Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Home in the ELDoNA

My Facebook friends saw this announcement on my timeline on Sunday.  Now I'm sharing it with all our Intrepid readers, so that you can rejoice together with me, my family, and my congregation.  I'm very happy to have completed the colloquy process and to be accepted as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA). It is my privilege to join the ranks of these faithful men and to recognize and be recognized in this fellowship of Christian pastors, together with the saints whom they serve. I have been searching for awhile for the Lutherans who honestly confess the faith of the Book of Concord of 1580 without compromise and without asterisks. By the grace of God, I have found them.  As I've said to Bishop Heiser and others, coming into the diocese is like coming home, and my brethren there have graciously welcomed me with open arms.

At our first Intrepid Lutherans conference, back in June, 2012, I presented a paper entitled, "Do we want to be Dresden Lutherans?"  I concluded that paper with these words:

No one has forced me to sign the Book of Concord. I have signed it because it is my confession.   I have signed it because I share the beliefs of the Dresden Lutherans, their exegesis, their interpretation, their sensibilities, their convictions, their love for sinners, their love for the truth, and their love for the Lord Jesus.  Their words are my words from start to finish, including these:

By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it. We will not speak or write anything contrary to this Confession, either publicly or privately. By the strength of God’s grace we intend to abide by it.

I would like to know who is and who isn’t committed to walking in the same direction with me, and with whom I should walk, arm in arm with the Dresden Lutherans, not by force or for convenience’ sake, but by conviction and for the sake of the truth. I want it to be the WELS with whom I walk along that road.  Do we want to be Dresden Lutherans?  As for me, I am WELS for now; Dresden Lutheran forever. So help me God.

At the time, I still had some hope that I might be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers in the WELS as a Dresden Lutheran, that is, a confessor of the Book of Concord.  I had to give them a chance to become the "confessional Lutherans" they so stubbornly claim to be.  But they were not willing.  So be it.  The Lord has been merciful and has provided a better confession of faith, and a ministerium in which I can honestly stand shoulder to shoulder with every other pastor, knowing that our confession is truly united.

It is not my intent to turn Intrepid Lutherans into a recruitment zone for the ELDoNA.  Intrepid Lutherans, as a blog, is not a church or an ecclesiastical fellowship, and is certainly not governed by any church body.  That said, I do want our readers to know where I, for my part, am coming from.  I will make no apologies for speaking highly and often of this orthodox fellowship, and I will not pretend that I do not earnestly hope and pray that others will explore the confession of the diocese and come to the same conclusion I have.


Jon said...

I hope you can find peace of mind with like minded confessional believers.

Unknown said...

Dear Paul,

I know there was some discussion some months back between you and the WELS over the doctrine of objective justification. Did this particular question come up in your colloquy with ELDoNA? If so, I would very much like to know whether you and ELDoNA were able to come to a consensus on the matter. Such a consensus, if you could state it, would help me tremendously, especially since I have struggled to understand and accurately represent your personal view.

Yours in Christ,

David Preus

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


Yes, the question over the article of justification, and specifically the teaching of objective justification, definitely came up in the colloquy. Everything was put on the table. At the colloquium I presented my confession of the article of justification as clearly as possible with the essay I posted here back in May, The Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace.

To summarize very briefly what I conveyed in that essay, Christ died for all, suffered for all sins, made satisfaction for all sins of all sinners, atoned for all sins. Justification is God's act of applying the perfect righteousness of Christ to the sinners who flee to Him in faith as the Throne of Grace. Since believers are thus covered in the perfect righteousness of Christ, God justifies them, declaring them righteous (by imputed righteousness) and giving them eternal life. Even this "fleeing in faith" is impossible for sinners, except that the Holy Spirit creates such faith in Christ through the Gospel in Word in Sacrament.

So, all men have earned condemnation for themselves, but those who believe in Christ are not condemned by God. And Christ has earned justification for all, but those who do not believe in Him remain under God's condemnation. To say that God declares any sinner righteous *without* this righteousness of Christ being imputed to them is unbiblical. And to say that God imputes this righteousness of Christ to anyone in any other way but faith is also unbiblical.

The diocese, knowing that it was this issue over which I was suspended from the WELS, decided to formulate its own statement on "objective justification" before finalizing my colloquy. This statement was written in the form of a series of theses that have now been adopted, after four months of review and modification by the men of the diocese. The final condition of my colloquy was my agreement with their document, and I rejoice to say that I agree with it wholeheartedly. Upon my subscription to that document, I became a member of the diocese. So yes, we came to a consensus.

I know that many are antsy to have a look at the theses adopted by the diocese. As I understand it, the theses will eventually be posted on ELDoNA's website.


Joe Krohn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brett Meyer said...

Joe, you should read the theses. If you believe the Triune God has declared all sinners righteous, in any way shape or form, I don't see how you can agree with Pastor Rydecki's confession above.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Yes, when the theses are made available, everyone should read them, and then I'm sure we'll have lots to talk about. :)

Thank you, Joe, for your kind words. The "concept of objective justification" will be defined in the theses, and as properly (that is, historically and officially) defined, I do deny the concept. OJ, properly defined, is not the same thing as "the redemption of all men," and I certainly do not deny that Christ has redeemed all men. There was nothing at all lacking or insufficient or limited in the price He paid for the redemption of mankind.

Anonymous said...

"...OJ, properly defined,..."

Interesting....very interesting.

Pr. Jim Schulz

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Yes, Pr. Schulz, I think it's interesting, too. Many explanations and definitions of OJ exist. For example, some think that OJ = a synonym for unlimited atonement. Unlimited atonement is certainly a biblical concept, but that would be an "improper" definition of OJ, because the "proper" definition of OJ, as officially and historically taught by the Lutheran bodies that first embraced it, is not the atonement, but the supposed declaration that God made at the cross (or empty tomb?) as a supposed result of the atonement, acquitting/absolving all men of their sins and declaring all men to be righteous.

It's pointless to try to deal with all the many ad hoc definitions of OJ that are out there. One can easily find the "proper" definition in the WELS, LCMS and ELS official statements, especially thinking here of F. Pieper in his Christian Dogmatics. As "properly" defined by Pieper, OJ is unbiblical. If someone comes along and says, "I believe in OJ, because to me, it refers to the atonement," then I would say, I agree with the content of your faith, but you are using the term "OJ" improperly.

Anonymous said...

Oh the irony:

"We want to be careful about carelessly interchanging words. Atonement, reconciliation, justification, and redemption are not synonyms, and they must be used appropriately in their correct context. Use words like righteous and
holy according to their precise meanings. 'Bear this in mind, dear friends. . . it is your duty not only to believe as the Church believes, but also to speak in harmony with the Christian Church.'" (Walther, Law and Gospel, 276-277.) -- "Justification Expounded by Scripture" (p.9) Jon D. Buchholz

Pr. Jim Schulz

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Yes, Pr. Schulz, but the difference is, DP Buchholz is careful to define OJ "properly," not as the atonement, but as the universal justification of all men, whether they believe in Christ or not. He embraces OJ. I reject it as unbiblical (and unlutheran). And therein lies the rub.

Anonymous said...

For whatever reason I couldn't copy and post the following from a WELS Congregations Website covering "What We Believe." I left out the name of the congregation but interesting when it comes to OJ - Proper or Improper when looking at 7,8 and 9?

1. The Bible is the inspried (sic), inerrant Word of God - His unchanging message to people of all times.
2. There is only one God; He is revealed to us as three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
3. God created man holy and without sin. But man, of his own will fell into sin and thus brought sin upon the whole human race.
4. Sin is in all men by nature and shows itself in every transgression of God's holy will by thought, word and deed.
5. The wages of sin is death and damnation in hell, an eternal agonizing seperation from God.
6. But God so loved the world He sent His only Son, Jesus, to redeem the world.
7. Jesus redeemed, justified the whole human race with His precious blood and with His innocent sufferings and death.
8. This glorious fact is accepted by faith which works in the heart by God through the Word, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
9. By faith alone in Christ we are heirs of heaven. While yet on earth we want to show our love for him who first loved us.
10. At our death we shall inherit the full glories of everlasting life with Christ in heaven.

Lee Liermann

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

A good example, Mr. Liermann, of the typical teaching of OJ, which often places the actual justification of all men in the past, so that no one is actually justified by faith at all. "Justified by faith" in the OJ/SJ dogma actually means "not justified by faith at all, but receiving the benefits of having already been justified without faith."

I know the terms "proper" and "improper" are confusing here. The "proper" teaching of OJ (as in the above example from that church's website) is unbiblical, just as the "proper" Roman Catholic teaching of purgatory is unbiblical.

Brett Meyer said...

The ELDoNA theses are available on their website. The Theses on Justification is both eloquent and faithful to Christ, the Lutheran Confessions and the doctrine of one Justification solely by the gracious gift of faith in Christ alone.

Bill said...

Reverend Rydecki, I wholeheartedly agree with you that Universal Objective Justification is unbiblical. I also agree with you that unlimited atonement is certainly biblical, it is taught in so many scriptures that it cannot be argued against as most calvinists do. Nonetheless we all know that there are man scriptures where it is taught that Jesus is the good shepherd that lays down his life for his sheep and in Ephesians 5:25-27 where Paul talks about Christ as the head of the Church laid down his life for her to cleanse her from all sin and present her pure and blameless. Certainly God loves the world, but he also has a special love for his Church which is special and different from the love he has for the world. Christ is also the savior of all men, but specially those who believe 1 Timothy 4:10. I am not sure if it is because of universal objective justification or not, but it is certainly a concern that we never hear how the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep or has cleansed his church (not the entire world) from all sin and laid down his life specially for his church, as Christ is the head of the church (he is also the head of the human race). Even though I totally subscribe to unlimited atonement, I also think that those passages in scripture that clearly emphasize that Christ died in a very special sense for his church should not be denied. There is a difference between saying Christ die for all sinners, the entire human race, which is biblical, but we should not teach that Chris died equally for all, that his death has the same meaning for Judas as it did for Peter. The latter is unbiblical, and a misunderstanding of unlimited atonement as taught in scripture.

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