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Monday, January 2, 2017

Delitzsch 4: Lutheran Confessions; old dogmaticians, Old Lutheran Church, “old paths”

      Continuing from Part 3 the series on Delitzsch and German church conditions from Franz Pieper's Christliche Dogmatik, volume 1.  (Table of Contents in Part 1) …
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      I confess: I am a confessional Lutheran because I believe the Bible, and for no other reason.  Isn't that what the Lutheran Confessions and the old Lutheran teachers are all about – as Delitzsch points out below?

Translation by BackToLuther; all green shaded text was omitted in the 1950 English edition and is first published here in English; all underlined words emphasized in the original German; red text and/or red bold text is my emphasis, all notes inside square brackets [ ] are mine; many items hyperlinked for reference; hyperlinked page numbers in square brackets [ ]; all unshaded text was included in English edition but re-translated to avoid copyright complaint by CPH.

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Concordia Triglotta
"the golden Triglotta"
On his position towards the symbolic books [201 >] Delitzsch expresses himself [pg 18-19]: “The symbolic books, so one says, were good for that time, but now they are ready to be abrogated, since they no longer expose the sworn teachers who are under suspicion of perjury. …  For the doctrines of the neologists contradict the symbolic books, when they do not want to interpret these as equally spiritualizing as one is to make with the Bible.  No one is a member of the Lutheran Church, except those who acknowledge the Scripturalness of this confession, and teaches it, according to the obligation, where he has the teacher's calling. This confession is based on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Covenant, recognizing both the Old and New Testament books of the Canon by the Holy Spirit as equally venerable and inviolable, consistent and vigorous, clear, perfect, and sufficient to distinguish the lie which is contrary to them from the unmixed truth revealed in them.”  
On the old Lutheran theologians, Delitzsch says [pg 24]: “Those old Lutheran teachers were not only learned, but also sanctified theologians, trained in the school of the Holy Spirit, filled with heavenly wisdom, sweet consolation and a living knowledge of God; God's Word was planted in their heart, mixed with their faith and transformed into sap and strength. God's Word, not human wisdom, also not understood by human wisdom, but experienced by divine grace, was the heavenly fire upon which they kindled their torches. So, look but my people, in the mirror of your ancestors, remember the time before and therefore consider, what God has done with the ancient fathers! Ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee, Deut. 32:7.  Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls’, Jer. 6:16.  I preach that you step back, namely to the Word of God, from which you have fallen. Your enlightenment is for me a dark, starless, scary night; you have confused the terms in your delirium, otherwise you could not compare an Egyptian darkness, which is the judgment of God because you have rejected the light of the Reformation, to a sunny day.”  After expounding the doctrines of justification and the means of grace, which are brought to light by the Reformation again, Delitzsch closes his anniversary publication with these words [pg 97]: [202  >] “To you I turn back, beloved companions of the same city and the same Church, to whom, on the threshold of my little book, I am contented with a festival greeting. I have surrendered myself to be your teacher; then I know that you have teachers who are appointed to teach you and to pasture you. But the Word of God also commands us: ‘Exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching!’  Heb. 10:25.  I have sought for this divine call, for I am one among you, filled with heartfelt love for our much-beloved Leipzig, the city of human friendliness and mildness, and to the dear land of Saxony, the land of honest sense  and fidelity.  What I have spoken, and wanted to defend, is nothing else than the faith of the Old Lutheran Church, confessed by our ancestors three hundred years ago, on Holy Pentecost under fervent prayer of thanksgiving. Search the Scriptures; you will know and recognize that this faith is Lutheran, that it is Christian, founded on the immutable and imperishable Word of eternal truth. This faith has nothing to do with confused doubt, gathering gloom and ailing infirmity, as many think; Oh no, it brings bright eyes, confident courage and vigourous freshness. The enlightened reason recognizes its irrefutable truth; the regenerated heart finds in it heavenly consolation, blessed peace, and abundant refreshment. This faith overpowers the gates of hell and holds an eternal triumphal procession through the gates of death.  Shall we, my beloved ones, give up such a faithful, firm, joyous, and victorious faith for a halved Christianity, which lags on two sides and seeks to unite Christ and Belial, or even for a silly-proud enlightenment which gives the lie to the Word of God and idolizes reason, which amuses us in this life, but cannot comfort us in death?  We would be foolish to ourselves and irresponsible to our descendants.”
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Who were the “old Lutheran theologians” from the 17th Century, sometimes referred to as the “old dogmaticians” or “Lutheran orthodoxy”?  They are typified by the likes of John Gerhard, Abraham Calov, Johannes Andreas Quenstedt and many others.  These teachers did not draw on their own experience or some inner light, they did not harp on "variant readings".  Their theology was taken from the Holy Scriptures.  How heartening it is to hear Franz Delitzsch announce to the Leipzig Christians the Scriptural nature of the Lutheran Confessions and the old Lutheran teachers. — Oh, but 10 years later in 1849, he names more recent men, not from the 17th Century, but from the 19th… from across the sea… in the next Part 5.

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