It was in the heat of these disputes, as Confessional Lutheranism in America was developing her own doctrinal foundation, that the terms "Objective Justification" and "Subjective Justification" entered and became a normative part of the theological lexicon of the Synodical Conference. To understand why, it is important to understand the issues involved: not just that of Election, but Justification and Conversion and their relation to each other in Election. In order to avoid the synergistic conclusions of the Ohio and Iowa Synods, the completion of God's work in Christ on behalf of all men, had to be phrased and understood in a way that maintained its "objectivity," that unmistakably held that God's work on behalf of man is complete and was "entirely outside of man." On the other hand, all of God's subjective work, His work in man, must constitute nothing other than the distribution of God's completed work in Christ, and not itself be any part of His work on man's behalf. If man's faith is regarded as completing this work, the wicked falsehood of synergism prevails.
The work below, taken from a book written by Carl Manthey-Zorn in 1913 (translated from German to English in 1931 and published by Northwestern Publishing House), considers all of these issues and explains them in context. The name of the book is, Questions on Christian Topics: Answered from the Word of God, and was intended for use by laymen. I excerpt from pages 72 through 110, in their entirety. Some readers may be familiar with Carl Manthey-Zorn's devotional, Manna, a devotional which was given to me and my wife as a wedding gift, and has since remained our family devotional of choice after having used Laache's Family Book of Prayer, Giertz's To Live with Christ, and a devotional taken from Walther's sermons, God Grant It. Personal, yet objective and Christ-centered, pastoral yet substantive and doctrinal, Zorn appeals not only to mom and dad, but can be reduced as we read it out loud, to appeal to children ranging from two to eight, and older. If only we can convince the Sullivans to get it back in print!! Such is true of Zorn's fantastic devotional commentary on the Psalms, recently published in English by NPH. The picture of him, at left, is taken from my personal copy of this work in German, Die Psalmen, and a biography of him submitted by Robert Koester can be found here. A witness to the controversy over Election, his first-hand explanation is invaluable.
Also valuable is an historical preface to the Election controversy within Lutheranism, written by ELC historians E. Clifford Nelson and Eugene L. Fevold, in Volume 2 of their work, The Lutheran Church Among Norwegian-Americans: A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, published in 1960 by Augsburg Fortress Press. On pages 162-166, they summarize a large portion of the second half of Volume 1 and the first half of Volume 2, to recontextualize for the reader wider issues preventing the merger of Norwegian Lutheran church bodies in 1910-1911. They write thus:
- By and large, the first Election Controversy came to center around two opposing charges, one that the Missourians were Calvinists and the other that the Anti-Missourians were synergists. Vehement denials of the charges were forthcoming from both camps. Walther answered the charge of his opponents by saying that the Missourian position set forth both the universal will of God to save men and the particular election of some to salvation, including everything thereto appertaining, viz. faith. Here, said Walther, were two distinct decrees, which though inexplicable, were not contradictory. Therefore, it was impossible to harmonize the doctrine of election by grace alone with the universal promises of the gospel. Any attempt to explain or harmonize them would lead inevitably to rationalism and synergism. Why God had chosen to elect some rather than others (cur alii prae aliis?) was a question that the Scriptures did not answer. It was a mystery and so it must remain until the end of time. In saying this Walther and the Missourians were actually transcending their theological method without knowing it. The method of “orthodoxy” was often guilty of subordinating biblical interpretation to the “system,” thus forcing exegesis to conform to dogmatics.
The Anti-Missourians answered Walther by saying that he had not escaped the rigors of at least semi-Calvinism. If God, through election, could cause faith in the hearts of some men who were stubborn sinners was not this the same as saying that his grace was irresistible? Moreover, the Calvinistic error of the Missourians, despite their loud denials, was most apparent in their theological method. In place of giving the material principle of the Reformation (justification by faith) the pivotal position over against which all other doctrines were to be judged, they had made the fatal mistake of introducing the doctrine of divine sovereignty as the major premise in their theological system. This was apparent when they made faith subject to election. But to seek to avoid the pitfalls of Calvinism by crying, “Mystery,” when one was pressed for an explanation why God could cause faith in some and not in others, was to beg the question. One did not escape difficulties by retreating into mystery. To be sure, the formula intuitu fidei did not remove the element of mystery, but the locus of mystery had been shifted from God to man. In the doctrine of election men were confronted not by a theological mystery, but by an anthropological psychological mystery. Why some men accepted grace and others did not was admittedly a mystery, but to remove this from the temporal theater of man to the eternal decree of God was to weaken man's responsibility in the decision for or against the proffered grace of God.
In this manner, the fundamental question as to the relation of the general will of God to save all men to the specific will of God in electing a few to salvation began to revolve around the admissibility of the expression intuitu fidei. The Missourians charged that it made faith the cause of election. Faith became meritorious and was therefore destructive of sola gratia. This was unadulterated synergism. The Anti-Missourians replied that this was a mistaken view of faith. Just as faith was not the cause of our justification, so faith was never the meritorious cause of election. The proper expression was justificatio propter Christum per fidem (justification because of Christ through faith), not propter fidem per Christum (because of faith through Christ). Likewise the cause of our election rested on the merit of Christ, not in any alleged merit of faith. The nature of faith precluded the idea of merit. Nevertheless, though faith was never the cause of election, election was never apart from faith. Election was in view of faith, not as merit, but as an instrument without which it was impossible to please God. Therefore, one must insist on election intuitu fidei.
In this way, it will readily be seen that the ancient problem of God's grace and man's responsibility in salvation had reappeared in American Lutheranism. The one group, exalting the sovereign grace of God at the same time as it denied the Calvinistic implications of this position, claimed that its tenets were set forth in Article XI of the Formula of Concord. This article came to be known as the First Form.
On the other hand, those who repudiated the teachings of Walther's Missouri Synod claimed that a Second Form of the doctrine, election in view of foreseen faith, was the only proper interpretation of the Formula of Concord and the Scriptural presentation of predestination. Without intuitu fidei the teaching on election made of man an automaton moved by the irresistible grace of God to believe in Christ. And what was this but Calvinism!
As to the expression, intuitu fidei, the Anti-Missourians admitted that it was not to be found in the Formula of Concord. However, not many years after the signing of the Formula (1577) a controversy appeared in which the Calvinists began to claim that the Lutherans also were teaching, in the Formula of Concord, a special decree of election. It was then that the late sixteenth and the seventeenth century dogmaticians found it necessary to use intuitu fidei to explain that there was a difference between the Formula of Concord and Calvinism: the former proclaiming an election conditioned by faith, the latter unconditioned election to eternal life or eternal death.
The Missourians insisted that the First Form, or the Formula of Concord without explanatory phrases, should be the only teaching of the church. On the other hand, the Anti-Missourians in various synods insisted that the denial of the Second Form was a danger not only to personal faith but to "the faith" of the church. A non-American commentator observed, with considerable theological insight, that the Norwegian-Missourians had cured the sickness (synergism) but, in doing so, had slain the patient!
It was on this point that agreement could not be reached, and after each side had spent itself in castigating the other, the controversy finally subsided in the 1890's. It lay dormant for over a decade and was all but forgotten by Norwegian church people whose emotions has been strained by the altercation in the United Church over Augsburg Seminary.
After fifteen years of doctrinal quiescence, the debate on election was resumed. We have taken pains to trace these latter events in detail. It has been apparent that the unresolved tensions of the 1880's were projected into the discussions of 1908-1911. This fact together with other circumstances led the churches to the deadlock of 1911...
C. Nelson & E. Fevold. (1960). The Lutheran Church Among Norwegian-Americans: A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Vol. 2). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House. pp. 162-166.
C. Zorn. (1931). Questions on Christian Topics: Answered from the Word of God (J. Rimbach, Trans.). Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House (Original work published in German, 1913). pp. 72-110.
A Very Brief History of the Ohio Synod and Context of the Election Dispute
[The Ohio Synod], in her constitution, holds aloft the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
- From 1818 on this church body existed under the name of a General Conference, but later constituted itself as the 'Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Ohio and Other States.' For several decades this synod was unionistic but in the course of time assumed a Lutheran coloring. Up to 1871 she stood quite alone, neither uniting with the General Synod nor with the General Council. However, in 1871, having declared herself in harmony with the Missouri Synod in point of doctrine, the Ohio Synod, together with the Missouri Synod, took membership in the Synodical Conference. But only ten years later she severed her connection with this body. She had drifted away from the Lutheran doctrine of Election and from various other Lutheran doctrines, and in a written statement, bearing date September 21, 1881, she withdrew from the orthodox Church. Since that day she has stood alone, just as she formerly did, and obstinately refuses to give up her false doctrines. (Grosse, Distinctive Doctrines, p. 30.)
Some time prior to the aforestated secession of the Ohio Synod from the Synodical Conference, a professor and several pastors of the Missouri Synod had, together with a professor of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which likewise belonged to the Synodical Conference, publicly accused the Missouri Synod of having accepted a new and false doctrine of Election, to-wit: the doctrine of Calvin and the Calvinists. What the false doctrine of Calvin and his followers is, concerning Election, we had occasion to point out when we spoke of certain special false doctrines taught by some of the Reformed church bodies1. Doctrinal discipline proved of no avail. Yea, the men in question were found to make the same accusation against Missouri touching the doctrine of Conversion, and even dissented from Missouri in the doctrine of Justification. So Missouri’s accusers left the Missouri Synod and opened up negotiations with Ohio. And Ohio championed their cause. The Norwegian accuser left the Norwegian Synod and joined another Norwegian church body, which shared his doctrinal position, and the Ohio Synod, as we have said, withdrew from the Synodical Conference.2
Now, he that would gain a clear conception of this controversy must not begin by taking up the doctrine of Election. No one can rightly understand the doctrine of Holy Writ concerning Election unless he has a correct understanding of the doctrines of Justification and Conversion. In like manner, no one can form a true judgment of the controversy which the Synodical Conference has with the Ohio Synod touching the doctrine of Election except he have formed a true judgment of the controversy which the Synodical Conference has with the Ohio touching Justification and Conversion. Also, if one should undertake to discuss doctrinal matters with an Ohioan, it were very foolish and to no purpose to begin with the doctrine of Election. First an agreement must be reached in the doctrines of Justification and Conversion.
Thus also in this book we must first seek to form a true estimate of the controversy which the Synodical Conference has with the Ohio Synod concerning Justification.
The Controversy Concerning Justification
Every Christian knows that "Justification" is the same as forgiveness of sins. Nor is this disputed by the Ohio Synod. On the contrary, Ohio affirms that he who has forgiveness of sins is just in the sight of God, is justified. Every Christian knows furthermore that we receive forgiveness of sins, or justification, by faith. Neither is this disputed by the Ohio Synod.
Thus far there is no controversy.
But now the controversy begins.
The Synodical Conference says:
- In Christ forgiveness of sins, or justification, is already accomplished and is held in store for the entire world. When God accepted Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the entire world, He forgave the sins of all the world and justified the world unto eternal life. This forgiveness of sins and justification, which is in Christ, God offers to all the world by means of His Word and Holy Spirit. And whosoever receives this forgiveness of sins and justification possesses it. In this manner we receive, by faith, the forgiveness of sins and are justified and saved.
- We believe and confess that in the atoning work of Jesus Christ holy and merciful God has met us half-way, as it were, so that now He is able to forgive and justify us; justification itself, however, is not accomplished until, by the grace of God, the spark of faith has been kindled in a poor sinner’s heart; then God forgives the sinner's sins unto him. (Kirchenzeitung, January 17, 1905.)
Who is right? Who is right according to the Word of God: the Synodical Conference or the Ohio Synod? Read each party’s statement once more.
The Word of God says: Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men unto condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life (Ro. 5:18). And: God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (II Co. 5:19).
And our Confession says: We believe, teach, and confess that faith alone is the means and instrument whereby we lay hold of Christ, and thus in Christ of that righteousness which avails before God, for the sake of which this faith is imputed to us for righteousness (Ro. 4:5) (FC, Ep. III, Aff. 3. [quoted translation by Jacobs]).
And we beg to ask: How can faith grasp, in Christ, the righteousness that avails in the sight of God, except this righteousness have been, prior to faith, prepared by Christ and except it be kept in store for us in Christ and be offered and handed to us through God's Word and Holy Spirit, as the Synodical Conference says?
Now, where do we find in the Word of God what the, Ohio Synod says? Where do we find in the Word of God that in Christ's atoning work holy and merciful God has only met us half-way, so that now He is able to forgive us our sins and justify us; that justification itself is not accomplished until, by the grace of God, the spark faith has been kindled in a poor sinner's heart, and that God then forgives the sinner’s sins? Nowhere do we find this in the Bible.
If, in the atoning work of Christ, God has only met half-way, so that now He is merely able to forgive us our sins; if justification itself is not accomplished until faith is in the sinner’s heart: why, then the atoning work of Christ is not sufficient to effect forgiveness and justification, but our faith must also contribute something to this end.
Ohio’s position in this matter is shared by Iowa.
Both synods deprive justifying faith of its Biblical character, that of simply receiving, accepting, and grasping, the forgiveness of sins which is in store for all the world in Christ Jesus; and in an unbiblical manner ascribe to it a different character. What character? This, by our faith we so conduct ourselves as to contribute something toward our forgiveness and justification.
That such is the case we shall see clearly when we — now — learn to understand the controversy which the Synodical Conference has with the Ohio Synod concerning the doctrine of Conversion.
The Controversy Concerning Conversion
Every Christian knows that conversion is identical with faith in jesus Christ. And this is not disputed by the Ohio Synod. The Ohio Synod affirms that he who believes in Christ is converted.
Every Christian knows that we believe in Jesus Christ — or that we are converted — by the grace of God by means of His Word and Holy Spirit. The Ohio Synod says as much.
Thus far there is no controversy.
But now the controversy begins.
The Synodical Conference says:
- Faith in Jesus Christ, or conversion, is wrought wholly and solely by the grace of God through God's Word and Holy Spirit. Man can not in any wise or in any conceivable manner contribute anything toward his own conversion. Man's conversion does not depend in the least upon man himself. It depends on God alone. For, prior to his conversion, before he is converted, man is, in spiritual matters, in matters pertaining to faith, entirely blind, altogether dead, yea, he is God's enemy and withal Satan's captive and slave, and has neither trace nor semblance of a free will. The only thing, therefore, that a man, prior to his conversion, before his conversion has been effected, the only thing that he can do when the grace of God, through God's Word and Holy Spirit, comes near him and seeks to convert him, is: resist such grace and that with all hostility and malice and with all the strength at his command. The moment a man ceases from such resistance, or any resistance, against the grace of God, and assumes a proper conduct toward such grace; the moment his will is, by the grace of God, made free, so that it sees that the Gospel of Christ is divine truth: then, aye, then, things have not come to such a pass that such a man can, by the grace of God, be converted, or that he then undergoes conversion, but then, aye, things have come to such a pass that said man is converted; faith is kindled in his heart, the new spiritual life is created, and that solely and entirely by the grace of God through God's Word and Holy Spirit. The man himself has contributed nothing, absolutely nothing, toward his conversion. If, on the other hand, a man is not converted by the grace of God when such grace comes near him and seeks to convert him, if he does not become a believer, is not born again: then the fault is his, and his alone; he would not. In no wise is the non—conversion of a man to be attributed to God, as though God had not done to such a man what He has done to others, who are converted. Here human reason is utterly at sea. Grant that two men are in equal guilt, that God's gracious will is the same toward both, that God's Word and Holy Spirit is equally efficacious toward both, and you cannot comprehend how one can be converted while the other is not. This is one of the inscrutable mysteries of God, the solution of which Divine Wisdom has reserved unto herself. Human reason cannot reconcile these two things. We believe exactly what the Word of God tells us and silence human reason.
The Ohio Synod says:
- When the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, works at the heart of a man in order to convert and save him, and yet that man is not converted and saved, this is due solely and entirely to the fact that that man has failed to properly conduct himself toward the Holy Spirit's saving grace at work upon his heart; had he properly conducted himself — a thing he was able to do in the strength of such grace at work upon his heart — he would have been converted and saved without fail. From this it follows as a thing beyond dispute that in a certain respect conversion and salvation depend also upon man and not upon God alone. (Theol. Zeitblaetter, 1887, p. 325.)
- Obviously, it is not that resistance which is natural, which is common to all men, and which clings to the very best of Christians down to their dying day; for in that case the Holy Spirit could not convert any one in the general order of salvation. It is an extraordinary resistance, a resistance superadded to the natural resistance, a wilful and wanton resistance, a resistance which, at the time it is exercised, one is able to abstain from in the power one then has. (Theol. Zeitblaetter, 1904, p. 73.)
- We mean simply this: that God in the process of conversion, does so influence a man and, unless conversion is to be regarded as the result of an irresistible grace, must so influence a man, that, under such influence, he is able to abstain from that resistance which he at all times has the power to exercise against even the most abounding grace. And this ability one may also call a power; not a power that has passed into his permanent possession, indeed, but one that the Holy Spirit is, by the means of grace, transmitting unto him who is in the process of conversion.3 (Theol. Zcitblaetter, May, 1905.)
- When God comes to a man with His Word and Holy Spirit in order to convert and save him, then God must endue this man, before he is converted, with such power that he is able to properly conduct himself, namely, to abstain from a certain wilful and wanton resistance. This power is transmitted by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace unto every man upon whom He is, by the means of grace, performing His work. If such a man, unconverted as yet, makes right use of this power, he will be converted without fail. And thus, in this respect, conversion and salvation do not depend upon God alone, but also upon man.
- Whether a man will be saved or lost depends, in the last analysis, upon that man's own free decision either for or against God’s grace. (Brobst, Theolog. Monatshefte, 1872, p. 49.)
Two men, A and B, each hear the Gospel. In A's case resistance (against God's grace at work in the Gospel) and death is taken away; in B's case it is not. The cause of this is to be sought in the free self-determination of these men, although such free self—determination was only made possible by the grace of God. (Ibid., p. 80.)
That two men may hear the Gospel and one of them come to believe while the other does not, this, according to the Bible, has its cause solely and entirely in man's decision (for or against the Gospel). (Ibid., p. 82.)
He (God) suffers man's decision to determine whom He shall have mercy upon and whom He shall harden. (Ibid., p. 88.)
The sober truth that man decides for or against salvation must be strongly emphasized. (Ibid., p. 98.)
Both synods flatly contradict all that the Synodical Conference says about a man's conversion. Look at the matter once more.
Both synods, Ohio, and Iowa, teach that faith in Jesus Christ, or conversion, are not solely and entirely due to the grace of God; that a man is able to contribute something toward his own conversion, namely, to properly conduct himself toward the converting grace of the Holy Spirit at work upon him; that his conversion does not depend on God alone, but depends, in a certain respect, upon himself also; hence, that a man, before his conversion, is able to do something more than merely resist the grace of God, that he is able to abstain from wilful and wanton resistance; that when a man does abstain from this wilful and wanton resistance, and when he does properly conduct himself toward the grace of God, and when his will has been made free: that when he is not yet converted, but that then he can be converted and will be converted without fail; that a man has the freedom to decide for salvation. And both synods see no inscrutable divine mystery whatever in the fact that of two men to whom the Gospel is preached one is liable to be converted while the other is not.4
Who is right? Who is right according to God’s Word, the Synodical Conference or the Ohio and Iowa Synods?
The Word of God says: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (I Co. 2:14). Thus it is with the natural man, i.e., with the man that is not yet converted: when the Holy Spirit comes to such a man and works at his heart to convert and save him, then this man receives none of these things which the Holy Spirit, through the Word, tells him and brings him; they are all foolishness to him, neither can he know these things, that is, recognize in them the truth of God. For they must be discerned, or judged, spiritually, that is, with a mind which the Holy Spirit has, by the Word, born again, made spiritual. Only we Christians, who already are converted, "have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God." (I Co. 2:12).
The Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, writes furthermore: Even when we were dead in sins, (God) hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) (Ep. 2:5). Such as were spiritually dead, God has spiritually quickened; and that must, indeed, be grace, pure and unadulterated grace. We Christians were spiritually dead. God has quickened us, converted and saved us. Thus we have been converted and saved by grace, wholly and solely by the grace of God. For, being dead we surely could not contribute anything toward our quickening, could neither do nor cease doing, "abstain" from doing, anything. Being dead, we surely could not "properly conduct" ourselves toward such grace of God, which came to us and worked at our hearts through God's Word and Holy Spirit. There was nothing in us but death, putrid, spiritual death. Do we know what that is? There is no mean, no intermediate state, between death and life. A man is either dead or alive. His life may be at a very low ebb: he may be half dead, as it were. But still he is alive. Death cannot be said to be at a low ebb. Where a man is dead he is dead. There is no mean, no intermediate state, between spiritual death and spiritual life. A man is either spiritually dead or spiritually alive. His spiritual life may, as yet, be a mere spark, or it may be a very low ebb; yet the man is spiritually alive. Spiritual death cannot be said to be a mere spark or to be at a very low ebb. When a man is spiritually dead he is spiritually dead. There is no mean, no intermediate state, between non-conversion and conversion. A man is either unconverted or converted. His convertedness may be a mere spark as yet, or it may be at a very low ebb; yet, he is in a state of conversion, he is converted. A man's unconvertedness cannot be a mere spark or be at a low ebb. When a man is unconverted he is unconverted. There is no mean, no intermediate state, between faith and unbelief. Either a man has faith or he is an unbeliever. A man's faith may be a mere spark as yet, or may be at a very low ebb. Notwithstanding, he is a believer. Unbelief cannot be a mere spark or be at a very low ebb. When a man is an unbeliever he is an unbeliever. That God quickened us, therefore, when we were dead, spiritually dead; that God converted us when we were unconverted; that He made us believers when we were unbelievers: that was done wholly and entirely, solely and alone, by God's grace. We did absolutely nothing to bring this about, neither did we, unto this end, abstain from doing anything. We surely did not "properly conduct" ourselves, neither had we any power so to do. We were dead. And when we were dead God quickened us. In like manner St. Paul writes to us Christians, Co. 2:12: Ye are risen ... through the faith of the operation of God. From spiritual death are we risen. How? "Through the faith." The very first spark of spiritual life was faith itself. And of whose operation, or working, is faith? God’s unqualifiedly. God’s, God’s alone.
Christ says to Nicodemus: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jo. 3:3). Here the Lord Jesus solemnly declares: Except a man be born again, except he be converted, except he become a believer, and thus be brought into the Kingdom of God, he cannot see the Kingdom of God, he cannot have any conception or understanding of the Kingdom of God, or of aught that pertains thereto. Hence, prior to the new birth, prior to a man’s conversion and faith, prior to his actual entrance into the Kingdom of God, there surely cannot be found in him any such thing as "proper conduct," as abstainment from any kind of resistance against the grace of God, when such grace comes to him and works at his heart in order to convert him and usher him into the Kingdom of God. Least of all is he capable of a free self-determination in favor of the grace and Kingdom of God. The very opposite of all this is present with him. Listen! The Lord Jesus says: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (Jo. 3:6). As long as a man is not born of the Spirit, as long as he is not converted, as long as he has not been made a believer and brought into the Kingdom of God: he is flesh. What does that mean? It means he is a natural man, unconverted, unbelieving, without the Kingdom of God. How is he then minded? How is every thought and imagination of his heart? What is his mind? Yea, what is the mind of the flesh? It is a carnal mind. A man who is flesh, as yet, is carnally minded. His mind, every thought and imagination of his heart, is carnal. What manner of mind, what manner of thought and imagination, is that? The Apostle Paul says by the Holy Spirit: The carnal mind, the mind, the thought, the imagination, of the flesh, of the natural, unconverted, unbelieving man, of the man who has not yet entered the Kingdom of God, is enmity against God (Ro. 8:7). The "flesh" hates God and everything that is Godlike and spiritual. It cannot do otherwise. Flesh and spirit are absolute and irreconcilable contrasts, they are opposites. And now when the grace of God, through His Word and Holy Spirit, comes to a man that is flesh, in order to convert him, what then? Aye, what then? Will the flesh then “properly conduct" itself, will it "abstain from wilful and wanton resistance," will it "freely,” of its own accord, "decide for," and choose salvation? Salvation? The Spirit-Word? The natural man, the flesh, receiveth not this thing. It is foolishness unto him, neither can he know it; for it is spiritual discerned; he is enmity against it, he hates it; for it is spiritual, of God's spirit, it is of God, and he hates God. And the closer God, through His Word and Holy Spirit comes to the man who is flesh, the stronger, the mightier, the more powerful His efforts to convert and save him: the more, the worse, the more furiously, the more wilfully and wantonly that man will resist God and be enmity against Him and His grace and Word of grace concerning the salvation in Christ — till, till, till he is overcome, till he is born of the Spirit, till he is converted, made a believer, and ushered into the Kingdom of God.
Thus the matter stands according to the Word of God. The Synodical Conference is right. Conversion to God and faith in Jesus Christ are wrought wholly and solely by the grace of God. Man contributes nothing toward his own conversion, neither can he do so. A man’s conversion is in no wise dependent upon himself, it is dependent upon God alone. And all this talk by the leaders, or rather misleaders, of the Ohio and Iowa Synods about "proper conduct," "abstainment from wilful and wanton resistance," about "free self-determination" on the part of man prior to his actual conversion — all this talk is the merest rank of quibbling theological quacks who will not follow the Word of God alone, but allow themselves to be governed by all manner of human considerations and by reason and philosophy called logic.
What say the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church concerning this matter?
- They say: Our doctrine, faith and confession are as follows, namely, that in spiritual and divine things the intellect, heart and will of the unregenerate man cannot in any way, by their own natural powers, understand, believe, accept, think, will, begin, effect, do, work or concur in working anything, but they are entirely dead to good, and corrupt; so that in man's nature, since the fall, there is, before regeneration, not the least spark of spiritual power remaining still present, by which, of himself, he can prepare himself for God's grace, or accept the offered grace, or, for and of himself, be capable of it, or apply or accommodate himself thereto, or by his own powers be able of himself, as of himself, to aid, do, work or concur in working anything for his conversion, either entirely, or in half, or in even the least or most inconsiderable part, but he is the servant (and slave) of sin (Jo. 8:34; Ep. 2:2; II Ti. 2:26). Hence the natural free will, according to its perverted disposition and nature, is strong and active only with respect to what is displeasing and contrary to God (FC II Par, 7. Jacob`s Ed.).
They say: Free will, from its own natural powers, not only cannot work or co-work as to anything for its own conversion, righteousness and salvation, or follow, believe or assent to the Holy Ghost, who through the Gospel offers him grace and salvation, but rather from its innate, wicked, perverse nature it hostilely resists God and His will, unless it be enlightened and controlled by God’s Spirit. (Ibid., par. 18.)
They say: In spiritual and divine things, which pertain to the salvation of the soul, man is like a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife; yea, like a log and a stone, like a lifeless statue, which uses neither eyes nor mouth, neither sense nor heart. For man neither sees nor perceives the fierce and terrible wrath of God on account of sin and death (resulting from it,) but he continues even knowingly and willingly in his security, and thereby falls into a thousand dangers, and finally into eternal death and damnation; and no prayers, no supplications, no admonitions, yea, also no threats, no reprimands are of any avail; yea, all teaching and preaching are lost upon him, until he is enlightened, converted and regenerated by the Holy Ghost... not from its (his) own natural [active or] effective skill, aptness or capacity (for the nature of man is perverse enmity against God), but from pure grace, through the gracious, efficacious working of the Holy Ghost. (Ibid., par. 20-22)
They say: But before man is enlightened converted, regenerated, renewed and led by the Holy Ghost, he can of himself and of his own natural powers begin, work or co-operate as to anything in spiritual things, and in his own conversion or regeneration, as little as a stone or a block or clay. For although he can control the outward members and hear the Gospel, and to a certain extent meditate upon it and discourse concerning it, as is to be seen in the Pharisees and hypocrites; nevertheless he regards it foolishness, and cannot believe it and also in this case he is worse than a block, in that he is rebellious and hostile to God’s will, if the Holy Ghost be not efficacious in him, and do not kindle and work in him faith and other virtues pleasing to God, and obedience. For the Holy Scriptures, besides, refer conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, either entirely or half, or the least or most inconsiderable part; but ascribe them in solidum, i.e., entirely alone to the divine working and the Holy Ghost. (Ibid., par. 24, 25)
They say: Few receive the Word and follow it; the greatest number despise the Word and will not come to the wedding (Ma. 23:3sqq.). The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God’s knowledge [or predestination], but the perverse will of man, who rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Ghost, which God offers him through the call, and resists the Holy Ghost, who wishes to be efficacious, and works through the Word, as Christ says (Ma. 23:37): "How often would I have gathered thee together, and ye would not." Therefore many receive the Word with joy but afterward fall away again (Lu. 8:13). But the cause is not as though God were unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He has begun the good work, for this is contrary to St. Paul (Ph. 1:6); but the cause is that they wilfully turn away again from the holy commandment [of God], grieve and exasperate the Holy Ghost, implicate themselves again in the filth of the world and garnish again the habitation of the heart for the devil; with them the last state is worse than the first (II Pe. 2:10,20; Ep. 4:30; He. 10:26; Lu. 11:25). (FC XI, par. 41, 42)
They say: In addition to that hitherto mentioned which has been revealed in Christ concerning this, God has still kept secret and concealed much concerning this mystery, and reserved it alone for His wisdom and knowledge. Concerning this we should not investigate, nor indulge our thoughts, nor reach conclusions, nor inquire curiously, but should adhere [entirely] to the revealed Word of God. This admonition is in the highest degree necessary. ...We see ...that one is hardened, blinded, given over to a reprobate mind, while another, who is indeed in the same guild, is again converted. (Ibid., par. 52, 57)
The Controversy Concerning Election
And now we can easily understand the controversy about the doctrine of Election.
Respecting this doctrine, the Synodical Conference and the Ohio and Iowa Synods do not agree in a single point.
What the Synodical Conference says concerning Election may be summed up briefly, yet clearly and distinctly, in the following words.
The Synodical Conference says:
- As the Holy Ghost has, in this my day, called me, poor sinner, by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, so that now, by faith, I am in blissful possession of the forgiveness of sins, which God offers, or am justified, and serve God without fear all the days of my life, waiting only for the life eternal; as God will, by the Gospel and Holy Spirit, surely perform the good work that He has begun in me, until the day of Jesus Christ, even as He has promised; as God has begun such work in me wholly and solely by grace for Jesus’ sake and from no other, or third cause, without any merit or worthiness in me, and entirely without any co—operation on my part, or any proper conduct toward the grace of God when this grace came to me; and as God will perform such good work in me until the day of Jesus Christ wholly and solely by grace for Jesus’ sake, without any merit or worthiness in me, yea, entirely regardless of the fact that I now, by faith, do properly conduct myself toward His grace — for it is He that worketh in me both to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Ph. 2:13); and as God has done, is doing, and will do, to the entire true Christian Church on earth what He has done, is doing, and will do to me ——
Even so God has, before the foundation of the world, yea, from eternity, chosen, me, poor sinner, and hereunto ordained me, that the Holy Ghost should call me by the Gospel, enlighten me with His gifts, sanctify and keep me in the true faith, so that, by such faith, I should be and remain in blissful possession of the forgiveness of sins, or of justification, and should most certainly inherit eternal life. In fine, God has chosen and irrevocably ordained, or predestinated, me unto faith in Jesus Christ and unto eternal bliss, and He has done so wholly and solely by grace, for Jesus’ sake, and from no other, or third, cause, without any merit or worthiness in me, and entirely regardless of my lack of co-operation or proper conduct toward His grace, to come to me in time, also without allowing His actions to be determined by His foreknowledge of the fact that after my conversion I would, by faith, exercise proper conduct toward His grace, seeing it was to be He Himself who should work and maintain this conduct in me, and seeing, therefore, such conduct was to be, not the cause, but the effect, of my election, even as was my conversion. And as God has chosen and irrevocably ordained, or predestinated, me into faith in Jesus Christ and unto eternal bliss, even so He has chosen and irrevocably predestinated every individual person in the whole true Christian Church on earth.
Yes, what God, in time, does to us Christians through conversion and justification, this very thing He has, from eternity, purposed to do even unto us and has chosen and predestinated us hereto. What God does to us in time and what He, in eternity, purposed to do unto us and Whereunto He has chosen and predestinated us — this is one and the self—same thing. It must needs be so. Known unto God are all His work from the beginning of the world. Yea, from eternity (Ac. 15:18). There is no time with God. He is simply eternal. His actions are one even as He is one.
The Ohio Synod says: That the elect were predestinated into eternal life in view of faith (Latin: intuitu fidei). (Synodical Proceedings, 1881, p, 39.)
Thus, with Ohio, the grace of God and the merit of Christ are not the only causes of election and predestination unto eternal life. Ohio assigns a third cause, namely, faith. And Ohio treats faith as the ultimate and really decisive cause of election, as the real determining factor. Why? Because — so they argue — the grace of God and the merit of Christ extend over all men, without any exception, while faith is found only in the elect and makes them alone pleasing to God and thus distinguishes them from all other men. And faith, according to the doctrine of Ohio, distinguishes the elect from all other men for the following reason: because it is not wholly and solely a fruit of the grace of God, working through the Word and Holy Spirit, but is also a result of the proper conduct of the elect toward the grace of God coming to them through the Word and Holy Spirit. For, says Ohio, if faith were solely a fruit of the grace of God, working through the Word and Holy Spirit and were not, at the same time a result of the proper conduct of the elect toward the grace of God, coming to them through the Word and Holy Spirit, then one could not account for the fact that God does not make all men believers and has not chosen all. Thus, according to Ohio, the faith of the elect is not the result, but the cause, of their predestination to eternal life. Or, to put it more clearly, more to the point, and more truthfully: According to Ohio, the proper conduct of the elect toward the grace of God, coming to them through the Word and Holy Spirit, is not the result, but the cause, of their election and predestination to eternal life.
Such is the "in view of faith" of the Ohio, and also of the Iowa Synod: God, they declare, foresaw from eternity who of us sons of men would properly conduct themselves toward the grace of God, coming to them through His Word and Holy Spirit, and would suffer such grace to lead them to, and keep them in, the faith, and those who God foresaw would so conduct themselves, those, according to Ohio and Iowa, God elected and predestinated.
Yea, they even go so far as to teach that a man is not elected of God until he believes; if he falls away from the faith he is no longer elected; if he returns to the faith he is reelected. (The Present Doctrine of the Missouri Synod, etc. By Allwardt.)
According to the doctrine of Ohio, and likewise of Iowa, God, in electing and predestinating men to eternal life, merely records their faith and awards eternal life to those who believe and continue in the faith. They say that in the so-called election of grace the words of Christ: "He that believeth shall be saved," are merely applied to certain individuals. But this conception, besides abolishing the real doctrine of Election, abolishes these words of Christ. For it makes faith a thing that "depends upon man and not upon God alone," a thing "whose cause must be sought solely and alone in man's decision." Is that the faith of which Christ speaks?
But the Ohioans and their associates have an idea that this is the only way to steer clear of Calvinism, that is, the false doctrine of the Reformed Church father, Calvin. They think that if one teaches that justifying and saving faith is wrought solely and alone by the grace of God through the Word and Holy Spirit and that faith is in no wise dependent upon man's proper conduct and self-determination, that faith is, therefore, not the cause but the result of election — they think such teaching is Calvinism. And again and again they accuse the Synodical Conference of teaching Calvinism.
Now, we have already shown what Calvinism is [with respect to Election] on page 37 of this book. One passage from a Calvinistic Confession we herewith quote again:
- By the decree God for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death... As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He by the eternal and most free purpose of His will foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit, working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. III, par. 3, 6.)
The doctrine of the Synodical Conference has nothing in common with Calvinism.
The Synodical Conference altogether rejects the statement: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death."
The Synodical Conference rejects the bare assertion that "God hath appointed the elect unto glory"; because both the election and the appointment of the elect unto glory were performed of God by grace, because of Christ's merit. The grace of God, which extends over all men, and the merit of Christ, which avails for all, must be prominently mentioned as the cause of election and of the appointment of the elect unto glory.
Therefore the Synodical Conference rejects the entire statement: "As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he by the eternal and most free purpose of His will foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit, working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation." For, according to this statement, Christ’s redemptive work was performed only for the elect, only the elect are effectually called unto faith in Christ, the whole, divine will of grace and salvation extends over the elect only; while, as a matter of fact, the redemption in Christ, the effectual call to faith in Christ, extended through God's Word and Holy Spirit, in fact, the whole divine will of grace and salvation, is for all men without exception.
The Synodical Conference therefore rejects and condemns the statement: "Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved, but the elect only."
Thus we see the Synodical Conference has nothing in common with Calvinism.
Now, according to the Word of God, who has the right doctrine of Election, the Synodical Conference or the Ohio and Iowa Synods?
The Apostle Paul, speaking by the Holy Spirit, says to us Christians and children of God: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved (Ep. 1:3-6). The Apostle here praises God — ah, we knew Him — the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for the blessing, even all spiritual and heavenly blessing, which He has bestowed upon us through Christ. Of Christ, the Savior of us and of all the world, he makes prominent mention as of the fountain from which all blessings flow. In Christ all that blessing which God bestowes upon us is treasured up, held in store, kept in readiness. And now the Apostle mentions the first blessing which God has conferred upon us Christians through Christ. This first blessing God conferred upon us "before the foundation of the world," from eternity. What blessing is that? It is this: God has elected us, chosen us, chosen us out of the human race, chosen us for himself, to be His own, "in Him," in Christ. But let us proceed. Whereunto has God chosen us for Himself? Hereunto, "that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." We, being His own, were to be different, entirely different, from those who are alienated and enemies (to God) in their mind by wicked works (Co. 1:21), we were to walk before His countenance, the countenance of God, were to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life (Lu. 1:74,75), in love, in divinely begotten love, toward Him, our God, and toward our brethren. Yes, God has chosen us hereto, "having predestinated," foreordained, us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself." From eternity God, through Christ, has chosen and predestinated us to be His dear children by Jesus Christ. Have we Christians become such? Yes, praise be to God, we have become His dear children through Jesus Christ. How did we become God's dear children through Jesus Christ? Why, by faith in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle says to us Christians: "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Ga. 3:26). To say that God has chosen and predestinated us "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself is to say that God has chosen and predestinated us unto faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, God has from eternity chosen and predestinated us for Christ’s sake unto faith in Jesus Christ and thus unto the adoption of children to Himself and thus to the inheritance of eternal life. What a blessing that is! What caused God to do this to us poor, miserable sinners? This has been stated repeatedly: by Christ, for Christ’s sake. Can we mention another cause? Yes, Paul mentions it: According to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace Ep. 1:6). God has from eternity chosen and irrevocably predestinated us Christians unto faith in Jesus Christ and thus unto the adoption of children to Himself and thus to the inheritance of eternal life for Christ's sake and — according to the entirely free good pleasure of His will, that the glory of His grace might be thereby praised. So these are the two causes of our election: the merit of Christ and the grace of God. Was there another, a third cause? Did God, perhaps, see, foresee anything in us that moved Him to choose us? No. Paul says never a word about any such third cause. On, the contrary, such third cause is utterly precluded by the words: According to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace. O Ohio and Iowa! Does not all that we have, and all that we are as Christians, spring from God’s eternal election and predestination, and does not this spring solely from the grace of God and the merit of Christ?
The Apostle Paul writes furthermore by the Holy Spirit: We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Sob, that he might be the first born among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified (Ro. 8:28-30).
Let us consider this passage.
To them that love God all things work together for good. The greatest good there is is perseverance in the faith and eternal bliss. Now, who are they that love God and to whom all things work together for good? They are "they that are called according to His purpose," that is, that are converted according to God's purpose. "Called" means the same as converted. Where, as in the present case, the Bible speaks of that calling by which men are called to the kingdom of God, "called" always means called successfully, hence, converted. Only in two places in the New Testament, where it says: "Many be called, but few chosen," (Ma. 20:16; 22:14) it is not so. But here it surely is so. For it says here that the called love God and that all things work together for their good. This surely applies to converted Christians only. And "according to His purpose" are these called, converted. God purposed to convert these people and to make of them such as love Him and to make all things work together for good to them and hence to save them.
Now, the Apostle explains this purpose of God, that we may know exactly what is meant by it. The Apostle says: "For whom he did foreknow" ——
Let us pause here for a moment. What does that mean: "foreknow?" We have in mind, of course, the Greek word which in the English Bible is translated: foreknow. When, in the Bible, men are said to "foreknow," the meaning of this word is: to know from previous acquaintance (Ac. 26:5), or: to know beforehand what is going to happen, because the Word of God foretells it (II Pe. 3:17). But when God is said to "foreknow," the meaning of the word invariably is: to choose beforehand and foreordain (I Pe. 1:20; Ac. 2:23; I Pe. 1:2).
Now let us continue where we left off. The Apostle now explains this purpose of God that we may know exactly what is meant by it. The Apostle says: "For whom he (God) did foreknow" (and choose beforehand) "he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brethren." The elect God did predestinate that, like Christ, they should pass through tribulation to glory and that Christ should be their first born brother and their Chieftain. The Apostle continues: "Moreover whom he (God) did predestinate (unto glory), them he also called (converted): and whom he called (converted), them he also justified (by faith in Jesus Christ): and whom he justified, them he also glorified," saved. Yes, the Apostle is here speaking of the elect. Hence he also says in the third verse following this quotation: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?"
And every sincere Christian ought to see and confess that all that a Christian is and has, from his conversion to his attainment of everlasting bliss, faith and perseverance in the faith included, is the result of God's election and predestination, that is of His purpose respecting Christians, and hence must be attributed solely to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. And every Christian ought to see that Ohio and Iowa commit themselves to false doctrine when they say that, on the contrary, election and predestination unto salvation are determined by faith, foreseen of God, by a faith which, together with salvation itself, is not dependent upon God alone, but, in a certain sense, upon man himself, namely, upon man's proper conduct.
In precisely the same way, St. Peter speaks of this matter when, in the beginning of his First Epistle, he writes: Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia. and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ (I Pe. 1:1-2). St. Peter here calls the Christians, scattered throughout the earth, elect according to the election, or pre-election, of God the Father, and says that they are elected, or chosen, “unto obedience," that is, unto the obedience of faith, unto faith itself, and unto "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ," that is, unto justification by faith. And he says that God carries out such election, puts it into effect, "through sanctification of the Spirit," that is, through that operation of the Holy Spirit whereby He leads men to believe and sanctifies and keeps them in the faith.
And again St. Paul writes: God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began (II Ti. 1:9). St. Paul here tells us, "in words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," that God has saved us. And how did God save us? He called us, converted us, made us believers. And how does it come that, of all men, we were thus converted and saved? According to what principle did He thus save us? Not according to our works, not according to our doings and conduct, as if that had been better than the doings and conduct of other people? According to what principle did He convert and save us? "According to his own purpose and grace," according to His own gracious purpose. For whose sake did God conceive such purpose, give us such grace? For Christ Jesus' sake? When did God conceive this purpose, grant us this grace? "Before the world began." Now read once more, [above], what the Ohio Synod says [namely, That the elect were predestinated into eternal life in view of faith (Latin: intuitu fidei).].
Furthermore, the same Apostle writes: But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (II Th. 2: 13,14). This passage is very similar to the one from St. Peter which we discussed a few lines above. God has from the beginning, from eternity, chosen us Christians to salvation. And this salvation was to be given us through sanctification of the Spirit, namely, through belief of the truth. And God has actually converted us by the Gospel. In this manner God carries out His decree of election respecting us and leads us to salvation.
In the night in which our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, He said to His disciples: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (Jo. 15:6). Thus the Lord says to His eminent Apostles! Notwithstanding, the Iowa Synod allows one of her leading members the freedom to write:
- One thing is certain: if God has foreordained but a limited number of men to eternal life, He must have been prompted to do so either by an absolute decree of election on His part, and then it was His sovereign will to endow none but these with faith — this is not what the writer means to teach; for this is wicked Calvinism — or by man's own choosing (Entscheidung), which He foresaw. And this is the doctrine of the Iowa writer, Professor George Fritschel (Brobst. Theol. Monatshefte, 1872, p. 32.).
But St. Paul writes, speaking by the Holy Ghost: So then it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (Ro. 9:16).
And the Holy Spirit moves St. Luke to say: When the Gentiles heard this they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Ac. 13:48). And now comes the Ohio Synod, and the Iowa Synod, and says that faith is a cause of election and predestination, that God elected and ordained those unto eternal life whose faith, or, strictly speaking, whose "proper conduct" and "free self-determination" (to accept God's grace) "He foresaw."
What say the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church?
- First, the distinction between the eternal foreknowledge of God and the eternal election of His children to eternal salvation, is to be accurately observed. For foreknowledge or prevision, i.e., that God sees and knows everything before it happens, which is called God's foreknowledge [prescience], extends to all creatures, good and bad; namely, that He foresees and foreknows everything that is or will be, that is occurring or will occur, whether it be good or bad, since before God all things, whether they be past or future, are manifest and present. Thus it is written (Ma. 10:29): Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. And (Ps. 139:16): Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there were none of them. Also (Is. 37:28): I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me.
But the eternal election of God, or predestination, i.e., God's appointment to salvation, pertains not at the same time to the godly and the wicked, but only to the children of God, who were elected and appointed to eternal life before the foundation of the world was laid, as Paul says (Ep. 1:4,5): He hath chosen us in him, having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ.
The foreknowledge of God (prescience) foresees and foreknows also that which is evil, but not in such a manner as though it were God’s gracious will that evil should happen. But all that the perverse, wicked will of the devil and of men purposes and desires to do, and will do, God sees and knows before; and his prescience, i.e., foreknowledge, so observes its order also, even in wicked acts or works, that to the evil, which God does not will its limit and measure are fixed by God, how far it should go and how long it should last, when and how He would hinder and punish it; yet all this God so rules that it must redound to the glory of the divine name and to the salvation of His elect; and the godless, on that account, must be put to confusion.
Moreover, the beginning and cause of the evil is not God's foreknowledge (for God does not procure and effect or work that which is evil, neither does He help or promote it); but the wicked, perverse will of the devil and of men [is the cause of the evil], as it is written (Ho. 13:9): O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help. Also (Ps. 5:4): Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness.
But the eternal election of God not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps and promotes what pertains thereto; upon this [divine predestination] also our salvation is so founded that "the gates of hell cannot prevail against it" (Ma. 16:18). For it is written (Jo. 10:28): Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand. And again (Ac. 13:48): And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. (FC, Part II, Art. XI, par. 3-8.)
Final Remarks Concerning the Doctrine Election
Before proceeding to the next chapter we deem it necessary to add a few remarks.
- When the doctrine of Holy Writ concerning the election and predestination of the children of God to eternal life is expounded, the question is frequently asked: How about those people whom God did not elect? Why did God not elect them? Could He not have elected them as well as the others?
We reply as follows: The Holy Scriptures teach solely and exclusively that we Christians, who truly believe in Jesus Christ and are saved by such faith, were graciously, for Christ’s sake, from eternity, chosen and ordained of God unto eternal life and to all that pertains thereto, and that, according to His revealed Word, leads thereto. The Holy Scriptures teach, therefore, that our conversion, faith, sanctification perseverance in faith, and eternal life — that all this is the result of such eternal and gracious election and predestination of God. And this Holy Scripture doctrine
- establishes very effectually the article that we are justified saved without all works and merits of ours, purely out of grace, alone for Christ's sake. For before the ages of the world, before we were born, yea, before the foundation of the world was laid, when we indeed could do nothing good, we were according to God's purpose chosen out of grace in Christ to salvation (Ro. 9; II Ti. 1:9). All opinions and erroneous doctrines concerning the powers of our natural will are thereby overthrown, because God in His counsel, before the ages of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself, by the power of His Holy Ghost would produce and work in us, through the Word everything that pertains to our conversion. (FC Ch. XI, par. 43, 44)
This is the doctrine of the Bible.
But the Holy Scripture confine themselves to teaching an election of grace and a gracious predestination of God. They are concerned, therefore, with those people only who believe and are saved. That God has not elected some people, has not ordained some people, to salvation, the Bible never and nowhere states. Such expressions, yea, such conceptions, are foreign to the Bible. Hence it is not in accord with the Bible, it is improper to put the question that is agitating one's mind, thus: How about those whom God has not chosen? Why did He not choose them? Could He not have chosen them as well as the others? And it is not in accord with the Bible, it is improper to search for and offer an answer to such questions. We repeat: Such expressions, such conceptions, as these: "Some people God did not choose," "Some people God did not ordain to salvation" —— such conceptions as these are unknown to the Bible. For such things you will search the Bible in vain, even as you will search it in vain for the doctrine that God has chosen and ordained some people to damnation.
"But," you will probably interpose, "does not Christ say: 'Many are called, but few are chosen'?" (Ma. 22:14) Yes, He does. And we answer with the Confessions of our Church and in keeping with the Bible:
- That, however, "many are called, few are chosen," does not mean that God is unwilling that all should be saved, but the reason is that they either do not at all hear God's Word, but wilfully despise it, close their ears and harden their hearts, and in this manner foreclose the ordinary way to the Holy Ghost, so that He cannot effect His work in them, or when it is heard, they consider it of no account, and do not heed it. For this [that they perish] not God or his election, but their wickedness, is responsible (II Pe. 2:1sqq.; Lu. 11:49-52; He. 12:25sq). (FC, Part I, Ch. XI, par. 12)
- "But," say the Iowa Synod and the Ohio Synod, "one thing is certain: if God has foreordained but a limited number of men to eternal life, He must have been prompted to do so, either by an absolute decree of election on His part, and then it was His sovereign will to endow none but these with faith, or by man's own choosing, which He foresaw." And we are asked: What do you say to that?
We say that our reason, perverted and overcurious as it is, and always rebellious against the Word of God, says precisely the same thing. Our reason sees no other way out of the difficulty, our reason is ever ready to "reply against God." But we hear the Holy Spirit say: "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" (Ro. 9:20). And we silence our reason and believe with childlike faith what God says in the Bible, and we leave it to Divine Wisdom to reconcile what seems to be at variance and to disentangle what seems to be hopelessly entangled. And we bow down and worship and say: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Ro. 11:33-36).
- St. Paul writes: Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Ro. 15:4). St. Paul, with these words, refers to the Scriptures such as they were in his day, he refers to Old Testament. Now we also have the New Testament. And we may with perfect propriety apply these words to the New Testament also. The doctrine of Election is indeed set forth in the Old Testament, but the New Testament presents this doctrine more fully and more clearly. And we should learn from what is written about Election that by such learning we may have patience, comfort, and hope.
But tell me, pray, how can I have patience, comfort and hope, through the doctrine of Election, except that I know that I — I — I am one of the elect? And how can I know this thing?
Our election "is not to be investigated in the secret counsel of God." How could we investigate it there? We must also remember that “we should judge concerning this our election to eternal life neither from reason nor from the Law of God." This "would lead either into a dissipated dissolute epicurian life, or into despair," and would excite in the heart of men pernicious thoughts (and such thoughts cannot be effectually guarded against as long as they follow their own reason), so that they think to themselves: "If God has elected me to salvation, I cannot be condemned, although I do whatever I will." And again: "If I am not elected to eternal life, it matters not what good I do; for my efforts are nevertheless all in vain."
Where must I seek and obtain the knowledge and assurance of my election? It "is to be sought in the Word of God, where it is also revealed." It must be learned alone from the Holy Gospel concerning Christ. (FC., Part I, Ch. XI, par. 5, 9, 1O)
"How am I to understand that?" you ask. You know from the Word of God, the Holy Gospel, that God, in His grace, for Jesus’ sake, has had mercy upon all men and that for Jesus’ sake He is willing to justify, sanctify, and save all men by faith in Him. Wherefore He has commanded the Gospel to be preached to all men and earnestly wills that all men believe the same, receive justification by such faith, thereupon lead a godly life, and finally obtain eternal bliss; wherefore He also at all times grants His Holy Spirit in the Gospel and the Holy Spirit works with divine power at the hearts of all that hear it, to perform all these things in their hearts.
You know furthermore from the Word of God, from the Holy Gospel, that all they who, in time, have died, all who are still living, and all who are yet to live and die, as such true children of God — that all they were, by the grace of God, for Christ's sake, from eternity, chosen and irrevocably ordained that by His Word and Holy Spirit they should be called and enlightened, converted and endowed with faith, thereupon be sanctified in the true faith and preserved unto eternal salvation; all of which He, in keeping with this His eternal and divine purpose, has, in time, performed in His elect, is performing, and will, in future time, perform.
And you also know by the Word of God, by the Holy Gospel: that "many are called, few are chosen," does not mean that God is unwilling that all should be saved, but the reason is that they either do not at all hear God's Word, but wilfully despise it, close their ears and harden their hearts, and in this manner foreclose the ordinary way to the Holy Ghost, so that He cannot effect His work in them, or, when it is heard, they consider it of no account, and do not heed it. For this [that they perish] not God or his election, but their wickedness is responsible. (II Pe. 2:1sqq.; Lu. 11:49-52; He. 12:25sq.)
Now, if you would ascertain that you, even you, are chosen, if you would be assured of this thing, take the Holy Gospel in hand and behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, your own sin included, and hear how God calls every man to the saving grace which is in this Lamb. Resist not the Holy Spirit, who, by means of this Gospel, is drawing you with gracious divine power toward this saving grace; but believe with whole-hearted faith in your Saviour Jesus Christ, rejoice in the righteousness which you have in Him, glorify God with a new obedience and with a godly life and conversation, war against sin, that still dwells within you and would unnerve you for the fray, and meanwhile trust in the assuring promise of God that He will perform the good work which He has begun in you, until the day of Jesus Christ. Wherefore be patient under the cross and hope with cheerfulness and with a longing that brooks no doubt, for the glory of eternal life, which God, who lieth not, will certainly give you. Hereupon ponder the wonderful Gospel tidings that God has ordained His elect to the glory of eternal life and has at the same time conceived the immutable purpose, has determined, to lead them to such glory by calling and converting them by His Gospel and Holy Spirit, justifying them through faith in Jesus Christ, sanctifying them in such faith, and giving them strength to war against, and overcome, sin, making them patient under the cross, making all things work together for their good, and filling them with a longing for eternal life. And then say: O my Lord God, I am in the very way by which Thou leadest Thine elect to eternal glory. Thou hast done all those things to me which, according to Thine eternal purpose, Thou wilt in time do to them whom Thou hast ordained to eternal glory! I am of the number of Thy chosen ones! I am one of Thine elect! God would have you address Him thus without indulging a single doubt. And if doubts will arise, turn your eyes again and again toward your dear Saviour Jesus Christ, and keep in the way which the Gospel points out to you and along which it is leading you. Thus you will soon behold anew the unclouded and eternal glory of the everlasting Sun of grace, you will again be assured of your election. That God that gave thee Christ and His Gospel, how shall He not have chosen thee, thou Christian!
This, all this, is the very thing that St. Peter means when he writes: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure, that is, to make it sure to yourselves, to assure yourselves of it. And he continues: For if ye do these things, that is, if ye continue in the way of salvation (which he had pointed out in the foregoing), ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pe. 1:10,11).
- The Bible doctrine of Election is the very deepest of the mysteries of the Christian faith. While anybody can read this doctrine from a book, can absorb it, reproduce it, also cant and dispute about it, he alone can truly grasp it in spirit and truth and use it to real spiritual advantage who has come to hold the mystery of the entire Christian faith in a pure conscience (I Ti. 3:9). All others who busy themselves with this doctrine will either sorely misuse it, or, as the example of the misleaders of the Ohio and Iowa Synods plainly shows, they will utterly deny it and shamefully revile it. Wherefore
- do thou first concern thyself with Christ and the Gospel, that thou mayest know thy sin and His grace; thereupon mayest war with sin.... Then, when thou art come under the cross and tribulation, that will teach thee aright (concerning) election, how consoling it is. For apart from tribulation, cross, and pangs of death, one cannot contemplate election without harm and secret wrath against God. Wherefore Adam must be well mortified before he can stand this thing and drink this strong wine. Therefore beware lest thou drink wine while thou art yet a babe. Every doctrine has its proper place and time and season. Thus says Dr. Luther in his preface to the Book Romans.
- In another place Luther admonishes us that it is dangerous to speak of the things of God in words other than those which God Himself employs in the Bible. This is especially so with reference to the doctrine of Election. The Election of Grace is a thing so delicate, so holy, so divine, it is so entirely foreign to human reason and to all the faculties thereof, it lies, as stated in a previous remark, so utterly beyond the sure grasp of all but well matured spiritual minds, that we may not approach it save in chaste fear of the Lord, may not speak of and teach it save with lips that are steeped in chastity. Whoso, even though he be orthodox, speaks of the Election of Grace in more words than God employs in the Scriptures, or in a manner that deviates from God's and the Bible's, he is in danger of speaking that which, while it may not be wrong exactly, still is not altogether seemly, does not measure up to the standard of the sound words of the Bible. And he is in danger of offending the weak and of giving adversaries occasion to revile the whole and true doctrine. The following may serve as an illustration: It is utterly beyond dispute that the elect will obtain eternal life and that beside the elect none will obtain it; as the Lord says of Israel: ...the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Ro. 11:7). Notwithstanding, if one should seek to bring this truth home to his hearers or readers by using the following words: "If the Lord has elected a man to salvation, he cannot be condemned, although he do whatever he will. And again, if a man is not elected to eternal life, it matters not what good he does; for his efforts are nevertheless all in vain" — if one were to use such or similar words to express a truth he would not be doing the right thing. On hearing that sentence, the weak in the faith would promptly forget all that went before and would fail to hear aught that followed after and would be sorely offended. And adversaries would seize upon that sentence, sever it entirely from the connection in which it occurred, hold it up to the gaze of all the world and cry: Here you see what those Missourians teach! And we herewith confess that when this controversy began expressions were here and there used on our side that were not altogether seemly and appropriate, chaste and carefully chosen.
- We also confess that in earlier days some pastors of the Synodical Conference used the term that has since become the watchword of our adversaries, the term: God chose the elect in view of faith. How did these pastors come to use this term? Neither the Holy Scriptures nor the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church nor Dr. Luther nor yet Lutheran theologians of the days of the Reformation ever make use of this term. Lutheran theologians of the seventeenth century coined this expression because they considered it a most effective weapon against Calvinism. Thus this expression, in view of faith, came to be a household word in the Lutheran Church of a later age. And in perfect good faith, with never a thought of false play, did the aforesaid pastors of the Synodical Conference make use of this term. Let it be remembered, however, that neither these pastors of the Synodical Conference nor the Lutheran theologians that coined this in view of faith so understood this expression as it was understood by later theologians and as it is now understood by the misleaders of the Ohio and Iowa Synods. They never intended to say that God chose (the elect) in view of their proper conduct toward His grace. On the contrary, they repudiated this notion in no uncertain terms and believed, taught, and confessed that faith is solely and entirely the work of God and is in no sense a result of man's co-operation with the Almighty.5
However, seeing this expression: "God chose (the elect) in view of faith," is found neither in the Holy Scriptures nor in the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and seeing it is now become a shibboleth an emblem, of false doctrine and a banner ’neath which the unorthodox wage war against the orthodox, it were nothing short of a denial of God’s truth if this expression were to be used or tolerated now in the orthodox Church. What good and loyal Christian would wish to bear the mark of the enemy on his forehead or on his right hand?
- On pp. 37-38, Zorn quotes from Calvinistic sources and concludes, thus:
- Concerning Election, false doctrine is taught by the Calvinistic Reformed Church, the Presbyterians, and certain others.
The first-named church teaches thus: "For the manifestation of His glory God decreed: 1, to create man perfect; 2, to suffer him to fall; 3, to have mercy upon some of the fallen and hence to elect them, while suffering the rest to remain in their depravity and ordaining them to everlasting perdition .... The Bible represents the purpose of God to have mercy upon men, as pertaining, not to all men without any exception, but to the elect only, to the express exclusion of the reprobate, such as Esau, whom God hated with eternal hatred." (Form. Cons. helv. IV. Ed. Niem., p. 731.) And: "If we are not ashamed of the Gospel we must confess what it plainly teaches, to-wit: that God, according to His eternal good pleasure, which is independent of any other cause, ordained some, because it pleased Him so to do, unto salvation, while others were rejected." (Cons. Genev. Ed. Niem., p. 224.)
In the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian Church we read: "By the decree of God for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He by the eternal and most free purpose of His will foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit, working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified and saved but the elect only." (Ch. III, par. 3, par. 6.)
A Christian cannot fail to see that this is a most horrible and wicked doctrine and one that inevitably leads either to bold security or to downright deep despair. We shall take up this doctrine again, when we speak of the Lutheran Church.
- Carl Manthey-Zorn is rather kind in not detailing the accusations and escalation of these issues. A recent article entitled Gnadenwahlstreit: The Predestinarian Controversy of American Lutheranism, by Peter Reim, which appeared in the Journal of Theology, Vol. 50, No. 3 (published by the Church of the Lutheran Confession) describes the details:
- In the early 1870s, while weighing in on the false positions of many supposedly confessional Lutheran bodies in the Midwest, C. F. W. Walther in Lehre und Wehre criticized the Iowa Synod on its position regarding election. As noted in Armin Schuetze’s history of the Synodical Conference: "Not all in Missouri agreed with Walther. There was need to gain further understanding and agreement on this doctrine so prone to error when human reason seeks to understand the inscrutable ways of God." This doctrine took center stage at the 1877 convention of the Western District of the Missouri Synod, where Walther’s six theses on the subject were the focus of thorough discussion. The result was general approval, with a glowing report of the results given to the 1878 convention of the Synodical Conference.
Opposition did arise from several quarters, including some who had been trained by Walther himself. One was H. A. Allwardt, a Missouri pastor in Lebanon, Wisconsin, and former Walther student. Another opponent was Prof. F. W. Stellhorn of the Fort Wayne seminary, who had previously been a Missouri Synod representative professor at Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin. The third and most strident protesting voice came from F. A. Schmidt, at the time a seminary professor at the Norwegian Synod seminary in Madison, Wisconsin.
The issue at hand was the confessional Lutheran position on the election of grace as presented in Article XI of the Formula of Concord. This article clearly and repeatedly asserts that this doctrine is limited to the divine election and predestination of those who are ultimately saved. It maintains that this divine election has as its cause nothing more than God's gracious love and Christ’s righteousness. The article maintains that there is no cause in man for divine election. Assurance of one's own election is not to be sought in some hidden will of God, but solely in His gracious will proclaimed in the gospel of Christ, by which He earnestly calls upon all men to believe in the salvation procured for us through Jesus Christ. It repudiates Calvinistic errors such as limited atonement and double predestination and Pelagian and synergistic errors suggesting that also within believers is a cause of God's election.
In the subsequent church period, the period of the orthodox Lutheran fathers such as Gerhard, Brenz, and Quenstedt, there was, at least in Gerhard, a statement opposing Calvinistic errors on double predestination that employed the term intuitu fidei. The unfortunate development of this term is noted in Schuetze's history: "John Moldstad in his book Predestination ...points out how Gerhard used intuitu fidei over against Calvinism, which 'had so stressed the sovereignty of God in election that faith in Christ looked rather superfluous. Gerhard wished to connect election with faith. By using the in view of faith expression, however, he muddied the waters for a controversy yet to come.'"
That same view was also perpetuated among Norwegian Lutherans through a commonly used catechism by Eric Pontoppidon (1698–1764), who had done much to introduce the pietism of Spener and Francke to Norway. Pontoppidon had also been heavily influenced by the 17th Century dogmaticians. That might explain, in part, Schmidt's opposition to Walther's theses and the 1877 Western District report.
In 1880 Allwardt, Stellhorn, and Schmidt began publishing a journal primarily to carry on the debate about election. Altes und Neues claimed to uphold what they maintained was the original Missouri view over against a new view on the subject conceived by Walther. In its first issue Schmidt called the report of Missouri's view as received by the 1879 Western District conference "an official declaration of war." A year later Schmidt, rejecting Dr. Loy's suggestion of a cool-down period in which no one would publish anything until another conference could be set, proclaimed that "God had commanded him to carry on this war. Walther responded, 'Be it so! You want war; you shall have war!'" Like Walther and the majority of Missourians, Schmidt and those who favored his position maintained their agreement with Article XI. But they also asserted that there was another way of "understanding" election. This alternate view is detailed in the Ohio Synod's "Confession Concerning Election" (Four Theses, 1881):
- 2. But if by election, as the dogmaticians generally do, we understand merely this, that from eternity God elected and infallibly ordained to salvation certain individuals in preference to others, and this according to the universal way of salvation, we believe, teach, and confess that election took place in view of Christ's merit apprehended by faith, or, more briefly stated but with the same sense, in view of faith. According to this understanding faith precedes election in the mind of God, as the rule, according to which one selects, precedes the election itself, and thus election properly speaking, is not the cause of faith.
Those who held this position, particularly Schmidt, maintained that the Missouri Synod was guilty of Calvinizing errors. ...After attempts at bringing Schmidt and Walther to an agreement had failed, the Ohio Synod in 1881 publicly supported Schmidt’s view, maintaining intuitu fidei over against the Missouri position. ...Ohio publicly charged Missouri with crypto-Calvinism. Responding to Missouri's adoption of the Thirteen Theses, Ohio called a special convention, June 4, 1881, at which they resolved to withdraw from the Synodical Conference because of Missouri's adoption of the Thirteen Theses and because Missouri had instructed its Synodical Conference delegates "not to sit together and deliberate about church affairs with such as have publicly decried us as Calvinists" — a specific reference to the Ohio Synod delegates.
Ohio's Four Theses: At its special convention in 1881 the Ohio Synod adopted four statements titled "Our Confession Concerning Election." In the first thesis Ohio affirmed the Formula of Concord's description of election as "the entire 'purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, vocation, justification, and salvation.'" The second thesis asserted, as quoted before, the other or second view, namely, that election occurred "in view of Christ’s merit apprehended by faith." The third thesis stated that "the mystery in election" is not that we don't know by "what rule God proceeded" in the election, but "that no one except God knows who belongs to the elect." The fourth thesis asserted that "the certainty of the individual that he belongs to the elect is, before his hour of death, conditional or regulated..."
P.Reim. (2010). "Gnadenwahlstreit: The Predestinarian Controversy of American Lutheranism". Journal of Theology 50(2). pp. 20-22.
- Note that this "proper conduct toward the grace of God", a "power to abstain from wanton resistance to God's grace as the Holy Spirit works upon one's heart" is remarkably similar to the Roman Catholic, and synergistic, doctrine of infused grace, which we discussed briefly in the following post: Law and Gospel: What do they teach? -- Part 1
- The idea that man may possess a resistance that is "superadded" to his natural resistance to God's grace, a "wanton resistance" which he in himself must conquer, by abstaining from it, in order for the Holy Spirit to "successfully" work in him and convert him, is mightily reminiscent of Church Growth theories among Lutherans which hold that our approach to preaching the Gospel may serve as a barrier to the Holy Spirit and His work. Of course, this view entirely whitewashes the Lutheran and Biblical doctrines of Election and Predestination. Nevertheless, this exact point officially reared its ugly head as recently as the 2009 WELS Synodical Convention, in the question and answer period following the presentation of Professor Brenner's paper, Christ's Love Demonstrated in the Efficacy of the Means of Grace. Quoting from pages nine and twelve of this essay, the questioner at microphone four, at 1hr-6min into the video presentation of Professor Brenners essay presentation at the 2009 Convention of the WELS, asks:
- Mr. Chairman, thank you Professor Brenner on page nine you make the statement, "We cannot make them more effective by anything that we do." Page twelve, "Although we cannot enhance the power of the means of grace, we can stand in the gospel‘s way by poor planning, careless leadership, insensitivity to the lost or disregard for those who are perishing." My question, can we stand in the way by making it less effective?
Professor Brenner responds initially:
- The only way we can make it less effective is by not proclaiming what God has told us to proclaim.
Had he left it at that, his answer would have been sufficient and correct, in my opinion. The Means of Grace are not more or less effective based on what we do, they function in each situation as God has predestined. The only thing less than "effective" is "non-effective" and the only way that happens is if they are not used -- if the message is not proclaimed. But, feeling the pressure of silence (I presume) he seems to equivocate by adding:
- And if we are lazy, yes, we are standing in the way of the Means of Grace. Maybe let me put it this way. I've often taken great comfort in the fact that God once spoke through the mouth of a donkey. That doesn't give me the right to be a donkey.
This makes the Christian's Sanctification a part of the efficacy of the Means of Grace, in my opinion. He would have been better off leaving his answer stand with his first sentence. Nor was his answer considered sufficient by those who heard it, as the same question was revisited later by a questioner who simply did not understand what Brenner what saying on page nine versus page twelve. This exchange can be heard at about 1hr-21min. The following questioner asks regarding selling a church culture to create opportunities to share preach the message, to which Brenner appropriately responds, "We're not selling anything."
- It is interesting to read Zorn admit that, at one time, intuitu fidei was commonly understood among Lutherans purely as a defense against Calvinism, but that, as it gained wider use outside the context of 17th Century situations in which it was developed, as it was incorporated over generations into the teaching and thinking of the church, it came to take on a meaning wholly unintended by those who first coined it, and, quite likely, a meaning objectionable to them, as well. This resulted in the Election disputes of 19th Century American Lutheranism, of which this article treated in fairly great depth. From within the heat of this dispute arose the distinctions "Objective" and "Subjective" justifications. I would submit that perhaps, now a century-and-a-half removed from the Election controversy, as the terms "Objective Justification" and "Subjective Justification" have continued to be used outside the context in which they were developed and used most effectively, as they have been absorbed into the teaching and thinking of everyday Lutherans, the terms may have begun to take on either a different meaning, or begun to impact areas of doctrine and practiced unintended, and quite likely objectionable, to those who made those terms normative among confessional Lutherans in America. Is it possible that Objective Justification, misused, misunderstood, and having taken on wider impact, has caused Christians to lose focus on their Faith, in favor of focus on their Election, and thus also begun to despise the Means through which Faith becomes their own and is strengthened? Is it possible that practice continues to stray from the centrality of Christ and the Means of Grace due to a willingness to consider Faith as less important than one's Election, and that the Means of Grace are not really important?