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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Pieper-Theologian-8: "For Agreement"- true ecumenism

      This concludes from Part 7 (Table of Contents in Part 1), a series presenting the full essay “Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian” by Concordia Seminary President Ludwig Fuerbringer. — In this portion, a false doctrine on Conversion and Election is vehemently rejected... and the full significance of sola gratia is given its due.
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Translation by BackToLuther. Original publication in CTM, vol. 2, October, 1931 (Part 2, p. 801-807); underlining follows original emphasis, all hyperlinks and highlighting are mine.

Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian.
by Prof. Ludwig Fuerbringer
(Part 8, cont'd from Part 7)

“Several church journals have recently reprinted again the following known narrative: ‘When the famous Dutch doctor Boerhaave one day wanted to open in his anatomy in front of his students the body of an executed offender, he suddenly became pale and began to tremble. The students looked at him questioningly, for they knew only too well that their professor was not overly soft. ‘O dear gentlemen,’ Boerhaave said, ‘with this man I have spent my youth. Now I am the esteemed Boerhaave, and he lies here. Let me tell you that, beside the grace of God, I know of no single reason why I do not lie here in his place.’” And then Pieper continues: “In this narrative the scriptural term of grace is expressed. The scriptural concept of grace also implies that in comparing those saved and the lost, the former are no better before God, or, what is the same, are in no less guilt before God than the latter. Whoever says:
‘I am saved by grace’, but then in a comparison of himself with the lost finds in his ‘behavior’ etc., the explanation why he is converted and saved in contrast to others, he has not yet recognized the Scriptural concept of grace and understands basically nothing of the revealed religion in the Holy Scriptures.  Therefore, the Old and New Testament Scriptures urge over and over again the right notion of grace.” (LuW 50, 433)
Again, this emphasis on sola gratia was not merely a theoretical, scientific statement, but just as the last quotation shows, in the purest sense of the word, practical theology.
He knew from personal experience of the heart that everything collapses and falls apart if our salvation does not rest solely on God’s free, undeserved grace, and so he quotes Luther’s words so often and so emphatically when Erasmus, the master father of all synergists, fought the doctrine of Grace, and the Reformer called out to him: “Iugulum petisti,” “you put the knife at the throat”, you [page 806] want to rob me of “Grace alone” (De Servo Arbitrio, St. Louis Edition XVIII, 1967) [Am. Ed. 33, p 294: “The Bondage of the Will”]. And in his synodical paper of 1929 he reiterated:
“It is noteworthy that even within the American Lutheran Church, ‘by grace alone’ was fought and rejected with great earnestness. In this country, not only was it taught that conversion and salvation were a matter of right conduct but also added, whoever does not teach so, but rather that conversion and salvation are attributed alone to the grace of God, were mistaken in the foundation of the faith, a false teacher, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a Calvinist. Those who in this country so seriously opposed us in the doctrines of Conversion and Election of Grace, presented themselves before Christ’s open heavenly door with the demand, which was summarized briefly but perfectly correctly as follows: Admission only on the basis of proper human behavior, no admittance except on good behavior. We do not mean proper conduct in itself, but only comparatively. We just mean that those who wish to go to heaven must show less reluctance and less guilt than those who are not converted and saved. But when we argue that way, we make it even clearer that our practice is closing Heaven. For it is precisely with the comparatively better behavior and the comparatively lower guilt that we ascribe to ourselves that we enter the Order of the Pharisees, who unjustifiably go down to their house, thus excluding themselves from heaven, as long as they remain members of the order. For this is how the Savior describes the thoughts of a Pharisee:
‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.’ [Luke 18:11] Luther uses strong language in terms of comparatively goodwill, a language that offends our civilized ears. Luther calls it the devil’s “secret” and “hideous deceit” when someone rises in his heart before God even over a whore. Literally Luther says: ‘God forbids that you raise yourself above any whore if you were Abraham, David, Peter, or Paul.’” (LuW 75, 232).
And in this testimony and defense of the doctrine of Grace, Dr. Pieper was not only polemical and negative — each of his articles is also positive, constructive —, but it was very important to him that the Lutheran Church in America would agree on this point.
This was really a matter close to his heart. Thus he wrote the  book Zur Einigung, which was also published in English under the title Conversion and Election, A Plea for a United Lutheranism in America, he emphasized this aspect again and again: in special articles in Lehre und Wehre, participated at inter-synodical conferences, illuminated the “Norwegian Unification Theses” (56, 456), wrote an article “Zur Einigung” [“For Agreement” - English translated Conversion and Election: A PLEA....] [page 807] (62, 145), dealt with the “St. Paul Union Theses” [1916 - ref. Chicago Theses] (63,1; text file here) and the “Madison Theses”, the so-called Norwegian “Opgjør” [or Madison Settlement] (63, 97; text file here; [Archive];]). And his last synodical presentation, as well as his last theological document bear witness to the great saintly earnestness which moved him in this matter throughout his life. We refer to his particularly beautiful, generally understandable presentation at the Delegate Synod of 1929, “The Open Heaven,” in which he again confesses the universalis gratia and the sola gratia with heart-touching words (75, 196).

The other document is the “Theses for a Short Explanation of the Doctrinal Status of the Missouri Synod” [or Brief Statement; Christian Cyclopedia] published recently in this journal in German and English. We may well say that in these theses, which were chiefly worked out by him in the winter months of this year, he laid down his last confession, as it were his will, to his church. He was already suffering when these theses, as they are now being adopted, were accepted by the committee in question, but they responded with complete zeal to this matter.
And when during one of the last conversations I had with him, just a few weeks before his death, when we came again to these things that always occupied him inwardly, he said to me with great, holy earnestness, as before the face of God, that he pledges himself to prove and defend these theses as a genuinely Lutheran doctrine before the Church and the world. [Pieper’s Last Words]
So it was a firm, determined, steadfast theologian, a faithful Lutheran theologian given to us and to the whole Church in Dr. Pieper, whose memory will hold up those who want to hold to the biblical-Lutheran doctrine.       L. Fürbringer.
In Christian Memory of
† Dr. Franz Pieper †
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      Ludwig Fuerbringer reported that Pieper “participated at inter-synodical conferences”, but I have seen no instance that he, as Pieper's successor, did the same.  Even Pieper's strongest associate, Friedrich Bente, grew frustrated during inter-synodical meetings with the opposing American Lutheran synods (Ohio and Iowa Synods, later the ALC).  But I never read where Pieper himself was “frustrated”.  It appears to me that Pieper always held out the hope that by always pointing to the Holy Scriptures themselves that the opponents eyes would thereby be opened.  Franz Pieper is painted as the great enemy of “ecumenism” today, but that is a fiction.  Rather Franz Pieper, as “Theologian” is to be considered the greatest proponent for true ecumenism, “for agreement”, “zur Einigung”, of our modern times.  Amen. —
      An upcoming series is planned to present my translation of the full essay of Ludwig Fuerbringer printed in the 1931 Der Lutheraner: “Memories of Dr. Franz Pieper”.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Pieper-Theologian-7: irresistible grace?; Formula: man is a stone, a block, clay

      This continues from Part 6 (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 learn why the doctrine of Conversion was so central in the controversy with the old Ohio Synod (now ELCA) on the Doctrine of Election.  And so Pieper's careful, thorough language in his Brief Statement was so necessary for an ecumenical approach to settling the controversy. If like me you may struggle at times to understand the Brief Statement, this portion helps to see exactly what it is defending against – deadly synergism of every kind, even “nano-synergism”.
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Translation by BackToLuther. Original publication in CTM, vol. 2, October, 1931 (Part 2, p. 801-807); underlining follows original emphasis, all hyperlinks and highlighting are mine.

Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian.
by Prof. Ludwig Fuerbringer
(Part 7, cont'd from Part 6)

“The Magazine distinguishes a natural and a willful reluctance of man against the grace of conversion. What it means by ’natural’ reluctance is not discussed in any detail.  The ‘willful’ is referred to as ‘willful in the proper sense’ and as such which does not let the conversion, as long as it’s there, come about. Many who have wilfully resisted have been converted, but not as long as they thus resisted.’ So far everything may pass, even if the definition is not clear enough. But now the Magazine goes on to say that it is not the Holy Spirit who takes away this willful reluctance, which, as long as it is there, does not make the conversion happen. He writes: ‘If the Holy Spirit causes wanton reluctance to cease then a willful persevering reluctance could never arise, and then no reason could be given at all why not all hearers of the Gospel are converted.
‘Scripture and our Confessions teach that God in conversion makes one willing from unwilling, canceling man’s reluctance and aversion to the truth or grace of God; but that He should also take away the willful reluctance, that is quite another thing and could only be done by an irresistible grace. [i.e. Calvinism; Leander Keyser, Election and Conversion, p. 37, 67] If a man is not converted, then, according to this theory [Calvinism’s ‘irresistible grace], it is the fault of God.  For if the Holy Spirit does not merely take away the natural reluctance, enmity, unwillingness and resistance to the Gospel, but also his willful reluctance, all men would be converted.’ So far the Magazine. — It clearly teaches here that people who have willfully resisted can still be converted. It does not speak of such a resistance, which makes a conversion at all impossible. Rather not the Holy Spirit removes this willful reluctance, but — there is no such thing as a third — man himself with his natural powers. This is what the Magazine wants to teach, because otherwise it would not be possible to see why not all people are converted, and because otherwise one comes upon an ‘irresistible grace’.
“Hereby, the Magazine has clearly revealed that it teaches synergism arising out of rationalism. It is synergism to attribute to man that he can leave the willful reluctance on his own, and if he does, he would not be dead in sins [Eph. 2:1], then would his natural [Page 804] disposition not be enmity against God. Our confession says (Formula of Concord, Sol., Dec. II, 24):
Before man is enlightened, converted, regenerated, renewed, and drawn by the Holy Ghost, he can of himself and of his own natural powers begin, work, or concur in working in spiritual things and in his own conversion or regeneration just as little as a stone or a block or clay. For although he can control the outward members and hear the Gospel, and to a certain extent meditate upon it, also discourse concerning it, as is to be seen in the Pharisees and hypocrites, nevertheless he regards it as foolishness, and cannot believe it. And in this respect he acts even worse than a block, inasmuch as he is rebellious and hostile to God’s will, unless the Holy Ghost is efficacious in him, and kindles and works in him faith and other virtues pleasing to God, and obedience.’
This is enough to prove that it is a false, un-Lutheran delusion to claim that man can leave by his own power his willful opposition. If man, only by the action of the Holy Spirit, gives up his rebelliousness and enmity against God, then he does not leave willfully out of his own power. When the Magazine rightly cites the doctrine that God in Conversion makes willing out of the unwilling, then it has already disproved itself. If man could leave his willful resistance, he would be very helpful to the Holy Spirit in converting himself. Note how the Magazine thinks of the conversion of a man who willfully resists. It says: ‘A man can today willfully resist and tomorrow be converted.’ In the spirit of the Magazine, this must be paraphrased in this way: ‘A person today willingly resists and will not be converted today. Overnight, however, he pulls himself together, harnessing all his natural powers and defeating the willful resistance. Thus, the next day, through his own preparation, he came to a state in which he is a suitable object for conversion. He has reduced the willful resistance to the natural by his own strength. Now he will be converted.
He has behaved properly, has done the right thing. Now he knows why he was converted before many others. He just got himself together and left the resistance to conversion that prevented his conversion, while others did not do it. Now human reason also understands quite well why only some and not all people are converted. Every secret has been removed from the doctrine of conversion.” (27, 334 ff.)
Pieper then pointed out that synergism is not eliminated when the finer synergists claim that [Page 805]
man does not, of course, leave the reluctance by natural powers, but with powers gifted by grace. For there is always something put into man, which belongs solely and exclusively to divine grace. That is why over the years he has been discussing — and we are only picking up a few of his many contributions — the themes: “Willful Resistance” (28, 210); “‘Resisting’ and ‘Irresistible’ Grace” (33, 117); “The Mystery in the Doctrine of Conversion and the Election of Grace” (34, 33); “The Doctrine of the ‘Self-Decision’ of Man in Conversion” (39, 106) and Grace’ (50, 433) The latter particularly beautiful and clear article he begins with the following words:
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      All the points that Franz Pieper uses against synergism and rationalism are directly taught in ... the Lutheran Confessions.  –  If Dr. Arthur Carl Piepkorn is considered by today's LC-MS as the “greatest authority on the Lutheran Confessions” (instead of Pieper), how is it that Piepkorn bypasses the enormity of the fact that Vatican II never repealed the critical anathemas of the Council of Trent? —  In the concluding Part 8 we will be treated with an excerpt from Pieper's great essay on ‘Grace’, the heart of Martin Luther.