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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pieper as Theologian-2: Dogmatics; John 6 confusion

      This continues from Part 1 (Table of Contents in Part 1), a series presenting the full essay "Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian" by President Ludwig Fuerbringer. — In this portion, we hear the balance of Fuerbringer's introductory paragraphs. — Prof. Fuerbringer reveals his own studious attitude towards Pieper's masterful Christian Dogmatics, like I found myself in 20 years ago. He then relates the testimonies of two unnamed theologians outside of the Missouri Synod... and I am still speculating on who he is speaking about.  But first we start off this segment with a quote that I will never forget... as a Christian.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Translation of first 3 pages by pastor of Australian ELCR, slightly modified. Original publication in CTM, vol. 2, October, 1931 (Part 1, p. 721-729); underlining follows original emphasis, all hyperlinks and highlighting are mine.

Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian.
by Prof. Ludwig Fuerbringer
(Part 2, cont'd from Part 1)

and that in order to understand the truth, one must stand in the truth.  This educational presentation is then demonstrated sharply, clearly and certainly from God’s Word as the sole source and norm of all doctrine and confirmed as Lutheran with evidence from the Confessions of the Lutheran Church and the writings of it’s fathers. Here also the academic nature does not fall short, but rather, anyone who knows and uses this work must recognize that all the necessary text-critical, exegetical, historical and doctrinal historical explanations, especially in the comments, are presented. And finally, we say of this work of imperishable glory, that the whole presentation is not only a reason theology but also a heart theology, practical in the full and best sense of the word, and so meets the purpose of each correct Dogmatics like all true theology, namely, to speak by Pieper with the words of our old, so esteemed and thoroughly studied theologians, ad sensum sacrae Scripturae inveniendum atque aliis demonstrandum .... salutem ad hominum Deique honorem (to discover the sense of Sacred Scripture and the other to demonstrate.... for man’s salvation and God’s honor, ed.).
I may well say at this point that I carefully read through Pieper's Dogmatics
●  when each volume appeared after the other,
●  from beginning to end
●  word for word
●  with the pencil in hand,
●  to take notes
●  with the greatest interest and benefit;
and if there are frequently found repetitions, then it is partly due to the emergence of the work from very different periods, and partly due to impress with deliberate effort certain basic truths in ever-changing connections. What [page 723] has been said here has also been expressed by theologians outside of our own Synod.  
In 1924, a German university professor in Systematics, who belongs to the sharpest theological-philosophical thinkers of the present, but is definitely not on our theological position, wrote me: “The Dogmatics of Dr Pieper is already known and valuable to me. I find many thoughts that are familiar and meaningful. I am particularly pleased of an extensive agreement in the doctrine of the sacraments.
But especially important to me is that the principle controlling the whole dogmatics is to go back to Luther. This has also been for my theology the determining point of view. We stand, however, in different historical connections than the American Lutherans, so that in detail probably some differences show; but nevertheless it is also with us a deepening in Luther’s thoughts the longer, to notice all the more.” And recently a German-American theologian, who has struggled through in hot battles with the Lutheran doctrine, wrote me:  “The last nine months were the hardest of my life. [C.H. Little?; Reu? Schmauk?]
Augustine’s interpretation of John chapter 6 about the spiritual enjoyment of the sacred meal was used by the evil enemy to drive me into such confusion, that I almost would have told the Lutheran church farewell.
However, God’s good Spirit bothered me again to get Dr. Pieper’s Dogmatics and to compare the teaching at the hands of Scripture, Luther and the Confessions. Saying heartfelt thanks to God, I have come through his grace now to achieve clarity and inner peace. Whoever looks honestly, today also finds, I have learnt literally…..  Next to the grace of God, Dr. Pieper’s incomparable dogmatic theology has helped me to full peace and clarity. All my doubts and concerns have disappeared.”

Yet if we are preparing now to publish here a short article about Dr. Pieper as a theologian, we want to emphasize just two points, but just the main points of proper biblical-Lutheran theology; and anyone who has read and heard something of Dr. Pieper knows that he arrived at his theology especially on those two points. They are in truth the principles and therefore also the hallmarks of genuine Lutheran theology. These are the two basic truths, that Pieper pronounced as a true Lutheran theologian (who knows how many times) and laid to the heart of the Church, in old, known ways yet ever new connections:
sola Scriptura
sola gratia.
= = = = = = = =  continued in Part 3  = = = = = = = =
John, chapter 6
Prof. David Scaer
      Fuerbringer quotes another theologian's struggle over the meaning of John chapter 6.  This has current applications as Prof. David Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary leads the notion that John chapter 6 refers to Holy Communion (ref. his 2014 essay in CTQ “Once More to John 6” here.)  Scaer even admits in his essay that Martin Luther himself is found to be “flatly denying a sacramental spin to chapter 6 in his lectures on the Fourth Gospel”, but then quotes Luther against Luther.  But we find in Fuerbringer's account how Pieper's Dogmatics rescued this German-American theologian from saying “farewell” to the Lutheran Church. Could we be witnessing another reason why Pieper's Dogmatics is being replaced in today's LC-MS? (We will see later Pieper's condemnation of Scaer's tactic of using unclear passages instead of clear passages.)
 - - - - - - - - - - -
      Fuerbringer then chose two, and only two, topics to highlight Pieper's works: sola Scriptura and sola gratia, not the sacraments. The 'sacramental theology' of Concordia Theological Seminary is exposed for what it is, just as Walther charged the Iowa Synod in 1859, on their
“outward churchianity, on the visibility of the true church, on its ceremonies, rules, and constitution, on the office [of the ministry] as a special rank created by ordination and [on] its privileged dispensation of grace, on the ex opere operato effectiveness of the sacraments (i.e., by the mere use of them, regardless of faith)”
Hmmm... the shoe seems to fit. No wonder Pieper and Walther are hated so much in today's LC-MS. — In the next Part 3, we begin the newly translated material, on sola Scriptura.

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