08 August 2007

Interesting piece

One of the interesting pieces in the new Piepkorn volume is titled "Why Still Be Lutheran?" Given so many blog discussions of the topic these days (and even a conference dedicated to it!), it is a timely piece. Of course, we do need to beware of ignoring the context in which Piepkorn wrote. This particular writing dates from 1965, and the Lutheran horizon at the time was significantly different from today. Who would even be able to conceive then the disasters that have wrecked havoc on the Lutheran scene in the nearly half century between? Also striking is the way he completely ignores the Orthodox - yet remember the state of Orthodox communions in the US back then! They were mostly locked up in their own little ghettos (much as the Lutherans had been a century before).

Yet with these caveats, I particularly appreciated his three points each of "mission opportunity" that he spoke directed on the one side to Rome and on the other to the Protestant jurisdictions.

Lutherans would seek to witness to Rome:

* That nothing should be allowed in teaching or practice that obscures Christ's saving work.
* The primary authority of Scripture in determining dogma and doctrine.
* A clear distinction between what is of human institution and what divine in matters of church government.

Lutherans would seek to witness to other Protestants:

* The role of the Church as interpreter of the Scriptures.
* The importances of the church's historic dogmas and the necessity of holding a true confessional position.
* the true meaning of the sacraments and their central place in the Church's life as acts of God.

He closes this little piece with noting that there may come a time when another answer needs to be given to "why be Lutheran?" "But that time will come only when the other families of Christians will be sharing in all that it has meant and still means to be Lutheran." (The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, p. 197)

I realize in writing this that the snippet comes across as triumphalistic, but if you know Piepkorn nothing could be further from the case. The whole essay - and of course the whole book - is highly recommended.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this book now myself. I just read the first 2 essays of Part 2, so I'm still 100 pages or so away from that essay. I enjoy what Piepkorn writes, though sometimes his faults show up plain and clear. He sometimes seems like a Law/Gospel Reductionist, and his complaints about inerrancy make me think, "The Gentleman doth protest too much," though he seems nothing like those in ELCA today. All in all, his writings, err, works, are good reading and one can learn a lot from them. I wonder what Dr. Preus thought of him. . . .
Brian Westgate

William Weedon said...

Brian,

Rolf once told me that they were actually good friends and respected each other quite a bit before the explosion ended up polarizing the faculty. I think Rolf said that at 801 they were next-door neighbors or some such.

William Weedon said...

Oh, on inerrancy, I think his points are very good. To speak of the original manuscripts being inerrant is beyond useless. But the point of the word is just to confess that the Scriptures are truthful and that God's promises are absolutely reliable. I especially appreciated his point about the way the Holy Spirit accomodated Himself to the worldviews and such of the writers and their hearers. That's just the way our God is: He meets us where we are and speaks to us a promise that we can count on forever!

wm cwirla said...

Piepkorn rocks.
We need more of the likes of him in our own grey and latter days.

Ever put on the Piepkorn cope? I have.

Stoleman said...

Pastor Weedon,

Could you post and send the title, ISBN and important information. This books sounds important enough to take a good look at!!

Thanks!!!

Also, congrats on the marriage of one of your daughters. It looked like it was a grand time had by all!!!

Your comments about family being so far away is very poignant. I now have one brother in Florida with family and one in Germany with Family. By grace my parents only live an hour away. Cell phones are nice!!!

Thanks for everything!!!

YIC,
Darian L. Hybl

L P Cruz said...

Pr. Will,

Someone said to me that when Luther died, the Lutherans failed to lead in the Reformation, and it took Chemnitz to put things in order.

Now that evan-jellia is in turmoil and even in chaos, this time the Lutherans should not hide their light but openly shine it out.

I sometimes do get tired and somewhat semi-embarassed when family and friends think we are just plain negative, crtical and even judgemental - and we are always quick to show their faults.

We really are Protestants, we protest at anything!

Today the Lutherans have the opportunity to lead these burnt out evagelians out of the fog and into the stability of Word & Sacrament.

Fr. Hank said...

The one liner that caught my eye was his gloss that even the ordination of women to the presbyterate might well not be church dividing as it did not touch the core witness of the Church.

His observation on the late Scholastic novelty of inerrancy,,,,, loved the word study - classic Pieps,,,,, was much like Origen's take on universalism,,, teaching it is asinine, and to deny is bovine,, obvious paraphrase.

If Pieps could be called, and he wasn't, a Law-Gospel reductionist so could Walther, as in his dictum, 'All of Scripture can be understood in terms of, reduced to, Law and Gospel'

This part of the country is on shut down due to extreme heat index emergency, so some rereading of Vol 2 is very much in order.

Anonymous said...

I was quite shocked to see that line on women's "ordination". It is divisive of church fellowship, as it is heretical and schismatic. That statement is simply unbelievable because he keeps on talking about Lutherans being Catholic. I don't get the point on universalism either, since not everyone will be saved on the Last Day. At times Piepkorn almost seemed to be saying that yes the Bible has errors in it, which again we know is false, since it is God's Word, and God cannot lie. Perhaps it is for these reasons that I think he was to some degree a Law/Gospel Reductionist. He was not as bad as the Seminexers it appears, thankfully, but in what I've read I can sometimes see the slippery slope to ELCA forming.
BPW

William Weedon said...

Piepkorn's comment on women's ordination (which I, too, regard as schismatic and gnostic) discloses one of the weaknesses of his approach to the faith: the Symbols do not pretend to say everything, but what needed to be said at the time. Thus, when a doctrine wasn't under attack (for instance, the male presbyterate), it was simply assumed and not dealt with explicitly. That does not mean that a Lutheran would be free to dispense with the all-male presbyterate merely because the Lutheran Confessions do not explicitly confess it. In the days after the walkout, that point was hammered home at 801.

Anonymous said...

What's 801? I suppose it must have something to do with the St. Louis Seminary, but I've only been there once - when I was a WELS seminarian on choir tour (while now I hope Fort Wayne is about to accept me.)
Brian

William Weedon said...

Brian,

801 is shorthand for the St. Louis sem. Its address used to be 801 DeMun Avenue so it was just called 801. I use it without thinking about it - sorry for being obscure.

Schütz said...

Hiya, Pastor Bill! Glad to hear the wedding went off well. I have at least 15 years to save up for my daughters' weddings...

I'd be interested in the full article, short of purchasing the book. Any chance (given that the article must be out of copyright by now) of scanning it and uploading it on the net somewhere?

I have commented on this blog entry on my own blog (www.cumecclesia.blogspot.com) as follows:

"Why still be a Lutheran?" was written in 1965, and, as Pastor Weedon acknowledges, a lot of water has flown under the Lutheran bridge since then. I could add that the river under the Catholic bridge hasn't been frozen solid since then either...

Personally, I think the question that any self-respecting Lutheran should ask themselves every day is "Why am I not a Roman Catholic?" That at least is a question which hones Piepkorn's question to a fine point.

Nevertheless, the points Piepkorn makes are interesting to consider (My comments in [bold]):
Lutherans should seek to witness to Rome:

* That nothing should be allowed in teaching or practice that obscures Christ's saving work. [Granted. Mind you, even from our Catholic point of view, if our teachings or practices obscure Christ, it is not a problem with our teaching or practices in themselves, but that we are not teaching or practicing them properly!]
* The primary authority of Scripture in determining dogma and doctrine. [No problem with this either. Catholics have always regarded Scripture the primary authority in determining dogma and doctrine--just not the ONLY authority]
* A clear distinction between what is of human institution and what divine in matters of church government. [This can be granted too--however Piepkorn probably assumes a little naively that the distinction can always be clearly made, since the Church as the body of Christ led by the Spirit of God is simul humanus et divinus]

Lutherans would seek to witness to other Protestants:

* The role of the Church as interpreter of the Scriptures. [This is not so much a specifically Lutheran trait, as a Catholic emphasis that Lutheranism has, in some quarters, retained]
* The importance of the church's historic dogmas and the necessity of holding a true confessional position [Ditto for the above].
* the true meaning of the sacraments and their central place in the Church's life as acts of God. [Ditto for the above]

So one is led to conclude, that there is little here that distinguishes the unique witness of Lutheranism from the unique witness of Catholicism.

So, Lutherans: "Why still be a Lutheran? Why are you not a Catholic?"

William Weedon said...

David,

Thanks for the response, and for the kind words on the wedding.

As far as the question you pose, but of course we DO see ourselves as catholic, but not specifically Roman, though that too is our heritage.

I do not mean to be offensive in what I write, but I hope you will understand how Lutherans continue to regard the existence of indulgences, the teaching that the bishop of Rome is head of the whole Church by divine right, and that the distinction between presbyter and bishop is of divine right even though unknown in the Scriptures, remain stumbling blocks for us. Piepkorn in asserting that there exists in the Church a distinction between human and divine institution is not ignoring the theoanthropic nature of the Church, but recognizing that the Church may not declare of divine arrangement what the Scriptures given by the Holy Spirit do not declare to be so.

Wishing you as always every good thing in Christ Jesus!

Schütz said...

Sure, I understand that, Pastor. But at the same time, I wonder if you have taken the time to study what the Catholic teaching on these subjects really is. The fact is that if it seems to you that these teachings "obscure Christ's saving work" or fail to acknowledge "the primary authority of Scripture in determining dogma and doctrine", then you I suggest that 1) we haven't explained the teaching properly, and 2) you haven't heard the teaching properly.

I agree that it is impossible to "declare of divine arrangement what the Scriptures given by the Holy Spirit declare NOT to be so", but I find it less convincing that nothing can be declared "of divine arrangement" except "what the Scriptures given by the Holy Spirit declare to be so". (One need only cite Infant baptism, which the Scriptures do not explicitly declare to be according to divine will.)

One of the reasons I find such stipulations spurious is because it does not accord with the faith of the ancient Church, which quite obviously regarded many matters of Church government (eg. the threefold division of ministry Bishop, priest and deacon) to be of divine arrangement, although they were not stipulated in Scripture.