
But we were appalled by the perception that in all the statements made from the journals of the sects mentioned, the General Assembly of the Presbyterians was censured, and the condemnation of Dr. Briggs was referred to as an assassination of the “personal freedom”, on the “freedom of science” etc..
So much have these people, who used to despise all theological scholarship in some incomprehensible ways, by the [page 166] cry of “science” been blinded. It is better in this regard, as I said, with the Presbyterians, as the vote in the Assembly has shown and as is evident from many discussions of pastors and church members. The Presbyterians have a number of learned theologians who have retained the inspiration of the Scriptures and, in particular, have seen through the deception of “higher criticism”.
Pastor Dr. Lampe's “Argument” against Dr. Briggs is a masterpiece of polemics against the deniers of inspiration and the scientific stubbornness of the “higher critics.” 1) Even lay delegates in the Assembly excelled on the authority of Scripture. One delegate said for example: “Mr. President! The testimony of the evangelists, indeed, the testimony of Christ Himself in relation to this subject, is simply overwhelming. A word from the Savior brings the matter to an end for me forever.” —
But of course the 116 votes against the condemnation of the Dr. Briggs are a bad thing, even if most of them were delivered by people who personally do not share Briggs's point of view. There is a minority that wants to allow a false teacher of the grossest kind.
But even worse is that even those who are in favor of the condemnation of Dr. Briggs voted now to prevent an outer break with the minority for quite the wrong reasons. A writer in the Presbyterian says for example: “Presbyterian pastors have vowed to be subject to their brethren in the Lord. They are Americans and have learned to submit to the will of the majority.” These are matters of doctrine, and it is not the majority that decides, but one has to demand submission to God's Word. F. P.
1) Presbytery of New York. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America against the Rev. Charles A. Briggs, D. D.  Argument of the Rev. Joseph J. Lampe, D. D., a member of the Prosecuting Committee. (or here) [WorldCat 1, 2, 3]; other refs. here and here.] 
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First the Presbyterians, 
      Of course the story of the struggle among the American Presbyterians was not over with this judgment of heresy against Briggs.  The liberal “minority” that wanted to allow the continuation of this false teacher eventually gained the upper hand.  Pieper was correct in warning that body against the minority.  The well-known story of the later Prof. J. Gresham Machen and now the “Orthodox Presbyterian Church” (OPC) was the outcome.  But to all of the “Old Presbyterians” of today who profess “inspiration” or to the conservative Reformed who follow Arthur W. Pink for their profession of “Inspiration”, I tell you it was the old (German) Missouri Synod Lutherans who were the original and purest defenders of the Inspiration of Holy Scripture.
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      I would repeat again Pieper's statement above about Dr. Briggs:
“In his head the most contradictory thoughts seem to have space next to each other, if only the label ‘science’ can be affixed to them.” 
As I translated this, I kept thinking of a mental health condition known today:
Schizophrenia (from Wikipedia):
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by… failure to understand reality. Common symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking, … often have additional mental health problems such as anxiety, depressive, or substance-use disorders. Symptoms typically come on gradually, begin in young adulthood, and last a long time.
Doctor Pieper has properly diagnosed the condition of our patient Charles Briggs as what we might call today “schizophrenia”... kind of like I had as I fell away from my Christian faith 45 years ago. One could add to this discussion the topic of “Science Fiction”, but this is a blog, not a book.
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then the Lutherans.
      The deceptive tactics that Dr. Briggs used to attempt to defend himself as “conservative” and “orthodox” foreshadowed the much greater deceptiveness of those who transformed Concordia Seminary–St. Louis from the bastion for truth into one of the greatest enemies of Lutheranism… and Christianity… ever.  And unfortunately, as with the Presbyterians, the “minority” or so-called “moderates” are actually winning out in today's LC-MS, even after the 1973-1974 debacle.  With Franz Pieper's clear assessment against liberal theology in the “Briggs Heresy Trial”, we “can see clearly now”… by the light of Holy Scripture… in the next part 4.
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*****  2018-11-07 Appendix: *****
A reference was made to the Briggs trial for heresy in the April 9, 1970 letter by Prof. Martin Scharlemann to LC-MS President J. A. O. Preus to initiate an investigation of the faculty of Concordia Seminary.  This may be viewed on p. 153 of the book Exodus From Concordia. While Pieper generally praised the Presbyterians, Scharlemann the heresy trial as a "political maneuver"

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