7.10.09

Sasse Rejects Brunner's Neo-Orthodox Doctrine of Scripture

"We have nothing whatsoever to do with Brunner's teaching* on the Word of God. For us Scripture is the Word of God, as the bread in the Lord's Supper is the body of Christ."

(The two bolded and italicised occurences of "is" in the above quote are underlined in the original.)

From a letter written by Sasse in 1952 in response to a review by a theologian of the Wisconsin Synod of the Theses on Scripture and Inspiration (1951), which formed part of the Theses of Agreement preparatory to the union of the two Lutheran church bodies in Australia in 1966. In the course of the discussions on scripture in Australia, Sasse's position on scripture moved decisively in a conservative direction. Sasse's words represent a decisive rejection of Barth and Brunner's "neo-orthodoxy" and related hermeneutical approaches represented among European Lutherans; this was an important legacy that he, along with others involved in the union discussions, bequeathed to the Lutheran Church of Australia.

The letter is contained in the section Additional Notes Concerning Holy Scripture, in the book Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays by Hermann Sasse , a monograph published by Concordia Seminary, St Louis in 1995.

* Emil Brunner (1889-1966), a Swiss Reformed theologian, usually associated together with Karl Barth in the so-called "neo-orthodox" (new orthodox) school of Protestant theology prominent from the 1920s up to about 1960. Brunner rejected the traditional doctrine of the verbal inspiration of scripture and located revelation instead in the personal encounter between the individual and God, which scripture may mediate, thus in such circumstances scripture becomes the Word of God, but it can never be identified as the Word of God in a static, formal sense. As a result of the translations of his writings by Olive Wyon, Brunner's influence in the English-speaking world was reaching its zenith at the time.

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