Monday, November 25, 2013

Changes on the Horizon

Since "nobody reads Ichabod," it may come as a surprise for some of our readers to hear that there are some changes in the works for Intrepid Lutherans. Then again, it may not. Likewise, if everyone reads Ichabod, it may come as a surprise for some to learn that the changes being considered are not nearly so dramatic as is rumoured. Then again, it may not.

The past year or so has seen some significant changes for us, personally, professionally and as a group. It is no secret that Rev. Rydecki, after making independent study of the Doctrine of Justification and having publicly raised some simple questions of exegesis from the floor of a Pastors conference in his District, was eventually labeled by his Brothers a heretic and cast out from among them without the honest review of his concerns for which he pleaded at length. No longer WELS, he has since colloquized into the ELDoNA, which was concerned and objective enough to give him an honest hearing, and to carefully consider and deliberate his arguments before receiving him. But this is not the extent of the personal changes many of us at IL have faced. I, for one, have been in the midst of some fairly significant business changes over the past several months, that have altered my availability to write with the frequency to which many may have become accustomed. And I know that shifting responsibilities and personal circumstances have impacted the others, as well.

But there have been other changes – changes in attitude toward our initial "objectives." In our recent, and very popular post, What on Earth could the CoP possibly have meant by THIS?, we identified two "primary precipitating situations behind [the] formation" of Intrepid Lutherans in 2010:
    (1) the appalling treatment of the layman, Mr. Rick Techlin, by his pastor and congregation, and the incomprehensible support publicly granted them by the praesidium of the Northern Wisconsin District; and

    (2) the continuing existence of "Time of Grace Ministry" as a manifestly non-denominational and unionistic evangelism Ministry conducted by WELS and other Lutherans, and the continuing support of the praesidium of the Southeastern Wisconsin District enjoyed by "Time of Grace Ministry."
Regarding the first situation, it concluded most unsatisfactorily, while related issues either pre-existing or descending directly from it seem to continue unabated. Regarding the second situation... that liberalizing juggernaut continues – with an endless supply of independent funding and a multitude of supporting voices both within Synod, especially among its leadership, and among the laity as well.

The result is no small level of disenfranchisement among a majority of Intrepid Lutheran editors, and a resulting shift in personal interest and priority. Of all the friends they thought they had, very few have stood with them publicly. With no significant public voice to oppose the abuses that brought us all together in 2010, such abuses are now normative in WELS. There is no stopping it, there is no changing it, indeed, there is no referring to it as somehow "wrong" anymore. That is because WELS has changed. If, three and a half years ago, we very naïvely thought such things could have been stopped, curtailed or at least turned toward reformation (and some of us did think such could happen), that naiveté has been sucked from us as the hot desert sun draws moisture from a naked body; publicly deserted by those who privately supported us, we, along with our remaining stalwart public supporters, have baked alone in the sun.

For these and a variety of other reasons, the majority of Intrepid Lutheran editors have found that their enthusiasm with respect to our purpose regarding these precipitating situations has left them, that current circumstances have driven them to focus on other priorities.

The only two who are willing to continue are myself and Rev. Rydecki – although going forward neither of us will have the time to publish as frequently as we have in the past, with Rev. Rydecki's involvement reducing to moderator and occasional blog posts.

This leaves us with a dilemma of sorts. Currently, Intrepid Lutherans is incorporated as a non-profit religious and educational institution, so that we can collect revenue in the form of donations and use it to host conferences. Believe it or not, we were in the midst of planning such a conference for next Spring, a conference that would have included not only the results of a systematic study of Church Growth trends in the WELS, but an in depth examination of translation ideology – of Dynamic Equivalence versus Formal Equivalence – of the "Critical Text" Greek apparatus that stands behind DE, and the "Historical Critical Method" that props it up. In addition, this conference would have provided an academic defense for the adoption of the "New King James Translation" of the Bible. There were other topics on the docket for exploration as well. If Intrepid Lutherans were to continue with such endeavors, it would need to remain incorporated. But it would also need qualified Board Members. Though Rev. Rydecki is willing to continue as an author, he simply does not have the time to devote to the duties of a corporate officer. And corporations require at least two officers.

Likewise, even if Intrepid Lutherans were to continue as just a Blog, we simply need more qualified writers. Between Rev. Rydecki and myself, maybe two or three entries a month are all that could be expected, which is not nearly enough to maintain a dedicated readership.

If we were to continue in either case, the purpose of Intrepid Lutherans would necessarily change. First and foremost, we would entirely cease to be a "WELS blog", or an organization that defines its existence or purpose with reference to ANY Lutheran synod or church body. We have very definitely entered a post-Synodical Era, and it will do the scattered remnant of genuine Lutherans little good for Intrepid Lutherans, or for any Lutheran group, to conduct itself with an imbalanced and unrealistic devotion to earthly organizations. In order to provide a balance of Lutheran perspectives, the hope would be to attract regular contributors and/or leadership candidates from additional sources in American Lutheranism.

Second, since it would not be defining itself relative to any Lutheran synod or church body, Intrepid Lutherans would end that aspect of its mission which continually addressed itself to the political issues of WELS, or those of any Lutheran synod or church body. That isn't to say that such issues won't be pointedly discussed from time to time, particularly as Intrepid Lutherans continues to warn of growing corruption in, and encroaching worldliness upon broad segments of American Lutheranism – a warning that is relevant to all Lutheran church bodies in America, even if they (think they) have separated themselves from the rest of Christianity, or even if they (think they) have sequestered themselves from the rest of the World.

Third, rather than addressing ourselves to Lutheran clergy and laity, we would be focusing on primarily equipping and engaging Lutheran laity. We would do this not by insulting them with condescending "bubble-gum," but by providing what seems be disappearing from the main Lutheran publishing houses: the highest quality writing we can muster, sufficiently sourced so that the layman can continue to investigate as interest would lead him, and have confidence in what he passes on to others. The equipping we would hope to offer Lutheran laity would be a preparation, not to stand as confessional Lutherans before similarly confessing "brothers" and family members who don't really want to live up to the label they apply to themselves, but to stand as confessing Christians in a Western Society that has swiftly grown shockingly and openly hostile to Christianity.

Fourth, there would be a more deliberate effort to cover Lutheran teaching and practice from a more broadly and historically orthodox perspective, rather than elevate peculiarities of recent American innovation that have supplanted those perspectives. To this end, and in the interest of equipping the laity, there would also be a more deliberate effort to cover Lutheran teaching and practice not only as current issues in American Christianity give rise to questions regarding, or a need to defend, historic and orthodox Christianity, but from the standpoint of balance from the four categories of preparation in the Christian religion: Exegetical & Historical Theology (the so-called "historic" disciplines), and Systematic & Practical Theology (the so-called "constructive" disciplines) – where we would also recognize that Systematic Theology is more than just dogmatics, but also includes apologetics and ethics. In other words, our goals would be set so that there could be no mistaking – on our part or anyone else's – that rather than set out to "achieve" any particular result (impossible, since these goals include no arrival point), we are merely proceeding in a direction that we are convinced it is proper to go, trusting that the Lord will make fitting use of our "going."

What would not be changing? Our "What we Believe" statement would not be changed. We would continue to be a forum in which friendly and productive discussion on the article of Justification may be engaged by genuinely interested and concerned Lutherans. We will continue to herald confessional Lutheran practice – historic, liturgical and catholic practice, that is – as the proper form of worship for confessing Lutherans, and we will continue to vigorously oppose all forms of sectarian worship which boasts of its separation from the Church catholic and heralds its union with worldliness, and which disparages the Holy Spirit who works exclusively through the Means of Grace and arrogantly augments or even supplants His work with the efforts of man. We will continue to oppose the encroachments of Truth-killing post-Modern thought upon our pre-Modern system of theology, we will continue to oppose post-Modernism as a foundation for contemporary translations of the Bible, and we will continue to reject the NIV as a viable translation for the serious Christian. All posts would remain as they are – without editing or removal. The efforts of editors and Board members would continue to be rendered gratis.

We have given ourselves until the end of the year. It's up to our readers, now. If there are those who would be interested in becoming a regular essayist, or in having more substantial involvement with IL, please make yourselves known to us (privately, if you desire). If we don't know you, we may ask you to submit a CV and provide references. If, by the end of the year, we have not made any progress toward increasing our number of active authors, or in acquiring additional qualified leadership candidates, we will de-incorporate and mothball the blog. In this event, all blog posts will remain as they are and continue to be available for public access into the foreseeable future, for as long as we are able to maintain our domain name.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Johann Gerhard on 1 Timothy 3:16

Those who teach that God has already absolved all people of their sins (e.g., Walther’s famous “Easter Absolution”) and declared all people righteous in Christ, whether they believe in Christ or not, have to take short phrases out of context in order to read their doctrine back into the Scriptures and the writings of the Lutheran Fathers.  As their proof passages for universal absolution apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith fall one by one (e.g., Rom. 3:24, Rom. 4:25, Rom. 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:19, all of which teach justification by faith, not apart from faith or before faith), they are left grasping at straws to fortify their teetering teaching of an Easter Absolution of all men.  So some have isolated one phrase from 1 Tim. 3:16 to prove what they claim is the very foundation of our faith.  Following F. Pieper blindly and uncritically, they isolate one phrase from Johann Gerhard (which was repeated by Abraham Calov) on this verse (the same phrase being repeated in their commentaries on Rom. 4:25) to “prove” that the Lutheran Church has always taught that all men were absolved by God—apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith—in the resurrection of Christ.

As usual, a simple glance at the Scriptural context reveals no such universal absolution.  And as usual, a look at the context of the Lutheran Fathers reveals that they did not teach such a thing, either.

The following is a translation of the section from Johann Gerhard’s commentary on 1 Timothy dealing with the phrase “justified in the spirit” in 1 Tim. 3:16.  It is the entire section that deals with that phrase, plus a translation of Gerhard's concluding analysis of the verse.


Adnotationes ad Priorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam
Annotations on St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy
by Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

Ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι (“He was justified in spirit”). (1) Theodoret, Primasius, Sedulius, Anselm, Thomas, Lyranus, Cajetan, Gagnaeus, Justininanus, etc., understand “spirit” as “Holy Spirit,” so that the sense is: Just as ὁ θεάνθρωπος (the God-Man) Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so from the beginning of His conception by the Holy Spirit He was made righteous and holy in such a way that He never had nor did He commit any sin. But “to be justified” is never attributed anywhere to Christ in the sense of “to be made righteous.”  Nor would it denote anything special in Christ, since it is common to all righteous men that they have been justified in the Spirit. (2) It is more correctly understood as the Deity of Christ, since whatever is beyond human in Christ is called “spirit.” Therefore, it says, “The Son of God was manifested in the flesh, justified by means of the spirit,” that is, His Deity, by the strength of which He performed miracles and raised Himself from the dead. Therefore, by means of His miracles, performed by the power of a holy spirit, but especially by means of the resurrection, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God against the calumnies of His enemies. (Rom. 1:4, 1 Pet. 3:18).

By means of the spirit He was shown to be righteous and true (Latin declaratus est justus et verax) in works and doctrine, and He was also set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from all the calumnies of the Jews. This type of justification for God agrees with Ps. 51:6, Matt. 11:18, Luke 7:29.

“He was justified,” that is, He was shown to be righteous (Latin justus declaratus), since in and by means of the resurrection Christ was set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from the sins of men that He took upon Himself as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.

[commentary on the rest of the verse follows, concluding with the following:]

Observe the steps in the apostolic saying: (1) “God was manifested in flesh.”  This is the incarnation. (2) “Justified in spirit.” This is the policy (politia) or the conduct (conversatio) of Christ on this earth, in which, by means of various miracles, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God. (3) “Seen by angels.” This is the resurrection. (4) “Preached among the nations.” This is the preaching of the Gospel, which some received by faith.  (5) “Received in glory.” This is the ascension.


It is clear from his own exposition of 1 Tim. 3:16 that Johann Gerhard did not find in this verse a universal absolution of all men.  What he found was that, through the miracles He performed on earth and especially through His greatest miracle of raising Himself from the dead, Christ demonstrated His Deity.  Gerhard did not apply this “setting free” (“justification, vindication, absolution”) of Christ to all men.  He explicitly explains “this type of justification for God” in a different sense than the Book of Concord describes the justification of sinners.  In other words, Gerhard is not describing the article of justification in these words, nor is he referring at all to the “forensic (divine courtroom) justification,” either of Christ or of anyone else.

What Gerhard does say about Christ is the same thing we say about Christ who deny a universal absolution without faith.  Namely, that Christ “took upon Himself the sins of men as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.” Indeed, Christ bore the sins of all and made satisfaction for the sins of all.  He served as Guarantor (or “Sponsor”) of all men.  And He was “shown to be righteous” in being “set free”(“absolved”) from sin's penalty, which is death.

But to make satisfaction for the sins of all does not result in the justification of all.  It is only through faith in Christ that His satisfaction is applied to sinners so that they are justified.  And to serve as Guarantor of all men does not result in the justification of all men.  It is only through faith in the Guarantor that His payment is applied to their account so that they are justified before God.  And Christ's being “set free” from sin's penalty, namely, death, is not a reference to any announcement by God that all sinners have been “set free” (absolved) from their sins, since all unbelievers are and remain dead and condemned.

However, those who believe in Christ do share in His resurrection and His life and have already escaped from death through faith in Him, and thus, as Calov/Gerhard point out, God “has absolved us in Him” (nos in ipso absolvit) not at the time of Christ's resurrection, but at the time when we were incorporated into Christ, namely, through Holy Baptism, which is consistent with all the Scriptures and the entire Book of Concord.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Exploring Huber - The Dialogue Continues

(Continued from the dialogue in this post and subsequent comments.)

Lawson: I'm finally getting around to a response (wouldn't want you to think I've yielded the field after only one post!).

Rydecki: Not a problem at all. In fact, I’m sure you’re also busy putting together an evaluation of the ELDoNA theses, and I would rather that take precedence over your dialogue with me. But I am thankful for the dialogue!

Lawson:I think you're missing Walther's point. He was simply pointing out that the degree to which the faculties rejected Huber had some variance. Wittenberg (and, I take it, from your post today, finally also Tuebingen) adamantly rejected Huber's position on universal justification, while Wuerttemberg simply rejected the difference in terminology. Okay, fine. As you point out, it doesn't really matter. The fact is, all three faculties did reject him.

Rydecki: Please correct me if I’m wrong, Pr. Lawson, but isn’t the Württemberg faculty the same as the Tübingen faculty? Isn’t Tübingen the capital of Württemberg, and therefore, just two different ways of referring to the same faculty? As far as I can tell, there is no “third faculty” that simply rejected the difference in terminology.

Lawson: Nevertheless, their (salutary) reason for that rejection is not at issue in the present controversy, nor was it at issue for Walther.

Rydecki: It seems to me that it is at issue, because, regardless of the various aspects of Huber’s doctrine that may be different from that of Walther (and their teaching is obviously not identical), the Lutheran Church rejected Huber’s exegesis of Romans 5 and 2 Cor. 5 which led him to teach that all men have been justified and that God has “not imputed sins” to all men. These are the same passages used by Walther and the Synodical Conference to teach that all men have been justified and that God has “not imputed sins” to all men. That the Lutheran Church never taught such a thing (because the Scriptures do not teach such a thing) is the very issue at hand.

Lawson: It's not as if theology stopped with Hunnius, or even John Gerhard, though.

Rydecki: I don’t think anyone has claimed that “theology stopped.” The problem is that the theological paradigm of justification changed from Wittenberg to Walther.

The basic Lutheran paradigm for justification from the beginning and continuing through the controversies with Huber (indeed, the Christian paradigm since the time of the Apostles) is: (1) God, in His grace, sent His Son to redeem our fallen race. (2) Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all and earned righteousness for all, so that (3) whoever believes in Him has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, and, thus covered in the righteousness of Christ, sinners are justified before God.

The novel Waltherian paradigm for justification is: (1) God, in His grace, sent His Son to redeem our fallen race. (2) Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all and earned righteousness for all. (3) Therefore God has already justified/absolved/declared all men righteous. (4) Whoever believes that all men have been justified becomes a personal recipient of the one-time justification of all men.

Or, to approach it from another angle, the historic Lutheran understanding is: (1) God imputed the sins of all to Christ, who suffered and paid for them all. (2) God imputes the righteousness of Christ to believers in Christ / does not impute sins to believers in Christ. (3) God still imputes sins to all unbelievers.

The Waltherian paradigm is: (1) God imputed the sins of all to Christ, who suffered and paid for them all. (2) In this very act, God was already “not imputing sins” to all men and imputing to all men the righteousness of Christ, as He views all men “in Christ.” (3) At the same time, God does impute sins to all men, as He views all men “outside of Christ.” (4) The righteousness of Christ is imputed individually to believers in Christ.

Would you agree with the Waltherian paradigms as I have outlined them here?

Lawson: The election controversy btw, provides a contrary example of how a theological concept - in this case "God's election in view of faith" - that could be seen as orthodox at its origin, had to be rejected 250 years later .

Rydecki: That’s a false premise. If it was an orthodox expression 400 years ago, it didn’t “have to be rejected.” It just needed to be explained correctly and not in an Arminian way, since faith is among the eight things that the Formula of Concord tells us must never be excluded or omitted “when we speak about God’s purpose, predestination, election, and ordination to salvation.”

Lawson: That being the case, not just the terminology, but the substance of it had to be rejected, with all due respect to the venerable fathers.

Rydecki: So, are you saying the substance of Hunnius and Gerhard’s teaching concerning election was orthodox or heterodox? If the substance of their teaching was orthodox, how can you say “the substance of it had to be rejected”?

Lawson: Huber's worst error was that he taught universal election and that was a defect that tainted his whole theology. He also taught that it did not take divine action for an individual to come to faith to receive the universal justification that he was speaking of.

Rydecki: And what was the “universal justification” that anyone else at the time was speaking of?

Lawson: It is obvious that Huber taught a universal SUBJECTIVE Justification. THAT was what was objected to.

Rydecki: OK, you got me here. I have no idea what a “universal subjective justification” is. Has someone defined that somewhere? Could you explain it without using the words “objective” or “subjective”?

As I understand “subjective justification,” it is the individual reception of forgiveness, life and salvation by faith, no? Those who are “subjectively justified” (according to Walther) are going to heaven, right? But we have already seen from Huber’s own words that Huber’s universal justification did not teach that individuals "possessed" these benefits, and that Huber denied that all people are eternally saved and taught that all people still needed to be justified by faith (even if such was not said to be a work from God).

I also don’t think it’s helpful to put words into the mouths of those who wrote against Huber. They did not object to “universal subjective justification.” They objected to his teaching that God had justified all men equally, and to his teaching that God has “not imputed” sins to all men, based on 2 Cor. 5.

Lawson: The fact that Walther's teaching on OJ (and ours) bears some similarities to Huber's (and even uses the same words at times) matters not, because his (and our) doctrine diverges from Huber at precisely the point where Huber is condemned - at the point of using OJ as a synonym for universal election and as a cover for asserting man's free will to accept God's justification.

Rydecki: Did you notice what I wrote in the post above about the three accusations against Huber? Yes, he was condemned for asserting that justification by faith was not a divine work (I don’t know if he talked about free will). He was also condemned for teaching a universal justification in the first place, in which God had already justified all men. On what do you base your claim that the Tübingen theologians agreed with Huber on the universal justification part?

Lawson: It won't do to simply engage in the "guilt by association" fallacy and summarily condemn all the words of those who teach OJ simply because they sound similar to those of a condemned man (isn't that what Eck did with Luther?)

Rydecki: Actually, I (and the diocese) have done precisely the opposite of this. Who has summarily condemned all the words of those who teach OJ simply because of their similarity to Huber? On the contrary, we have pointed out similarities in terminology and teaching (and we recognize dissimilarities as well) in order to examine these teachings under the light of Scripture and the Confessions, and we are using the arguments of the Lutheran Church of the 1590’s to further illustrate the Lutheran paradigm of justification and how it differs from the Huberian paradigm and from the Waltherian paradigm. The fact that the Huberian and Waltherian paradigm overlap at various points is part of the picture. Walther’s intentional adoption of a pattern of words that was previously condemned by the Lutheran Church also necessitates further review and inquiry. But in the end, Walther was not wrong about his general justification because of its similarity to Huber’s general justification. He was wrong because the Scriptures and the Confessions only know of a justification that happens through the Word, as sinners are brought to faith in Christ and faith is imputed for righteousness in God’s sight.

Lawson: Even if Huber's doctrine sounds similar to our doctrine of OJ, so what? It only sounds similar.

Rydecki: That’s a claim that will be hard to substantiate based on the similar usage and interpretation of the Bible passages that supposedly teach OJ, like Rom. 5 and 2 Cor. 5.

Lawson: Nor does that fact that Huber taught an errant OJ mean that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine.

Rydecki: That's true. The fact that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine means that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine.

Lawson: For instance, if you are going to insist that the only type of Justification that exists with God is the one we call SUBJECTIVE Justification and hence, any talk of Justification in any other connection is a fiction, what do you do with the fact that the Bible speaks of Justification in another context even as early as Isaiah 53:11:

Rydecki: Actually, the Bible speaks of justification much earlier: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Lawson: "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." The word "many" here means all. When one speaks of those who truly believe they are the "remnant" or the "few" ("Many are called, few are chosen"). This is the reason that any of us can be certain that we are saved. It was only John Calvin that intruded doubt into this by saying "many, not all," but technically all sinners are "many" in contradistinction with Christ the "one." All of humanity is the "all": if you set Christ aside this all becomes "the many."

Rydecki: Huh? I’m sorry, but that is really convoluted logic. The word here is "many." The context does not necessitate interpreting it as "all." "Many" may refer to all, or it may simply refer to "many" as opposed to "few." The Church is not always referred to as "few." Sometimes it's referred to as "a great multitude which no one could number" (Rev. 7:9).

How about this? We let the word “many” inspired by the Holy Spirit in Is. 53:11 mean “many.” Period. Not a few. But “many.” And we let it refer to the same justification by faith that all the other Scripture passages talk about, letting the words mean what they say and letting Scripture interpret Scripture.

Then we’re left with something like this: “By the knowledge of Jesus (that is, by the many knowing what He will do/now has done) many shall be justified (by faith in Jesus, all to the glory of Jesus and not at all to their own glory). And He shall bear their iniquities (so that it may be so).”

And if we’re looking for an argument against the Calvinistic limited atonement, then we go to those passages that clearly and expressly make the atonement unlimited (Jn. 1:29, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc.).

Lawson: Hunnius is simply not the last word on this subject, but it appears to me that you have virtually made him the last word.

Rydecki: Actually, Hunnius, Leyser, Gesner, the Tübingen theologians, Gerhard, et al.

Lawson: There is theology after Hunnius (and Gerhard).

Rydecki: Where such theology is different than the theology of the Christian Church that preceded it, I think we refer to such theology as “novel.” There is a reason why confessional Lutherans bind themselves to the pattern of words in the Book of Concord. We’re sure that the theology contained therein is reliable, because we have tested it against Scripture and found it to be so. I have no such certainty with regard to Walther and the pattern of words and the exegesis of Bible passages he borrowed from Huber.

Lawson: Walther acknowledged that the orthodox Lutherans did not speak like Huber because of Huber's errors. But without Huber he thought they would have.

Rydecki: I wonder if he also thought they would have agreed with him on Rom. 5 and 2 Cor. 5, contrary to their expressed words and interpretation of those passages. It’s easy to speculate that dead theologians would subscribe to one’s doctrine. It’s another thing to prove it.

Lawson: They did later on. What do you make of Calov saying: "Christ's resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin (respectu actualis a peccato absolutionis). As God punished our sins in Christ, upon whom He laid them and to whom He imputed them, as our Bondsman, so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, and so He absolved also us in Him" (Bibl. Illust., ad Rom. 4:25; quoted in Pieper, vol. III)?

Rydecki: I refer you to Appendix 4 of the Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace essay, the section entitled, “Gerhard’s ‘absolved us in Him’ phrase,” where it has already been demonstrated that Gerhard (and Calov after him) was referring to believers only in the “us” who have been absolved, and even then, as we (ELDoNA) state in our Thesis 11 on Justification:

For example, to say, “Christ was absolved in the resurrection,” is to employ an illustration that is not truly apt, as an ‘absolution’ declares one innocent in spite of one’s guilt and inability to pay for his transgressions, but the Christ’s ‘justification’ is, rather, the vindication of One who both is innocent by nature and by conduct and who has paid for the sins of all others. The fact that the Christ was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and bore our sins as His own (Psalm 69:5) does not require Him to be absolved, since, again, He was not forgiven for our sins (forgiveness requiring someone else to pay the debt). Instead, He Himself paid the debt.

Lawson: Even earlier and more clear (with regard to a "universal" absolution), Gerhard: "... Some bring in here the apostolic teaching in 1 Timothy 3:16, God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit (namely through the resurrection by God the Father), that is, he was absolved of the sins of the whole world, which he as Sponsor took upon himself, so that he might make perfect satisfaction for them to God the Father. Moreover in rising from the dead he showed by this very fact that satisfaction has been made by him for these sins, and all of the same have been expiated by the sacrifice of his death"

Rydecki: There is no “universal absolution” in Gerhard’s words. First, he says, “Some bring in here…” If “some” bring it in here, then obviously not “all” bring it in here. Are we really searching for the very foundation of justification and the very object of our faith in what “some” have “brought into” a discussion on a given passage? That’s hardly something to stake my soul on.

Second, see the above Thesis 11 on Gerhard’s use of the word “absolved” here.

Third, 1 Tim. 3:16 doesn’t say, “absolved of the sins of the whole world.” It lists “justified/vindicated in the Spirit” in a whole list of non-vicarious statements. To make this one phrase into a vicarious statement is an extrapolation for which we will not condemn Gerhard or anyone, but we certainly will not accept it as a proof passage that “all men have already been absolved by God.”

Lawson: After you presented your paper at the colloquium, I asked you if you had dealt substantively with the absolution and election controversies in the Synodical Conference and what might have led Walther et alii to use language (and substance) that bears similarities to Huber. You just sort of dismissed my inquiry at the time, and there wasn't time to pursue it (though I could have during the break). I would still like to see you deal with this.

Rydecki: And again I will put you off, because this response has been lengthy enough. But it is not a dismissal of you. You haven’t set forth anything in this regard except for a question. If you have some teaching or explanation to set forth from the absolution/election controversies, please share it. I will be happy to read it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Lutheran understanding of 2 Corinthians 5:19

We Lutherans who hold to the Scriptural and Lutheran doctrine that sinners are only justified by God through faith in Christ (as opposed to the supposed universal justification of all men, whether they believe in Christ or not) are often accused of ignoring the Bible and elevating the Book of Concord to inspired status.  What these vain accusers fail to understand is that the doctrine confessed in the Book of Concord is the direct result of the Biblical exegesis of the Lutherans who originally published and subscribed it.  The Christian doctrine of justification by faith is taught everywhere in the Scriptures.  The supposed universal justification of all men apart from faith is said to be taught in a handful of passages.  Chief among this handful of passages is 2 Corinthians 5:19.

As I have demonstrated before (from the words of Chemnitz and of Melanchthon), the historic Lutheran Church never viewed that passage as teaching that God has declared all men righteous, whether they believe or not.  This fact is most emphatically demonstrated in the Censure of the Tübingen Theologians against Samuel Huber, and I agree wholeheartedly with their exegesis.  Tom Hardt's "Justification and Easter" essay contains one sentence reflecting the Lutheran Church's exegesis of 2 Corinthians 5:19, where they state that "Paul never teaches universal justification."  I have finally acquired a copy of Hardt's source material in Latin, and I offer here the whole paragraph translated into English:

    Actorum Huberianorum Pars Posterior, Tübingen 1597, p. 122-123.
    Paul never teaches universal justification. For with regard to the passage in 2 Cor. 5, those words, “not imputing sins to them,” are not to be understood universally concerning all men without respect to faith. For although the Apostle does not expressly mention faith there, nonetheless no mention is ever made in the Scriptures of an imputation where a consideration of faith is excluded. For just as God imputes righteousness to no one except for the believer, so also it is to believers only that He does not impute sins.
    Paul expressly teaches this very thing in Rom. 4: “Not to the one who works, but to the one who believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is imputed as righteousness.” And: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord has not imputed sin.” Paul refers these words to the justification of faith, through which sins are remitted to a man, or in other words, not imputed. And such a man is pronounced blessed. But no one is blessed and saved without faith. Now, if those words are to be understood universally concerning all men, according to Huber’s opinion, then all men would be blessed and saved, for he is said to be blessed to whom God does not impute sins.
    How is it, then, according to the declaration of Christ, that “he who does not believe has been condemned already”? How does the wrath of God remain on him (John 3)? And since unbelievers have already been condemned, therefore their sins are imputed to them, and consequently those words of the Apostle are not to be understood universally and simply concerning any and all men, both believers and unbelievers. Rather, they include the means revealed in the Word of God, namely, a consideration of faith. That is, that God does not impute sins to men if they believe in Christ the Propitiator. If they do not believe, their sins are imputed to them, and they are condemned on account of them.
    The same thing is revealed in the Book of Concord, page 657, where it says this: “For justification, these things are required and necessary: the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and FAITH, which embraces these very benefits of God in the promise of the Gospel. In this way (that is, through faith), the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.” And shortly before: “The righteousness of faith before God consists in the free and most gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ (apart from any merit of our works). That is, that sins have been remitted to us and covered, nor are they imputed to us.” The meaning, therefore, of the Apostle’s words is: “not imputing sins to them by the means ordained in God’s Word.” Indeed, if the words are to be understood simply, without a consideration of faith, then why does God condemn the world to which God, according to Huber’s opinion, does not impute sins?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Reformation Symphony

Felix MendelssohnThe 19th Century, Romantic Era composer Felix Mendelssohn, as the reader may know, was known as a staunch Lutheran – much like his protégé Johannes Brahms. Unlike Brahms, however (who was born into a Lutheran family), Mendelssohn was, like the 19th Century church historian Dr. Alfred Edersheim, an adult convert to Christianity from Judaism. Residing and composing in Leipzig – the home of Johann Sebastian Bach (who has been featured on Intrepid Lutherans on many occasions) – he was more than merely an important composer of the Romantic Era who happened to be a Lutheran. He was a key figure in the resurrection of appreciation for the works of Bach, which had been forgotten following the time of Frederick the Great of Prussia, with whom Bach valiantly contended for the sake of Christianity.

Not only this, however, Mendelssohn became an ardent opponent of the extravagant Wagnerian philosophy of "Total Art," which, overtaking Europe for a time and eventually infecting America, required very expensive venues to house simultaneous lengthy performances of Ballet, Symphony and Opera, and was successful enough to cause such a drought in these individual genres as to threaten their existence.

In 1830, Felix Mendelssohn penned his Fifth Symphony, in honor of the 300th anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Circumstances prevented its timely completion. It was finally published in 1868, twenty-one years after his death, during the peak of Wagnerian artistic philosophy and the consequent trough of the symphonic form itself. It was entitled, the Reformation Symphony. In a manner typical of the Romantic Era, the music was composed as a tonal representation of the struggle for the Truth of the Gospel throughout the Reformation, beginning with John Wycliffe – the "Morning Star of the Reformation" – and Jan Huss up through the German Reformation led by Dr. Martin Luther. It isn't until the latter third of the symphony that the Lutheran can recognize the triumphant strains of Luther's Reformation hymn, A Mighty Fortress.

More than a tonal representation of the Reformation, Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony was singularly responsible for reviving the symphonic form throughout Europe and America, as well. With it's clearly Lutheran tonal imagery, it was instantly popular among European immigrants in America, most of whom settled in the midwest, and being a relatively short and simple composition, it was within the talent spectrum of the average German or Scandinavian immigrant, many of whom had acquired a superb education in Europe prior to their journey here, many more of whom had at least average if not advanced musical skill. In fact, many local and regional symphonies and music societies were created specifically to play this piece, and survived for many years thereafter, reviving the symphony and the musical arts not only in the midwest and America, but in Europe as well. Indeed, the popularity of Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony in the 19th Century has been credited with felling Wagner's philosophy of "Total Art."

A fitting piece to spend a few minutes with this evening as we remember and celebrate the Reformation, this is a full recording of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 5 in D major/D minor, Reformation Symphony, performed by the New York Philharmonic, and led by Leonard Bernstein.

Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony
NY Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein

95 Theses for Reformation Day: Fighting for the Faith

Below is a link to some thought-provoking theses which are meant to be read and debated.  Readers are welcome to debate them here on Intrepid Lutherans.

A New 95 Theses: Challenging The Excesses Of American Evangelicalism (on the web)

A New 95 Theses: Challenging The Excesses Of American Evangelicalism (in PDF format)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Exploring Huber's doctrine further

The following dialogue is my response to this comment by Pr. Rob Lawson. It is far too long for the “Comments” section of the blog, so it has been made into a separate post. The various ‘speakers’ are identified for the sake of clarity. If other participants in this dialogue would like to have similar lengthy responses posted as a post rather than as a comment, we can accommodate them in the same way if they send in their reply via e-mail, preferably already in HTML format.

Lawson: Walther neither ignored, nor was he was ignorant of, Hunnius' later condemnation. The rest of the paragraph that you quoted states: "The Wittenberg theologians (Gesner, Leyser, Hunnius, and others) did not want to tolerate Huber's expression: "Christus contulit proprie redemtionem toti generi humano," that is, "Christ imparted redemption to the entire human race in the proper sense," because the actual imparting, "as it is taken in the theological schools," refers to the appropriation."

Rydecki: Yes, that’s an interesting way for Walther to minimize the devastating condemnation Hunnius leveled against Huber’s teaching of universal justification. Walther makes it seem like it’s just the expression (which occurs in Thesis #1 of Hunnius’ 20 Theses opposed to Huber’s universal justification) “Christ conferred redemption” that the Wittenberg theologians didn’t like. I don’t know if Walther failed to read past Thesis #1, or if he just figured Hunnius was having a bad day. According to the Theses Opposed to Huberianism and the larger description of the problem in A Clear Explanation of the Controversy, it was much more than just a matter of inaccurate expression, and it was much more than just this one expression. I commend these two works for study and discussion. As Hunnius explains over and over, the Lutheran Church did not teach any sort of universal justification.

Lawson: Walther was simply pointing out that the faculty at Wuerttemberg didn't seem to get quite as bent out of shape about Huber's doctrine of "universal justification" as did the Wittenberg faculty. Wuerttemberg noted mainly a terminological difference (which they didn't like) and not a substantive one.

Rydecki: Actually Tom Hardt himself debunks Walther’s claim in footnote #28 of his paper, noting that the response of the Tuebingen theologians was quite early in the conflict and “cannot be used to cover the conflict in general, which is suggested by the inclusion of those words in C. F. W. Walther’s edition of J. W. Baier: Compendium.” In other words, Walther’s inclusion of the Wuerttemberg theologians’ conclusion in the Baier Compendium was misleading. Walther tried to use the early response of the Tuebingen theologians to make the case (or at least he gives the impression) that the whole thing was primarily a matter of disagreement over terminology. Even Hardt, who supports Walther’s Objective Justification, recognizes Walther’s error in that regard.

Even so, the Wuerttemberg theologians, as you say, didn’t like Huber’s terminology, while the Wittenberg theologians unequivocally rejected his terminology. Why, then, did Walther and H.A. Preus go on to adopt that very terminology? And why does it bother the supporters of universal justification so much to be linked to Huber, if, according to Walther, his doctrine was substantively orthodox and nothing for orthodox Lutherans to get bent out of shape about? If Walther’s followers think that Huber was basically orthodox with regard to justification and that the Wittenberg theologians taught justification wrongly (since they rejected Huber’s teaching of it), then it would seem to be the honest thing to just come out and say so.

Lawson: There was, after all, a temporary reconciliation between Huber and Wittenberg in 1594 (which the faculty at Tuebingen also signed on to). It fell apart not because of Huber's doctrine of universal justification per se, but because of where he took it.

Rydecki: I have seen no evidence whatsoever in Hardt or anywhere else that Huber’s doctrine of universal justification was ever found to be acceptable by anyone in Wittenberg, once they learned what it was. Again, as Hardt points out, this temporary reconciliation (February, 1594) was very early in the conflict. Hunnius explains (in A Clear Explanation, April, 1594) that, at first, they were wondering if it was just a difference of terminology, but after further investigation it became clear that it was the concept itself that was flawed. There is plenty of evidence from 1594, from 1597 (Theses Opposed to Huberianism), and from subsequent years that Huber’s universal justification was always found to be wrong, and that the temporary reconciliation that took place was due to Huber’s temporary retraction of some of his statements.

Furthermore, it is the positive teaching of Hunnius concerning the article of justification that demonstrates the error of universal justification just as much as his negative statements about Huber’s doctrine. There was no teaching of universal justification—by that or any other name—in the Lutheran Church. There never had been, according to Hunnius, from the time of Luther on. There was a teaching of the universal satisfaction made by Christ, and the universal will of God for man’s salvation, and the universal call by God to all men in the Gospel, and the universal merit of redemption and reconciliation, but only the particular doctrine of election, and only the particular doctrine of justification.

Lawson: At least that's Tom Hardt's take in his essay "Justification and Easter" in the Robert Preus festschrift. Here is the extended quote from Hardt (sorry for the length). I'm sure you've read it, but for others who haven't…

Rydecki: Yes, I have read Hardt’s essay a couple of times. In fact, I have Hardt’s essay to thank for directing me to study Huber and Hunnius in the first place. Before I read Hardt, I had no idea about either Huber or Hunnius. I simply believed what my seminary professors had always told me, that the Lutheran Church has “always taught” universal justification, especially due to Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:19. Then I read Hardt’s account of the controversy between Huber and the Wittenberg faculty, including the section where he quotes the Wittenberg faculty: “Never does Paul teach universal justification. For as far as concerns 2 Corinthians 5, the words ‘not imputing their trespasses unto them,’ they are not to be understood universally about all men regardless of faith.” So I appreciate Hardt’s work and his scholarship, without being able to agree with all of his conclusions, because they do not appear to be supported even by his own evidence.

Hardt: … When confronted with Huber’s interpretation of Romans 5:19b, where he understands ‘all’ to include also unbelievers, his opponents [i.e., ‘men such as Egidius Hunnius, Polycarp Leyser and Samuel Gesner’] introduce a distinction, saying that ‘condemnation as far as it concerns the debt belongs to all men but as far as concerns its execution (“ACTU”) belongs only to impenitents and unbelievers. So the offer of God’s grace and Christ’s merit is universal but as far as it concerns its execution (“ACTU”) it is limited to believers only, who are excluded from condemnation through the benefaction of Christ, grasped by faith.’ Hunnius et alii thus do not reject the idea of a universally valid grace. Against Huber, however, they reject the idea that somehow this grace would already be conferred on the individuals through the universality of atonement, a notion that they think to be present in Huber’s works.

Rydecki: The conclusion of the Wittenberg theologians regarding Romans 5 noted by Hardt is also cited in A Clear Explanation. I wonder if Hardt grasped the argument of the Wittenberg theologians on this point. Hunnius explains it this way (p.64):

Hunnius: And if Dr. Huber were teachable, the learned and vigorous response of the Wittenberg theologians could have abundantly satisfied him. This is how they respond to Huber regarding that passage championed by Huber, Romans 5: “On the contrary, isn’t your conclusion manifestly overthrown by that very passage that you cite, clearly demonstrating that there is no valid reason for your opposition? To be sure, just as the condemnation pertained to all men by guilt , and nevertheless actually pertains only to the impenitent and unbelieving, so also the gift of the grace of God and the merit of Christ is certainly universal. Nevertheless, it is actually restricted to believers only—those who are released from condemnation by the benefit of Christ, who is apprehended by faith.” Thus far the Wittenberg theologians.

Rydecki: There was never any controversy over the idea of “universally valid grace.” The Wittenberg theologians confessed that all along. What they rejected was the idea that grace would be conferred on all men in such a way as to justify unbelievers, which Huber most certainly did teach. “To justify sinners” is the conferral of grace on sinners. To speak of God absolving or justifying the whole world of sinners while not conferring grace on the whole world of sinners is simply absurd.

Hardt: Huber rejects this accusation as a calumniation, assuring that he has only ‘called universal justification that whereby God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, has because of this become propitiated toward all mankind, accepting it as if everyone had made satisfaction for himself.’ He assures that every individual must partake of this gift by faith in the Word and the sacraments. On the surface this seems to be an assuring convergence of views, which explains the temporary reconciliation between the parties.”

Rydecki: Hardt here betrays how he has been influenced by a Waltherian view of an Easter absolution, following the Waltherian paradigm of 1) God’s act of pardoning all men on Easter Sunday, followed by 2) God’s handing out of the already-universally-issued pardon in the Means of Grace, followed by 3) Man’s reception of the pardon by believing that all men have already been pardoned. Hardt therefore views Huber’s statement as a convergence of views and as a positive development, since Hardt is reading the Easter absolution back into the minds of the Wittenberg theologians. Indeed, as demonstrated in the original post, Huber goes on to describe his teaching of justification in almost the exact same words used by the Synodical Conference, asserting that, while all men have been justified by God, no one “possesses” justification until he believes. But it was this very teaching that the Wittenberg theologians went on to condemn.

Hardt: At length no reconciliation, however, was possible. The reason cannot, strictly speaking, be said to be the fact that Huber insisted on using the unusual term ‘universal justification’ or on maintaining the idea that all mankind had been given, in some sense, part of Christ’s universal, substitutionary righteousness.

Rydecki: Here is an example of Hardt’s conclusion not being supported by the evidence. Nowhere did the Lutheran theologians teach that mankind, in any sense, had been “given part of Christ’s righteousness.” On the contrary, they rejected that very teaching, stating over and over that Christ’s universal righteousness, while acquired for all men, is only given or shared or imputed to men by faith.

Hunnius: We most willingly grant that there is a righteousness that avails before God for the entire human race, a righteousness that has been gained and acquired through Christ, so that if the whole world were to believe in Christ, then the whole world would be justified. With respect to this, Paul writes in Romans 5 that “through one man’s justification (dikaioma), the gift of life has spread toward all men for justification (dikaiosis).” But no one is justified nor does anyone receive remission of sins from this universally acquired righteousness without the imputation of this righteousness acquired by Christ. But the imputation of righteousness does not take place except through faith. (Theses Opposed to Huberianism, Concerning Justification, Thesis #5)

Hardt: It is necessary to go more deeply into the confusingly rich material. According to our conviction the essential aberration in Huber’s doctrine on justification was in the eyes of the faculty of Wittenberg – where the main struggle took place – its teaching of unicam iustificationem, only one justification, viz. the universal one, while denying the individual one as a divine action.

Rydecki: Again, Hardt’s conclusions are not supported by the evidence (it would be helpful to be able to review the original source from which Hardt quotes—I have been unable to acquire it). He assumes that the Wittenberg theologians taught two justifications—a universal one and an individual one, as Walther does. He faults Huber, not for teaching universal justification, but for not also teaching a divine justification by faith.

Part of the problem may be his translation of “unicam justificationem” as “only one justification.” The Latin provided by Hardt states: Quod videlicet unicam iustificationem eamque omnibus hominibus absque respectu fidei ex aequo communem, contra Scripturam statuit. Literally, “Namely, that he maintains, contrary to Scripture, a singular (or 'single-faceted' or 'unique' or 'unparalleled') justification, and it common to all men equally without respect to faith.” Hardt’s translation of “only one justification” is weighted to bring about the logical conclusion that “there must be more than one justification,” thus paving the way for Walther to agree with the Wittenberg theologians. But the translation “only one” is not supported by the Latin.

Instead, as Hunnius explains, both in Hardt’s citations and in the two books previously mentioned, the Lutheran theologians explicitly denied any teaching of a universal justification by the Lutheran Church. They did, indeed, teach only one justification—the one that happens only to individuals, only by the Word, only by faith (cf. Ap.:IV:67).

Hunnius: Our Churches have always taught and still teach the justification that is by faith and that pertains to believers, but that by no means extends to the whole world. Besides this justification by faith, Dr. Huber teaches some other justification that is equally common to the entire human race. (A Clear Explanation, p. 57)

Hardt: The accusation is: ‘1) He affirms a universal justification, whereby all men are equally justified by God because of Christ’s merit, regardless of faith. 2) He denies faith’s or the believer’s individual justification to be by God or a special action of God, whereby He justifies only believers. 3) He states faith’s individual justification to be only men’s action, whereby they apply to themselves by faith the righteousness of Christ.’”

Rydecki: Hardt seems to miss the import of the first accusation against Huber. He seems to be interpreting this first accusation, not as an “accusation,” but as a concession of a point that Huber was teaching rightly, while the next two accusations reveal the point of divergence from the Wittenberg theologians. But in fact, all three enumerations are accusations against Huber. He was wrong 1) for teaching a universal justification of all men apart from faith; 2) for denying that justification by faith is a divine act; and 3) for turning justification by faith into a work of man.

Hardt: This is not a mere question of phraseology: ‘We do not deal only with terms but mainly with realities … It is intolerable in the church of Christ that he, contrary to Scripture, states that there is only [sic] one justification common to all, equally and regardless of faith … Also when he affirms universal remission of sin in his sense, … denying the individual one by God.’ Huber’s opponents have discovered that the kind of individual justification that Huber confesses to be necessary for salvation – he never embraced universalism or the final salvation of all men – was a move from man toward God, whereby the individual applied to himself the benefits of the once-forever event. No real divine justification took place in this latter action. Huber’s opponents think that this opinion ‘tastes of pelagianism.’ They point to such Scripture passages as Romans 4, Psalm 32, and Acts 3:19, where the individual remission of sins is said to take place as a direct action of God. Against Huber’s only [sic] one action by God they do not, however, teach a corresponding only one action taking place in the individual’s justification. Rather, they teach a double set of actions, two acts by God, one in Christ and one in the believer. They stress that they ‘do not simply consider, approve and explain two different aspects (nudos respectus) but different acts of God …: one universal, viz. performed by Christ, another special one, consisting in an application, which is no less a work and an act of God than the former one.’

Rydecki: Here Hardt asserts a teaching among the Wittenberg theologians of a “double set of actions.” Indeed, they did teach “two aspects” to the remission of sins (duplex remissio —“a two-faceted remission of sins,” not “two remissions of sins”!). The first aspect is that act of God by which Christ “acquired” or “obtained” righteousness for all men, which is universal. The second aspect is the act of God by which He applies the righteousness of Christ to the sinner by means of the Word, by means of faith, which is individual. However, neither aspect by itself results in anyone’s “justification.” Hardt errs, as did Walther, in identifying each of these actions separately as “justification.”

Hardt himself explains what the universal “action” was to which the Wittenberg theologians were referring: “The universal act of God toward mankind that Huber’s opponents want to maintain is described in the following way: ‘The benefit of redemption has been obtained and acquired for the entire world’, ‘the righteousness has been obtained for us.’”

To use a mundane analogy (begging the reader's forbearance), one might compare the Wittenberg theologians’ “two-faceted justification” with a “two-faceted car repair.” First, the mechanic goes out and acquires brand new engines for every car in the world. Second, he places one of them in your car. Both aspects are necessary in order for your car to be repaired. To assert that the mechanic’s acquisition of billions of engines is, “in some sense,” the repair of the whole world of cars is as ludicrous as asserting that Christ’s acquisition of righteousness for all men results in the justification of the whole world of sinners.

As cited above from the Theses Opposed to Huberianism, the obtaining and acquiring of redemption and righteousness for the entire world was never in dispute. That these things are the equivalent of a universal absolution or justification of all men, apart from faith, is what Huber asserted and the Wittenberg theologians denied. To acquire righteousness for all is not the same thing as “to justify all,” as Hunnius explains at length in the two works cited above, for the act of justification includes intrinsically the application of the righteousness of Christ, and that application is only made by faith, as Hunnius explains clearly in A Clear Explanation, p.60:

Hunnius: Here one may ask Dr. Huber when he thinks all this took place. When were all sins remitted equally to the entire human race? He has to confess one or the other—that this took place either from eternity, or in time. But it will be clearly demonstrated shortly that neither of these options can be true. We interpret those things that the Scripture contains regarding the redemption and reconciliation of the world (or of the human race) concerning the benefit gained and acquired through the death of Christ, and concerning the sufficiency of that merit of Christ—that it is sufficient for the whole world to be reconciled, justified and saved, if the whole world were to believe; that it was also intended for the world and acquired to this end, that all men should thence obtain salvation through faith. Meanwhile, God has never intended it to mean that it avails for justifying or for remitting sins without faith, through some sort of general remission of sins or justification, which is also supposedly done among those who never have faith, never had faith, or never will have faith. He who does not believe, says John the Baptist, will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3). Therefore, regarding those who never believe in the Son of God, from them also the wrath of God was never withdrawn (not even for a moment).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So Huber wasn’t a Universalist after all

Several commenters on last week’s post rightly identified the anonymous quotation as the words of Samuel Huber. A compendium of some of Huber’s writings has recently been translated by seminarian Andrew Hussman and posted to the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary essay file. The whole work is worth reading in order to see through the false depictions of Huber that have been circulated recently by those who wish to distance themselves from him.

In this post, we will begin to examine Huber’s doctrine, using the same section that was cited last week:
    Those theologians charge that I have set forth a universal justification, and indeed of such a kind that makes every person righteous by the very act of salvation and by participation, and simply carries them away into heaven. To this point they have directed every weapon of accusation thus far. But I have never dreamed or written anything of this sort.
Several proponents of Objective Justification have claimed that Huber’s doctrine was rejected by the Lutheran Church in the 1590’s because he was a Universalist, that is, they claim that Huber taught a universal justification that didn’t require faith for a person to get to heaven. As I have pointed out on many occasions and as Huber’s own words demonstrate, this claim is patently false and betrays a profound and willful ignorance on the part of those who make it. Huber was no Universalist. Neither was Walther a Universalist. Neither do any of the churches of the defunct Synodical Conference teach Universalism. Huber’s error was not teaching that all people go to heaven. His error (with regard to the article of justification) was teaching that God has justified all men, whether they believe in Christ or not, but that they have to “possess” this justification in order to be saved. They “possess” it individually by faith. This is also what Walther taught.

    This, however, I had written against the Calvinists: since justification is universal according to Paul’s teaching (Rom. 5), redemption is not able to not be universal.
Huber used the same sedes doctrinae for universal justification that is still being used today to support universal justification (as noted prominently in the WELS This We Believe statement on justification). Romans 5:18 is said to teach that “all people have been justified.” That is not what the words say, however, nor is it what the context supports, nor is it what the Lutheran Church ever taught about Romans 5:18, except for Huber’s aberration.

Huber made an unfortunate error here in arguing against the Calvinists. It appears that he started with his misinterpretation of Rom. 5:18 to teach a universal justification, which has no Scriptural support, in order to prove the universal redemption made by Christ, which has plenty of Scriptural support.

    But I called universal justification that by which God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, became favorably disposed toward the entire human race because of that satisfaction, and thus he accepted it just as if everyone had made satisfaction for himself, with the law having been entirely fulfilled.
Here Huber describes universal justification in the same way as it has been described by the Synodical Conference. Examples:
    We are redeemed from the guilt of sin; the wrath of God is appeased; all creation is again under the bright rays of mercy, as in the beginning; yea, in Christ we were justified before we were even born. For do not the Scriptures say: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them?'’ This is not the justification which we receive by faith...That is the great absolution which took place in the resurrection of Christ. It was the Father, for our sake, who condemned His dear Son as the greatest of all sinners causing Him to suffer the greatest punishment of the transgressors, even so did He publicly absolve Him from the sins of the world when He raised Him up from the dead. (Edward Preuss, "The Justification of a Sinner Before God," pp. 14-15)
    …justification is used both in the language of Scripture and the church in a twofold way not only of the fact that God counts his faith to the individual believer for righteousness and declares him righteous, but also of the fact that in his judgment God regards the whole world guiltless and ascribes to it the completed satisfaction of Christ for everyone, the righteousness earned for everyone. (H. A. Preus, 1874)
    The doctrine of objective justification is a lovely teaching drawn from Scripture which tells us that God who has loved us so much that He gave His only to be our Savior has for the sake of Christ’s substitutionary atonement declared the entire world of sinners for whom Christ died to be righteous (Romans 5:17-19). Objective justification which is God’s verdict of acquittal over the whole world is not identical with the atonement, it is not another way of expressing the fact that Christ has redeemed the world. Rather it is based upon the substitutionary work of Christ, or better, it is a part of the atonement itself. It is God’s response to all that Christ died to save us, God’s verdict that Christ’s work is finished, that He has been indeed reconciled, propitiated; His anger has been stilled and He is at peace with the world, and therefore He has declared the entire world in Christ to be righteous. (Robert D. Preus, 1981, when he still held firmly to “Objective Justification”)
    If we say that Christ has made satisfaction for the world’s sin, then we cannot refuse to say that God has remitted the sin of the world in Christ… Whether a sinner acknowledges it, or not, he was acquitted through Christ’s work; the atonement and accompanying not-guilty verdict are an objective and universal reality, regardless of personal perception. (Jon Buchholz)
Back to Huber:
    In this respect it is sensibly called universal justification, not first by me, but by Paul. In it only that act of Christ’s merit and satisfaction is considered at the tribunal of God. However, people still do not possess justification by their own act unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all.
Obviously Huber is inventing words of Scripture when he says that St. Paul “calls it universal justification” (referring to Rom. 5:18). Literally translated, the Greek of Romans 5:18 says, “Therefore, as through one’s trespass unto all men unto condemnation, so also through one’s righteousness unto all men unto justification of life.” It is not the Apostle’s words, but Huber’s interpretation of them that results in “universal justification.”

But the main thing to notice is that Huber here describes in almost the exact same words the “Objective/Subjective” teaching of the Synodical Conference. He teaches that God has already justified all people at His tribunal, that is, in His divine courtroom, based solely on Christ’s merit. But “people still do not possess justification unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all.” Compare this to the Synodical Conference:
    The effect of God's sin-forgiving act, which consists in this, that the sinner has the forgiveness of sins and justification as his personal possession and his heart's treasure, cannot be where there is no faith. (H.A. Preus)
    In each case, the objective aspect of justification is tied very tightly to the death and resurrection of Christ. In each case, it is emphasized that justification and absolution are not received and possessed by individuals apart from faith, or before faith. (David Jay Webber)
    Only believers take possession of these universal realities through faith. Only we believers have (ἔχομεν) redemption through his blood, and this only ἐν ᾧ, that is, in Christ. In the same way we can say that only we believers have or possess the forgiveness of sins, and this only in Christ. (Buchholz)
    God forgave the sin of the world by removing the sin of the world and placing it upon Christ. The world’s debt has been paid in full and canceled by Christ (universal forgiveness). In the cross and empty tomb of Christ, God really has acquitted the world of sin, so that in Christ Jesus the world’s status has been changed to “justified” before God (universal justification)… Through Spirit-worked faith, these completed realities are appropriated and received through faith, so that the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ become the possession of individual sinners (individual justification). (Buchholz)
Back to Huber:
    And so that it may be evident that I am thinking nothing foreign to Scripture…I will enumerate their testimonies respectively.
    From Scripture we have Rom. 5, “And so, just as through the fault of one it resulted in condemnation for all, so also through the justification of one it resulted in justification of life for all people;” 2 Cor. 5 “When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins toward them.” To “be reconciled” is certainly to remove the anger toward the human race. To “be reconciled with the world,” is to remove the anger toward all people, which those theologians…bitterly deny, not without blasphemy. And “not to impute sins” is to justify or to recognize as just, with the manner of speaking being taken up from the market place. Therefore, that justification comes upon all people no less than condemnation; that the world is reconciled; that by the very judgment of God, which God carried out in his own Son, sins are not imputed to us, but are imputed to Christ; and that satisfaction has been offered by him and has been accepted by the Father—that is to set forth universal justification in its own legitimate respect.
Again, Huber uses the very same chief Bible passages (Rom. 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:19) and the very same arguments for universal justification as the modern teachers of universal justification. Jon Buchholz, Jack Kilcrease, Jack Cascione and others have vainly attempted to distance themselves from Dr. Huber, claiming that his teaching of universal justification is essentially different from theirs. Their claim is proven false by Huber’s own words and arguments when compared with theirs. In fact, their claim is proven false by Walther's own admission:
    Already in the year 1593 the Wuerttemberg theologians (Heerbrand, Gerlach, Hafenreffer, Osiander, Bidembach, and others) conceded to Huber with reference to the doctrine of justification that he seemed to deviate from them in it “in phrasi tamen magis ac loquendi modo, quam reipsa,” that is, “more however in the expression and in the manner of speaking than in the substance itself.” (Walther, Justification: Subjective and Objective, pp. 20-21)
Here Walther seems to think that the Lutheran Church always essentially agreed with Huber on the substance of his teaching of universal justification, with which Walther also agrees.  He either ignores or is ignorant of Aegidius Hunnius' later condemnation of Huber's doctrine both with regard to the terminology and with regard to the substance. No one is asserting here that Walther embraced Huber's doctrine of universal election. But Walther himself made it clear that there was essential agreement between him and Huber on universal justification. In fact, after centuries of Lutherans avoiding Huber's terminology of "universal justification" and "general justification," Walther even embraces that, to the extent that the Huberian terminology has become so common in modern Lutheran seminaries that few Lutheran pastors even know the true Huberian origin of the terms, or that there was a time when the Lutheran Church rejected the terms—and the teaching!

They can run from Huber, but they can’t hide.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Whose line is it anyway? (concerning Universal Justification)

I ran across this statement recently and thought it might make for a good "guess who said it" post.  So go ahead and leave a comment with (a) your best guess as to the author and (b) your classification of the doctrinal content as "orthodox" or "heterodox."  For this post, we will allow anonymous comments.  Next week we will give proper attribution to these words and proceed to discuss them, so please save your extended critique of the statement until that time.

    Those theologians charge that I have set forth a universal justification, and indeed of such a kind that makes every person righteous by the very act of salvation and by participation, and simply carries them away into heaven. To this point they have directed every weapon of accusation thus far. But I have never dreamed or written anything of this sort. This, however, I had written against the Calvinists: since justification is universal according to Paul’s teaching (Rom. 5), redemption is not able to not be universal. But I called universal justification that by which God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, became favorably disposed toward the entire human race because of that satisfaction, and thus he accepted it just as if everyone had made satisfaction for himself, with the law having been entirely fulfilled. In this respect it is sensibly called universal justification, not first by me, but by Paul. In it only that act of Christ’s merit and satisfaction is considered at the tribunal of God. However, people still do not possess justification by their own act unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all. And so that it may be evident that I am thinking nothing foreign to Scripture…I will enumerate their testimonies respectively.
    From Scripture we have Rom. 5, “And so, just as through the fault of one it resulted in condemnation for all, so also through the justification of one it resulted in justification of life for all people;” 2 Cor. 5 “When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins toward them.” To “be reconciled” is certainly to remove the anger toward the human race. To “be reconciled with the world,” is to remove the anger toward all people, which those theologians…bitterly deny, not without blasphemy. And “not to impute sins” is to justify or to recognize as just, with the manner of speaking being taken up from the market place. Therefore, that justification comes upon all people no less than condemnation; that the world is reconciled; that by the very judgment of God, which God carried out in his own Son, sins are not imputed to us, but are imputed to Christ; and that satisfaction has been offered by him and has been accepted by the Father—that is to set forth universal justification in its own legitimate respect.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Service Review

Please watch this service, and then answer the question: How appropriate is this service for a congregation of a confessional Lutheran church body?

Video streaming by Ustream

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nowhere Else To Go

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

Nowhere Else To Go

A few months ago one of my members attended a WELS church in another city. It was a fairly large congregation, with three ministers and two services on Sundays; one labeled as "traditional," and the other as "contemporary." My member chose to attend the traditional service. However, the service was a big disappointment on two fronts. There were a number of "modern" innovations in the so-called traditional service, and the sermon was all about giving money to the synod in various ways. The member left the service in tears and later ask me, "Pastor, where are we going to go to church someday? Where will there be a place for us?"

Now, to be fair, it may have been this was this church's regular "stewardship" or "synod" Sunday, and the service and sermon for that Sunday may have been planned far in advance or perhaps even provided by the synod. Still, the liturgical experimentation, and the lack of Law and Gospel noted by this individual is to be lamented.

As for the various innovations in the service, they are all too common, even in our congregations which announce that they use a traditional liturgy. These usually involve a more "creative" confession of sins and absolution, hymn verses (very often non-Lutheran, Reformed-style hymns) in place of the regular sung portions of the liturgy;  i.e. in place of the Gloria in Excelsis, etc..., and little mini-sermons that clutter-up the Lessons and Gospel, among many other new-fangled practices. The bottom line was that my member felt lost, out-of-place, and uncomfortable, rather than comforted and at peace while worshipping the Lord.

Now, again, in the interest of full disclosure, the liturgies used at our congregation are also "revised" just a bit. However, the changes in the liturgies are quite minor – expansion of the Kyrie, and an exhortation to Communion taken from portions of the Lutheran Confessions, among them. But nothing is really new, or an innovation, or modern, in the sense of starkly different in tone or style from the liturgies themselves. And even these minor variations have been carefully explained and taught before being implemented. In addition, in the 15 years I have been at this church, I've never had a visitor complain that any change in the service was in any way disconcerting or bothersome to them.

OK, so what is my point here today? Fair question. It is two-fold. First, if our Pastors are going to have a "traditional" service, it should be traditional; that is, they should follow the liturgy in one of the hymnals used among us, with only very slight changes, revisions, or additions that meld seamlessly with said liturgies. Otherwise, the label of "traditional" is false advertising and is only bound to upset, confuse, and distract visiting members who came looking for traditional; i.e. historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran worship. The personal innovations of the Pastor or local peculiarities of that parish should be kept very much to an absolute minimum.

Second, to seek this type of worship is the right and heritage of confessional Lutherans. Those that want so-called contempo-worship can find it in many places, both Lutheran and non-Lutheran, in any city, town, or village in America. But decent and orderly worship, based on the practices of the Apostles and two thousand years of Christianity is starting to become more and more rare among us. If a church body like ours, which claims to hold to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, and to be legitimate decedents of the "conservative" Reformation, abandons such worship, where will our good, kind, generous members, who never did anything to deserve being subjected to profane and vulgar worship forms (in the sense of worldly and common), go to find a place where they can come before their Lord as befits the dictates of their Christian consciences.

Again, let me make my point very clear; this is just about serving the people for whom the ancient and historical liturgies are very precious treasures. Every element of these services contain beautiful and comforting Gospel proclamations in words that have come to us down through the millennia – from Patriarchs, the Temple, the synagogue, the catacombs, the cathedral, and the country church. There needs to always be a place for these good people. They are blood-bought souls too, and their spiritual needs are as important as those of "seekers" or others among the unchurched.

Therefore, I implore my fellow Pastors to think of these people also; to have a heart and some compassion for them and their heart-felt and profound faith and desires when it comes to worship. Give these fine folks a break, please. In many cases, it was they who built our churches, and worked and sacrificed to fund our ministries and programs. All they want is a quiet, peaceful, respectful, awe-inspiring place and manner in which to worship their Lord and Savior in a dignified and honorable way. I don't think that's too much to ask. Is it? Are we so desperate to fill our chairs and pews that we will alienate those who built them?! That's just not right in my book.

So, if our Pastors want to do these silly, warm-fuzzy, non-sacramental, happy-clappy, unLutheran kinds of services, please, fellas, do them somewhere else. Perhaps you can start your own church body, and your own churches, and compete head-to-head with the "community," non-denominational, Church Growth churches. Good luck with that! I think you'll find that they can do that kind of worship better than you can, and you'll end up with very little in the end. The traditional folks will be driven away, and the contemporary folks will always find something new and different – you won't be able to keep up. I recommend we all stick with what has been handed down to us and leave it at that!  

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer

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