Emil Brunner’s Rejection of the Heresy of Universalism

“The Word of Christ is for us the word of decision, which, so far as we believe, gives us salvation, and, precisely because it summons us to this decision, forbids us to believe in a deliverance which awaits us, or anyone else outside the sphere of faith. Just as we ought to know that God alone in Jesus Christ is the God of Grace, and outside of Jesus Christ the God of Wrath, so ought we to know that He is only gracious to him who believes, but that He is not so to him who is outside the sphere of faith.

But this cannot be for us an object of theoretical doctrine or even of imaginary ideas. This is said in order that we may believe, and it is for each of us to tell others as we have heard it, in order that they, too, may come to believe.

This is our business, but nothing else. We must absolutely resist the inclination to draw “logical conclusions”, since they only lead to one of two errors : either to the doctrine of the double decree or to the doctrine of universal salvation, each of which removes the reality of the decision of faith. Only the renunciation of the logically satisfying theory creates room for true decision; but the Gospel is the Word which confronts us with the summons to decision.”  — Emil Brunner (emphasis mine)

Brunner’s Ill Health Didn’t Prevent His Working

The fact that in spite of many health difficulties I was able to finish this book before leaving Europe for my journey to the East is due to the assistance of many good friends. Herr Pfarrer Basler in Zofingen, and Fraulein Gertrud Epprecht, Assistant-Minister in Zurich, have shared with me the labours of proof correction, and my son, Dr. H. H. Brunner, Pfarrer in Marthalen, prepared the Index. To all of these, and to several others who remain anonymous, I tender my cordial thanks.

EMIL BRUNNER
Zurich,
August 1949

From the Preface to the second volume of his Dogmatics.

You can download 2 of the 3 volumes of the Dogmatics and have them, freely.

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

Today in Brunner-ian History

Emil Brunner’s spectacular 3 volume Dogmatics is still the best systematic theology ever produced.  And today marks the anniversary of the publication of the second volume of the three, in 1950.

In the second volume, Brunner describes the Christian doctrines of Creation and Redemption.  Fantastic stuff.

The great thing about Brunner is that he is accessible, and yet profound.  That can be said of very few theologians- but it is most certainly true of him. If you want to know what creation and redemption are, he tells you in this book.

Brunner enjoyed another honor on 15 August a few years earlier in his life: he was given an Honorary Doctorate by Princeton University on this day in 1947.  He would go on to make such lasting contributions to theology that he would be honored by a number of Universities in the same way.

No greater systematic theologian lived in the 20th century.

Emil Brunner- On Doubt

Many have the idea that doubt belongs to life and cannot be helped, that it belongs even to the Christian life. But the truth is that so long as we are in bondage to this doubt we are not yet Christians. For to doubt eternal life is to dismiss the promises of God, to be dis- obedient to the Word of God, to put our trust in our own understanding and senses. God’s Word is not sufficient guarantee, we want something more certain. But this desire for something more certain than God’s Word is doubt, crass, naked doubt; crass, naked paganism; crass, naked Godlessness. — Emil Brunner

Brunner on the Bible

Is everything true that is to be found in the Bible? Let me draw a somewhat modern analogy by way of answering this question. Every one has seen the trade slogan “His Master’s Voice.” If you buy a phonograph record you are told that you will hear the Master Caruso. Is that true? Of course! But really his voice? Certainly! And yet — there are some noises made by the machine which are not the Master’s voice, but the scratching of the steel needle upon the hard disk. But do not become impatient with the hard disk! For only by means of the record can you hear “the master’s voice.” So, too, is it with the Bible. It makes the real Master’s voice audible, — really his voice, his words, what he wants to say. But there are incidental noises accompanying, just because God speaks His Word through the voice of man. Paul, Peter, Isaiah, and Moses are such men. But through them God speaks His Word. — Emil Brunner

Is There A God?

Emil Brunner answers

To ask the question, then, “Is there a God” is to fail to be morally serious. For when one is morally serious he knows that good is not evil, that right and wrong are two different things, that one should seek the right and eschew the wrong. There is a divine order to which one must bow whether one likes to do so or not.

Barth The Wrong

Of Barth’s doctrine of election – and particularly of Barth’s notion that Jesus is ‘the elect man’ Brunner writes

No special proof is required to show that the Bible contains no such doctrine, nor that no theory of this kind has ever been formulated by any theologian.

Indeed.  Barth’s views are particularly charming to a certain subset of theologians who are less familiar with what Scripture says than the norm.

brunner

Emil Brunner’s First Sermon

Preaching at the Fraumunster

Emil Brunner, freshly ordained, preached his inaugural sermon on the 14th of April in 1912.   Unlike so many theologians Brunner actually had Pastoral experience, and never abandoned the Pulpit for the lectern- serving in both his entire life, which is precisely what makes him so profoundly important and insightful.  The topic- almost as though he already knew his major path- was “Jesus: The Divine Man”.

His much later series of sermons on the Apostle’s Creed is moving and profound.

If you can track down his sermons, do so.  You’ll be glad you did.