Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics: Volume 1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968.
Chapter A16, “Theology and Certainty”
Pieper returns to the idea of certainty and subjectivism. If, as was common in the modern theology of his time, a theologian was to attain subjective certainty, Pieper questions where that certainty could be found. Biblical doctrine asserts that we find assurance through Christ’s word. This is the way Luther also insisted we would find our assurance and comfort. Choosing to go beyond the Scripture leaves the modern theologian without a foundation of truth. The modern theologian depends on the Christian himself and his inner strength. Pieper views this as a futile pursuit, identifying it as not Christian, uncertain, and not scientific. He spends a good deal of time speaking to the uncertainty. In essence, when we are the mediator of our salvation by way of evaluating our inner state, we have no comfort outside of ourselves. Counter to this, Pieper describes a certainty which comes from relying on the promises of God, something that came from outside of ourselves. Further, the certainty we have is built on distinctive doctrine. Pieper points out that unionism in any form departs from the certainty based on pure Christian doctrine. We also find assurance through realization that God has spoken on many topics. There are very few “open questions” or “problems” in true theology. Finally, modern theology is not scientific, as it is based on individual opinion rather than on definitive truth. Pieper closes by asserting the certainty and confidence we can have based on historic doctrine.
Chapter A17, “Theology and Doctrinal Development”
Pieper observes that modern theology is very interested in doctrinal development. His view is that doctrine cannot develop because it was all provided to the Church by the apostles. Jesus and the apostles proclaimed that there was only one message of the Gospel and that it would not develop beyond what they said. Paul particularly in 1 Timothy 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:7-10 says that philosophical speculation was not safe doctrine. Those who promote doctrinal development cite examples in church history. However, the new doctrinal statements simply used new vocabulary and style to defend the apostolic doctrine. Likewise, the reformation actually defended old doctrine rather than promoting anything new. Pieper observes also that new doctrinal stands always manage to do violence to apostolic teaching. Therefore he reaches the conclusion that the correct stance of the Church is one of repristination, not of development.
Chapter A18, “Theology and Doctrinal Liberty”
Pieper begins this chapter with the observation that the Christian has been freed from his own will and bound to the will of Christ. In the same way, the theologian has been freed from his own speculation and bound to the Word of God. It is important, then, that the Christian theologian not bind himself again to human speculation. Pieper views this issue under two headings.
First, the Church has only one Teacher, Jesus. This is the testimony of Jesus, the apostles, and the historic Church. Yet in the name of academic and theological freedom some theologians want room for bondate to their own opinions. This is not in character for the Christian theologian.
Second, the Christian is exhorted to hear only preaching and teaching that is consistent with Scripture. Therefore, again, theological speculation in the name of academic freedom simply serves to divorce the theologian from his rightful task of analyzing and applying Scripture.
A note from this reviewer, the issue of academic freedom can now cut both ways. It may be valuable to claim academic freedom now in order to depart from what Pieper would consider the “modern” point of view.