Pieper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics: Volume 1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968.
Chapter A5 “The Cause of the Divisions Within Visible Christendom”
Pieper uses this term, “visible Christendom,” to refer to church organizations. Why are there divisions in the one Church? It is not surprising to see them in the non-Christian world, which would often try different ways of winning favor with God. But the Church which trusts in the message of saving faith based on Scripture should be unified. Yet there were factions even in the apostolic period, growing because people rejected God’s word. Pieper introduces in brief the ways some Christians have strayed.
First, Roman Catholics, in their insistence that the sense of Scripture is only made clear through the Roman church effectively denies Scripture alone.
Second, Reformed theology makes Scripture subject to rationalistic ideals. In doing so, they separate baptism and communion from their efficacy. This leaves them, logically, with only the non-mediated work of the Holy Spirit on hearts, which becomes as important as Scripture. Again, the rationalistic lens denies that Jesus died for all.
Arminians, on the other hand, do not reject the universality of the atonement but do reject God’s working by grace alone. This also rejects Scripture.
In the end it is only the Lutherans who will allow both universal grace and grace alone to stand, allowing the relationship to be a mystery.
Chapter A6, “Christianity the Absolute Religion”
Pieper identifies Christianity as “absolute.” It cannot be improved upon. Though there are areas where we might logically wish for more explanation, the Bible asserts (1 Corinthians 13:12) that our understanding is partial. Christianity is also not a system of morality. Of course there is a morality, but it is one which springs from faith. Why then is it “absolute” or “perfect”? Christianity gives a complete salvation, one which man does not have to work out on his own. If it does not have that feature, it is not Christian belief. Second, Christianity is based on God’s Word, not man’s. Pieper points out that the Bible, when allowed at face value, provides what we need, unlike the way we would assume it works given the views mediated by the modern “historical” critics. When we hold to Christ’s vicarious atonement and the infallibility of Scripture we find that the Christian faith is what we need.
It is significant that Pieper’s argument is based on the infallibility of Scripture, not on an argument dependent on an inerrant text transmission. He talks about how God’s Word, his message, never fails, even though we may not know the exact train of transmission which brought it from the writers to us.