Saturday, September 14, 2013

Whither Blog Fellowship?

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

Whither Blog Fellowship?

I am indeed disappointed that so few have commented on the subject of "blog fellowship," especially from among those who might believe that there is such a kind of church fellowship. Again, I understand the reluctance of those people to have any visible contact with Intrepid Lutherans. But, come on, people, I know you read this blog. I often check the "Feedjit" link and see that computers from many heavily WELS areas check out IL on almost a daily basis. Really, now, no one is going to think you are a "supporter" of IL if you simply make a comment defending the idea of blog fellowship. Here's your chance to convince me that you are right and I am wrong. If I didn't admit such a possibility, I wouldn't have posted the original article in the first place. So, some on, let's see some comments! 

We did receive one comment which endeavored to support the idea of blog fellowship. Unfortunately, the comment was not signed, so we did not post it. However, I will quote one sentence from this comment. The person wrote,

"Co-editorship of a blog is the Internet-era equivalent of co-management of a traditional publishing house. Awarding posting rights to a person is the equivalent of permitting that person to publish under your imprint."

This individual is equating a blog with a religious magazine and/or church publishing house. I believe another person made such a comparison as well, and wondered if someone outside WELS/ELS would be asked or allowed to write for the Forward in Christ, or an editor of NPH brought in from outside our synodical fellowship. The comparison would be that IL is analogous to an official synodical periodical or the official publishing house of a particular synod.

The way I see it, there is a huge difference between a blog like IL and FiC and NPH. While not "apples and oranges," it is at the very least grapefruit and lemons!

But, if this comparison is indeed valid, then the question becomes, how is "publishing under [an] imprint" the same as Church Fellowship? And if so, why?

Let's look at an example of a religious magazine that has editors from various Lutheran synods, all working together to put out a periodical, the content of which is very doctrinal.

Below are the current Editors of LOGIA magazine, with which many of our readers are no doubt quite familiar:


Michael J. Albrecht (Independent) [However, note: Saint James continues to support Saint Croix Lutheran High School (WELS)]
Senior Editor
Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church
West St. Paul, MN

Carl D. Roth (LCMS)
Coordinating Editor
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church
Elgin, TX

John T. Pless (LCMS)
Book Review Editor Professor
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

Roy Askins (LCMS)
Web and Blog Editor
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Livingston, TX

John W. Sias (LCMS)
Associate Book Review Editor
Pastor, Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church Colstrip, MT

Brent Kuhlman (LCMS)
Logia Forum Coeditor
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Murdock, NE

Richard A. Lammert (LCMS)
Copy Editor
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN

James M. Braun (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Yelm, WA

Charles Cortright (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Associate Professor, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee, WI

Paul Lehninger (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Professor, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee, WI

Dennis Marzolf (ELS)
Editorial Associate
Professor, Bethany Lutheran College
Mankato, MN

Aaron Moldenhauer (LCMS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church
Beecher, IL

Martin R. Noland (LCMS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Evansville, IN

Thomas L. Rank (ELS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Scarville and Center Lutheran Churches
Scarville, IA

Erling Teigen (ELS)
Editorial Advisor
Professor, Bethany Lutheran College
Mankato, MN

[from the masthead page,]

So, if a blog is like a magazine, and a religious-themed blog like a religious-themed magazine, and if also these are a part of the concept of church fellowship, then also it would be held as an unacceptable type of fellowship to have men of different synods, therefore different confessions, albeit confessional Lutherans, working together on such a magazine. Or am I missing something here?

Ah, but I know what some may be thinking - consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds! Perhaps LOGIA has been made an exception due to its very deep intellectual content, and we will be told that one exception does not a rule make, or break. If that is indeed the case, then all fine and well, and this is all good for LOGIA. I suppose IL would have to then make our own argument that we deserve to be an exception also. Then again, to whom would we put forth such as case - those who believe in blog fellowship, of course, and for that we'd need to know who y'all are! On the other hand, it may be that many of those who believe in blog fellowship did not know about the various synod affiliations of the LOGIA editors, or even know about LOGIA at all. If I have brought light, and perhaps trouble, to this fine magazine, that was not my intention. It is just that I happened to know some of the editors, and it seemed like an analogous situation to IL, if not rather on a lower and smaller scale.

Thus, once again, I implore any and all who truly believe in a concept of "blog fellowship" being part of the doctrine of church fellowship to write in and make your argument. I really do want to hear your points of view.

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer


Anonymous said...

Fellowship is an odd word, isn't it? It means whatever one chooses it to be, based on whatever it needs to be to serve, by those who use the term. I call those silly-puddy words.
There are so many points in the NT, where we are told to do so, Galatians 6:1-10, just as/to start. I'd like to see those, who know more than I, list all the Scripture where we are to be in contact, choose wisely, and support each other, dispite office, position, or plight.
It doesn't happen w/in Congregations/members, the Office/members, let alone from those above that, are we really obeying Scripture or our Dear Lord, if we don't because of fear, or price? We are told to be wary of whom we choose, we are to chose those of His Household, are we not? When we do, what is it, those who dare, meet with? We are to do what is good, right & true, by whose word? Christ's not man's. The net is used for vile purposes at times, yet it allows those, who are of "HIS" household, across nations, to know eachother. We already did, we belong to Him, that is not a Synodical or Denominational thing, that is a Scriptural thing. Let those who will, huff & puff, if He allows this & it grows in & by Him, it will not fall down. Test everthing is what we are told. Some do, and we are given His Armor for good reason.
Dutch Stoeberl

Pastor Steve Kurtzahn said...

Pastor Spencer: While there may not be such a thing as "blog fellowship", to me it appears that you have forgotten the Scriptural teaching of causing offense. By standing (or should I say "writing") side by side with someone who was removed from our fellowship for doctrinal reasons, and who now has been received with open arms into another church body, you give the impression that you are agreed with him in the matter of justification. You continue to write alongside Pastor Rydecki without criticizing or condemning his denial of universal objective justification. That is indeed offensive to many of your brothers and sisters in Christ in the WELS.

Anonymous said...

So, Pr. Kurtzahn, if Pr. Spencer condemns Pr. Rydecki's "false doctrine" on IL, will it be OK for them to continue posting in this forum together without breaking any fellowship rules? Will the "offense" then be removed?

It seems to me that if you raise the charge of sinning by "causing offense" against Pr. Spencer for giving the impression that he supports Pr. Rydecki in his "false doctrine" by being a regular contributor to IL, then you also ought to raise the same charge to the same degree against those WELS and ELS writers who contribute to LOGIA where there are LCMS contributors with whom they are not in fellowship. The WELS "unit concept" of fellowship demands it. And I'm sure there is some WELS/ELS person out there who is offended about LOGIA's co-editing arrangement.

Is this issue about the doctrine of church fellowship or is it about ferreting out those who disagree with WELS/ELS teachings? Or is it about shunning and shaming some who disagree with you more than others with whom you are not in church fellowship?

Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Pastor Kurtzahn,

What about those in the WELS that cause offense by going to conferences that promote church growth theology? Or those that have led a prayer on a Baptist TV show?

Bryan Lidtke

kjay said...

They got to be kidding. "A blog by any other name," etc. Remarkable that there can be so much discussion by otherwise erudite contributors about a site that is interesting and informative, and invites the exchange of ideas and opinions. I never considered that fellowship at the altar was required for participation, but will certainly try to keep that in mind. Thinking of those reluctant to participate for fear of guilt by association, the words of Pliny come to mind: "Many fear their reputation, few their conscience."

Pastor Spencer said...

Dear Pastor Kurtzahn,

Thank you so much for being willing to respond with a comment here on IL. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

First of all, I also thank you for being so honest and up-front in saying that there probably is no such thing as “blog fellowship.”

Second, I can assure you that it was and is never my intention to offend other members of the WELS; not with my participation in IL, nor any of my comments or posts. Bother, cajole, even ruffle, perhaps. Goad into discussion or action, sometimes. Educate and inform, always. But not offend - especially in the Biblical sense.

Ah, this is the rub, is it not? It is as I said a bit earlier - the whole matter of "perceptions," which I think are the same as "appears" and "impressions," is a tricky one. I think you will admit that these are quite nebulous and inexact terms, that can mean many things to many people. I have always struggled with these notions; i.e., when is it just as wrong to "take" offence when none is intended, than it is to give offence, intentionally or not?

For example, you speak of my "standing side by side" with Pastor Rydecki, which I take you mean metaphorically. Well, some may be offended by Pres. Schroeder standing side by side with Pres. Harrison in reality, though I don't think they should. I happen to know our synod president quite well, and I know that he and Rev. Harrison are not in complete doctrinal agreement, and that they each know this and have discussed this, and that they do not believe their standing side by side has any other meaning than that they are ready and willing to discuss their differences with each other.

I will admit to being offended at the "Change or Die" meetings, where WELS Pastors "stood side by side" with ELCA Pastors. Perhaps my skin was too thin in that case. Possible, though I really don't think Change or Die is truly analogous to IL, obviously. But, there in lies the problem, doesn't it? If we're going to allow inferences, appearances, and impressions to offend us, then these things are, by nature, in the eye of the beholder, aren't they?

While some - even many or most - WELS members might be offended at my name and Rydecki's name next to each other on this blog, I happen to know for a fact that other WELS members - including a number of Pastors - happen to like that very fact, and indeed would themselves be offended if I dropped out of IL! Are the feelings of many WELS members more important or should they carry more weight than the feeling of fewer WELS members? I think that might be a tough argument to make. Is offence now declared on a majority vote?

So, I appreciate your point, but frankly, I don't think you made your case. At least, I am not convinced at this point.

Again, I am truly sorry if I have offended anyone. At the same time I must also say that I don't believe they should be offended in the first place.

Once again, I thank you very much for your comment and your willingness to engage in this discussion. I think it is extremely necessary to hash these things out and to do so very openly and visibly.

God bless you!


Unknown said...

Pastor Spencer:

I started a reply to your previous post on this subject last week, but reconsidered when I realized I wouldn't have time for any follow up … and I wasn't really sure what I had to say was worth writing.

But since you have revisited the topic, I figured I'd just mention two things (at the risk -- and I apologize if it's so -- of wasting your time):

1) I did a quick Google search last week on "blog fellowship". The only hits I got that seemed even remotely relevant originated … with this blog. In other words, I couldn't find any documentation, in public, that anyone in our circles believes there is such a thing as "blog fellowship" or that they have accused you and the IL of such a violation.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you're making things up. If people have made these accusations to you (or others), I believe you. But if no one's ready to say such things in a public forum, I don't think it's very likely that anyone will then come to another public forum and defend them. So … "crickets".

It's also my hope, however, that the absence of "blog fellowship" comments on the internet suggests that there are actually very few people who hold to some of the ideas you have laid out and addressed.

2) I would suspect that the discomfort or criticism of more people in the WELS regarding the what and the who of posting on this blog comes from the fact that Intrepid Lutherans self-identifies as "We are pastors, teachers and laymen who wish to promote, support, and, where necessary, encourage a restoration of confessional Lutheranism within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)."

Unlike a journal such as Logia or another site such as Brothers of John the Steadfast, both of which avoid identification with any particular fellowship or church body, IL specifically identifies itself with the WELS, and specifically identifies itself as seeking and working toward a change in the WELS ("restoration" requires change from the way things are to something different).

Surely you can understand why many people in the WELS would be uncomfortable with, and perhaps even critical of, having someone from outside the WELS (who has publicly stated his disagreement with a historic teaching of the WELS and who is now associated with another fellowship) working with you to change their synod?

I am certainly not suggesting that you need to sever ties with Pr. Rydecki, and the idea of "disfellowshipping" him from a blog is nonsensical. I am actually happy that he is still engaging with his former brothers, and I hold out some (admittedly shrinking) hope that sometime in the future he might again be in full fellowship with me and his other friends remaining in the WELS.

But in my opinion you need to address the issue of IL's identity. Are you insiders working for change in the WELS? Are you confessional Lutheran's working for more confessional behavior and belief throughout Lutheranism (and not just in a specific fellowship)? Are you just a discussion group with no particular goals beyond getting information and ideas out to an internet audience? It's up to you, of course, but I think many in the WELS will continue to keep IL at a distance until you work out and make clear what exactly IL intends to be.

I hope this qualifies as a helpful addition to your discussion.

In Christ's service,
Pastor Jeff Samelson

Pastor Spencer said...


Thank you very much for your quite thoughtful and insightful comments. They are indeed a helpful addition to the discussion.

You have hit upon a very important point - i.e. the identity, purpose, and goals of Intrepid Lutherans. The moderators of this blog have been discussing this among ourselves for quite some time now. I must admit that as of now I don't think we have reached a completed consensus. My position is that this is a blog for discussion and information; questions and education, on any number of topics that impact Lutheranism in America today, with a particular viewpoint, based on the Scriptures and the Book of Concord. This is all I intend it to be - no more, no less. I will admit that in the beginning my goals at least were more ambitious.

You are also very correct in pointing out that if any group wishes to "restore" something to a larger body, that certainly implies that something is currently missing from or has gone awry in that larger body, and needs to be "fixed." This idea was, at one time, a large part of the motivation for the moderators of the blog. I hesitate to speak for them now. But for myself, I have come to conclusion that such a task is beyond our abilities. If this needs to be done - and that too is a good discussion that needs to take place - then the Lord of the Church must make it so, through the Means He has established.

As far as "blog fellowship" goes and accusations that such is in effect on IL and as such is wrong - well, those comments have been made to me in private. The people speaking with me have not used the term "blog fellowship" per se, but have simply stated that to have myself and Pastor Rydecki working together on IL may be seen as an improper relationship and that one or the other should sever this relationship. My response thus far has been very simple also - i.e. that there are numerous instances where WELS and non-WELS Pastors, professors, or officials work together, either on a one-time or continuing basis, in the realm of theology and education, and that, in the past, this does not seem to have been a cause of concern. LOGIA and the Emmaus conferences are but two examples, but I'm sure there are more.

From my point of view, it would seem that the reaction to IL in general, and to WELS and non-WELS Pastors being a part of this blog, falls into the category of things that many in our synod simply "do not like." I'm sure they are well-meaning and sincere in their concerns for me and my ministry. The situation with IL bothers them, no doubt, and they wish it would go away. At the very least they would like to see no active WELS Pastor being part of this blog. Such a reality obviously rankles and irritates them. Thus, up to this point, I see the "offence" as not one of a Biblical scope, but a simple dislike, and perhaps even anger over the situation. So far, I have seen or heard no evidence that anyone is in danger of losing their hold on saving faith due to IL or who or who is not a moderator on this blog.

All this being said, I believe IL is still a work in progress. Again, as far as I'm concerned, I would like to see this blog become a "safe haven" of discussion and information, not just for WELS members, but for many others - those who see themselves as confessional Lutherans already, and those who may be interested in finding out more about the theology of confessional Lutheranism. From time to time, this may include, not only education on confessional teachings, but also citing current examples of where non-confessional teachings or practices have shown up in our churches. In any case, that is my hope for the future of Intrepid Lutherans. Again, I do not claim to speak for the other moderators.

Thank you, again, for your very interesting comments.


Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Spencer,
I too have been following this blog regularly with the understanding that it is a group of “pastors, teachers and laymen who wish to promote, support, and, where necessary, encourage a restoration of confessional Lutheranism within the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” So naturally, I had hoped that all of you would strive to keep the discussion of this blog within certain confessional boundaries and etiquette.
I believe, as should all of you, that the WELS’s position on the Article of Justification to be correct and ought to be defended by her pastors, teachers and laymen, but now Pastor Rydecki is going to use this blog as a vehicle to continue to promote and teach his brand of justification.
I am especially disturbed that all of you would allow someone to refer to the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary at Mequon as “that synagogue of Satan.” The same person ended another comment writing “Happy To Be Ex-WELS.” Now how do these crude comments serve your stated purpose? How is it that all of you let these types of remarks stand unopposed?
You may need to change the stated purpose of your blog to make it some kind of theological open forum free for all where anything goes rather than identifying yourselves with a particular fellowship. As long as you identify this blog with the WELS, you will give offense to those who love and appreciate Her when you allow such things to go on unchecked.
Best regards,
Daniel Lindquist

Pastor Spencer said...

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for your comment.

The situation to which you refer is being remedied as we speak. We will make it clear that this blog is not directed to WELS alone and not intended to reform any church body.

In addition, the views and opinions of any writer on IL must not be construed as being those of all the writers or the moderators as a group. I have told some of our writers that some of their statements are not constructive or helpful, in my opinion.

In regard to harsh comments about the WELS, here again some comments in LOGIA have been very critical of our synod over the years, especially on the subjects of Church and Ministry, and the Creeds. But here again, I do not believe that the ELS/WELS editors of that periodical have been called upon to defend their church bodies or distance themselves from such critical comments.

I'm curious about two things in your comment, however.

- If you've been following IL in regard to our original purpose, i.e to "restore" confessional Lutheranism, we would be very interested in where you think this needed to be done. We have been hoping that our readers would let us know the issues with which they are concerned, in WELS and elsewhere.

- Did you really mean to capitalize the personal pronoun referring to WELS? We usually only do such in reference to the Divine. While the Body of Christ, the Holy Christian Church, is most certainly divine, do you mean to say the same for the WELS? I hope not. Just an oversight on your part, I'm sure.

Thanks again for being a reader.

Pastor Spencer

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

It may indeed be true that we need to change the stated purpose of our blog, because, especially given the events of the past year, it has become clear, at least to me, that our focus was both too broad and too narrow. Too broad, in that we had hoped to restore confessional Lutheranism to the synod as a whole so that it would actually deserve the name "confessional Lutheran." Too narrow, in that we focused too much on this one "brand" of Lutheranism called the WELS.

Nevertheless, our discussion of the article of justification is perfectly in keeping with our stated purpose, even as it currently reads. The confessional Lutheran article of justification is contained and explained very clearly in the Book of Concord. Universal Justification is a novelty and an aberration. So our interest in discussing justification, as in all doctrines, is to restore the teaching and pattern of words of the Book of Concord to the WELS (and beyond). Those within the Lutheran Church who point to Article XXIV of the Augsburg Confession and insist (rightly so!) that Lutherans who deserve the name reverently observe the Mass every Lord's Day must also come to grips with Article IV (and so many references in other articles) where the Lutheran confession of justification is clearly presented as a justification of believers in Christ, by His righteousness imputed to faith, as opposed to the WELS teaching of a universal justification apart from faith. For my part, I have no "brand of justification." Just the teaching of Christ and the pattern of words found in the Book of Concord.

As for the couple of comments that you found offensive, Daniel, I hardly think it's fair to characterize Intrepid Lutherans by a couple of comments made by an infrequent commenter. But I urge you to take it up with the commenter rather than with the moderators of this blog. He provided his name, I believe, and this is a public discussion forum. So please direct your complaints to him.

Joel A. Dusek said...

Perhaps, as others have stated, it would be better not to target IL specifically at WELS, though some effort has been made to broaden its scope (e.g. "Lutheran unity in the historic catholic faith of Concord"). However, since it was started by WELS pastors and laymen, it makes sense that WELS would be the primary focus. I'd like to see IL "rebrand", as it were, to concern itself with WELS, Lutheran-ism (even though it's not an -ism), and Christianity at large.
Face it folks, there are issues in WELS, and the synod is not perfect. Everyone seems to acknowledge this in words, but not all in actions or beliefs. Some may be happier if the comments were toned down (like my personal favorite, “the Holy See of Milwaukee”), but they serve to highlight the passionate opinions which exist, whether or not they are acknowledged.
Rev. Rydecki’s experience is a perfect example of both the “blog fellowship” concept, if not the words, as well as problems within the synod and the need for healthy dissent. He has explained his positions and has spoken well for himself, so I simply bring it up as an example of “non-rockaboatus” and the overreach of WELS’s “unit fellowship” concept. He challenged what he saw as error, and instead of full discussion (which he was promised, expected, and was rightfully due), he was dismissed from the WELS through underhanded bureaucratic means after only a cursory attempt at reconciliation. Now, anyone who dares associate with him, specifically on this blog, is suspected of supporting error. “The bureaucracy has spoken, let him be anathema.” (For the record, I can find nowhere in Rev. Rydecki’s writings where he has denied the objectivity of justification, only the universality of it, nor where he has denied the universality of vicarious atonement.)
Other issues in WELS which are worthy of discussion have appeared on this blog, such as the NIV translation and the fiasco of its quasi-adoption, contemporary worship practices, and the propriety of “Change or Die” conferences and other syncretistic practices condoned by WELS. It has also introduced discussion and commentary on historic, confessional, Lutheranism (even though Lutheranism isn’t an “-ism”), for the benefit of everyone.
If you don’t like having issues in WELS discussed outside of the regular, approved “symposia, conference, convention” process, fine. Realize, though, that you are limiting yourself to a cultish mentality and furthering WELS’s seclusion not only from the world (which Christians are charged to engage with the Law and Gospel), but from fellow Christians as well.


Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Spencer,
I did not intend to convey the idea that she is the one and only true perfect Church. I intentionally capitalized the pronoun simply as a gesture of respect and admiration. Everything that I have—that I consider valuable I received from her by God’s Grace through the glorious Gospel that her faithful servants of the Word proclaimed to me. For your sake, I will refrain from capitalizing such words in the future.
Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,
I know who made those comments. Years ago, I tried to encourage him to be more considerate of others as he addresses his concerns and differences but he would not have any of my encouragement. When he speaks that way, he speaks his native language.
I addressed my concern to the undersigned of this blog who have given his crude remarks a pass. I remember that not too long ago you banned a commentator whom you considered out of line. (I am not saying you should ban anyone.) Whether you want to admit it or not his remarks are a reflection of the atmosphere that this blog is willing to tolerate.
Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

If you've been following IL in regard to our original purpose, i.e to "restore" confessional Lutheranism, we would be very interested in where you think this needed to be done. We have been hoping that our readers would let us know the issues with which they are concerned, in WELS and elsewhere.

Dear Pastor Spencer,

Even though I am not a blogger, in response, I offer these suggestions, but not on where I think this needs to be done, but on how I think this ought to be done:

Strive to proclaim God’s Word in its truth and purity.

Present the official doctrinal and confessional positions of the WELS and prove to your readers that her confessions are in agreement with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

Give examples of how to put these confessions into practice.

Give examples of false practices. Do not use real life examples that are happening at the present time, lest you give offense and cause your readers to perceive you as a meddler or busybody. If you feel the need to speak to a real life situation, speak privately with those involved and hope that they listen to you and appreciate your admonition. Do not try publicly to shame someone into submission.

Let your readers comment with the same intentions.

Do not allow false teachers to use the blog as a springboard to promote their false teachings.

Do not allow false teachings to stand side by side with the Truth in a worldly attempt to be fair and balanced on this blog or any other blog, lest you find yourself sharing in another man’s sin.

Do not allow anyone to gossip or to spread any kind of bad report, whether true or not true, or your followers and viewers will become a bunch of gossipmongers. (What is worse than gossiping...listening to someone gossip.)

Do not develop a confessional Lutheran blog just to satisfy a craving for intellectual exchanges, it ought to instruct, build and strengthen the casual reader.

Do not allow the imperfections and shortcomings of other “allowed” activities to cause you to justify the same actions for yourself. Set a good example.

Do not try to change or improve the synod or to restore confessional Lutheranism...let the Word of God do that.

God’s blessings to you...I know that you have the best of intentions. I think it is a huge spiritual responsibly to manage a Confessional Lutheran blog. This is what I think. I hope you appreciate it.

Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

The notion of "blog fellowship" is of course absurd. In addition to Pastor Spencer's observations regarding LOGIA, I note that Mark Braun has an article in the Spring 2013 edition of Concordia Theological Quarterly. Ironically enough, one section is entitled "Free Conferences and Church Fellowship". Poring over back issues of the Northwestern Lutheran published during the height of the Synod's great experiment in fellowship enforcement some 85 years ago, I also note articles reprinted from ULCA, NLCA, Augustana Synod, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist sources, amongst others. Adolf Hult, a prof at the Augustana Theological Seminary in Rock Island, was a frequent contributor.

Daryl Meyer

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I would like to note that I think quite the opposite of Daniel. Having a blog that is just a positive WELS cheerleader providing tips and tricks for remaining confessional that is dumbed down for the masses is a horrible waste of time. Just go to the WELs website for that. Having a website that is a WELS mutual admiration society is worthless. This site should be to combat bad theology and bad practice and should tackle it head on.

It would seem that Daniel does not yet conceive that WELS could be wrong in Doctrine or could stray down the slippery slope. That healthy debate should be allowed. A WELS pastor should be able to point out doctrinal problems and ask the WELS to prove them wrong. Even if they are kicked out, it is still the synod's obligation to adequately refute it as error or accept admonition for straying from the truth.

My greatest consternation is that by and large pastors are submissive, compliant creatures who desire peace over discord to the point that they will not even contend for doctrine or practice. What would it take to have a synod full of Luthers. Brash, direct, even scathing at times. Are there no more Jesus clearing the Temple moments allowed in Lutherandom? Have you read how Luther addresses those who stray in doctrine? If you applied some of the recommended "atmosphere" suggestions mentioned here Luther himself would be banned about 50 times over as "innappropriate".

I am familiar with Daniels type of WELS member. It's most I know including my mother. People who will be active and polemic in politics and business but posting against the WELS is verboten. How did this happen? How did the WELS become so complacent? What does it take to wake up 390,000 sheep who I'm guessing are either blissfully unaware that danger is right around the corner...frogs in a pot so to speak...or they are just ignorant of Lutheranism that the issues do not even register.

Its a sad state of affairs. Leave the positive, everyone agrees, confessional tip site to someone else. Use this site to wake up, shame when shaming is necessary (How about our newest WELS abomination, "The Bridge"), highlight, call to the carpet, and educate people what is wrong and why. Nothing gets done until the pot gets stirred. Those who are feint of spirit should just go hang out at Time of Grace. You won't have to worry about Theology, doctrine, law, or even gospel there.

Tim Niedfeldt

ReWood Products, LLC said...


Can you say more about "The Bridge". Your mention of it in your comment is the first I've heard about it. Through the wonders of Google, I found one reference to it at St. Paul in Muskego, WI. Is this organized? The Muskego information is sketchy, but it's presentation on the website seems to be heavy on Church Growth techniques and very weak on "Means of Grace". Since God only works through the "Means of Grace", I wonder "who" is working through "what" with "The Bridge".

By the way, I think this is one of the benefits of a blog such as Intrepid. The comments frequently provide early indications (early warnings) of the latest "cutting edge" Church Growth techniques being tested on unsuspecting (submissive, compliant, timid) Lutherans.


Anonymous said...


I liked "The Bridge at St. Paul's" on Facebook a few weeks ago after hearing a little about it. It is definitely very heavy on Church Growth techniques. It's easy to tell just by the description for the page: "Modern church in a gym providing a concert setting with music and a message."

Bryan Lidtke

Anonymous said...

Dear Tim Niedfeldt

The WELS is a confessional Lutheran church. This means she has a body of confessions that she must defend. These teachings are what set the WELS apart from other church bodies. The WELS is convinced that her confessions and her position regarding the Article of Justification are in agreement with the Holy Scriptures. If a WELS pastor, for example, disagrees with the Article of Justification as confessed by the WELS, he is not in doctrinal agreement. He needs to find another fellowship. If he remains in her midst and openly and defiantly teaches a different teaching regarding the Article of Justification, church discipline must follow. To refer to such discipline as “being kicked out” is an inappropriate expression of what actually happened. Removing someone from fellowship is an act of love—love for the Truth that the church confesses and wants to preserve in her midst and love for the pastor to show how serious his error is. While this is an act of love, it is not a joyful experience, but contending for the Truth is not always easy and fun.

Tim, with your words you painted me into a stereotype, but you have not told me anything of any real substance. You wrote, “It would seem that Daniel does not yet conceive that WELS could be wrong in Doctrine or could stray down the slippery slope.” In my comments, I referred to the official doctrinal and confessional statements of the WELS. Which one of these statements is wrong or inadequately expressed and how should it be corrected?

Daniel Lindquist

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Daniel, you wrote: "The WELS is a confessional Lutheran church. This means she has a body of confessions that she must defend." Yes, but you seem to be extending that "body of confessions" beyond what "confessional" is supposed to mean. The body of confessions that the WELS itself formally claims is the Book of Concord. Period. It is not This We Believe. No pastor in the WELS is required, or even asked, to subscribe to This We Believe.

"The WELS is convinced that her confessions and her position regarding the Article of Justification are in agreement with the Holy Scriptures." Yes, the WELS is convinced that This We Believe's teaching of universal justification agrees with the Holy Scriptures. It's just that the WELS is wrong about that.

"If a WELS pastor, for example, disagrees with the Article of Justification as confessed by the WELS, he is not in doctrinal agreement. He needs to find another fellowship. If he remains in her midst and openly and defiantly teaches a different teaching regarding the Article of Justification, church discipline must follow." That is one of the most sectarian statements I have ever read. The "Article of Justification" as confessed by the WELS is supposed to be Augsburg Confession, Article IV (together with the rest of the definitions in the BoC). The WELS teaching of universal justification is opposed to the BoC's teaching of the article of justification, and opposed to the teaching of Christ. If church discipline needs to be practiced on anyone, it is on those who teach justification without faith, where Christ and the Lutheran Church everywhere teach only the justification that happens by means of the Word, by means of faith.

"Removing someone from fellowship is an act of love." Only if that church is confessing the truth and driving out error. What is the error in teaching justification by faith alone, please?

Tim Niedfeldt said...


I think you have just illustrated the issue. Pastors swear an oath to defend the confessions. They do NOT swear to uphold WELS confessions. The WELS "This We Believe" is not a confession. It was written in the last 30 years. It is a statement and nothing more.

A pastor has the duty to defend the Lutheran Confessions (circa 1580...not 1932 or 1980). If the body they belong to strays from them, I'd say every pastor should bring the matter to attention. You rightly say that if WELS severs fellowship with said pastors it has that right. I agree whole heartedly. I think every pastor kicked out should wear that as a badge of honor. It is a statement. I am happy for those who stand up for Biblical truth and the confessions.

Their removal is a testimony that WELS now has its own confession. That is what pastors must now confess to stay in fellowship. (ELCA also has this...the gap between their "confession" and the BOC is just a touch wider than the new WELS "confession")

I am not sure of your age, but I was confirmed using the Gausewitz catechism. I grew up with KJV and TLH. Do you know that you could not be confirmed with that catechism in the WELS anymore? If I confessed my faith according to that catechism to Pastor Bucholz he would deny my confirmation. There is no mention of UOJ in it. Do you know how many hymns in CW are changed overtly or subtlely to soften it's focus on Justification by faith? It's alarming.

So my apologies to Pr. Rydecki but I don't care that he got removed. The jackboot of fellowship is a gift. It shows the WELS has their own confession and they will not even take time to discuss the possibility that this new contrived confession is not in accordance with the actual Lutheran confessions.

I only wish more would get removed for the same reason.

Tim Niedfeldt

Tim Niedfeldt said...


"The Bridge" is the latest creation of St. Pauls Muskego. Check out both the webpage and the facebook page. My lamentable journey through CoWo began at STP, Muskego. In 2004 when they started a contemporary service at 11:00 on Sundays, I became one of the first guys to run the sound board/AV. Then when STP started Victory of the Lamb as an all CoWo daughter mission I moved over to VotL to do the same setup there.

Now STP is using their "Trinity Cafe" ( a real, relevant, and relational gathering place for snacks and such) and the school's new gym to set up a stage show service. The pictures do not show an altar. Communion is hidden in a 30 minute service before the stage show. They put a sign on the school gym to advertise "The Bridge" so it would seem like a church within a church. Indeed STP has about 2400 members and a large campus. While this service is going it is sharing the parking lot with the 8:00, 9:30 traditional services and the 11:00 contemporary service. Note the church start time of 10:15 to not conflict with service times at the other services in regards to cars coming in and leaving.

So since the contemporary service sort of leveled off in attendance and really only appealed to boomers, they had to take it to the next level and get edgy and emergent. It would appear they are proud that they have a menu of services to choose from. Worship a la carte I guess.

Tim Niedfeldt

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,

Before I say anything more, I want to make it clear to you and your readers that I am not a member of a WELS congregation and I am not speaking for her or her people, I am speaking for myself. I was train at her seminary and served as a pastor for about 6 years. I resign in the 1996. During those years, there were sweeping changes that took place in the synod. Those changes hit me like a tidal wave. I became overwhelmed emotionally and I was not able to make biblical or confessional sense of all the rapid changes that took place. I became very discourage in the new environment that I found myself. I do not blame anyone in the WELS nor do I hold a grudge against anyone.

The WELS believes, as do I, that her position on the Article of Justification is in agreement with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Therefore, she must defend this Article above all else and she must defend it according to the Scriptures. It follows then that her people who are defending this Article are also acting according to their consciences. Therefore, it is unfair to ridicule or to speak evil things against her. Your arguments have not changed her position in the least. You have not convinced me of the correctness of your arguments either. At this time, I do not have the energy to engage you in a debate. Even though almost everything has been expressed several times over, I may share a few of my own thoughts regarding the Article of Justification, but not today.

Daniel Lindquist

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Daniel, thank you for sharing a bit of your story. I welcome your thoughts on the chief article, when you have the time, and I also welcome your criticism of the things I have written, hoping that you have at least read the essay posted here on the Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace.

You noted that the WELS has acted according to her conscience. No one has ever questioned that. But acting according to one’s conscience does not exonerate anyone. The Apostle Paul confesses that he acted according to his conscience in persecuting the Church. He says that he did it out of ignorance. But never does he offer that as an excuse. Rather, he demonstrated true repentance for the crimes he committed against Christ’s people (and therefore, Christ Himself) while his conscience was in error. He said the same thing of the Jews, and I would echo his words with regard to the WELS leadership (understanding full well that most of the WELS laity would not willingly or knowingly share in the condemnation leveled by their leaders):

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Rom. 10:1-4

In seeking to establish a justification of all unbelievers—a declaration of righteousness on the part of God apart from faith in Christ—, the WELS has sadly fallen into the same trap as Israel, not in establishing a righteousness that is through the Law as Israel did, but in establishing a righteousness that is neither through the Law nor by faith in Christ, which is absurd. It’s like taking Rom. 10:4 and rewording it, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone, whether they believe or not.”

rlschultz said...

Mr. Niedfeldt'
Thank you for stating so succinctly what I have been unable to put into words. I was also schooled with the Gausewitz catechism and TLH. I have noticed how many in the WELS are very adamant and vocal about cultural/moral/political issues. But, when you would like to talk to them about the downward slide in the WELS, you are either ignored or treated like you just insulted someone's mother. Many of these members are "WELS connected". They take it personally as they have friends and relatives in places in the WELS.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki and Tim Neidfeldt,

These are my thoughts regarding the Article of Justification, which during my exchange with you; I mentioned that I would like to share with you. I am posting them here with my other comments for the lack of knowing a better more appropriate place to put them. I hope you find them useful.

Paul declared to the Corinthians. “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), these words tells me that the message of the crucifixion is the very Gospel itself. When I imagine in my mind the crucifixion this is what I see: I see on the cross the One who lived an innocent pure life as a substitute for all people for all time. I see Him on the cross bearing all the sins of all the people for all time. I see Him on the cross suffering the punishment for all the sins of all people for all time. I see Him satisfying God’s demand for innocence and holiness for all people for all time. I see Him paying the price [ransom] that satisfies God’s wrath for all people for all time. I see Him paying the price [ransom] that satisfies God’s justice for all people for all time. I see in Him the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words, “The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” and, “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him.”

Where punishment is dealt out, justice is served. In my pre-1957 Catechism, (by Authority of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin and Other States and printed by the Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wis., under the Second Article of the Apostle’s Creed where he teaches Christ’s humiliation,) Gausewitz asks question 184 on page 89, “What does Holy Scripture call this great blessing of the redemption through Jesus Christ?” He gives a one-word answer: “Justification.”

When teaching the Article of Justification it is necessary that we let the message of Justification, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, stand alone in all its glory. Behold with our hearts on the cross Jesus the innocent Lamb of God, bearing the sins of all people and suffering the punishment for the sins of all people; and satisfying all of God’s demands for all people for all time. This is the great stand-alone-doctrine of the Holy Scriptures.

This is Part One if my comment,
Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

If theologians feel the need to use the word “universal” to define “for all people for all time,” and to use the word “objective” to define it as an historic accomplished fact, I can live with these terms. I can also live with calling Justification “a ready blessing” which Prof. Meyer does in his, Ministers of Christ, on page 101.

However, when people say, “universal objective justification whether a person has faith or not,” or “justification is a ready blessing whether a person has faith or not,” a horrible false impression is conveyed—the idea that faith does not matter—or that faith does not have proper place under the Article of Justification. It is not proper for Christians to talk this way.

Why has this happened? It happened because the great theologians let their intellect and reason draw conclusions that seem so right but are not correct and are not in accordance with properly dividing the Word of Truth. It happens because the teaching of Justification is a stand-alone-teaching that should not be taught in relation to faith or in relation to any other teaching. When Justification is taught in relation to faith, the great stand-alone doctrine is commingled with the teaching of faith.

Faith, rather, should be taught in relation to Justification and not the other way around. Faith does not cause an individual to be justified; it is not the means by which an individual is justified; nor is it the source out of which a person is justified. A person is not justified in view of faith, as though faith were a consideration in God’s eternal election.

In order to understand the role of faith properly under the Article of Justification it is necessary also to teach the Law in relation to Justification.

The role of the Law under the Article of Justification is that “strange” work of the Holy Spirit which causes a man to become conscience of his sins, causing him terrors of conscience and moving his darkened understanding to strive to justify himself by deeds of the Law which his conscience defends. However, a man’s conscience can never be at peace because as it is written, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” This constant knowledge of sin serves to prepare a man’s heart for Christ as Luther says in his Galatian Commentary under 4:9, “The Law ought to prepare the way of Christ into the hearts of men. This is the true purpose and function of the Law.”

This is Part Two of my comment,
Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

When a man, so tormented and filled with sorrow in his heart because of the Law, hears the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, his heart is quickened, as the word of God shines in his heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ 1 Cor. 4:6. Through and by means of this message, the Holy Ghost creates faith in his heart. This faith in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified is something of which a man cannot boast as a work for which a wage is required, but which God credits as righteousness freely without the deeds of the Law. When Paul teaches, “a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” he is teaching what faith is in relation to the Law to counter the effect of the Law, which causes a man to think that his deeds of the Law are necessary to justify himself. Under the Article of Justification, faith is the assurance of what already exists in Jesus Christ and Him Crucified—Justification. Or as the fathers wrote, “Faith apprehends Christ.”

How can pastors, teachers and laymen put this glorious Article of Justification in to practice? When a Christian is on his deathbed, about to face his Maker and his faith is wavering with severe doubts, and he has terrors of conscience and sorrow because of his many sins, do not prattle on in his ear saying by means of your faith this or because of your faith that. Rather, share the stand-alone message of the cross, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified—remind him of Jesus who lived for him; remind him of Jesus who bore his sins; remind him that Jesus was punished for his sins; remind him of Jesus who was raise to life because of his Justification. Remind him that this means that God forgives his sins and in the resurrection on the last day, he will stand before God justified or forgiven of all his sins. By means of this Gospel message, the Holy Ghost will strengthen his faith, increase his hope, and so rescue him from his sins and give him peace.

Sadly, we are aware that not all people have faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Those who do not have faith remain in their darkened understanding striving to satisfy their consciences by deeds of the law, resenting Christians who preach the Law to them. They are spiritually unaware of what Jesus Christ and Him crucified has accomplished for them. As Jesus says, “he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Why is it that some are saved and others are not? Only God knows and we should not try to figure it out.

This is the final Third Part of my comment,
Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

Daniel, without faith there is no justification of the sinner. The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord says so and so to be a Lutheran Christian, you must subscribe to the definition of justification: "in and to which BELONG AND ARE NECESSARY only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, AND FAITH, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life" (III:25). Perhaps to get some traction in this debate, using the OJ/SJ dichotomy, analyze this statement: "There is no objective justification without subjective justification."

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Dear Pr. Jim Schulz,

Without faith, a man is spiritually dead and spiritually unaware of the forgiveness of sins proclaimed in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, it is foolishness to him; he is lost in unbelief and troubled by his conscience while striving to satisfy it with good works. A man who has faith is spiritually alive and spiritually aware of Jesus Christ and Him crucified; he is comforted and his heart has spiritual rest and peace in the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. In my comment, I expressed God’s Grace in Christ without using those exact words. I also expressed the merit of Christ without using those exact words. And I expressed the role of faith under the Article of Justification.

Your interpretation of that passage from the Confessions empties the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified of its power, making it dependent on man’s faith, as though the proclamation of the Gospel were a figment of the imagination until faith makes it real. Try to comfort a Christian on his deathbed by proclaiming the importance of his faith instead of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. There is a great impasse between what you teach and what I believe.

You sound like a genius to me. You probably can compose two or three paragraphs in your brain in the time it takes me to formulate a single sentence. I am certain that I do not have the energy or the intellectual ability to engage you or Pastor Rydecki in a debate. I follow this blog and I would like it to succeed in service to the truth of the Gospel; so I felt compelled to make a few comments and to share how I understand the Article of Justification. So forgive me for not being willing to entertain your idea of a debate, and for ignoring your assignment to analyze that statement or yours. However, if you or someone else in the future makes an instructive comment that convinces me that something I wrote is wrong, I will gratefully acknowledge it with a brief post affirming that I stand corrected; otherwise you probably will not hear from me. I wrote what I wanted to write.

Daniel Lindquist

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I appreciate your willingness to post here what you believe. I meant no offense to you and all I essentially did was quote the Confessions. To me it seems as though you are speaking of two doctrines of justification. There is only one doctrine of justification and it is by faith alone. Or to use the OJ/SJ terminology, you can't have Objective Justification without Subjective Justification.

The Confessions define of the biblical term "justification": "Accordingly, the word justify here means to declare righteous and free from sins, and to absolve one from eternal punishment for the sake of Christ's righteousness, which is imputed by God to faith, Phil. 3:9. For this use and understanding of this word is common in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament.” (Solid Declaration III:17 “The Righteousness of Faith”)

We don't need to avoid speaking of faith. It is a precious gift of God which trusts the promises of God to forgive through the mercy and merits of Christ. And to clarify, my deathbed encouragement would be to emphasize what God has done through Christ, not to focus on subjective feelings, which is not the same thing as saving faith. Here's another Confessionally binding definition:

“These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the father, and are eternally saved.” (Solid Declaration III:10-11 “The Righteousness of Faith”)

And here's the relationship between faith, forgiveness, and justification:

“…the Gospel freely offers, for Christ's sake, to us, who have been vanquished by sin and death, reconciliation which is received not by works, but by faith alone. This faith brings to God not confidence in one's own merits, but only confidence in the promise, or the mercy promised in Christ. This special faith, therefore, by which an individual believes that for Christ's sake his sins are remitted him, and that for Christ's sake God is reconciled and propitious, obtains remission of sins and justifies us….” (Apology IV:44-45)

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Dear Pr. Jim Schulz,

Thank you for your kind words. I was not offended and I did not intend to give that impression. [Incidentally, in my comment on Justification above there is a typo, it should read 2 Cor. 4:6 not 1 Cor. 4:6. I wish I could correct it because if you click on it the passage appears.]

I spoke of one teaching of Justification, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.
All who have faith in Jesus Christ share in what He accomplished for all people—Justification. They also have an appreciation for it in their hearts and it overflows into their lives while giving them hope for what is to come.
Those who do not have faith do not share in what He accomplished for all people. They do not appreciate what He has done and they are without hope.
Why this is so, only God knows.

When the Confessions read, “and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves,” the confessors are teaching faith in relation to the Law while at the same time they were countering the false RCC teaching that genuine faith must be qualified by acts of love (good works). This is evident by the word “alone.”

We need to teach faith to counter the effect of the Law. It is comforting and necessary for believers to know that they do not need to add to what Jesus Christ and Him crucified has accomplished for all people for all time. I do not believe that the confessors were teaching that faith is the means by which we are justified in addition to what Jesus Christ and Him Crucified accomplished for all people for all time. Faith is, however, a means by which a believer’s heart is comforted and a means by which he is assured that he belongs to Jesus Christ and has His righteousness.

In my copy of Luther’s, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, the fourth edition, which was translated by Theodore Graebner and published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI sometime before 1957, I found this quote on page 69, “With their doctrine these lying sects of perdition deface the benefits of Christ to this day. They rob Christ of His glory as the Justifier of mankind and cast Him into the role of a minister of sin.” In his discussion, Luther refers to Christ as the Justifier of mankind. [I ask rhetorically.] What am I to think about this passage from his commentary? Am I to understand that Luther really meant to write or should have written that Christ is the Justifier of just believers?

Daniel Lindquist

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...


I'll answer just your last question, and I hope you'll receive it as the definitive answer that it is, because it comes from the same Luther as he answers your question most clearly.

You ask, "In his discussion, Luther refers to Christ as the Justifier of mankind. [I ask rhetorically.] What am I to think about this passage from his commentary? Am I to understand that Luther really meant to write or should have written that Christ is the Justifier of just believers?"

Luther answers:

Thus here, too, the evangelist did not intend that John or any other human being or any creature should be the light, but that there is only one light which illumines all men and that not a single human being could come upon the earth who could be illumined by anybody else. I do not know how to disagree with this interpretation; for in the same manner also St. Paul writes in Romans 5[:18]: “As through one man’s sin condemnation has come over all men, so through one man’s righteousness justification has come over all men.” Yet not all men are justified through Christ, nevertheless he is the man through whom all justification comes. It is the same here. Even if not all men are illumined, yet this is the light from which alone all illumination comes. The evangelist has freely used this manner of speaking; he did not avoid it even though some would stumble over the fact that he speaks of all men. He thought he would take care of such offense by explaining before and after and by saying that “the darkness has not comprehended it,” and that the world has never recognized him and his own have never accepted him. Such passages should have been strong enough so that nobody could say he had intended to say that all men are enlightened, but that he alone is the light which enlightens everybody and that, without him, nobody is enlightened.

Luther, M. (1999). Vol. 52: Luther's works, vol. 52: Sermons II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (71). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Or to answer in the words of God Himself, "...that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,

“Concerning what is needful furthermore for the proper explanation of this profound and chief article of justification before God, upon which depends the salvation of our souls, we direct, and for the sake of brevity herewith refer, everyone to Dr. Luther's beautiful and glorious exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians.”

This is the concluding sentence of the Article III The Righteousness of Faith from The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord. Luther’s Galatians is almost as “binding” as the Confessions themselves. In his exposition, Luther spoke of Christ as the Justifier of mankind in his comments under Gal 2:17. I do not know of any of Luther’s contemporaries who challenged this. The Confessions do not even mention the sermon you quoted.

I admit that I struggle trying to harmonize what men teach and confess with what the Scriptures say, but in the final analysis I must by faith turn to the Holy Scriptures and sit at the foot of the cross and find rest in the glorious message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified—Justification.

Daniel Lindquist

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Interesting. You ask what Luther might have meant with that phrase. I give you Luther's own explanation of a comparable statement he made in another place. You reject it offhand as meaningless, because it wasn't referenced in the Book of Concord. You obviously don't want to have a real discussion here.

The Galatians commentary is full of the very same Luther explaining himself very well on this issue. Please see the appendix of this essay for examples.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Daniel, if I misunderstood your comment above, I do apologize for implying that you don't want to have a real discussion. When you said, "The Confessions do not even mention the sermon you quoted," are you writing it off as meaningless to this discussion, or are you simply saying that you had never read that sermon before, and you now realize that Luther might have meant something different than "God has already justified all men" with that phrase you quoted from the Galatians commentary?

Again, if I misunderstood, I'm sorry.

Anonymous said...

Pr. Rydecki, I agree Luther is very clear. However, I can hear it now: "But Luther was only speaking of Subjective Justification, not Objective Justification." And so the debate continues on and on and on....

Daniel, a confessional definition of the doctrine of Justification must always include faith, not just "Christ crucified." Justification is the doctrine which teaches how a person gets to heaven. A justification of those who don't have faith seems to support the false doctrine of Universalism (which I'm sure you don't believe in) - i.e. everyone goes to heaven whether they believe it or not. My encouragement is to stick with confessional terminology to avoid confusion and the rancor that follows when people take sides over an issue on which really they do agree, namely, how to get to heaven.

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,

I do not consider the sermon you quoted as meaningless to the discussion, and I did not intend to give that impression. I just wanted to highlight that the Confessions strongly recommend Luther’s Galatians as a glorious exposition over his other works. Thank you for sharing that quote from Luther’s sermon. I never read it before.

Dear Pr. Jim Schulz,

I agree that a definition of Justification must include faith. I believe that the Scriptures speak of an independent judgment of God that exists upon which our gift of justifying faith rest. I believe that the only access to God is through Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and men. I believe that by God’s grace alone and by Scripture alone and by faith alone we receive personally all of God’s blessings.

I thank both of you for sharing your thoughts with me. This exchange has forced me to put a lot of thought into these matters. I have gained a greater understanding of our differences. For the rest of my life, God willing, I will continue to search the Holy Scriptures while weighing these thoughts.

Daniel Lindquist

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