History — Past, Present, and Future

by Nathaniel Biebert

Lutheran professors of history will often define the subject they teach as “his-story.” With this clever turn of phrase, they emphasize the fact that all of history has Christ as its theme and focus. The years BC culminated in Christ’s incarnation, and the years after Christ’s ascension will culminate in his return to judgment. The course of human events, then, truly is Christ’s story.

God in his infinite love has placed countless people into his story throughout the ages. Those whom the Holy Spirit brings to faith are unique characters in his story. God works out every single historical event for their good. What a blessed comfort and assurance!

Lutherans who do not want to take this comfort for granted view history in the light of God’s Word. They can either consider past historical events leading up to the present, or they can consider the events that are shaping present history. The majority of Lutherans likely focuses on the latter. Lutherans with a particular affection for the past probably focus on the former. August Pieper focused on both.

In this issue of Studium Excitare, three translations of essays by August Pieper are provided. In the first one, August Pieper begins a contemplation of the past events leading up to the present, especially focusing on the outpouring of the gospel through the ages. This kind of contemplation sobers the reader—the pure gospel has never remained in one place forever. This kind of contemplation also arouses the reader—we need to treasure the gospel while we have it and pray fervently for its preservation among us.

In the second essay, Pieper considers present events (present to Pieper anyway) in the light of God’s Word. Wars, catastrophes, politics, etc. shape the world we live in, and Pieper reminds us that we do well to step back and say, “Is my response to this in harmony with God’s Word or my personal opinions and selfish desires?” In this age of war, his words do not sound too distant.

The third essay, and really all three essays, remind us that Martin Luther serves as a shining example for us in regard to viewing history as well as in the study of theology. Martin Luther realized that God made him a special part of the restoration of the pure gospel. But he never stopped exhorting those around him to treasure and make use of the Means of Grace. For, as he looked at history, he realized that the gospel would not persist with the Germans forever. Luther also had bickering and wars take place during his life. He viewed these events in the light of God’s Word and rebuked, instructed, and built up his parishioners concerning them. Luther knew how to do all this correctly because he first and foremost a serious student of God’s Word.

With all these considerations, one feels weighed down by the effects of sin in the world. We thank God that someday he will take us to a place where we do not have to fret over perversion of the gospel, where we will not have to apply God’s Word to sinful events and situations. We look forward to the culmination of all history—the resurrection of the dead. David Hollaz provides a serious dogmatic consideration of the resurrection, drawn from the source of all doctrine, the Word of God. At the core of his very learned writing one finds a pastor’s heart, desiring that God’s people to eagerly look forward to the day of salvation. He wraps everything up with a beautiful model prayer.

We the translators of Studium Excitare pray that as you read this issue, you enjoy considering many aspects of history in the light of God’s Word.