A devotion written by Professor A.C. Piepkorn of St Louis* is an especially disturbing indicator of the dangers of the 'High Church' tendency. It is entitled 'Blessed Art Thou Among Women'**, and is an attempt to set forth the true Lutheran position on Mary in opposition to the extremes of Roman Catholic cult of Mary (Marienkult) on the one hand and modern Protestantism's 'excessive downgrading of the Mother of God' (Piepkorn's words) on the other. This is indeed a worthy task, and the three Marian festivals set down in the old Lutheran church calendar, which are simultaneously Christological celebrations, provide ample opportunity to do this. But in light of these celebrations we must note that the position taken on Mary will always be a reliable indicator of the presence of a true or false understanding of the Gospel. In modern Protestantism the Nestorian denial of the doctrine of the Theotokos reveals that this position, even if it bears the name 'Lutheran', no longer understands the doctrine of the person of the God-man. On the other hand, the confession that Mary is indeed the Theotokos isn't yet solid evidence of a true understanding of Christ - for it can be combined with the veneration of Mary, which is always a sin against the 1st Commandment and a challenge to the unique mediatorship of Christ. The cult of Mary (which also took root and grew among the Nestorians), along with the Marian doctrines which have grown from it, is most definitely to be rejected as being in contradiction to the Gospel***.
From Liturgy and Confession, A Brotherly Warning Against the 'High Church' Danger, first published in Lutherische Blaetter (Christmas 1959). [trans. mine]
* Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-1973), a scholar and theologian of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, sometime professor of historical theology at the Concordia, St Louis seminary, translator of some of the Lutheran confessional documents for the Tappert English edition of the Book of Concord, and an official participant in the early rounds of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the US. Piepkorn was a man of prodigious learning who served as a mentor to a number of LC-MS pastors who later styled themselves 'Evangelical Catholics', some of whom would convert to Roman Catholicism, notably Richard John Neuhaus.
** This devotion is available in the compilation of Piepkorn's essays, 'The Church, Selected Essays By Arthur Carl Piepkorn', edited by Plekon and Weicher and available from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau.
*** Why, in Sasse's opinion, is Mariology and Marian piety in contradiction to the Gospel? Elsewhere, Sasse links the Marian doctrines and piety directly with synergism, the view that man co-operates with God's grace in obtaining salvation. Sasse believed that the Roman and Orthodox churches, along with some Anglicans, held Mary up as a model of such co-operation.
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