Search This Blog

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”.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
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:
= = = = = = = =  concluded in Part 8  = = = = = = = =
      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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments only accepted when directly related to the post.