Full Text for Luther and Chemnitz on Scripture (Text)

Luther And Chemnitz On Scripture EUGENE F. KLUG Chemnitz On The Authority Of The Sacred Scripture (An Examination Of The Council Of Trent) "Shades Of Martin Chemnitz" ELMER A. NEITZEL Book Reviews Luther and Chemnitz on Scripture Accents from the azlthor's From Luther to Chcmrzita on SCY~~~LITC and the IVord. T WO NAhlES STAND OUT in shaping Lutheran theology. They are the two Martins: Luther and Chemnitz. The first could j~ell enough have survived in history without the second; but it is a ques- tion whether the church which bears his name could have. Therefore, there is undoubtedly some truth to the Roman Catholic assessment: "Vos Protestantes duos habuistis Martinos; si posterior non fuisset, prior non stetisset." 1 "You Protestants have two Martins; if the second had not come, tile first would not have stood."] By the snmc toltcn, the second would probably have been entirely forgotten, were it not that history remembers him as the foremost of those who after Luther handed on the torch which shaped Lrltlleran theology and the Lutller- an church in succeeding generations. His strength lay precisely cvhcre Luther's was, in the iVord; or as A. L. Graebncr put it, "in the clcar and incontrovertible thetical exhibition of the doctrine of man's salvation as set forth in thc iflord of God."' All theology worlcs with presuppositions. Luther and Chemnit~ held it to be an inviolable and self-evident fact that only fro111 ?a7itlzin faith is a man rightly able to do and to judge theology. Faith, of course, is not blind; it seelzs for and is grounded on understanding. Always at center is Christianity's central article, the justification of the sinner by faith, sola gratia/soln fide. The Gospel and its pro~cr understanding are grounded on God's revelation in Holy Scripture. For both Luther and Chemnitz that "queen," Holy Writ, must rule.' This "servant-posture" jIle." Chemnitz, it is true, was not a creative genius of the same stature or measure with Luther.' Nor was such needed to do the n701:Ic of building, assimilating, preserving, all of which was necessary aftcr a crucial, productive, earth-moving sort of period like that of JLuther. Luther's life is well enough known than to require further delineating here. Hut it should be stated of Chemnitz, withont giving his biography in detailG that he was much more than Illere eylgone of I,uther. Like Luther his ltnowledge of the M70rd of God had come the hard way, through his own personal study of the test, t.111-0i1g1.l the original languages which, like Luther, he had mastered. This preparation, which was largely outside of the classroom, was crlricl~ed with the simultaneous reading of the works of Luther. It was such preparation that equipped 11im for the responsjble task as sul~eri~~tendent of the territorial church of Brnunschtveig, a post he heltl for inost of his active ministry of 33 years. Notable, too, is the fact that like Luther he thus was intimately tied to the pastoral side of tho churcll, alisraps conscious of the needs of the pastors and 11eople in his tcl-ritory. His theolo@cal aptitude and cornpetcnce canle to be s11;lrcd wit11 his fellow workers through the in-serrrice lectures which he regularly delivered for their professional enrichment. After his death theselectures were published in the form of his dognlatics, the Loci llh.eoZogici. However, it was for his Exn~ne~z Co~zcilii Tridentini, 15 73, and the leading role in the writing of the Fortn~da of Concord, 1 5 7 7, that Cllemnitz is especially remembered.' Sola Scripturn was literally tatooed into Chemnitz' skin, as it Ilad been for Luther first of all. Luther was the pioneer and trail- t~lazer, but Chenlnitz was no less con~nlitted to the principiunz cognos- cerrdi of Holy Writ. Their preaching, lecturing, writing, exegeting, L~C~~TCT A77.d Chemnitz On. Scripture -- . -- - - 147 - dernoilstrated this throughorit. As a result, the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, in ~vhich they both played leading roles, call rightly be said to e~nbrace the "very nlarro\v of thc Scriptures."' If there was one position which Chemnitr, scores and judges very critically in his answer to 'rrent, it was the notion "that the Holy Scripture is a mutilated, incomplete, and ii~lperfect teaching."To do- this was setting a deliberatelj~ in\;alid and untrue difference, between the written MJord of God and the oral iVord as it was conceived to have come down through thc church, Chemnitz contended. Like Luther he looked upon Holy IVrit as Gocl's divinely inspired Word, "a sure Word," "confirmed with great miracles," tl~ro~~gll .rvhich "God Him- self revealed I-Iimself and His will to the human race."'O Chemnitz was the bridge between Luther and the 17th century Lutheran theologians who concentrated on the Doctrine of the Word. He faithfully transmitted the Reformation heritage, not only on the central article of justification but on all the doctrines of Christian faith, especially Scripture as the \i7ord of God. For too long now- and unfortunately within the 1,utheran church itself, which owes its very existence and life to a long line of loyal teachers-the notion has been current that the great need of the Lutheran church today is to throw off the Piepcr-il'alther-Quenstedt-Gerhard-Chemnitz stranglehold on theology and to get back to the so-called more evan- gelical, inore Christological emphasis of Luther, especially on the Word. The unproved assumption in this clamor, of course, is that this chain of theologians was not evangelical and Christological in the same way as Luther, or that he was not slavishly tied to the Scriptures as they were. It helps little to say that much of the rhetoric rises simply out of pure ignorance of the sinlple fact that these authors are not evaluated fairly and objectively. It stands self-condemned on the very questionable, secondary authority of prejudiced writers from the period of liberalism's heyday, like Harnack and company." For Luther and Chemnitz the wla Scriptura principle included not only thc fact that Scriptures were the single authority which Gocl left His church, but also support for its inspiration, its identification with the Word, its Christo-centricity, efficacy, clarity, inerrancy. Theirs is thus a remarkable consistency on Scripture as the LiJord of Gocl. This can be readily demonstrated. They both took very seriously the "Holy Spirit's book" and every article of faith in it. Naturally, this coul(1 hardly make a man like Luther, nor Chemnitz for that matter, congenial "to the liberal historians and theologians, aloof from theology and d~gma."~"uther and Chemnitz fend well enough for themselves, however, the opposition of critical scholarship notwith- standing. On Inspiration Luther's calling of the Bible "The Holy Spirit's is a familiar phrase by now; but it was more than a phrase for him. Any- one familiar even 3 little with his writings knows that this is an attitude that runs very deeply and consistently in his handling of all of Scripture. The Holy Spirit and the apostolic spokesmen are in closest relation. So close in fact that the~ coincide in production of God's Word." Scripture's content and text are inseparable, con- stituting the "means and vehicle by which one comes to faith and eternal life," "the vehicle of the Holy Spirit."" The Ge~zesis Cow- lnentary of Luther, all eight volumes in the new American Edition, is literally replete with supportive references to Scripture's inspiration. Luther's language slips back and forth from Scripture to Holy Spirit, from Holy Spirit to Scripture, in asserting the divine origin of the text. Even so-called "trifles" in the lives of the Old Testament patri- archs anci their fa~llilics do not divert him from seeing how the Spirit's work is interlaced through a11 of the Scripture's text.I6 When men scoff at the Old Testament, they do so against the Holy Spirit who worlts there "with his own pen,"" Luther is fully aware of the divine/human character or nat~ire of Scripture as the Word of God. But "although they also were written by men," Luther is fully convinced that the Scriptures in point of origin "are not from men, but from God."'Wor can the late Luther be shown to be any different from the early Luther on this score, as tllough in later years he tended to become nlore of a doctrinaire biblicist. His l~andling of the Epistle of Janzes also needs to be seen in the light of his general Biblical treatment. When this is done, then thc familiar reference to James as a "right strawy epistle," as well as the other critical statements which are taken from his Prefaces olz the Rooks of the Rible'%vill he understood in a more balanced way. For exanlple, seeing Luther's handling of James in a commentary like that on Galatians will do more to demonstrate Luther's actual attitude towards this epistle-which he is usually Ileld to have maligned- than some secondary source which merely repeats like a broken record that he was for throwing James out of the Bible.?' Lutl?er never dodged specific problems in connection with Scrjptore's text. But, however great the problem(s), he never let this shalte his confidence in the "Holy Spirit's book." His mnglzlcm opz~ts against Erasmus, De servo arhitrio, The Bondage of the 'Will, is a case in point. Tl~roughout its length and breadth, Luther supported Scripture because it was "God-inspired." He literally tears into Erasmus for views that merely upheld Scripture's "inspiringness" or being "God-in~piring."~] In similar way Chemnitz subsumed the inspiration of Scripture in the whole task of theologizing. It was divine initiative that led to Scripture's conling into being as the written Word of God. God "by His own act and example initiated, dedicated, and consecrated that way and method when He Himself first wrote the words of the decalog."" "\Vc are speaking," says Chemnitz, "of the divinely in- spired Scriyturcs.""' GtxI is Scripture's author, first of all, and it is He who has both initiated and governed its origin, purpose, and use, its perfection and ~ufficiency.~" Chenmitz finds the attitude of Christ towards the Old Testa- ment Scriptures especially significant. If He had deemed them inade- q~~ate or insufficient in some way, He would have supplemented, modified, or criticized them in some way. Instead, as every reader knows, He repudiated the traditions of the Pharisees and their patch- ing~ on to the kVorc1 of God, and "restored the pristine and genuine purity of the prophetic doctrine" by leading "the church back to the scripture^.')^^ One 0.f the truly brilliant sections in Chemnitz' Exa~ne~z comes in his survey of the Neiv Testanlent boolcs. In no uncertain terms he avers that what these Scriptures are saying is what the Noly Spirit Himself is saying. Therefore, "we should believe about the Scripture what the Scripture says about itself, or rather, what its author, the Holy Spirit Himself, concludes and declares about His ~vork."~~ In his great dogmatic norlz, De dztnbus nnturis in Christo, The Tzvo Natures of Christ, Chemnitz from cover to cover illustrates his total commitment to the text of Scripture as the inspired Word of God. On this central and rnost important doctrine, the person of Christ, he insists that "it is safest and most correct to speak with Scripture itself and to imitate the language of the Holy Gho~t.''~' It was clear to Chemnitz that without the doctrine of inspira- tion, as Scripture asserted it, there was no defense for Scripture's authority either. For Chemnitz there was no alternative to Holy Scripture. There was no other place where the outpouring of the Spirit, or new revelation was to be sougl~t. In a beautifully limpid passage in his Enchiridion Chemnitz says very simply: In the past God lnade His Word ltnown in various ways. He has Himself appeared, or He has moved holy men through His Spirit, giving them His Word and speaking through their mouths. Finally, He spoke through Christ, and through His apostles . . . But He has not commanded or promised us to expect such in-pouring and revelation. Rather, for the sake of future generations, He caused His revealed Word to be set down in certain Scriptures by the prophets and apostles, and directed and bound His church thereto. Accordingly, when today anyone seeks to Icnow, establish, and prove what God's Word is, the answer is: Thus it is written, as the Scripture states.28 Franz Pieper with justice avers that "Chemnitz is certainly not 'hesitant' . . . in expressing his position as to the inspiration of Scrip t~re."~~ Nor surely was Luther, who found a remarkable similarity between the miracle by which a sinner is converted by the Spirit and the wondrous activity of the Spirit in the miracle of inspiration! On Scriptztre-the Word of God To the important contemporary question of whether the Scrip tures can be identified or considered coterminous with the Word of God, Luther and Chemnitz answered with a resounding yes. Scrip- ture's own testimony to this effect, as well as the fact of its divine inspiration, supplied all the evidence necessary. Luther saw in the hesitancy of men to acknowledge the Bible as the Word of God, the same attitude which led to man's fall in the first place, i.e., to doubt God's Word no matter what its forrnq3O For Luther it was never a question whether the Bible merely contained the Word, but the confidence that it is the Word. The author might be this prophet or that apostle, b~lt the Author behind all was God Himself." Holy Scripture was God's onJn pasture for nurturing His churchJe and, therefore, "there is not a s~~perfluous letter" in it.33 The childlilroclaim from beginning to end, how our sins were laid on Christ and ho\v I-Ie has become our righteousness for us and cloalted 11s with His holiness and forgiveness. Thus we have here a hcrmcneutic circle which every Christian, particularly theologians, must see: If a person is to understand Scrip- ture, he niust have Christ, for Christ, or the Gospel, is Scripture's ccnter. Also true is that if a person is to have Christ and the righteous- ncss which avails before God, he must have the Christ whom Scrip- ture lxeaches and no other! Many theologians today have missed, or purposely ignored, this herniencutic circle, which is God-given. They like to quote Luther's statenlent, "If the adversaries press the Scriptures against Christ, we urpe Christ againsr: the Scripturcs." They, however, forget the other half of 1.uther's theology of thc IVord, as he calls them back to a Scriptural mooring in their Christology: "Stick to the IVord of God. lgnore every other-whether it is devoid of Christ, in the name of Christ, or against Christ, or whether it is issued in any other \~ay."'~ The Christ/Scripture inter-connection was absolutely basic in LLI- thcr's theology, as it has always been in Lutheran theology since. Chcmnitz, of course, was no exception. His de duabzis nnturis in CJzristo, often tcrincd the greatest work on Christology since the time of Athanasius, masterfully portrays the Christ/Scripture syn- drome. The Christo-centricity of Scripture is never an idle or acci- dental thing for Chemnitz, but its very core. The Gospel is always more than mere cognitive inforillation or truth; and in its proper application and interpretation always has to do with "repentance, faith, justification, hope, and charity."jl As Chemnitz defends Scrip- ture's meaning of "to justify" over against Trent, it is likely that each reader will come to concur that this is the grandest chapter in his Examen. Trent's obfuscating of this central article has brought it itlametrically opposite to Scripture's core teaching and introduced a "monster of uncertainty" into the whole matter of the sinner's justifi- cation coraln Deo, before The real issue is the tension between theologin gloriae aild theologin crucis. "How great an impiety and blaspheiny it js . . . to take away from Christ the glory of the propitia- tion for sins, . . . and to transfer it to the merits of our works, or at least to divide it between the merit of C11rist and our merits," thunders Chen~nitz!~" Christ is the sinner's only access, and it is Scripture alone which "teaches that men should not glory in themselves but in the Lord .""I Obviously, for Chemnitz, too, it is not a case of one or the other, Christ: or Scripture, 01: one over against the other. He sees the same God-given hermeneutical circle Luther saw, in which Christ and Scripture coalesce in the great Gospel truth of God's mercy to sinners. It is not that he and Luther did not distinguish the two; but simply a case that they would not let the two be ripped one from the other! The A7,~thority of ~~~~~~~~~~e 1111 his life Luther was a inan whose reason was captive to the Word of God, as he had maintained under duress at Worms, 1521. True Gehorsa~n, listening obedience, under the Word of Scripture, was the \\lay to describe his life. Joseph I,ortz, the Catholic historian often credited in our day with initiating a "softer" treatment of Luther, contests this; arguing that Luther never really was an attentive listener to the \Vord of God.j5 It is a criticism which will not stand UP under scrutiny, as every historian or theologian knows who handles 1,uther's life and work fairly. In fact, Lortz himself shows his skirts when he explains this failure of Luther to be a good listener on the grounds, first of all, of his (Luther's) rejection of Acluinas' theology on the subject of God's grace (gmtin infusn), and, secondly, with his unsubstantiatecl cliaroe that Luther was in the final assay an individ- ualist, or subjectivist.& Scripture is the touchstone-there is no other! -for the church, as well 3s each individual believer, on all doctrine or teaching." It is thc normative audlority, ouctoritns normativa, by which the faith .cvhich is to be believed and accepted in the church, the fides quae creditur, must be determined. Love and peace there nlust be within the church, and for them Luther was always ready to bend," but never at the expense of the Word and its purity. "Cursed be that love (caritas)," Luther cried on the basis of Gal. 2, 9, "by which the trutl~, or doctrine of faith, is lost or sacrificed."" Whatever the doc- trine- the Trinity, infant baptisnl, justification, etc .-Luther held that the warrant for such teaching had to be found in Scripture, clearly, unequi~~ocally, Doctrine is of God, and must he pure, for God did not give us the Holy Scriptures to multiply our darkness or confusion. "I The authoritative Word was the written Word. Through all his busy life of preaching, teaching, writing, Luther upheld this principle. Nor did he know another way in which unity in the church could be served, than through colllinitn~ent to the truth as given clearly in Holy Writ. TO it the flighty spirit of man must be tied down, if extreme individ~talism and subjectivism are to be kept from reigning in the church, in every pulpit, every home. For Luther there was no great issue at stake in how the church would be governed, that is, by what polity; but he was conlpletely adamant on any other authority usurping Scripture's place. From the moirreilt the Reformation took place in Luther's own life, and then broke like a thunderstorm upon the world, to the very end of his life, in his last sermon, it could truly be said that soia Scriptzrra governed and mor~ed him in every way. Sobering are his words to an age that has largely forfeited the Reformation heritage: "God's \Vord and grace are a passing shower jein fahrender Platzregen) . . . Buv while the marltet is at your The counter-Refonnation repudiated Lather's position on sola Scriptztra directly. It reversed his stand at \Vorn~s by establishing Tradition (virtually the same as papal authority) alongside Scripture as authority in the church. It is a stance upheld to this present time. Vatican II simply endorsed Trent by stating that "both sacred tradi- tion and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the saine sense of devotion and re\lcren~e."~"Together "sacred tradition and sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of Hans l sulcl!. thc \\.ark of the [Iolv Spirit, thougi~ no\.c,r apart from Ilis clioscn Incans. "2s tllot141 ivtl lverc supposrd t.o sit. ill the conicr :111d iu~aii sumc sl>cri;ll rcvclation :\part fro111 allti oul.sidc1 of the \\'or.d ;111(I S;IC~;III~C~~~S."" -fhc 110,k.c~ o&' the IT'ord, OY S~~ripturc. is not of course ill thc ~.oc:;~blcs its lcttcrs or cl~aractcrs i11 t'llc test! but 111 tllc oficc 11nrI 11linistr~- of tl~c I.Iolv Spirit n.ho 15 iiblc 10 ~l~akc of !\-hat ~v!)ult\ bc tfciitl Icitc,r~ n life-givin p~\\''r ~ll~to sal\.nticin." .Tllis ill itsclf iriclicatcs th;it the \von;]crfu i ii,ork of con\.crsion is ]lot a incrc 111ccli;i11icnl \):-occss, as though there was so111c ki11rI of I!)ckcd-in po~i-cr ill tl1c \\'ord hs itself. "'T'hc Guspl," cspl ains (111clnl1i t~. silnpl!.: "is t11~ po\\.t:r of (&\ f'or tllc s;ll\';lti~~~ of et.cr\.or1c \~,ho I)cIic~.cs, 1.1ot: 11ec.a~tsc ;I cc.l.tni~l 11lapic;tl poi\.c\r inhcrcs in tllc cI~;lr;!ctcrs, \\.llahlcs or sottl~(l of tllc ~\.(.)~.ds. I)LI t bec;iti.;c it is tllc III~(~I~.IIII, OI-~I~ us i~~stri~~~lc~~t. throt~gh \\.l~icll tlic llol\, S~irit is cffjc;~c.iotls, .;c:tt.ing f'ortf~. offering. t>ul>ibiting. di);(ril~t~titl~, ;!TIC) ;1pi>1!.- ing the mcl-it of C'hrist anrl thc grace of C:oc'l."" Sllcli col~vt.rsion, rcbirtl,. I.C~CIIC+T;I~~OII occLlrs IIOL IILU~O irr~~~istii)jli. in isrvsistiblc manner. hut tllrough thc Sl~irit's grnciolls arlcl \\.oi~clrtiils po\\-er throtlgll ttlC \i'orti--i~! \\.Il;itc\.cr. \\.a!. it :oi~ci~cs i~ic~l's Ilcarts, by 'ticiiring. ,.ending, or tl.1~ like- ;.tnci tI1roi1~1.1 tli~ s;111ie l\'ord \\-orking tflro~igh Bal>tisl~i :~licl the I.ortl's St~ppi:r- (;/(zri/(l.s )S(,~.jpt/~r~ze.. Sc~i~~~i~~-~'s cI:irity! IS :i bililt-in, i~~hcrcnt ch;~r;lc.tcristic or (jii;~li~?.. it is sa111cthin~ self-c\,idcnt. :is Far as I,uther js concer~~ctl. ~i~llpl!. ~~C~LISC Cod S;I\:C Ho1y Scril)ture. 1 Jc rcasohs: \\'~i~~lcl God ~idcl to nlcn's tlarkncss 2nd obsct~r~t?, and trnccrti~inty by sct~tli~ig us an ol~scurc ~\.ord? ULIL this is not ;I lllattcr for dialectics oril!. Tl~c silnl~lc F~ct is that tile trst it.sclf c\,ir~ccs the grcatclst clarity, granting, of cotlrsc, that thc inan \\ho approach(.s it is cc]uil,pctl \vith the C)~C~III;IT!: to01s of languacrc. - 1,uthcr's strongest c;lsc in t.)ch;iIf of Scripttirc:'~ c.!;~~-it). conics in 111s riplltl!. f;lrno~ls De sc~,~,o ~rbifriii i~.hcre hc litcr;lll! fl:tttcns F;rasmus and his notions aboiit ;In obsci~re and recon(1itc tcst.." 1-lowc\.cr, it- is a then~c ivilicll runs tllroi~gho~it 1.~1tllcfs \,olun1i1lous \\'ritings frorn 1.11~ bcginni~~g ino~ric~nt of the Hcformntio~~ till his death. J.;c~tl~cr, of course, is pe~fectl!' aillare of all the cor~ll)lcsitics of language and the nuances of 1nt:aning in the i~rt of con~rnunication. But his handling of Scripture, especially in its origin;il I-Tcbrcw and Greck, con\:incctl l~i~n of Gocl's scrio~ls intcnt to makc TIis will and purpose. especially for nlan's salvation, perfectly clear. Tlterc will be figurcs of speech, of course, also in thc Bit~le, but by itsclf it makes these plain, even as common usngc does among Inen generally. In fact, we must assume that thc literal sense is ortlinnrjly tl~c intended onc. and that the Scripture Itas givcn in order lo convey rneanino God's meaning, Tl~is intent from the side of God by itself shoufd caution us against lookino for or allowing different mcanings for given texts The clarity oPscripture simply rules this oiit. The test itself, with its context, and the analogy of faith-otbcr clcnr. passages of Scripture bearing on tlle sanie subjcct-points the rt.n(.ler to the evident scnsc as surel!. as tllc l~caring piiints on the na\.igator's instru- ments. Certain prcs~~pl~ositio~~s rnust I)c assunicd for the Biblical inter- preter. Bas.ic is tl~c confidc~lcc that the Scriptr~rcs arc tllc rc\.clntion of Gd. ;Is Kwstlin puts it, I.uthcr regardcd "as scttlctl oncc and for all that all rcligioiis truth is gi\-cn us in the Holy Scriptt~rcs."~' Along with con~j>ctcncc in the lal~gui~ges, 2nd the assumption of serzsus literalis zi~z11s cst (that tller~ js 131.1t one Iitcral sense or Incan- ing), thc intcrprcLcr obsc.r\.es tl~c rulcs of gr;il]iillar? tile colnlnon usage of terms, thc con tcs t. t11c alialogin fidci. The faithfu 1, bclitving scholar wjll ha\.c no diffici~lt\. sccing that C:lirisl is tl~c hcart of the Scripture. 3loreovcr, hc \\.ill ~uickl!. hc confrontcltl thc in~portance of tlic T.a\v. Gospel (listinction, a princil>lc \ cr-!. i~itportir~~t to his kccpirig straigl~t tl~cl article of tllc sinner's I~,st~fication coravl Dco, and onv i~~liich IS iliflicult to :lppl\. c:(.)~~sistentl~, simply bccaiisc rnan's sin fill I1at11r.e i~~c,li~ics I~irli io\\.a~-ds sc.rni-~'cln<~in~~is~i~, to~\.nrcl. csl~cci:ill\- . I)\- . ti~rning thc 1;ltttsr back irtio 1..;1\\.. Ifa~.ing said all this, I.utllc'r irlsistc(l tllat Scr~pti~rc is still its own intc.rpretcr rcallv . /I\. , (;(XI'S oiv11 intent, It 111ay tw :I clccp. \$.inding l)odv of natcr :it tirncs. but tra\.cl alollg ant1 tllrc~ugl! its tfepths is ncecr rr;illy the t:lsk of tl~c "clcr.crS' \.o!,sjicur. but of one ~vho is the u.o~rcicrin and obscr\.nnt csplorcr, tllc obcclic*~~t listener or lici~rcr of i Go(! is I in ilis \\'ord -1-11~1s tlic tilsk is iliOrC that of c*rtarrc~tio, ullfol(ling, ivllal is plai~ll>. tllerc, rn tlicr than Of colr~pii- c.;~tcul ~*sc.p,cric.al ~!.11111;1stic. Sol:llisticlit.cd sc1lol:irsIlip too oftcn has inc.lirlc>(i to{vr\rcls 111;tl;ing tllc~ Scriptlirc ;I \\.ascn nosc, for the sakc of its 0\1 11 c~o~i~.<~~i ii,iiccb or ~,ic\\.p.oir~t; /IU! Scrip[l~rc is no reed in the \\.ii~(l tl);~t ;11jo\\ s itsclf to IIC bent hit hcr itnt'l i.011.'~ 1-uthcr knclv from \r.~ti)jrl l~i~llsc'll' Ilo\\ rcilsoll rC;lchrs ou~ to inscrt its own iclcas into [lics I~,\,I of' Sc.ri\>tl~rr', ;j110 l~o\l. c.\cr\. Ilvrctic.. tl~ercforc, fincls his o1t.n 11ot I~III~ ,lly)(.;~litlK." :\I1 thy more rbason for rcnlcnlbcring that Scrip- tt1r1. i\ ;t ligfl~ l)ri~J~t~'t. ;III~ purer th;ln th~' siln! I ilic, 1 LI~I>I~I-. (:hctnliit/., too, untlcrstood thc dcpth. thc ~~i!.stcr- ious pn~f~~rltlir! , of thc i~rliclcs of faith contai~~ctl ir~ Scripturr. Rut ~)rc.c,.isl:!\- tlli, cll~t~~oristratctl Sr.ripturc's great quality of c.l;irit), in j~rc.sc:lting tflc.111 for faith's ncccptance. lieally 110 shroud of obscurit? rc~rt;tit~\ o\.c2r ;III\ ol' tlic~~, that is, ;IS to tvhat Scriptllre in fact tcacllcs; tho~igli ii~drcd I~LIIII~~ rtiisoo, I,!. itwlf, unaidcd hi Script11 re's ~ciich- ing. st^ i~clplcrsl\ I~cf'orc ;I i>utturillcss i~nd i~i~'~~assablc gulf. But clarity ir:i> xi! t.11 o i I' \;\kc, Scripture spc:ahs for itself, if we \\.ill I~ut 1c.t it. C'ti(b~~~)i!/ iikcit8i sc S~CIIS 011 t thC same rules of hermeneutics, as d~ws it. i'crllill)~ IIOR,~C~C is his support for the clarit!. of Scrijiii~ re illiirc in rl,i[lc\nc.c than in his respnse to the Council of Trcnl's clccrccs. ill 1ijs lixal,~r)~~. This is a masterful prtrayal of the n!holc I. 'I'lle s;lll,c holds true, hoirever, for his de duabus trattrris, in \vhic:li liis csegctical prowess is surely at its sharpest. After 311, the principle that Scrlptzrrn :cripf14rau~ i)lter/~ret~t~~~, Scrip ture interprets Scriptures, simply presupposes the illherent c];lrity of the test. Along with its inspiratioi~ and authority2 Scripture's perspicuity forms the warp and n.oof of the soln Scriptirro principle for ~~tl~~~ arid Chen~nitz. Hartlly an):mne cjucstions the gcncral ~:cliahili~v or trLithfulrlcsS of God's IVord as co~~taii~ed in Scriptill-c Tllc hotllc;rome question is rather one of degree: to what extent may the Scriptorcs [,ropcrlv or rightly be termcd ~.eliable? or to be more specific, inerrant. consider- able hassle has surfaced in rcccnt tlicology over the use of tile term inerrancy. 11: seems to sa)- too 1nuc11 for modcrn nlinds ~~t~ich growl] accustomcd to relati~.il.il~g a] niost everything alld yielding on the absolutes. SO- nhiic the general ;Iccurnci. or re];itivc ieli:ltlility of Scripti~re's contcnt is regularly granted ;inlong Cllr-sti;lns. the tendency has come on stronger ullder the influence of so-callcd scientific thcology -.-large1 y the hig'hec cl:i tical. ~ncthod ~vhich \vorks wit11 the p1-esup1)osition that the test of thc Bible is a Ilunlnn pr~luct like aily otlicr ancl not a LZC ~(LC~IO ~ilitl ;~c~LI~III'I, (li\,irli'l\. i~lspircd 1Vord --that tlle ~vhole question of Scripture's inbrr;lncy is an outnloclcd, unscjentif-ic, 11nvcl:ifiable position illicl~ as Bart11 1x1 tr it, orirc had its day but no~v has had it. . By now it sho~lltl be self-e1:idcnt that lllore is iniolvcti in kq- ing the issuc of inerrancy alive than mere pers.istencc of a fcw die- hards wllo have difficulty letting go cf wstigial remains from rncdicvai mentality. Perhaps this attitude 111:1~. csplain some support for the teaching but it hardly explains tllt reasons ivhy Biblical st~t(lcxlts, scholars as well as laymen? continue thcir aggrcssi\.e dcfc~lsc. III f;ict even more significant, from one point of view, is the innhiiity of opponents of the doctrine to leave 'it nlonc. Nothing can esplliin this dual concern for the Biblc's inerrancy, therefore, other than the: fact of Scril7ture1s owl). conclusive testimony to that effect arid the fact thiit rnost of tlle alleged "errol-s" 1.eso1.c-e thc~nsclvcs undcr closer scrutiny. Luther's and Cliemnitz' position correspondctl closct !: to this stance. fittack on Scripture was tantamount to altaclc 017 or ~~ffron t of Christ, thc I:,ord, Nimself! For 1)otli thcrc 1v;ts the rr priori conf'iclcnct. and judgment that with Scriptures the); Ivcre dealing \\,it11 God's divinely given IVord; that, secondly, God's IVord was sclF-attcstinq on the matter of its inerrancy; atld, finally, that the Scriptures hna not: in fact been sho.il;ri to be deceitful, wrong or erring. in gencriil or in partic~~lars. Botl~ were Biblical scholars of the very highest coni- petcnce, colnpletely f;imiliar with the languages, r,vondcrfrilly at home in all of its content, remarliably familiar with almost all of the Scrip- ture's "problems" or so-called contradictions. Undoubtedly thcir stance before Scripture was that of childlike trust based on Scripture's chine origin, and, beyond that, Scripture's self-tcstirnol~y and self-vindica- tion. This would include the fal'amiliar declaratory passages like 2 Tim. 3, 16; John 10, 35 and 2 Pet. 1, 2 1, as well as John 16, 1 3 ; 1 Thcss. 2, 13,Gal. 1, 9-12;Heb. 6, 18;Num. 23, 19,etc. "We dare not give preference to the authority of men over that of Scripture," Luther states in his Commentary on Genesis, with the mammoth task of translation of the whole of Scripture well behind him. "Human beings can err," he goes on, "but the Word of God is the very wisdom of God and the absolutely infallible truth."'' This is a refrain repeated throughout his writings, late and early in his life; and so also in the writings of Chemnitz. Chernnitz' Examen, as a matter of record, literally exudes this confidence in the sacred text from stem to stern. Of course modern scholars are relatively unconcerned for what Chemnitz held, because they are convinced he was one of the leading forces in shaping the hard-nosed 17th century orthodox theologians in their support for Scripture's inspiration and inerrancy. But Luther is another matter. It would be a considerable coup to be able to claim him for a freer, less hardened view on Scripture, the feeling runs. However, that is not the way the proverbial cookie crumbles. Luther cannot be claimed for that side. While they say it with regret, men like Paul Althaus are frank to admit that Luther's theology of Scripture is grounded on the fact that "Scripture never errs."8g Luther may refer to and endeavor to reconcile (as does Chemnitz) the various Biblical difficulties, but, as Althaus asserts, this in no way causes him to swerve an inch from the conviction of Scripture's absolute infallible nature, in every detail the inspired work of the Holy Spiritago It is not that either Luther or Chemnitz minimize, or that they are not cognizant of, the human side of Scripture; nor do they stand with blinders on over against the "problems." But they both note, first, that the difficulties are minor when compared with the Scrip- ture's central articles, and, secondly, that they regularly resolve them- selves when alternative solutions are considered. Whatever weakness existed, more often than not, was in lnan himself, in his own limita- tions of scholarship and available, definitive and final information, than in the text of Scripture itself. Also, too frequently the attacks could be shown to stem from prejudice in general against all super- natural, miraculous activity of God. Those who have actually read firshand and at length in the works of Luther and Chemnitz will be clul~ arnilzed how forthright and frankly they confront the various Biblical "~~roblems"--it is not an exaggeration to claim that their competence in the overall field exceeds that of most modern critical scholars ! --and yet conclt~de with the resounding verdict that God's Book st;lnds inviolate. * v .& Y v Call it naivete, or childlike simplicity of faith! But before these two sworn doctors of the Word are lightly dismissed, each critic had heltcr forwanled whom is taking on in debate or conflict! Seldom* if cvel', have two men stood shoulder to shoulder with such co11sistenc!~; and seJdom has the Lord had *lore faithful and able defenders of His inspired j,fJrjrd. 'rhe last that Luther ever penned-"Bend low in rever- ence hefore its (Scriptures') footprints! We are beggars! That is true!" --might well stand as the epitaph on their remarkable lives and the Lztther And Chcmnitz On Scripture 161 outstanding, on-going heritage they bequeathed to the church which followed in their tram and to all followers of Christ who. love His Word, the Scriptures, that cannot be broken. FOOTNOTES 1. A. L. Graebner, "The Study of Church History," Theological Quarterly, vol. I1 (1898), St. Louis, 60f. 2. Cf. Luther's statement in his Galatian Commentary, "Diese Konigin musz herrschen, ihr lniissen alle gchorchen und unterworfen sein." St. L., IX, 87; WA 40 I, 120, 17-25. 3. Cf. Prenter, R., The Word and the Spirit. Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1965, 65-73 passim. Also, Blamires, Harry, A Defence of Dogmatism. SPCK, London, 1965, 125. 4. Cf. Fagerberg, Holsten, A New Look at the Lutheran Confessions, 15-35 passim. Concordia, St. Louis, 1972. Fagerberg deflates completely the opinion which has prevailed for many years (propounded by von Loe- wenich, Schlink, and many others) that the Confessions-except for the Formula of Concord-set the spoken or proclaimed Word of God apart from, indeed above, the written text of Scripture itself. 5. Cf. Hauck, Alb., ed., Realencyklopaedie fur protestantische Theologie und Icirche (Herzog). Leipzig, 1897, 111, 803. 6. Cf. Hug, E. F., From Luther to Chemnitz on Scripture and the Word, 115-140, for a sketch of the life and work of Chemnitz. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 197 1. 7. Part Z of the Examcn is now available in English translation (by Fred Kramer), through Concordin, St. Louis, 197 1. 8. Cf. Chemnitz, Loci, Wittenberg, 1623, pars tertia, 235, where he uses this phrasc of the Confessions in the church. 9. Chemnitz, M., Exurnination of the Council of Trent, I, 43 (Iiramer translation). Concordia, St. Louis, 197 1. Hereafter referred to as Ex. 10. Ibid., 47. 11. One of the most recent of these unfortunate efforts is that appearing in the Concordia Theological Monthly, June, 1972, "The Other Under- standing of the Inspiration Texts" by Traugott H. Rehwaldt. This article begins with a downgrading of Pieper's position on Scripture, largely on the basis of the writer's old classroom notes, and with virtually no atten- tion to Pieper's demonstrated Biblical theology in 'the three volumes of his Christian Dogmatics. To set over against Pieper the so-called "Christo- centric approach" of Herman Sasse is to misunderstand both, especially to misrepresent Picper, whose work on the person and worlc of Christ, in volume I1 of his dogmatics, stands not only as a classic in its own right, but illustrates most excellently that the Scriptures must be the norm for the Gospel's sake. Moreover, the charge that the orthodox theologians of the 17th century "saw inspiration as a formal process . . . which had nothing to do whatever with the content" is absolutely condemned by the reading of these authors themselves-which was not done! By the same token, the charge that Pieper went beyond the 17th century theologians with his teaching on Scripture's infallibility is equally groundless and out of keeping with the facts. Robert Preus has provided the whole denouement of this thinking in his The Theology of Post-Reformation Theology, Concordia, St. Louis, 1970, q.v. Rehwaldt's "shock" over the failure of Pieper to cite 1 Cor. 2, 13 more than once in his dogmatics, should in fairness have been tempered by recognition of the balanced excellence with which Pieper treats verbal inspiration at great length. It is regrettable, too, that the verbal adjective theopneustos, which regularly in Greek usage, classical and koine, has the passive tense rather than the active, is translated by Rehwaldt to mean "God-inspiring," rather than "God-inspired or God-breathed." Only the most desperate liberal has opted for the active sense on \theupneustos, and always with thc intent of denying the miracle of the inspiration of the tcxt. Rehwaldt's article can finally only be seen as a denial of the auctoritas normativa of Scripture, in a feeble effort at emphasizing its causative authority (auctoritas causativa), and the result is that the sola Scriptura principle of the Reformation is greatly weakened, if not entirely given up. What this means is that Rehwaldt is suggesting that the material principle in theology, the Gospel or justification of the sinner through Christ, should also become the formal principle, the authority by which we Itnow. Kent ICnutson also tried to pan off this kind of theologizing, a blurring of the formal principle with the material in his essay on "The Authority of Scripture" in CTM, March 1969, 156-165. 12. Rupp, Gordon, The Righteousness of God, 4. Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1953. 13. WA 48, 43; St. L., 9, 1775. 14. Lw 22, 472, 15. LW 30, 321; WA 20, 788 ff. All references here to John 5, 13. 16. cf. e.g., LW 2, 91; WA 42, 327; LW 3, 114; WA 42, 630; LW 2, 308f; WA 42, 482f; LW 5, 352; WA 43, 671; LW 5, 24; WA 43, 446; LW 7, 314; WA 44, 532. 17. LW 3, 210; WA 43, 251; LW 4, 60; WA 43, 178. 18. LW 35, 153; WA lo2, 72ff; cf. alsoLW 45, 373; 24, 127; 26, 102. 19. cf. WML 6, 477ff; see also LW 34, 317; WA 395 187ff. 20. cf. LW 26 & 27; WA 40 & 40% 2, 21. Cf. above, the CTM Rehwaldt article. 22. Exarnen, 52. 23. Ibicl. 24. Ex., 62. 25. Ex., 66. 26. Ex., 150. 27. Chcmnitz, M., The Two Natures in Christ, trans. by J. A. 0. Preus, 395. Concordiil, St. Louis, 197 1. 28. Chemnitz, M., Enchiridion, 32. A. L. Graebner, ed, Brumder, Milwaukee, 1886. 29. I'icper, F., Christian Dogmatics, I, 266, fn. 77. Concordia, St. Louis, 1950. 30. cf. WA 24, 86; St. L. 3, 74. 31. cf. LW 1, 6; WA 48, 5; LW 6, 343; WA 44, 257; LW 16, 95; WA 315 67. 32. LW 12, 162. 33. LW 34, 227; WA 50,262ff. 34. cf. LW 13, 71. 35. \;VA 48, 31; St. L. 9, 1770. ' 36. I