Friday, November 18, 2011

Some musings on the article on election

Today’s “Writing” from Concordia’s Treasury of Daily Prayer (on sale right now from Concordia Publishing House!) got me thinking about election.
    (from the Saxon Visitation Articles)


    Predestination and the Eternal Providence of God

    The pure and true doctrine of our churches concerning this article:

    1. Christ has died for all people and, as the Lamb of God, has borne the sins of the whole world.

    2. God created no one for condemnation, but wants all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore, He commands all to hear His Son Christ in the Gospel. By the Gospel He promises the power and working of the Holy Spirit for conversion and salvation.

    3. Many people are condemned by their own guilt who are either unwilling to hear the Gospel of Christ or later fall from grace. This happens either by error against the foundation of grace or by sins against conscience.

    4. All sinners who repent are received into grace, and no one is excluded, even though his sins were as scarlet. For God’s mercy is much greater than the sins of all the world, and God has compassion on all His works.

    Translation from Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (656). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.

As noted in the title of this article from the Saxon Visitation Articles (1592), it was specifically written to summarize (very briefly) the Lutheran teaching on the article of election (predestination). This was necessary because the errors of Calvinism were spreading in Germany at that time, namely, the teaching that God doesn’t want all men to be saved, that Christ only died for the sins of the elect, and that the non-elect, therefore, couldn’t be saved, even if they should hear the Gospel, believe it and be baptized, because Christ had never borne their sins or made satisfaction for them.

The Calvinist doctrine robs Christians of the comfort of the Gospel. All of God’s promises, according to Calvinism, are invalid for the non-elect. God does not desire their salvation. Christ has done nothing to merit their salvation. The promises of mercy through faith in Christ only apply to the elect. So, for the Calvinist, if he wants to be sure that he has a gracious God in Christ, if he wants to be sure that his baptism is valid and that the absolution is valid, he can’t rely on the means of grace. Instead, he first has to somehow try to figure out the unknowable answer to this bottom line question:

    “Am I one of the elect?”

The Lutheran (i.e., Christian) Gospel, on the other hand, offers sure comfort to terrified consciences, because it directs the sorrowful sinner, not to the hidden counsel of God, but to the revealed will of God. Here, all the questions to the sorrowful sinners have objective, knowable answers:

    Am I a sinner who deserves God’s condemnation? (Rom. 3:19-20)

    Did Christ die for the sins of the world (and, therefore, also for my sins)? (John 1:29)

    Has God made Christ into a Throne of Grace in His blood, where God promises to be reconciled to all sinners who look to Christ in faith – to justify and forgive them, to be merciful and gracious to them? (Rom. 3:24-26)

    Has God promised that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved? (Mark 16:16)

The Gospel proclaims an answer of “Yes!” to all of these questions, and through the Yes! of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works faith when and where it pleases God.

So in the Lutheran Gospel, the bottom line question is not, “Am I one of the elect?” The bottom line question is, “Have I been baptized?” and “Do I trust in Christ as the Throne of Grace? Do I wish to be judged by God through Him alone?”

The one who answers “Yes!” or who even whimpers, “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!” is most certainly among the saved.

The Biblical truth is that God started in eternity with election and brought about in time everything necessary for the salvation of the elect, including the incarnation of the Son of God, the perfect obedience of Christ, the preaching of the Gospel reaching their ears and faith being created in their hearts. Election is the cause of faith, just as the Means of Grace is the instrument through which the Holy Spirit creates faith.

So the Lutheran, unlike the Calvinist, isn’t forced to start out by determining his election, nor is the Lutheran forced to seek the certainty of his salvation in his election. The Lutheran begins with the dependable Means of Grace and faith, and then works backward. If the Gospel has reached me and made me a believer in Christ, then I know that I have God’s eternal election to thank for it.


LPC said...

"The doctrine that teaches such a particularism[absolute election] according to which God elected unto eternal life only certain particular persons directly without regarding faith, merely because it so pleased Him, --- this we consider Calvinistic and unchristian"--

Polycarp Leyser
(emphasis mine)


Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Where is that quote taken from? It would be interesting to look up in context.

Dr. Jack Kilcrease said...

The quotation is part of the reaction against the doctrine of particular election that occurred at the University of Wittenberg 20 years or so after the Formula of Concord. This is when Leyser and Leonard Hutter invented the inuitu fidei heresy. Bear in mind that many of these folks were students of the students of Melanchthon, and essentially revived a version of the Philippist heresy of synergism. The Formula of Concord upholds the orthodox Lutheran understanding of the divine election taught by Luther in "The Bondage of the Will." For a good summary of the history of the controversy over election in early Lutheranism, see the following:

Now, LPC will likely say something about "psychological Calvinism." My question (which I guessing he will probably ignore it based on his general rhetorical style), is this: 1. How is it that you can reject particular election when it is taught by Luther and the Formula of Concord? This is not a matter of debate, but well attested by all modern scholarship on this subject. 2. How can you reject particular election by God's eternal decree when it is explicitly taught by the Bible (Romans 8, Ephesian 1, etc.)? 3. If salvation does not occur by particular election, does it not follow that we are ourselves partially the cause of our salvation either by the preservation of our faith or by our cooperation with grace? Does this not then abrogate solas christus, sola fidei, and sola gratia?

LPC said...

On the Leyser quote, this was quoted By Stellhorn in Errors of Missouri, p.26.

I have posted the Leyser quotation so as not to lean too sharply on point 8 of the FC, Solid Declaration XI paragraph 22 and 23, to the exclusion of the other things God ordained. I have posted to alert so as to follow paragraph 24, of the same, which states that all of items 1-8 (paragraphs 15- 22)must be spoken off as a whole and never extracted on their own.

Here are more quotations you might care to research, in the same spirit as the Leyser quote...

AEgidus Hunnius in Refutatio Thesium Tossani (fol,e,4)
"The reader must note that Tossanus is his accusations constantly understands by 'cause' a meritorious cause; and yet it is certain that faith, although not placed among the principal causes (causas principales) of our salvation, is nevertheless termed a secondary cause (causa instrumentalis) according to the established usage approved by the apostolic writings; for without it {faith] our salvation is not possible (constat); as also our justification is npt possible without faith, since justification is the imputation of Christ's merits, and this imputation takes place only through faith. Hence it is faith (because of its most noble object, Jesus Christ) without which the grace of God cannot rule (regnat) unto salvation in justification, nor have a place in predestination to produce an election unto salvation. For the grace in election and justification is identical. If the grace of God is not imputed in justification as long as Christ's obedience is not imputed through faith, then too the grace of God will remain away in election, and be useless (ociosa) to sinful man as long as there is no regard to Christ's obedience imputed by faith"

The italics are mine. As a side comment, note that Hunnius rejects UOJ.

But of course, if you also think Hunnius was a heretic just like Kilcrease says Leyser and Hutter were heretics then, what can I say, my quotation is irrelevant. It is my hope though that you do not share Kilcrease's propaganda, i.e., that Leyser, a drafter of the Formula of Concord, was a heretic just as Hutter who had a reputation of being orthodox a heretic too (so says Jack Kilcrease).

As a former Calvinist, I must remind Lutherans that a.) Calvinism is a world view, it is a pardigm and a hermeneutic, b.) Calvinism is not confined to TULIP, it has other tentacles that one must be aware of. However, TULIP is a tightly controlled system of thinking that mutually informs each of the letters and concepts that are found therein in a logical consistent whole.

For example, the U in TULIP stands for Unconditional Election. I am very sure you know what this stands for, however, I am not sure you know what that implies, if one is to agree with the Calvinist on this point. The U in TULIP is the band that ties the other letters together. In fact, it is really the first principle in TULIP. The only reason why the letters are arranged as such is just for convenient recall and easy summary of the formulations of the Synod of Dort. To the Calvinist, once you accept his doctrine of absolute unconditional election, you are thereby required also to accept the logical doctrine of Irristible Grace and then also the logical conclusion of Limited Atonement, because if you do not, you are being inconsistent and absurd with the truth of what Unconditional Election teaches. The Calvinists think that your protestation against the I or the L, and of course the P are just plain refusal on your part to follow the truth to whereever it leads. In otherwords, a yellow belly.

The framers of the BOC were quite learned men, and knew well what Calvinism stood for. They were correct in insisting that when one talks about election, one must not speak of it without speaking of God's other ordinations i.e., the ways and means of Salvation ( see for example item 4, paragraph 18, FC SD XI)


Dr. Jack Kilcrease said...

AEgidus Hunnius was also an proponent and originator of inuitu fidei heresy. So yes, I would also say he is heretical on this point, even though in other areas he and his son had many fine contributions to theology. Sit down and read the Kolb book and you can get some historical perspective on these things. Pulling people who you think are "Luther Fathers" out context, and saying "golly, he's orthodox, so Lutheran sure can't believe in election" is not a good theological method. We have to look at the Bible, Luther, and the FoC. Moreover, we have to contextualize these folks as people who 1.) were overly influenced by the late Melanchthon's synergism. 2.) were trying to oppose Calvinism's double predestination and without intending to, when overboard.

Again, bear in mind that my historical claims on this point are not out of the mainstream. This is all well attested in modern scholarship on the history of the doctrine of election in the Lutheran Church.

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