“…there is in the church one particularly sweet piece of fruit on the broad canopy of the tree of lies… the greatest ethicist of our church (August Vilmar –MH) once spoke, warning the theologians of his and our time about the most grievous sin, the lie to God. The most fearful thing about the pious lie is that it will lie not only to men, but also to God in prayer, in confession, in the Holy Supper, in the sermon and in theology. The pious lie always has the propensity to become the edifying lie. It was once expelled from the church when it existed in the form of legends of the saints and the fraud of relics. Then in the full view of pious eyes, it returned in a new form, such as in the Luther legends, or in pietistic times in the form of almanacs and tracts containing the accounts of miraculous responses to prayer and equally miraculous conversions, which either never happened, or in which the kernel of historical truth was no longer discernible. This “edifying” lie even forces its way into the sphere of the church, which teaches revealed truths of revelation. After sufficient preparation it can obtain the status of “doctrinal maturity”. Thus it becomes the dogmatic lie.
We ask our Roman Catholic fellow Christians to believe that it is very difficult for us to use the word “lie” here, and we do not do so to offend them. We know that they affirm a dogma such as the Immaculate Conception of Mary out of deep conviction of faith, and they will accept the yet-awaited extension of Marian dogma from the hand of the ecclesiastical teaching office with the same sincerity. But this changes nothing of the fact that in these dogmas false doctrines are established, and that the Roman Church thus finds itself in a guilt-laden error…
When we speak of the dogmatic lie, we do not, however, have in mind only the celebrated dogmas pronounced by the Catholic Church, through which theories are elevated to the level of ecclesiastical dogma, and have no basis in Holy Scripture, and are not true. We include here also precisely the dogmas with which modern Protestantism has been at pains to correct, to complete, or to replace the doctrine of the evangelical church, such as the false doctrine of Pietism concerning the church, or of rationalism concerning the person of Jesus Christ. What a fearful thing it is indeed that things are taught in the church which are not true, under the guise of the eternal truth entrusted to her. No atheism, no Bolshevism can do as much damage and destruction as the pious lie, the lie in the church. In this lie the power of one is made evident whom Christ Himself calls a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).”
Extracted from Sasse’s essay ‘Union and Confession’ (written in Germany in 1936), trans. by Matthew C. Harrison, published by the Office of the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1997.
Sasse reminds us of something that must never be forgotten if we are to remain true Evangelical Christians. As much as we are in conscience bound to protest the pious lies behind the false dogmas promulgated by the papacy, we must remain aware that no church body is above succumbing to a ‘pious lie’ and thus falling into the most grievous sin of lying to God in prayer and worship. Today, among the churches descended from the magisterial Reformation, we witness church body after church body succumbing to the great pious lie of our time: the ‘Gospel of radical inclusion’, which in practice calls evil ‘good’ and good ‘evil’, and does so with an air of superior piety that must sicken God’s heart, if not raise his ire. See previous posts on the ‘Church of Scotland’ and the ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’. May God preserve us and our churches from such a sin and may he safely guide the faithful remnant in such church bodies to green pastures and still waters. ”
From Union and Confession (1936) [trans. Matthew.C. Harrison; published by the Office of the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, 1997]