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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Stoeckhardt 4: Now our dear one, a true Exegete! (Pieper's address, Part 4d)

      This continues from Part 4c in a sub-series (see Part 4a) of a wider series (Table of Contents in Part 1) of Franz Pieper's addresses at the "going home" (funerals) of  Old Missouri's earliest teachers.  This Part 4x sub-series presents the address at the funeral of Dr. George Stoeckhardt.
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      Up to this point in his address, Pieper showed how Missouri was blessed with Christian teachers.  This led him to present his brief summary and praise of the greatness of the teacher for whom this funeral address was given (continuing Pieper's address from Part 4c; enlargement, bolding is mine):
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George Stoeckhardt
(servant of the Word)

And now our dear Stöckhardt! He came in October 1878 from Germany to St. Louis and was first pastor of the local church at Holy Cross for nine years, and during his pastorate he served as a lecturer in exegetical lectures, and at the same time entered the front ranks in the struggle for the right doctrine of Conversion and Election of Grace. [Cp. Brief Statement, 16-19, 35-40] In the autumn of 1887, the full exegetical professorship was then transferred to him.  He is known to us for all the excellent gifts he has rendered. With language skills absolutely equal to the most prestigious exegetes of our time, he had one advantage over all exegetes of modern times. And this is what makes an exegete a true exegete.  He believed with us all, in his heart, the so-called verbal inspiration, that is, the truth that the Holy Scripture is not to be the word of man, but the majestic, infallible Word of God given by God and to be treated accordingly. Thus his exegetical method was not the method which mastered the Word of God, but the method which serves God's Word merely by setting forth what is expressed in Scripture, and leaving God's sole reign in the Church. These are the glorious teaching gifts which God gave to our synod, and especially to our theological institution. [S. 20, col. 1]
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Pieper highlights the following strengths of Stoeckhardt:

Conversion & Election of Grace
      These two doctrines were the focus of much contention in the American Lutheran Church.  And Pieper includes Prof. Stoeckhardt as one of the top defenders for the truth, and so rooted out all vestiges of synergism.  I have wondered why Pieper did not include the doctrine of Universal Justification as Stoeckhardt was an outspoken defender of this doctrine, but then I remembered that with the other two doctrines, it was actually UOJ (Universal, Objective Justification) that was at the heart of the matter. Pieper will again draw attention to these same doctrines in the final comments of his address on Stoeckhardt – see Part 4e.

A True Exegete
      Pieper asserts that "absolutely" no other exegete, German or otherwise, had better language skills than Stoeckhardt.  This judgment comes from one of the greatest masters of theological languages in the world – Franz Pieper.  But Pieper puts even this aside and claims for Stoeckhardt the higher ground of a true exegete – as a defender of "verbal inspiration".  But if the words of Scripture are divinely inspired then one bows to Scripture, for who would presume to be the master over God? — For some time, I had a bad taste for "Exegetical Theology" because it seemed that all those who claimed proficiency in it actually perverted the meaning of the bare words!  But then I discovered the exegetical writings of George Stoeckhardt, and now I know that there is indeed a place for this branch of theology, because Stoeckhardt restored it to its rightful place – as a servant of the Word, not a master over it.  Any exegete who perverts the plain meaning of the words of Holy Scripture is not a true exegete, but an eisigete.
      Exegetical Theology was the focus of much of Stoeckhardt's attention and he produced several books.  Much of his legacy is in remembering his work in this area.  I recall that as I was returning to my Christian faith 20+ years ago, I had discovered the works of Stoeckhardt in the CTS-FW bookstore and snapped up all the many titles they had then.  I wondered why these were only available from the CTS-FW bookstore, and not from CPH?  Stoeckhardt's writings (true exegesis, Biblical History) built up my faith, taught me that the Bible is absolutely true, set my faith on a solid Rock.
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"Dogmatism"?
      However there arose during Stoeckhardt's later years a faction among some teachers of the Synodical Conference who elevated the importance of "exegesis" of Scripture to the detriment of dogmatics or the teaching nature of Scripture.  The instigator and leader of this movement was Prof. John Philipp Koehler of the Wisconsin Synod (WELS).  He would come to, essentially, drive a wedge among the teachers of the Old Synodical Conference by his new emphasis, his claim of superiority, of "exegesis".  But was it superior?  I am preparing a separate blog post from this series that is quite polemical against the legacy of Koehler... I will take this up soon... (I found a surprising "benefit" to the agitation of Koehler.)
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      The above few words from Pieper were the greatest testament ever to the legacy of George Stoeckhardt.  In final installment of Pieper's funeral address for "our dear Stoeckhardt" he reveals a close conversation with Walther, in the next Part 4e.

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