Dr. Francis Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics (vol. 1, p. 127). speaks about a self-centered theology which had inundated America in the 19th century. At the time, Pieper did not see the need for Lutheran laymen to rise against the clergy. But has the time now come for them to do so? Are there pastors who give lip service to believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but in practice allow themselves and the people under their care to follow a spirituality which is founded on personal feelings and uninformed opinions? He writes:
Here, in the land of the Reformed sects, [the theology of self-consciousness] has found a most congenial environment. Zwingli and Calvin, teaching the immediate operation of the Spirit, represented in principle the I theology [Ichtheologie].
Owing to the powerful influence of Luther this theology did not attain its full growth in those days. But it is not surprising that when Luther’s influence had waned at the beginning of the 19th century, Schleiermacher and his Reformed-pantheistic theology should find admirers and adherents in this country, even though it was criticized in some details. The situation at present is this, that all our large universities, with the partial exception of Princeton, stand for the theology of the self-consciousness, if they deal with theology at all.
Some time ago we reported on an “organization of laymen,” set up for the purpose of defending the Christian fundamentals. These laymen charge that the universities and most theological seminaries have been training a generation of preachers who deny these fundamentals. They specify that these preachers have substituted for the divine authority of Scripture the consciousness of the individual and for the vicarious satisfaction of Christ moral endeavors conforming to the example of Christ, the ideal man.
Whether this “organization” of laymen will check the destructive flood, only the future will show. In our church body -— the Synodical Conference -— there has been up to now, thanks be to God, no need of organizing the laymen against the pastors. Among the thousands of our pastors there is to our knowledge not a single one who questions the inspiration of Scripture and, as a result, would be forced to espouse the Ego theology. But we must never overlook the danger threatening us from our American surroundings.