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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”.

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