Search This Blog

Friday, November 30, 2018

Pieper tribute 4: Honoring the Ministry

      A few LC-MS theologians today sometimes honor Franz Pieper for his defense of the doctrine of the Ministry or what is called in German the term Amt, Office of Preaching.  But practically all of these do not defend all the Lutheran doctrines that Pieper taught.  Most glaringly, they do not teach and defend his pure Doctrine of Justification and the Doctrine of Inspiration.  This makes whatever praise they have for Pieper's teaching suspect.  — But in the following "tribute" from 1931, we hear one of the best testimonies of Pieper on this teaching:
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
The Many-Sided Dr. Pieper.
Honoring the Ministry.
The Lutheran Witness, September 29, 1931, p. 327

“During the summer of 1888 I, then a student of the seminary, was serving the congregation at Carondelet in the absence of Rev. Achenbach. Rev. C. C. Schmidt asked me to conduct services for him in Holy Cross one Sunday afternoon. Before the service Dr. Pieper also came into the vestry and sat down. He was to christen a child after the sermon. When I arose to go before the altar or on the pulpit, Dr. Pieper quickly arose to open the vestry-door for me. Dr. Pieper always acted the gentleman; but I did not look upon this action of his as a mere act of courtesy, but rather as an act of reverence for the preacher of the Word of God, even though this preacher happened to be one of his students. This seemingly insignificant incident I always remembered.”
Rev. J. H. Todt, Manistee, Mich.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
The reverence Pieper held for the Ministry was truly a holy reverence. He believed God went with His Word. 
      My mother dearly wanted one of her boys to be a pastor, but none of us did.  I suppose when older ones chose the field of Engineering, that also held my interest. I chose the lesser field, by far. But I remember that after an older brother went to Valparaiso University and we also visited that campus to see him, I was almost shocked at how different their worship was, how different their overall attitude toward the Bible was, than my upbringing.  I remember how I determined then that I would NOT go to Valparaiso University because of this.  At least in this, I made the right choice, even if it was a state university (Purdue).
      This account of Pieper opening the vestry-door reminded me of another door, the Gates of Heaven, and how he labored to keep the pure Lutheran teaching of "The Open Heaven". — Further tributes from the 1931 issues of The Lutheran Witness will follow.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Pieper tribute 3: “Street-Car Nickel” & conscience (Lutheran Witness, 1931)

      One will not find in The Lutheran Witness of Pieper's time, either before or after his passing, any extensive articles on Pieper's theology.  One can find at least some essays of this type in the German language periodicals Der Lutheraner and Lehre und Wehre.  The chief editor of the Witness was Prof. Theodore Graebner who would in a few years explode into syncretistic actions. I suspect that Graebner was already, in 1931, harboring weakness in maintaining the doctrines of the faith.  But before his sad downfall, Graebner still published some words of praise for the departed chief teacher of the Missouri Synod since Walther's passing in 1887, 44 years of leadership in following God's Word. — Here is another short tribute that Graebner published in the months following Pieper's "going home".  It is not about Pieper's doctrine, it is about his life:
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
The Many-Sided Dr. Pieper.*
* Most of these reminiscences were sent to the undersigned for his biographical sketch of Dr. Pieper, but were received too late for inclusion in that treatise.  G. [Th. Graebner]
The Lutheran Witness, September 29, 1931, p. 327
The Street-Car Nickel.
How about cheating the street-car company out of a street-car fare? The late Dr. F. Pieper, while president of Synod, sat at dinner with a group of delegates, when the above question was put. Some one said, “If I am not approached for my nickel by the conductor, I’ll keep it.” The Doctor answered, “I prefer to call the conductor’s attention to the fact that he has overlooked me and to hand him my nickel. The devil is always planning to tempt a Christian and to get him to doubt that he is a child of God and saved. When he charges a Christian with having deserved the wrath of God and damnation, he usually does not hold up to him that he has stolen a hundred or a thousand dollars, but that he has cheated some one out of a penny or a nickel. And just these petty things can cause the Christian’s conscience untold agony. So I would rather a thousand times have paid my little street-car fare than expose my conscience to such torture. Besides, in spite of all my efforts to be scrupulously conscientious even in little things, I know that I am sinful from tip to toe, for all of which I continually approach my God, believing in the full atonement of Christ, saying: ‘Purge me! The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin [1 John 1:7].’ ”
Rev. J. D. Matthius, Indianapolis, Ind.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Pieper's response to the situation reminds me of Joseph's response to Potiphar's wife in Genesis 39:9. I was pleased to see a pastor from Indiana, my home state, offer his public praise of Pieper. Further tributes from The Lutheran Witness will follow.

Monday, November 19, 2018

J.T. Mueller’s poem for Pieper (1931 Luth. Witness)

      Continuing the series of posts on the tributes for Dr. Franz Pieper after his "going home" on June 3, 1931, it is fitting that the poem of the younger associate, J. T. Mueller, who lived the longest (†  1967) among the erring generation after him, should be published.  Although Mueller did not follow Prof. P. E. Kretzmann in leaving the LC-MS in 1950, and had some weaknesses, yet he maintained Pieper's Biblical, confessional doctrines throughout his lifetime.  As was mentioned in a previous post, he even translated his own English abridgment of Pieper's Christian Dogmatics back into German so that the Missouri Synod could furnish a concise book of orthodox Lutheran teaching to the German theologians after World War II (Bad Boll conferences).  It is sad to say that even though the Allies won the military war against the Germans, yet the modern German theology that battles against orthodoxy and against Pieper/Mueller's teaching is now the norm in all external Christendom. —  But enough of the world and today's LC-MS, I now present Mueller's heartfelt tribute to the "going home" of the "Twentieth Century Luther":
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
The Lutheran Witness
Vol. L.              ST. LOUIS, MO., JUNE 23, 1931.            No. 13. (p. 213)
In Memory of Our Teacher Dr. Francis Pieper.
† June 3, 1931. †

He lived immortal; for to him to live
Was solus Christus;1) both by word and pen
His only message was a grand amen
To God’s pure Word; naught else he had to give.

Sola Scriptura2) was the constant source
From which he drew theology divine
And sola gratia3) the matchless mine
Of sinful man’s sole solace and recourse.

Salvamur sola fide.4) So did he
Rest every dogma on the precious blood
Which from Messiah’s wounds on Calvary

Flowed for mankind with universal grace.
With Paul and Luther by the cross he stood
And visioned God in Christ with open face.

St. Louis, Mo. John Theodore Mueller.

1) Christ alone.     2) Scripture alone.   3) Grace alone. 4) We are saved by faith alone.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 
Further tributes to Pieper's memory from the Lutheran Witness in 1931 will follow.

Friday, November 9, 2018

“We Do Not Interpret”… in Pieper’s ‘Bible Church’

[2018-11-14: restored italicized words in Pieper quote]
      In a blog from 2013, I reviewed Dr. Lawrence Rast Jr.'s essay for the 2004 Reformation Lectures (Archive) series sponsored by Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary.  In that essay, Dr. Rast extracted a testimony of Dr. Franz Pieper from a 1931 issue of The Lutheran Witness after Pieper's passing in June 1931.  I marveled at the beauty of that testimony and determined to locate the source of it in the Sept. 29, 1931 issue of The Lutheran Witness.  When I came upon it, I found that the full story had not quite been given by Dr. Rast, for it concluded with an assertion nearly equal in beauty to Pieper's phrase, so I want to present this "reminiscence" in its full glory:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“We Do Not Interpret.”
The Lutheran Witness, September 29, 1931, p. 326-7

“One morning in the year 1917 Dr. F. Pieper was lecturing to his class in Dogmatics, presenting, as usual, one of the great doctrines of Holy Writ. The ‘Deity of Christ’ was the subject under discussion on that morning, — a mystery which no man by nature can understand, but which faith gladly accepts as true. Dr. Pieper had just finished bringing a striking Bible-passage as proof for this Christian doctrine, when a student, having asked for the floor, arose and said:

‘Doctor, will you kindly give us your interpretation of that verse again.’
Dr. Pieper looked disturbed, slightly bewildered, then, peering sympathetically and intently into the eyes of the questioner, slowly and emphatically said:

My interpretation? Never! We do not interpret Scripture. Just listen to that passage again.’

The doctor then read slowly (sounded like an angel) and with great emphasis the passage in question and added:

‘That is what God says. It needs no interpretation. Believe it.’ —

There was a moment of silence, and I assure you God had spoken through His noble instrument, Dr. F. Pieper, that man of God with a simple childlike faith. I have mentioned this incident to a number of Reformed pastors with whom I have come in contact, as the manner and way in which all our theology is taught at Concordia Seminary, and they were dumbfounded at our ‘Thus saith the Lord,' ‘Thus it is written.’ As long as our dear Church has professors, pastors, teachers, and laymen that adhere to that principle, it will be and remain the ‘Bible Church.’”  

Rev. Benedict Schwarz, Chappell, Nebr.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Dear God!... where did that ‘Bible Church’ go?  —  How wonderful Rev. Schwarz reported this story! — There were several other "reminiscences" of the recently "gone home" Pieper in the issues of the 1931 Witness.  I will present more of these in later posts.