Friday, May 28, 2010

Toward true confessional Lutheran unity in the WELS

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Cor. 1:10).

We enjoy an uncommon unity in the WELS, a unity around the Word of God, and around the Lutheran Confessions as faithful witnesses to the Word of God. But as the Word of God forewarned and the experience of the Church has proven, a unity assumed is a unity in jeopardy.

Many of us see our common enemy, the devil, threatening our unity as a synod, mainly through the backdoor of our practice. We sing and preach about unity, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there lurks among us a spirit of disunity. It is certainly not everywhere; but it is there. Let us acknowledge where the devil is mounting his assault so that, by God’s power and might, we may defeat him: worship practices that are inconsistent with confessional Lutheran theology; Church Growth theology and methodology; paying lip service to the Means of Grace while mimicking the practices of the churches that deny the efficacy of the Means of Grace; forfeiting our confessional Lutheran identity, either by neglect or by choice.

Many would like to simply agree to disagree on these matters rather than disturb the Church over them. That would be understandable if the issues revolved around personal preference. But the issues are theological, not personal. True spiritual unity is not preserved by ignoring theology.

What we are advocating is an open theological discussion with solid theological conclusions. If we are misunderstanding one another, let us make things clear. If arguments have been built upon logical fallacies, let them be exposed. If any have strayed from confessional Lutheran doctrine or practice, let them take note and return.

For our part, we have made a small beginning at such a discussion by creating this blog where we will be posting articles that promote and encourage confessional Lutheranism. If you agree with the principles we have stated, we ask you to stand with us and be counted among us. Contribute what you can to the discussion. If you disagree with any of the principles we state, we invite you to engage openly in the debate.

What we ask you not to do, dear brother, is absent yourself from the discussion as if there were nothing to discuss, as if it didn’t apply to you, as if you could close your eyes and shut your ears and pretend you have no responsibility to defend the synod you call your home from the devil’s divisive schemes.

This is only a beginning, a first step (not to imply that we are the first or the best to speak about these issues). What we seek is unity – true confessional Lutheran unity within the WELS, a goal that only the Holy Spirit can bring about. Stand with us!

31 comments:

Markox said...

2 Timothy 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

Such is the world we live in today. Intrepid Lutherans will more than likely not bring unity, but disunity and once again reveal the ever widening Grand Canyon like gap between historic, Confessional Lutheranism and "contemporary" Christian pablum that has a form of godliness but denies its power. Ultimately, I.L. will probably find the only answer is, "From such people turn away" - a highly unpopular notion in a world that seeks to water down all religion into the lowest common denominator.

Rev. Mark D. Ochsankehl
mdo@markox.net

Intrepid Lutherans said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pastor Christopher S. Doerr said...

Reading your "What We Believe" brought to mind this question: is it the position of Intrepid Lutherans that a church or pastor should be put under discipline simply for being non-liturgical?

Please note that I ask this question for the purpose of clarification. My congregation and I use liturgical services consistently.

Pastor Jeff Samelson said...

I am eager to see how this effort of yours plays out. I fear the difficulty will be in getting those you most want to engage to actually come here and join the discussion. Do you have a plan for bringing those voices here?

I look forward to seeing you flesh out your arguments and reasoning for the second and third points under the first "Therefore" on the "What We Believe" page. (You might simplify the fourth and fifth points by saying "spiritual health" and "poor spiritual health".)

In curiosity I also ask: Has this effort/organization/blog, which is directed at the WELS as a whole, been discussed with those charged with spiritual supervision of the synod, i.e. members of the Council of Presidents? And if so and you are at liberty to say, what resulted from those discussions?

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Doerr,

Thanks for a very solid question. “Is it the position of Intrepid Lutherans that a church or pastor should be put under discipline simply for being non-liturgical?”

Short answer: No, that is not our position.

But let’s talk about what we mean by “liturgical.” People talk about the liturgy differently. A WELS layman once accused me of being non-liturgical and even non-Lutheran for using one of the “liturgies” from Christian Worship: Supplement instead of the Common Service straight out of Christian Worship. I had to disagree.

These individual services are all “versions” of the Liturgy. I’ll offer this simple definition of the Liturgy: The Liturgy is the service of God that brings Christ to the people of Christ through the Word of Christ and the Sacraments of Christ. Now if any pastor or church is non-Liturgical by that broad definition, then I would think they should be warned and eventually put under discipline if they persist, for what business does a Lutheran pastor have doing anything but delivering Christ to His people when they gather in His name?

More specifically, the form of the Liturgy has been boiled down by some as 1) Ordinary, 2) Proper, and 3) Meal. If a pastor or church is non-liturgical in the sense that their regular service no longer incorporates those historic elements, then two questions (at least) must be asked:

First, what is it being replaced with? If the Lutheran service begins to look like the Baptist service or the non-denominational service, then those are practices that need to be addressed. Our position is that practice (such as forms of worship) reflects one’s theology, teaches theology and confesses one’s theology, so yes, practice matters.

Second, how does it affect my brothers and sisters in my synod?

That’s not a complete, end-all-be-all answer to your question. I hope to answer it more fully in future posts.

Rev. Fr. Steven D. said...

Pastor Samelson,

Thank you for your interest in our endeavor and for your questions.

We have sent the initial message about our blog to about two dozen Pastors in the WELS who conduct, and/or support and encourage so-called "contemporary worship." We very much want to hear from them, and hope we do.

Concerning your second question, it is our understanding of Biblical and Confessional Lutheran teaching that nothing man himself does either adds or detracts from the Gospel - that we cannot make the proclamation of the Good News either more or less "effective" by what we do or say, or the way we do it or say it - that is the work of the Holy Spirit. We reject the "barriers to the Gospel" approach of some in the WELS, except to say that the only real barrier to the Gospel is sin itself in its various forms. Simply put, we believe that the Means of Grace alone are fully sufficient to bring people to faith, and that it is our task to faithfully preach and teach them, period. So also, when we speak of "methods," those are human tools we use to proclaim the Means of Grace, and, being human, are no better or worse than those using them, and the principles they hold. To say that a certain way of doing things in the Church "saves" more souls than another way is wrong. Now, it is true that certain ways of doing things may point in a clearer or more consistent way to Christ and His Gospel, but that's a different matter.

Regarding your last question, I myself, as one of the originators of this project, and representing it, spoke extensively with two members of the Conference of Presidents throughout the developement of this project. I am not at liberty to discuss their replies in public. And while they cannot at this time endorse our blog, I can say without fear of contradiction that neither of them had any major objections to the creation and publication of this site. In addition, the introductory email for Intrepid Lutherans was sent to the synod President and Vice-President, every District President and Vice-President, most of the Administrators at synod headquarters, and every Circuit Pastor in the WELS, along with a good number of professors at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and Martin Luther College. Altogether, nearly 450 emails were sent out announcing the beginning of Intrepid Lutherans.

I hope I have answered your questions adequately. There will, of course, be much more on the subject of the effectiveness of the Means of Grace as time goes on.

Thank you once again for your questions!

Take care and God bless!

Pastor Spencer

Pastor Jeff Samelson said...

Pastor Spencer:

Thank you for your prompt response to my questions.

I look forward to the discussion here of "effectiveness". Having witnessed discussions of that question/issue on certain WELS email lists in the past, I hope that its treatment here will bring much more light than heat.

And I am encouraged to hear how you discussed this project with members of the CoP and announced it to so many of the men in our synod charged with looking after our doctrine and practice. Wise, brotherly, and responsible.

Thank you. I look forward to reading more here.

Daniel Gorman said...

Pastor Rydecki said, "A WELS layman once accused me of being non-liturgical and even non-Lutheran for using one of the “liturgies” from Christian Worship: Supplement instead of the Common Service straight out of Christian Worship. I had to disagree."

Will the liturgical innovations of Christian Worship be the topic of a future thread (e.g., addition of a corporate absolution, changes to Nicene Creed, omission of infant confession from Baptism, non-Lutheran revisions to Private Confession, etc.)?

"Nevertheless, we confess…
That traditional ceremonies "ought to be observed which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like" (AC:XV).
That our freedom in matters not directly commanded or forbidden by God is not a license to do whatever one wishes, but rather it is a solemn responsibility from God to make choices that edify the whole Church of God (1 Cor. 14:26, FC:SD:X:9).
That any use of our Christian freedom to introduce change into the Church must avoid all frivolity and offense (FC:E:X:5).
That any use of our Christian freedom to introduce change into the Church must take our brothers into consideration and must not disrupt our unity as brothers (Eph. 4:3).
That the true unity of the Church is injured and the doctrine of the Gospel is perverted by those who abandon the liturgy of the Church catholic in favor of sectarian forms that divide Christians into groups based on age, culture or personal preference (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
That the true unity of the Church is injured and the doctrine of the Gospel is perverted by those who ape the enthusiastic, man-centered worship practices of the sects (2 Cor. 6:14, Mat. 7:16)."
Intrepid Lutherans: What We Believe

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Gorman (sorry, don't know if that's your proper title),

"Will the liturgical innovations of Christian Worship be the topic of a future thread (e.g., addition of a corporate absolution, changes to Nicene Creed, omission of infant confession from Baptism, non-Lutheran revisions to Private Confession, etc.)?"

First, let me clarify that the person who called Divine Service I from the Supplement "non-liturgical" did not do so for any of the reasons you mentioned, but merely because it was different from the service he liked best. To him, "liturgical" meant The Common Service, p.15. Period.

I think all the topics you mentioned are fair game for future discussion. I appreciate the suggestion. But, lest anyone misunderstand, these are not part of some "hidden agenda" items we have tucked away somewhere, nor are we trying to suggest that the same rites must be used in every place.

Mr. Daniel Gorman said...

Pastor Rydecki said, "First, let me clarify that the person who called Divine Service I from the Supplement "non-liturgical" did not do so for any of the reasons you mentioned, but merely because it was different from the service he liked best. To him, "liturgical" meant The Common Service, p.15. Period."

The article on liturgy in Wikipedia states, "Frequently in Christianity a distinction is made between "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" churches based on the elaboration and/or antiquity of the worship. . ."

The Common Service originated in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. To determine if DS 1 from the Supplement is "liturgical" or "non-liturgical", we must compare it to the 1549 BCP. If unnecessary changes were made to the 1549 BCP divine service, DS 1 from the Supplement is "non-liturgical" using the strict definition of liturgical.

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Mr. Gorman,

We do not define "liturgical" according to the Wikipedia citation.

Mr. Daniel Gorman said...

Wikipedia also includes a more liberal definition of liturgy: "Typically in Christianity, however, the term 'the liturgy' normally refers to a standardized order of events observed during a religious service, be it a sacramental service or a service of public prayer."

However "liturgy" is defined, I wholehearted agree with the liturgical principles espoused in your "Nevertheless, we confess…" and look forward to future discussions.

Norman Teigen said...

I offer my sincere best wishes to all of you in this project. I will be reading your blog on almost a daily basis.


Norman Teigen
ELS layman

Brian P Westgate said...

There are two liturgical problems with using the 1549 BCP as the litmus test of being "liturgical." They are these: Cranmer ahd already begun to innovate in 1549, and he includes a revision of the Roman Canon. And Cranmer had no influence on the sources of the Common Service, the Kirchenordnungen. Of course there are similitaries with the 1549, because they are (with the exceptions stated above) the same Liturgy. That's why they borrowed the language of the BCP. Why waste time translating when it's already done for you. (Rome could have learned a thing or two there 40 years ago!)

Brett Meyer said...

In your Intrepid Lutherans inaugural post it is stated, "Many would like to simply agree to disagree on these matters rather than disturb the Church over them. That would be understandable if the issues revolved around personal preference. But the issues are theological, not personal. True spiritual unity is not preserved by ignoring theology."

In the spirit of this fine, open and honest statement could you clarify Intrepid Lutherans confession concerning the central article of Christ's doctrine. Do you confess that Universal Objective Justification (UOJ) as taught by the overwhelming majority of clergy in the WELS is correct? Since there isn't a document equal to the Book of Concord that we can point to for the specific doctrinal teaching concerning UOJ I will link the WELS public statements of confession concerning this doctrine for your reference and either agreement or disagreement.

http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BuchholzJustification.pdf
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BeckerJustification.PDF
http://www.wlsessays.net/files/ZarlingJustification.pdf

I look forward to your response as babies, children, women, men, blogs, churches, synods, nations and countries stand or fall upon this the chief article of Christian faith as you correctly pointed out:

With intrepid hearts, we believe, teach and confess…
•That the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ remains the chief article of the Christian faith and the doctrine on which the Church stands or falls (SA:II:I).

In Christ,
Brett Meyer

L P said...

I see that Rev. Rydecki is active here. I admire the intent and spirit of this blog. Finally a blog which is not afraid to tackle face to face the hard issues that everyone knows is there but no one dared to speak about.

I look forward to the discussions.

LPC

Brett Meyer said...

Gentlemen, I apologize for seeming to stack my questions but reading through your blog I came across this statement in your Devotions page, last paragraph of your first devotion entitled Homily on Exodus 17:8-16, "Eventually, the power and love of God, and the fear and greed of our Old Adversary combine to give us the peace of knowing that we are saved from the domination of sin, and that the true paradise of heaven awaits us to enjoy forever!"

How is it that the power and love of God combines with the fear and greed of Satan? And that to give us peace?

As Scripture teaches and the Confessions confirm, Satan has been defeated, crushed so there isn't a combining of evil and good. Through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in working contrition and faith through the Word alone, and through the Word and water in Baptism, man dies to sin, having been under the Law, and is raised again to life in Christ, to live under grace through the righteousness of faith. Faith alone makes of an unjust man in God's sight, a just man in God's sight.

71] "but we maintain this, that properly and truly, by faith itself, we are for Christ's sake accounted righteous, or are acceptable to God. And because "to be justified" means that out of unjust men just men are made, or born again, it means also that they are pronounced or accounted just. For Scripture speaks in both ways. [The term "to be justified" is used in two ways: to denote, being converted or regenerated; again, being accounted righteous. Accordingly we wish first to show this, that faith alone makes of an unjust, a just man, i.e., receives remission of sins".
http://www.bookofconcord.org/defense_4_justification.php

In Christ,
Brett Meyer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Lito! Good to see you here on the blog. We're doing what we can.

And congratulations on your recent degree. Quite an accomplishment!

Rev. Fr. Spencer said...

Greetings, Brett! Thanks for your comments and questions. I am the author of the devotion that was posted, so I will answer your question on that item. I apologize if I was not clear. The devotion was a truncated version of a much longer sermon, and as sometimes happens, full explanations are not always evident. In any case, all I meant is that sometimes the devil over-reaches, that is, God allows him to push us too far for his own dark purpose, and instead of driving us away from Christ, drives us to our knees, and to Christ's mercy and love. After all, Satan may be smart, but God is smarter, and just as with our Lord's Passion, uses the devil's own ambition and lust for victory to actually seal his defeat. My intention was to give my sheep solace and comfort, so that even in the midst of the ebb and flow of their own good fight of faith, they would hold on to the fact that God will do what it takes to see through safely to their heavenly home. I hope this clarifies the point.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Brett, (regarding your first comment)

Having read some of your comments in the blogosphere, I know this issue is dear to your heart. I also know that a debate over terms that have been used and statements that have been made on this issue can become all-consuming.

We posted your question because you have the right to ask it. But we are not in a position at the moment to conduct a thorough review of the essays you linked to, or to pick through statements made by WELS pastors over the decades. Contrary to popular belief, we really are not here to bring down WELS as an institution or to burn our brothers at the stake.

In spite of some inconsistencies, unclear terminology or inaccurate statements that may have been made by some over the years, I do not believe that any WELS pastor, as far as I know, teaches Universalism. Our seminary does not teach that a person can be eternally saved apart from faith in Christ, or that unbelievers are counted as righteous before God while they remain separated from Christ through unbelief.

You asked for us at Intrepid Lutherans to clarify our confession about the Chief Article. That I cannot hesitate to do.

We confess that God wants all men to be saved, not just some (1 Tim. 2:4).

We confess that Christ’s atoning death on the cross was the full payment for the sins of the world, not only of those who believe (1 Tim. 2:5-6, 1 Jn. 2:2).

We confess “that sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ as our Atoning Sacrifice, ‘whom God put forward as a propitiation’ (Romans 3:25). Furthermore, Paul adds, ‘by faith.’ Therefore, this atonement benefits us in this way: We receive the mercy promised in Him by faith and set it against God’s wrath and judgment (AP IV:82).

We confess that this justifying faith is not man’s work, but the gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8-9, AP IV:64), and that “faith justifies and saves, not because it is a worthy work in itself, but only because it receives the promised mercy” (AP IV:56).

We confess that “God cannot be interacted with, God cannot be grasped, except through the Word. So justification happens through the Word, just as Paul says in Romans 1:16, ‘[The Gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes’” (AP IV:67).


This is obviously a summary statement. I don’t know if that will satisfy you, but it will have to do for now.

David said...

I'm interested in where this is going but I have to say that you already seem to be straying to far into the ditch on the other side. Two examples: 1)Your approach to the discussion leaves a lot to be desired. The cry that I've always listened to is Ad Fontes. I'm happy that you're studying the confessions, and maybe it's just an oversight, but many of the things you believe are listed without going to scripture. This is not the way to build unity.

2)In your what we believe you talk about people apeing a man-centered worship style, which seems like a standard that we just can't use, because it judges the heart which we can't do.

Yours in Christ,
David Endorf
Pastor St. John-St. Peter, Cleveland WI

Mr. Daniel Gorman said...

Brian P Westgate opines, "There are two liturgical problems with using the 1549 BCP as the litmus test of being "liturgical." They are these: Cranmer ahd already begun to innovate in 1549, and he includes a revision of the Roman Canon. And Cranmer had no influence on the sources of the Common Service, the Kirchenordnungen."

The 1549 BCP may not have been "liturgical" when it was written but it is now. After 500 plus years of constant use (the Anglican Church still uses the 1549 BCP), the unnecessary changes of Cranmer and earlier authors have become part of the liturgy. With the exception of necessary changes (e.g., doctrinal errors are never necessary), modern day Common Service texts must conform to the 1549 BCP text to be considered liturgical in the strictest sense.

Brett Meyer said...

Rev. Fr. Spencer, thank you for your response. I will think through your statements carefully in a sincere attempt to understand exactly what you were teaching.

Rev. Rydecki, thank you for your response concerning this blogs confession concerning Justification. My question was simply to know what you teach concerning the central doctrine. As your blog has confirmed, this is pivotal to understanding whether or not this is a Christian endeavor.

You state, "Contrary to popular belief, we really are not here to bring down WELS as an institution or to burn our brothers at the stake." I assure you that it is not my objective either. It's unfortunate that efforts to clarify what someone teaches about the central doctrine, and to promote it using Scripture and the BOC, are received by some as attempts to tear people or organizations down. Surely you are receiving these comments already concerning this blogs desire for pure doctrine and right practice as is inferred in a comment above.

I believe you, by the grace of God, provided an outstanding confession concerning Justifcation by faith alone.

This is your blog to do with as you wish. I appreciate that you allowed my questions and comments. I do believe that to solve the problems caused by the New Age Church Growth doctrines, methods and practices its central enabling doctrine of Universal Objective Justification as taught and confessed in the above linked WELS essays will have to be dealt with in great detail, faithfully applying Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

The Lord's will be done.

In Christ,
Brett Meyer

Jonathan Rupprecht said...

You rightly caution against man-centered worship style. Isn't it also helpful to caution against "worldly" worship style? So much of contemporary worship style mimics worldly entertainment style, especially the soloist at a mike taking the place of a congregation joining in singing. Yes, guitars, etc. are certainly adiaphora, but when one walks into church and sees the drum sets, mikes, electric guitars, etc. up front, one wonders what the congregation or minister is trying to do, and one feels uneasy about this very "worldly" issue.

WELS seems reluctant to discuss "style" of worship, since it is in the adiaphora camp. But of course that very fact demonstrates the need for discernment in worship style, certainly including a humble discernment about whether a worldly influence is shaping our worship style. I Cor.9:22 dare never be separated from I Cor. 10:23!

Let's face it: style of worship both reflects and affects one's view of God!

Jonathan Rupprecht
WLS 1978

Rev. Fr. Steven D. said...

Jonathan,

Thank you for your observations. For myself, I have always believed that the old saying, "lex orandi est lex credendi" is a very good guide to how we worship. I ask myself how what I am doing or proposing serves our unique profession as confessional Lutherans and also members of the Church catholic, and thus serves that portion of Christ's Church over which he has made me an overseer. I hope and pray that such a guide is used more and more by all our brother Shepherds. This would solve a lot of problems!

Brian P Westgate said...

Well, if that's the case Mr. Gorman, than the Ukrainian Lutheran Church isn't liturgical, and neither is the well-known liturgical parish Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit, MI, or the editors of Gottesdienst, the Motley Magpie, and The Bride of Christ, and so on and so forth. I fear you're working with a definition that is biased towards the Anglicans and pays no attention to the Lutherans. We do well to remember that our reformation, NOT the Anglican one, is the conservative reformation.

Mr. Daniel Gorman said...

Brian P Westgate opines, "I fear you're working with a definition that is biased towards the Anglicans and pays no attention to the Lutherans. We do well to remember that our reformation, NOT the Anglican one, is the conservative reformation."

No! Not at all. Anglican Church doctrine is a heterodox mixture of Papist and Calvinist errors. The 1549 BCP is the Anglican Church's first and most orthodox prayer book; however, it does contain many errors. Any Lutheran liturgy would require revision of 1549 BCP text. However, Lutheran liturgy opposes unnecessary changes to the 1549 BCP text for the reasons specified in "Nevertheless, we confess…"

When orthodox Lutheran synods were converting to English, most chose the 1549 BCP to be their prime liturgy. They could have and perhaps should have simply translated their own historic liturgies into English. One exception was the ELS. The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary includes the 1549 BCP Service (Rite Two). However, the prime liturgy of the ELS is a translation of Danish-Norwegian Rite of 1685 (Rite One).

The Elephant in the room is WELS Christian Worship. Intrepid Lutherans must confront the fact that the WELS hymnal does not meet the criteria of "Nevertheless, we confess…"

Brian P Westgate said...

Mr. Gorman, I don't think you understand how the Common Service came about. Read what the men who put together say about it, such as Jacobs and Horn I. It's straight from the Kirchenordnungen.

You got your definition of "strictly liturgical" from somewhere. If from a dictionary, it probably was biased towards the Anglicans.

Now on CW, no argument there!

Mr. Daniel Gorman said...

Brian P Westgate opines, "Mr. Gorman, I don't think you understand how the Common Service came about. Read what the men who put together say about it, such as Jacobs and Horn I. It's straight from the Kirchenordnungen."

I have read their statements. The Common Service is straight from the Kirchenordnungen. The 1549 BCP is a Lutheran church order, ". . . the first Prayerbook of Edward VI, 1549 (whose place among Lutheran liturgies is shown in our chart) entitles us to free use of the inimitable English translations given in that book." The Lutheran Sources of the Common Service by Edward Horn. "There is an extremely close agreement between this first Prayer Book of the Church of England and the Common Service" Preface to Common Service, 1888.

I will concede, after comparing the 1549 BCP and 1888 Common Service communion liturgies, that there is much less agreement than I would have expected based on the Preface statement. The extensive differences between the two cannot be resolved as "necessary" changes.

Brian P Westgate opines, "You got your definition of "strictly liturgical" from somewhere. If from a dictionary, it probably was biased towards the Anglicans."

Wikipedia, but they rejected it as being too restrictive.

Brian P Westgate opines, "Now on CW, no argument there!"

That was my main point anyway!

LutherRocks said...

Pastor Rydecki,

You stated this in a response to Brett Meyer:

"In spite of some inconsistencies, unclear terminology or inaccurate statements that may have been made by some over the years, I do not believe that any WELS pastor, as far as I know, teaches Universalism. Our seminary does not teach that a person can be eternally saved apart from faith in Christ, or that unbelievers are counted as righteous before God while they remain separated from Christ through unbelief."

And yet if you read the following excerpt from "This We Believe" we do teach a justification apart from faith:

"IV. JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH

1. We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ. This is the central message of Scripture upon which the very existence of the church depends. It is a message relevant to people of all times and places, of all races and social levels, for "the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for "the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men" (Romans 5:18)."

I have to commend you on the rest of your response to Brett as your confession was quite scriptural with the correct usage of the word atonement in lieu of the usual suspects of forgiveness, justification and righteousness of which you used carefully within the context of faith. Thank you.

I have heard WELS pastors say that the sinner is declared righteous by the death of Christ and made righteous through faith, but I have a hard time with this. This is God we are talking about. If he makes a declaration is it not so? He can not lie!

I am not here to bring down WELS either, but only on a quest for true scriptural doctrine. This tale of Subjective Justification and Universal Justification in my opinion is junk. I was brought up in the WELS Synod and was never taught this as a confirmand. How do you reconcile Abraham in all of it, the father of our faith?

I know you and the other Pastors are in a tough spot when it comes to these kinds of discussion especially since so much ink has been devoted to it over the years in favor of two justifications. Is it possible that this may be a contributing factor to some of our other ills?

Peace in Christ,
Joe Krohn

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe,

I think some of our statements could be worded more clearly. The one you quoted above seems to imply that those who do not believe in Christ already have a righteous status before God. The Scriptures don't speak that way about unbelievers (aka, "the wicked"). While God's mercy clearly extends to all and Christ's sacrifice is certainly the propitiation for all, it's also clear that one's righteous status before God is only in Christ, not apart from Christ, and that one becomes "in Christ" through faith alone.

What many are trying to guard against is the notion that "God has done his part. Now you have to do yours: You have to believe!" That's wrong, and we're right to guard against such a notion. Faith is not man's work that man must complete to be justified. It is the work of God as his Holy Spirit creates justifying faith through the preaching of the Gospel.

Another thing that people are trying to guard against is the notion that man's faith effects a change in the heart of God, as if God were angry until man complied with the "faith requirement," because of which God puts his anger aside and finally forgives. That, too, is wrong.

Luther speaks of forgiveness won (at the cross of Christ) and forgiveness distributed (through the preaching of the Gospel). What is the objective reality conveyed in the preaching of the Gospel? It is the promise that, by faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice, we have the favor of a loving Father. The promise is objective (true, whether you believe it or not). Christ's sacrifice is objective (a valid Substitute for all men). God's will for the salvation of all men is objective. The righteous status, however, is imputed only to faith.

Essentially, there are two verdicts of which Scripture speaks: condemnation for those who remain in Adam (the natural state of us all), and justification for those who are in Christ. There are not two justifications. There is one justification, pronounced upon Christ as the Substitute for all men (in this sense, it is objective). When the Spirit brings us into Christ by faith, then we, too, share in that verdict.

The answer you mentioned hearing above about being "declared righteous" and then "made righteous" through faith is incorrect.

There are so many Scripture passages to quote, and so many references to this in the Confessions. I'll save that for a future post.

A "contributing factor to some of our other ills"? Perhaps. We need a firm grasp on the doctrine of justification, and we need to do an honest exegesis of the passages in question.

And we will do well to study the Confessions as our primary aid in understanding the Scriptural teaching of Justification by faith.

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