Saturday, October 6, 2012
Dear Friends and Readers of Intrepid Lutherans,
It is with great personal distress that we inform you, earlier this week Rev. Paul Rydecki was suspended from WELS on the charge of teaching the “false doctrine” of Justification by Faith Alone. This drama has been drawn out over the past few months, issues surrounding which even leaked into our blog posts, as some had discerned from topics we treated during July in The Theological Disciplines, and the nature of theological discourse in WELS from a layman's perspective and Theological Discourse in the post-Modern Era. It is an understatement to say that we are not only disappointed by the process we witnessed, but shocked by its conclusion.
The position of Intrepid Lutherans regarding the doctrines of Scripture remains clear, and has not changed since we put them in writing on our What We Believe page at the time of our inception two-and-a-half years ago: we believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and we fully and unreservedly subscribe to the Book of Concord of 1580 as a faithful confession of Scripture's teachings. These are the only two norms of doctrine and practice among us Lutherans. There are no other norms. It is our opinion that it would be most fruitful for those parties who dispute the Scriptural or Confessional integrity of doctrinal positions, whether those positions are merely stated or written in documents outside Scripture or the Book of Concord, if they would begin by engaging in good faith debate over the points at issue, rather than remain intractable. While Rev. Rydecki's situation remains his, this dispute is not over. It is just beginning. Nevertheless, our What We Believe page has not changed, and will not change; the issues we stand for remain those stated there, as Rev. Rydecki himself promised our subscribers when they were informed of his situation a month ago, stating:
“Let me be very clear, your subscription to the What We Believe statements remains just that, a subscription to those specific What We Believe statements, nothing more and nothing less. Your subscription does not mean that you either agree or disagree with me about everything I say or write, or that you personally question the WELS on its teaching of justification, and we will point that out again on the blog before any discussion of this begins.”
Rev. Rydecki remains both an editor and an officer of Intrepid Lutherans, Inc., although his contributions will, understandably, remain infrequent over the next several weeks as he focuses on more pressing local issues. However, in order to protect Rev. Rydecki from any slander that would result – from gossip or other “private discussion” that gets passed around by people who have had no direct involvement – he will supply a brief description of the issues along with a brief defense of his position. That post will be published by the middle of next week.* Later this month, a series of posts will be published which will provide much greater detail regarding this affair.
As in all situations, the Lord is in control, and He knows what He is doing.
Editors of Intrepid Lutherans, on behalf of Rev. Rydecki
Rev. Steven Spencer
Rev. Paul Lidtke
Mr. Douglas Lindee
Mr. Brian Heyer
* NOTE – Rev. Rydecki's brief description of the issues and defense of his position has been published: Suspended from the WELS - Why?
For those who may be unduly distressed, we submit the following words of encouragement offered by Dr. Martin Luther, from his commentary on the Old Testament Book of Genesis, Chapter 7, verse 1.
"For I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation."
This is in truth an awful picture of the ancient and original world, as Peter calls it (II Pe. 2:5); by this designation he appears to attribute something extraordinary to that age in comparison with people in our age. What more awful statement can be made than what we hear in this passage, that Noah alone was righteous before the Lord? A similar picture of the world occurs in Ps. 14:2-3, where it is stated that the Lord looked down from heaven to see whether there was anyone with understanding or seeking God. "But," He says, "all have turned aside; they have been found useless, and there was none who did good, not even one."
Moreover, this verdict about the world is in agreement with Christ's statement; for because the last times will be similar to the times of Noah, Christ correctly declares (Lu. 18:8): "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith?" It is dreadful to live in such an evil and ungodly world. Since we have the light of the Word, this present time, by the grace of God, is still a golden age. The sacraments are properly administered in our churches, and godly clergymen disseminate the Word in its purity. Although the government is weak, wickedness is not yet beyond hope.
Christ's prophecy reveals that there will be very distressing times when the Day of the Lord is at hand, and there will be no sound teachers anywhere while the church is being suppressed by the ungodly. The counsels of our adversaries are threatening to bring about this very situation. The pope and ungodly princes are intent with all their might on destroying the ministry of the Word, so that when all true pastors have been either suppressed or corrupted, everyone may believe what he pleases.
The situation requires fervent prayer and great concern, that a purer doctrine may be handed down to posterity. If at Noah's time there had been more godly teachers, a larger number of righteous people might also have been expected. Since the righteous have been reduced to such a small number that Noah alone is declared righteous, it is now sufficiently clear that the godly teachers either had been killed or had been turned to heresies and idolatry, so that there was left only Noah, the one "herald of righteousness," as Peter (II Pe. 2:5) calls him. When the government had been turned into tyranny and the household had been ruined by adultery and fornication, how could the punishment hold off any longer?
Such a danger is also in store for us, since, of course, the last times will be similar to the times of Noah. Truly, the popes and the bishops are working hard to suppress the Gospel and to destroy the right established churches. In this way the world is striving with great effort to achieve an age similar to the age of Noah, in which all men will go astray in the darkness of ungodliness once the light of the Word has been put out. When preaching has been done away with, faith, prayer, and the right use of the sacraments will not be able to exist.
Such, writes Moses in this text, was the character of the original world at the time of Noah, even though that was the youth of the world and its best part, when the finest minds flourished everywhere and, on account of length of life, had acquired very great ability because of much experience. What will be in store for us in this insane state of a world that is growing old? Therefore we must not put aside our concern for our descendants, but we must diligently pray for them.
Just as the ancient world was the most corrupt, so it was also subjected to horrible punishment: not only did the adults perish, who had provoked God by their evil deeds, but even that innocent age which has no knowledge whatever and cannot tell right from left. Without a doubt many had been deceived because of their artlessness. But here God's wrath makes no difference; it overwhelms and destroys the adults together with the infants, the cunning together with the artless...
It is truly an awful picture of the world when God testifies that He saw that Noah alone was righteous before Him and mentions neither the little children nor others who were led astray through no fault of their own.
We must take note of the phrase "before Me"; for it means that Noah was righteous not only in regard to the Second Table but also in regard to the First Table, that is, he believed in God, hallowed, preached, and called upon the name of God, gave thanks to God, condemned ungodly teachings, etc. To be righteous before God means to believe in God and to fear Him, not, as they were accustomed to teach in the papacy, to read Masses, to free souls from purgatory, to become a monk, etc.
This phrase serves to condemn the ancient world, which, after it had disregarded the worship of God in the First Table, was also most perverse in complying with the Second Table. They derided Noah as a fool and condemned his teaching as heresy. Meanwhile they complacently continued to drink, eat, and celebrate their feasts. Thus Noah was not righteous before the world; he was a condemned sinner.
The Lord... comforts him with this statement in order that he may ignore the blind and wicked opinions of the world and not worry about what the world is thinking or saying, but close his eyes and ears and be intent only on the Word and opinion of God, in the faith that he is righteous before God, that is, that he is approved by God and is acceptable to God.
Surely, great was the faith of Noah that he was able to believe these words of God. I would certainly not have believed them. I realize how serious a matter it is if the opinions of all men assail one solitary individual and condemn him. We are condemned not only by the opinions of the pope but also by those of the Sacramentarians, the Anabaptists, and a thousand others. But these things are child's play and a pastime in comparison with the troubles of righteous Noah, who, apart from his own children and his godly grandfather, did not find one human being in the entire world who approved either of his religious views or of his life. We, by the grace of God, have many churches that are in agreement with us, and our princes shun no danger in defense of our teaching and religion. Noah had no such protectors; he saw his opponents leading a life in leisure and enjoying themselves in perfect peace. If I had been he, I would surely have said: "Lord, if I am righteous and please Thee, but they are unrighteous and displease Thee, why dost Thou bless them in this manner with riches? Why dost Thou heap all kinds of favors upon them, while I, together with my people, am maltreated in various ways and have almost no support at all?" In short, I would despair under such great misfortunes unless the Lord gave me the same spirit that Noah had.
Noah is an illustrious and grand example of faith. He withstood the opinions of the world with heroic steadfastness and was able to believe that he was righteous, but that all the rest of the world was unrighteous.
Whenever I think of those saintly men, John Hus and Jerome of Prague, I reflect with the greatest admiration on their great courage; for these two men withstood the verdicts of the entire world -- the pope, the emperor, the bishops, the princes, all the universities and schools throughout the empire.
It is profitable to reflect on such examples often. Such conflicts are fomented by the prince of the world, who with his flaming darts (Ep. 6:16) is trying to create despair in our hearts; and we must be equipped not to yield to the rage of the enemy but to say with Noah: "I know that I am righteous before God, even though the entire world forsakes me and condemns me as a heretic and an unrighteous man." Thus the apostles forsook Christ and left Him standing alone; but He said (Jo. 16:32): "I am not alone." False brethren likewise forsook Paul. These perils are not new or unusual. Therefore we must not despair in them but courageously hold fast to the sound doctrine, no matter how much the world condemns and curses it.
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