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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Pieper as Theologian-5: The Church authority on Bible's Authority

      This continues from Part 4 (Table of Contents in Part 1), a series presenting the full essay “Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian” by President Ludwig Fuerbringer. — In this portion, Pieper elaborates on “rule of faith” or the “Analogy of Faith”, the clarity of Scripture, and the reality for those who deny the authority of Holy Scripture. Pieper's message never wavered whether it was in front of Walther while he lived or in 1892, or in 1899 or in 1906 or in 1922 or... in 1932 in what became the Brief Statement.
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Translation by BackToLuther. Original publication in CTM, vol. 2, October, 1931 (Part 1, p. 721-729); underlining follows original emphasis, comments in [ ] brackets, and all hyperlinks and highlighting are mine.

Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian.
by Prof. Ludwig Fuerbringer
(Part 5, cont'd from Part 4)

“Holy Scripture, like every other writing, is to be interpreted or not interpreted only by itself.
“When we say that Scripture is interpreted according to faith (according to the analogy of faith), so we thereby mean it to be, as with the proper teachers, nothing other than that Scripture is limited only by itself, namely, dark passages of Scripture are only to be explained by the clear passages of the same Scripture. Interpretation of Scripture in accordance with a norm that is not Scripture itself (tradition, consensus of the Church, “spirit,” “enlightened reason,” “whole of Scripture,” etc.) is not interpretation, but criticism of Scripture. [Page 728]
“The objection, that it is not possible to decide with certainty which Scriptural passages are clear, is to be answered: Clarity is always its own proof, or: Scripture passages themselves work the conviction that they are clear, by their clarity.  Clearly, with regard to the individual doctrines, the passages in which these teachings are revealed (sedes doctrinae) are not the places in which they are not revealed. Those who want to explain clear Scripture passages through other passages of Scripture, mock the Scriptures and throw the whole Scripture into an “uncertain pile”. (Luther.)
“Church history teaches that the false teachers of all times interpreted clear passages of Scripture as obscure, pointing to their heads, and in order to deceive others and themselves, invoked the “analogy of faith.”
“The fact that Scripture is interpreted only by Scripture and does not correspond to one’s own thoughts is a grace that continually is sought of God, and is given to the broken hearts which renounce all their own wisdom in divine things and submit their sense of Scripture in humble faith”. (52, 481 f.)
And finally, Pieper always came back to the last, all-important question, the reason of certainty, the certainty of truth. Then he published his excellent inaugural speech of 1899: “How Does a Teacher of the Church Obtain the True Assurance of Christian Doctrine?” (46, 161); German tite) and at other times raises the question: “Why Do We Believe the Scriptures?” or: “How does the Holy Scripture Become a Divine Authority?” (68, 161; German title). And his answer to this all-surpassing certainty question is this:
“By the divine authority of the Holy Scripture we understand the quality or nature of Scripture, according to which it bids faith and obedience to everything it says, as to God himself.
Whoever attacks the authority of Scripture commits a crime against the Divine majesty, a crimen laesae majestatis divinae, because he actually repudiates and stands above God. As Scripture proof of this belongs all Scripture passages in which the Word of Scripture and the Word of God are identified ....
And this divine authority of Scripture is an absolute. It is an absolute in the sense that it belongs to Scripture for its own sake, because it is God’s Word through inspiration. Not because the authority is based on the testimony given by individuals or even the whole Church to Scripture, which the ancient Lutheran theologians express briefly rightly so: The Scripture is  αύτόπιστος [autopistos, credible in itself], that is, it is entitled to faith and obedience for its own sake, because it is θεόπνευστος, given by God. [2 Tim. 3:16 = “God-breathed” or “God-inspired”] [Page 729]
The divine authority of Scripture is denied by Rome by asserting that Scripture has divine authority only through the witness of the Church. The fact that the Scripture accords for its own sake with faith and obedience, is denied  moreover by the Enthusiasts of all times, which concede the Scripture as divine authority only insofar as the Scripture is voiced with the alleged immediate spiritual revelation.  The same critical position on Scripture is finally adopted by all the later theologians, who deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, who want to decide about truth and error in Scripture according to their “faith-consciousness,” “experience,”  etc. They therefore speak also with the Enthusiasts of “bondage to letters,” a “paper pope” etc. if they are expected to recognize the Holy Scriptures as inviolable [unverbrüchliche; unbreakable, John 10:35] divine authority. [orancient believing text-worshipers”; ref. McLaughlin's essay]
Now, however, the question arises as to how the divinity of Scripture is recognized by us human beings or, what is the same, how Scripture becomes divine authority for us humans. In answering this question, we have to choose between Christian certainty (certainty of faith, fides divina) and human conviction (natural certainty, scientific certainty, fides humana).  That this distinction is both scripturally necessary, and practically very important, will result from the following account.” (68, 161 ff.)
So we could continue and portray Dr. Pieper’s doctrine of Holy Scripture in all its parts and with its own words prove it correct.     L. Fuerbringer.

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This is the end of Fuerbringer's first portion dealing with “sola Scriptura”.  As I finished translating this, I wrote down the following question that I would have posed to Ludwig:
“Did you not teach sola Scriptura to your son, Alfred O. Fuerbringer, who also became President of Concordia Seminary?”
      But before I continue with the next portion in this series, I want to apply Pieper's major point about the “crime against the Divine majesty”. There is legal term today similar to the Latin term used by Pieper: “Lèse-majesté” – a crime “against the dignity of a reigning sovereign”, sometimes referred to as “Treason”.  Pieper uses this strong term for those who deny the full divinity to Holy Scripture.    As I was translating Pieper's sentence and pondering the loss of my Christian faith 45+ years ago, one LC-MS theologian's name in particular came to my mind. Pieper's criminal charge can be applied properly to one of the most recognized names in Lutheran theology of the last 75 years and one of the most destructive teachers in Christendom of the 20th Century.  Who would that be? Find out in the next post. —  Then in the following Part 6, Fuerbringer begins his next portion dealing with great teaching that Pieper is to be known for – sola gratia.

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