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Monday, August 6, 2018

Pieper-Theologian-6: sola gratia: “hidden synergism”; “the point that matters”

      This continues from Part 5 (Table of Contents in Part 1), a series presenting the full essay "Dr. F. Pieper as Theologian" by President Ludwig Fuerbringer. —

In this portion, the focus moves to sola gratia, grace alone. These are the two words inscribed on Pieper's gravestone and are a fitting epitaph for the greatest teacher and defender of “Grace Alone” in the Twentieth Century.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
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 6, cont'd from Part 5)
[p. 801]
The other lesson that came to the fore in the years of Dr. Pieper’s theological work was the doctrine of the grace of God. His theology and his oral and written testimony, in turn, was always up-to-date. He did not have the time and inclination to deal with purely academic discussions and problems. And as it required the time, he was teaching according to Luther’s famous statement in his preface to the Epistle to the Romans: “Every doctrine has its measure, time, and age.” (St. Louis Ed, 14, 108; LW 35, 378).
J. Michael Reu:
“sola gratia
to Pieper's credit”
Sola Gratia.
In this lesson Dr. Pieper’s theological activity has been well known and acknowledged, and only recently has a teacher of dogmatics, who at the same time followed attentively the course of events in recent decades in the Lutheran Church of America, Prof. Dr. M. Reu from Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, written the following words: “It must be to his [Pieper’s] and Walther’s credit that the sola gratia, in which the Lutheran Church always lived and has proclaimed, came to full effect also theoretically ever more resolutely in the Lutheran Church of our country and was promoted to cleanness of theological thinking.” (See Kirchliche Zeitschrift, 55, 433; [1931])
That Dr. Pieper had made just this doctrine the main subject of his theological presentation and had so decisively supported it throughout his life, had been prompted just by the American Lutheran Church’s deeply moving controversy over the doctrines of Conversion and Election of Grace. And quite rightly, he often expressed the idea that we could not be thankful enough for this doctrinal dispute because all synergism is recognized as such and rejected, and divine grace in its full, clear glory and sole causality of our salvation has been proven.
In this [Page 802] battle for sola gratia, Pieper has indeed occupied a leadership position for fifty years, has been one of the voices in the dispute, and again has not tired of emphasizing time and time again the point that matters. In his work “The Fundamental Difference in the Doctrine of Conversion and the Election of Grace” [1903] he has shown quite clearly what the difference really is. He had heard it more than once from the mouth and from the writings of the combatants questioning the sole cause of grace, for which he was most anxious.
He often used to say how one of the main leaders on the other side in the controversy had directly stated to him: “Give me one little bit in man, and then I’m satisfied.” He also knew how to follow his opponents down to the finest train of thought and to discover the most hidden synergism in this doctrinal dispute. This, in turn, is shown by his numerous articles, which run through the many years of Lehre und Wehre. And that is why he fought to the very end against the thesis which one set up on the other side, that the conversion and salvation of a man depends not only on God’s grace, but also on the behavior of man.  
He emphasized again and again in the words of Article 11 of the Formula of Concord, which he was able to give from paragraph to paragraph without looking up and knew mostly by heart, the “same guilt” (in eadem culpa)[2018-08-08 added & updated links] of all people and the same “evil behavior” of all people toward divine grace. (Formula of Concord, 11th Art., § 57 f., Trigl., p. 1080)  So he also eliminated and combated even the finest synergism, and this is probably to his greatest credit for the American Lutheran Church and Christianity in general. He followed in the footsteps of Walther, who wrote in his epoch-making article of 1872, “Is it Really a Lutheran Doctrine that Man’s Salvation is Ultimately Based on Man’s Own Free Choice?” (18, 193) that had started the public testimony of the truth, in fact before the end of the Seventies when the actual fight broke out.  Pieper also therefore later wrote an article with quite a similar sounding and yet somewhat changed title from the controversy: “Is it Really Lutheran Doctrine That Man’s Conversion and Salvation Depend Not Solely on God’s Grace, But in a Certain Sense Also on Man’s Behavior?” (37, 289) [1891]. And right in one of his first articles in Lehre und Wehre, he makes “Some Remarks Mainly Concerning the Basic Difference in the Present Dispute” (27, 333) [1881] and states, among other things:
“We begin with the main point. The main point is still and is becoming more and more: the doctrine of conversion. What has been pointed out from the beginning is becoming more and more true: if we were united in the doctrine of conversion, we would soon be in the doctrine of the election of grace to see perfect agreement. The Magazine sees in our doctrine of [Page 803] Conversion the quintessence of our error. We, on the other hand, are convinced that what our opponents call the truth are mistaken, either because they are wrong in the doctrine of conversion, or are in a sad confusion over it.
= = = = = = = =  continued in Part 7  = = = = = = = =

      One particular point made by Fuerbringer above struck me: “He (Pieper) also knew how to follow his opponents down to the finest train of thought and to discover the most hidden synergism in this doctrinal dispute.”  In the Doctrine of Conversion the opponents’ synergism was clearly exposed by Dr. Pieper, and synergism is deadly for the Christian faith. What keeps going through my mind on Fuerbringer's statement is that he almost admitted that he was not up to the task that Pieper was so diligent at – in which case Fuerbringer should have turned down the post of President of Concordia Seminary.
      As Herman Sasse complimented the fathers of the Missouri Synod at times, so also did J. Michael Reu.  Unfortunately both of them waffled and were weak in their Doctrine of Inspiration (see here on Sasse, here on Reu). — In the next part 7...

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