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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Florida's true martyrs: massacred by “holy Catholic faith”; “evangelical catholicity”?, Part 2

      Continued from Part 1. Pastor Piepkorn, after his introductory remarks, now gives his summary of the history of these "Lutheran Martyrs" of Florida. Afterwards we will compare it to the report by C.F.W. Walther 68 years earlier:
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The Lutheran martyrs of Florida [1] were members of a naval mission sent by the king of France [2] upon the urging of Admiral de Coligny to colonize the east coast of Florida in the name of the French crown, and a settlement was established at the mouth of St. John’s River [Ft. Caroline].

Philip II of Spain sent Captain General Pedro Menéndez to destroy the colony, and in 1565 he established a base at St. Augustine. Taking the offensive to ward off this threat to the peace of the French colony, Jean Ribault of Dieppe endeavored to attack St. Augustine by sea, but was prevented from achieving victory by the tide and by the outbreak of a violent storm, which shipwrecked his flotilla off the coast. Menéndez immediately attacked the French settlement by land and destroyed it. The shipwrecked French sailors landed on an island near St. Augustine, where Menendez succeeded in inducing about 215 to surrender unconditionally. Ordering them bound, he demanded that they declare their faith. Ten confessed themselves to be Roman Catholics and were spared, along with a few artisans whose services were required by the Spaniards. The remainder, having refused to renounce their Lutheran belief, [1] were ferried to the mainland in small groups and marched northward. As they reached a line which Menendez had drawn in the sand they were set upon and murdered in cold blood.
Kill Lutherans
and Lutheranism in America.
A fortnight later, on Oct. 12, an additional seventy-five, among them Ribault himself, were similarly dispatched in a repetition of the gory tragedy. In recording the event, the Rev. Fr. Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, the chaplain of Menendez’s expedition, notes in his chronicle that the martyrs of Florida “were executed because they were Lutherans and enemies of our holy [Roman] Catholic faith.” [3]
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  1. Piepkorn offers no explanation, as Walther does in 1872, that Ribault's French party did not call themselves Lutherans but Huguenots – essentially Calvinists – a separated sect from Lutheranism.
  2. The "king of France" was Charles IX of France, also the namesake of Florida's Fort Caroline.
  3. Piepkorn omits a detail that Walther covered in 1872, a juicy postscript revealing that 2 years after this massacre the French harshly avenged this crime, but not as Lutherans, rather as Frenchmen.
What gives this history notoriety is that the one who gave witness to the true reason for the massacre was not a Frenchman or any “Protestant”, but the Roman Catholic priest.
      When one just begins to research the history of this incident on the Internet, one is bombarded with web sites that cover not these martyrs executed as Lutherans, but rather the "La Florida martyrs", or Roman Catholic "martyrs" who were put to death by native Americans and Carolina Colony soldiers (Colony history). They do not speak of the French retaliation that followed 2 years after this massacre.  But it was the Roman Catholics who first made their intentions clear for the "holy Catholic faith" in America, that those Lutherans or any who were considered to be harboring the faith of the Lutheran Reformation were targets to be executed, nay, massacred. —

      However the reason why I am publishing this essay is not so much to bring the Florida massacre to memory again, since Walther already did that 68 years before this essay, but to highlight the irony of the writer of this essay, Arthur Carl Piepkorn.
      Today's defenders of Piepkorn and his "evangelical catholicity" may interject that his account of this incident was not so different from Walther's in 1872.  That may be true to a certain extent, but Walther knew the papists better than Piepkorn.  Walther, unlike Piepkorn, knew that he did not need to gloss over that the martyrs were not actually Lutherans, he told the history exactly as it was.  The French party of Ribault were Huguenots, i.e. Calvinists.  And the story would lose its notoriety except for the fact that they were considered Lutherans by the Catholics, as their own priest proudly proclaimed!

      Lest any reader wonder that I am improperly characterizing the theology of Pastor (and Professor) Piepkorn, I would point to the testimony of the well-known Father Richard John Neuhaus (see appendix below), a Concordia Seminary trained Lutheran pastor who famously left Lutheranism to be a Roman Catholic priest.  In his 2006 book Catholic Matters, p. 55-56, he revealed who was the greatest influence in his decision to turn away from Lutheranism… to Catholicism (my emphasis): 
“Although he remained a Lutheran until his death, at age sixty-six, in 1973, Piepkorn gave me an understanding of Lutheranism that required my becoming Catholic. … The Church is notformed byformulas such as ‘justification by faith alone’”.
Another witness to this would be Robert Louis Wilken, another LCMS Lutheran-turned-Catholic.

A confessed catholic,
not with ambivalence.
America's Luther:
C.F.W. Walther
      The last line of Piepkorn's hymn stanza asks "Who follows in their train?" But how is one to be a Lutheran today in America, one who "follows in their train"?  Is it not to stand with the "Old Lutherans" of the old Missouri Synod of a century ago, the ones so vilified in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia?  Is it not to understand that “The pope did not propose that the [Vatican II] council revise or change Roman Catholic doctrine.” (Meyer-Tjernagel, A History of Western Christianity, p 271)  Is it not to stand fast against not only the Roman Catholic Church, but against the Romanizing Lutheran teachers in the LCMS, epitomized by the writer of this essay, Arthur Carl Piepkorn?  True Lutherans stand fast on sola fide, "without the deeds of the law" (Ro 3:28), that salvation is entirely and alone by God's grace.  Therefore they do not join in spirit (or work) with those who vilify (i.e. massacre) true Lutheranism. 

      What did the father's of the United States of America have in mind with their ideal of "freedom of religion"?  They had in mind to prohibit the civil power of the Roman Catholic Church to rule, so that in America one would not be forced out for not bowing to the Pope.  George Washington hardly had in mind to allow papal power to rule religion in America in his farewell address.
[Other Florida massacre histories available here and here]
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2019-05-26: Appendix I: For additional material on Neuhaus, see Robert Preus's citations from him in his 1970 essay "Confessional Subscription" p. 45 n. 12 & 13.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Florida martyrs: Piepkorn's ironic 1940 tribute… to Lutherans? "Religious liberty"? (Part 1 of 2)

      While reviewing old issues of Theo. Graebner's The Lutheran Witness magazine, I stumbled onto a striking story that he published from a pastor who would later become one of the chief spokesmen for the "majority faculty" of Concordia Seminary – Arthur Carl Piepkorn.  The striking part for me was the comparison between the subject of this "Memorial" for the American "Lutheran Martyrs" and Piepkorn's later statements as professor extraordinaire of Concordia: "Lutheran only third" and "annual ambivalence" toward Reformation Day, etc. Piepkorn did not speak this way in his 1940 article.  Was Piepkorn harboring even at this early date a theology in his professional career that would explode into his essay "What Does Inerrancy Mean?".  We shall consider this later. —  But why were these Frenchmen put to death?  Who killed them?
      Before we get to the definitive answers to these questions, let us hear Piepkorn's introductory remarks. The following reproduces the original article. All highlighting, boldinghyperlinks, images and notes in [ ] square brackets were added by BackToLuther:
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274 Vol. LIX, No. 16 (August 6, 1940) THE LUTHERAN WITNESS
A Memorial to the First American Martyrs
By A. C. PIEPKORN, Cleveland, O.
The 375th anniversary of the massacre of America’s first victims of religious intolerance, the Lutheran [1] martyrs of Florida, was observed in Faith Church, Cleveland, O. [2], on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, June 30, with the unveiling of a stone from the site of their martyrdom which had been let into the south wall of the Church. An inscription over the stone reads:
“For the perpetual remembrance of the Lutheran Martyrs of Florida, Blessed Jean Ribault and his Companions, slain for their Faith in the Year of Our Lord 1565, two hundred of them on Michaelmas and another seventy-five a fortnight later on October 12, this stone from the site of their Martyrdom near St. Augustine has been dedicated to the Glory of God and the Ideal of Religious Liberty.”

The stone is a gift to the parish from Dr. Carl Johannes Sodergren of Minneapolis [3]. The date of the unveiling was fixed for June 30 because of its proximity both to the 410th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession on June 25, 1530, and to Independence Day.
A message from the French Embassy in Washington conveyed the greetings of the French ambassador, the Count de Saint-Quentin, [4] to the congregation. It read in part:
“In these troubled times, when the traditional values of our Western Christian civilization are universally threatened, it is wise that such ceremonies should be held to remind us that all liberties were won and preserved at the cost of great sacrifices.
“I am therefore happy to send to you and to all the members of your congregation my heartfelt appreciation for the spirit which prompted your splendid initiative. May America of today and tomorrow remember ‘Blessed Jean Ribault and his Companions’ as the symbol of religious liberty in this country!”
The unveiling was followed by the regular celebration of Holy Communion. For the introit that [was] appointed by the Common Service for Martyrs’ Days was used, “I know whom I have believed.” The following special collect was employed:
“O God, by whose grace ‘Blessed Jean Ribault and his Companions’ were enabled to glorify Thee by their Martyrdom, grant that we who rejoice in their triumph may likewise be confirmed in the constancy of our confession; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever, one God, world without end. R. Amen.
Rev. 6:9-11 was read as the proper Epistle and Luke 12:1-8 as the holy Gospel. A stanza specially written for the occasion was intercalated before the closing stanza of Bishop Reginald Heber’s hymn “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” (tune: All Saints) [5]:
A loyal troop, whose name we share,
Whose blood baptized the sand,
The first the martyr’s guerdon fair
To win in this new land.
Betrayed, defenseless, marked for death,
They faced it with disdain
And praised God with their final breath.
Who follows in their train?
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  1. Piepkorn calls the martyrs "Lutherans" but this label was not strictly true as will be shown in the next Part 2.
  2. Piepkorn's congregation "Faith Church, Cleveland, Ohio" was not discoverable in my web searching.  Perhaps this Cleveland congregation is now defunct? If so, what happened to the memorial stone that was "let into the south wall of the Church"?
  3. Dr. Södergren, the donor of the memorial stone, was not a member of Piepkorn's congregation.  He was Piepkorn's father-in-law (per The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, p. 300) and was a minister in the Augustana Synod, an opposing Synod to the old Missouri Synod and the Synodical Confernce in 1872. Södergren's synod was a vehement opponent of the faithful Norwegian Lutherans who adhered to Walther's teaching of the pure Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.  Walther stood behind those Norwegians and against the erring Swedish Augustana Synod Lutherans.  Was Piepkorn not aware of Dr. Södergren's error on Justification when he married into a family of the Augustana Synod? Was he even exhibiting his (and editor Th. Graebner's) unionism even in this ceremony?
  4. There is some irony in having the French ambassador give the greeting for “religious liberty” to American Lutherans since his country's history of Roman Catholic antagonism toward "Protestantism" was well attested in its own history, in the French Wars of Religion.  One wonders if it was Södergren or Piepkorn who sought the French ambassador's greeting for this ceremony.
  5. The hymn Piepkorn chose was not one included in the hymnal current in 1940 in the Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-Book (see here).  But it was included in the later 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal, or TLH #452 text, music.  Was Piepkorn perhaps instrumental in getting this hymn included in the 1941 TLH?
There is more to this article by Piepkorn, and much more to comment on, in the next Part 2

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Herman Otten † 4/24/19; with Marquart, Scaer 1957, letter to A.O. Fuerbringer defending Inspiration, Inerrancy

      I was saddened to learn of the recent passing of retired pastor Herman Otten, long time editor of his privately published newspaper Christian News.  Although this blog has taken sharp issue with some of his theology, yet his stand for the Bible was refreshing at times.  It was a stand taken since his earlier student days and was scorned by the theologians of the fast-changing LCMS in the 1950s and 1960s.  He was certainly not the chief or only spokesman for the defense of the Scriptures.  There were greater testimonies before him, from Prof. Theodore Engelder, separated teachers Paul Kretzmann, Wallace McLaughlin and Siegbert Becker, the Synodical Conference brethren, Paul Burgdorf's Confessional Lutheran newspaper, etc.  He became largely the "straw man" for many of the liberalizing parties, inside and outside the LC-MS, who did not want to be seen as opposing C.F.W. Walther, the father of the old (German) Missouri Synod, or Franz Pieper, longest serving president of Concordia Seminary.
      In the past 25 years that I have perused the pages of Otten's paper, I do not recall ever seeing that he re-published a noted letter from his student days at Concordia Seminary.  I came across this striking letter, of exactly 62 years ago today (1957), while reviewing the documents from the State of the Church conference of 1960.  What surprised me was the group of signatures under this letter that was directed to the then president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Dr. A.O. Fuerbringer.  The recognizable names included Otten, David Scaer, and Kurt Marquart. What is striking is that both of Otten's former associates later distanced themselves from him. — I now present the text of this letter as a tribute to Herman Otten, who as a seminary student stood up to the crime, as Pieper called it, of “Lèse-majesté”, a crime against the divine majesty, against the Bible, at Concordia. The following was extracted from the book State of the Church 1961 pp. 79-81:
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Concordia Seminary
May 1, 1957
Dear Doctor Fuerbringer,
We, the undersigned, respectfully submit to you the following matter:
As you no doubt already know, we have carried on doctrinal discussions with another group of students. These discussions had as their purpose the clarification of the points of doctrine which have caused conflict and division on this campus in the past several years.
Since some of us had conducted unsuccessful dealings of this kind before, we know the general aversion to formal charges. We thought we could avoid such action at this point and secure a clarification of the issues through public discussions in the presence of our advisors and Seminary officials. We had been led to believe that the proper way to raise issues of this kind was through our faculty advisors. We now understand that this is not the case, and that no action can be taken unless specific charges are made.
Being vitally interested in the solution of the problem, we must and shall offer specific charges.
Permit us, however, to preface the same with some “historical introductions":
The present conflict is not now. Some of us have faced it for several years. The main issue is the doctrine of Holy Scripture. In a general way, the discussions through these past years telescoped through four logical-chronological stages:
(1)  Inspiration. We found that it is almost useless to operate with terms like "inspiration" or even "plenary inspiration", since these are sufficiently elastic to permit any interpretation. And "verbal inspiration" too, besides being a formulation which, we are informed, we may not "force" on anyone in our Synod, is, when not safeguarded, subject to semantic evaporation.
(2)  Inerrancy. The issues are apparently met much more effectively and directly in the area of the inerrancy of Scripture. If the inerrancy is affirmed bona fide, verbal inspiration must be presupposed.
(3)  Complete inerrancy. But even the term "innerancy" becomes ambiguous by being tacitly assumed to embrace only certain portions of Scripture. Hence we had to specify that we understand by "innerancy" the doctrine that the Holy Scriptures "contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters." (Brief Statement, 1)[Archive]
(4) "Hermeneutics". We found that even the confession of plenary inerrancy may be subject to ambiguity: It is claimed that even though Scripture may contain errors ("error" being apparently defined in some such sense as "major theological heresy"), portions of the Bible, such as the first few chapters of Genesis, including the account of the creation and fall of our first parents, must or at least may be understood figuratively and not as literal history. This we can in no sense regard as submission to the text of what to us is the Word of God. It rather appears to us that if "inerrancy" does not refer to the plain, literal sense (unless of course, the text, context or another text demand the figurative sense), then "inerrancy" means nothing and may be applied with equal facility and justice to Aesop’s Fables and other forms of literature from which morals may be drawn which are "true" at some level of generalization. Scripture then becomes a "waxen nose." We therefore believe that the literal historicity of the Scriptural account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve is not an open question or a mere "hermeneutical problem," which has no bearing on the doctrine of the inspiration and authority of Holy Writ, but that this Genesis account is in fact a reliable barometer of the doctrine of Scripture.
For us, then the last three of these four "stages" are already implicit in the first, and each is meaningful only if all of the succeeding ones are also affirmed.
As the discussions have proceeded, through the years, from stage (1) to stages (3) and (4), where the conflict centers at present, it has been our impression that the "other side" (of whom the gentlemen herein named are not the exclusive representatives) has become progressively less crass and more subtle. But the basic positions appear to us to be unchanged. We have witnessed an increase not of conservatism, but of caution and specification.
In fact we can conceive yet of a fifth stage of refinement of the issues, and that not altogether without foundation in actual experience: The positions outlined in stages (1) to (4) could be, at least in part, formally granted, but not as indubitably certain Scriptural truths, but only as pious conclusions, results of empirical investigation, human conviction, etc. To concede validity to such a "confession" would, in our estimation, be tantamount to granting a dispensation, in principle, from the positions so confessed, though for a time this right may not be exercised. In our discussions, we have therefore operated on the basis of the principle that what is not confessed positively as indubitable Scripture-truth is not confessed at all, no matter how strongly it may be emphasized that a definite, dogmatic denial or rejection is avoided.
In the light of the preceding, we herewith regretfully submit the following concerning these seven students, Paul Heyne, Dale Krueger, Ed Lawrence, Duane Mehle, William Olsen, Arthur Simon, Thomas Strieter:
1)  Their theological outlook is seriously tinged with Lundensian and neo-orthodox theology, as evidenced in a typical vagueness, subjectivity, and uncertainty with regard to doctrine in general. They do not regard the Missouri Synod's Brief Statement as in any sense normative or binding for them.
2)  They do not accept the authority of Holy Scripture in the sense in which our church has always understood this, Specifically:
a)  They refuse to affirm as a dogmatic certainty the inerrancy of Scripture in all matters of which it treats, including "historical, geographical, and other secular matters." (Brief Statement, 1) Their reasons are: (1) The original autographs are not available for an empirical determination of their inerrancy, and (2) in view of the many variants it is meaningless to predicate verbal inspiration and complete inerrancy of the present text.
b)  They refuse to confess as a matter of faith the literal historicity of the Genesis account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve, and would admit the view that Adam and Eve are not to be regarded as historical persons. We are treating this under the doctrine of Scripture and not of Creation, because we regard this view as a subversion of the organic foundation of our faith, the Scripture principle.
3)  They refuse to affirm ("in view of the absense of Scriptural grounds") the doctrine that man has an immortal soul which survives after death. They regard the soul as "not ontological but existential," i.e. as a quality of the body, which perishes together with the body.
These views we understand to be contrary to the Evangelical Lutheran position of our Synod. Hence we cannot with a good conscience sit by idly while men holding such views are graduated into the field to become pastors and even teachers. You will understand, then, that we cannot accept men with such beliefs as future colleages in the ministry, with whom we are to live in brotherly peace and concord. We therefore request that steps be taken to ascertain the correctness of our charges, and if they are sustained, to take the appropriate action.
We should like to say also that under the circumstances we cannot very well consider the case settled and closed by any solution operating with the theory of "talking past one another," “misunderstanding," "using different terms," etc., unless we have been given full opportunity, at a public hearing and in the presence of our faculty advisors, to support our cause and to question the witnesses.
In view of the fact that the academic year is rapidly drawing to a close, and calls are about to be issued, we respectfully request your immediate consideration of this matter.
Respectfully submitted,
Paul Dorn
David Scaer
Robert Stockman
/S/      George Lobien
Robert Cordes
Richard Beits
Kurt Marquart [† 2006]
Herman Otten [† 4/24/2019]
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      There is much irony in this letter in comparing the early student David Scaer with the later Prof. David Scaer in the matter covered by this letter, but we pass over that now.  Herman Otten's struggles were only beginning on that day in 1957, 62 years ago today.  His later defense of the Bible in the pages of his newspaper was at times weak.  But for the ridicule that he received because of his stand for the Bible, I would count myself as his follower. May Otten's fight for the return to old Missouri's teaching on Inspiration and Inerrancy of Holy Scripture be his lasting legacy.