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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pieper sermons-1 (“golden apples in silver bowls”)

      I have been asked in the past why it seems that, although Walther had many books published of his sermons, there were no books published of the sermons of Franz Pieper.  This difference is certainly striking.  Yet both of these men were regular attendees at the conventions of the Synod.  And indeed both delivered sermons at some of these conventions.  Both delivered sermons (or “addresses”) at the "going home" (or death) of their colleagues, as I have published some of these from Pieper.  After I considered the correspondent's question for awhile, I then told him that it seemed that whatever Pieper wrote, it was a sermon... and I let the matter be settled by that.  But the more I consider this, especially after seeing that Pieper delivered many sermons, it appears to me that his Synod was changing even during his lifetime, and that the seeds that would eventually explode into a stupor of false teaching were already sprouting.  And so his Synod, especially the LC-MS, did not see fit to compile his sermons into a published book.
      To partially rectify this situation, I decided to translate the following short essay by Prof. Theodore Laetsch on this subject published after the “home going” of Dr. Franz Pieper in Concordia Theological Monthly, October, 1931.  I believe Laetsch was attempting to hold the line in his Synod, to keep the treasure once won for it by the pure teaching of its founder Walther and maintained by Pieper.

      In his Foreword to the book 1946 The Abiding Word, vol.1, after quoting Prov. 25:11, Laetsch stated, (p. IX):
In the early literature of our Missouri Synod there is presented in silver receptacles to all that will read a rich selection of choice golden apples worth more than their weight in gold or diamonds. These golden apples were gathered from the Tree of Life, from God’s Holy Word...
      Unfortunately the Centennial Committee that commissioned this book and editor Laetsch were not as strong in faith and doctrine as the Synod's forebearers.  An example of this from their “Centennial Series” book is the following statement (vol. 1, p. 10):
...it is immaterial whether we describe the solar system according to the Ptolemaic or the Copernican view.
This statement in effect allows the teaching of “Copernicanism”, because “Science” has proved it, and directly refutes Joshua 10:13, the Lutheran Church, the Synodical Conference 1886, Luther, Walther and Pieper.  This was part of the essay “The Doctrine of Creation”, delivered by G. Viehweg to the South Nebraska District, 1945.  “Science” was beginning to take over Holy Scripture in Missouri at age 100, its Centennial. The “Missouri Synod” was morphing into today's (English) LC-MS.
      Nevertheless, Laetsch seemed oblivious to the damage this new “Copernican view” would do, and so this anthology series should not be overlooked as teaching Christian doctrine.  It did indeed draw on the “fathers” teaching in many areas. It attempted to bring the teaching from its German language forebearers to the following (post WWII) English language generation (me). And so the following 1931 writing after the “home going” (or passing) of Dr. Pieper, is another good testimony of the longest serving President of Concordia Seminary.  I am splitting it up into 3 parts – the first part is Laetsch's own comments, the other 2 are his reprint of 2 masterful sermons from... The Twentieth Century Luther:

Translation by BackToLuther; highlighting is mine; hyperlinks added for reference. Text extracted from Concordia Theological Monthly, October, 1931, pp. 761-771 (German text here)
Part 1 of 3
Dr. Pieper as Preacher.
[by Prof. Theodore Laetsch]


Dr. Pieper was above all a dogmatist. With rare mastery he dominated the whole rich field of dogmatic theology. With unique clarity and sharpness, he was able to present the true doctrine and to expose and refute the opposing error. He did it in such a bright, clear, simple language that one was almost forced to understand him. He could also have used a different form of representation. Anyone who reads his dogmatic writings will soon realize that he has completely mastered the language of modern theologians, however unclear and pompous they are. He masterfully understood how to undermine the errors and derailments and fallacies that so often hide under the turmoil of language, to strip them of their shell and to present them in their true form. He, who understood the language of modern theology so thoroughly, could have used it as well. But by the grace of God he was prevented from putting his clear, written, theological thoughts into incomprehensible language. As a pupil of Luther, he spoke a generally intelligible language, so that the enjoyment and blessings that one has from the reading of his delightful, content-rich writings are not impaired, hindered, or even rendered impossible by a language that is difficult to understand.
Dr. Pieper was also a preacher by the grace of God. This was mainly because, as in all his writings, so also in each of his sermons he repeatedly drew the attention of his listeners, and always led them, to the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae (the article by which the church stands or falls),
●  the doctrine of the justification of a sinner by grace alone, for the sake of Christ alone, by faith alone,
●  the center around which all his thoughts revolved,
●  the holiest of holies.
The thoughts that he brought forth from the well of the divine Word through diligent research and deep digging [page 762] he then expressed in a form worthy of these thoughts. His whole manner of preaching was clear, full of light, and his language, with all its simplicity, was noble, chaste, and therefore of quite peculiar, often ravishing beauty. Therefore, not only was listening to his sermons, but also reading them is and remains a pleasure in the very meaning of the word.


Dr. Pieper had preached often. He often preached in the beloved pulpit of the Immanuel congregation in St. Louis [see this blog, also this blog on Harrison's visit to this church location], whose auxiliary pastor he had been for years. He also preached abroad on a variety of occasions. But whether he stood before his own or any other congregation, whether he was speaking to large gatherings or to a few listeners, his sermons were always like golden apples in silver bowls. It will be of interest and benefit to our readers when, in the following, we bring you two samples of Pieper’s way of preaching: a church sermon, a beautiful Good Friday meditation, and then a sermon at the inauguration of an institution building in which we preachers are given heartwarming words. T.L.[Theodore Laetsch]
- - - - - - - - - -  Continued in Part 2  - - - - - - - - - - - -

We see that Laetsch, already in 1931, does justice to the sermons of Dr. Franz Pieper by using the Bible verse Prov. 25:11 to describe them:
A word, spoken in its time, is like golden apples in silver bowls.” (per Luther Bible 1545)
In the next Part 2, as Laetsch describes, we are given a taste of those “Golden Apples” from a beautiful Good Friday meditation”.

= = = = = = = = = = TABLE OF CONTENTS = = = = = = = = = = =
Part 1 - This introduction
Part 2a - First sermon, "How to be certain of salvation" (on Luke. 23:39-43)
Part 2b - First sermon, "How comforting this truth is."
Part 3a - Second sermon: Christian education (2 Cor. 5:14); Dr. Dale Meyer disagrees?
Part 3b - Second sermon: Christian worldview
Part 3c - Second sermon, conclusion; warning of scholarship's "danger of becoming proud and arrogant".

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