Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Last year's letter to the presidium of the AZ-CA District of the WELS

On this first anniversary of my suspension from the WELS ministerium, I give thanks to God for His providential hand in all that has happened since then.  In His grace, He has allowed me to continue in the Gospel ministry and granted me a faithful flock to serve and a faithful Lutheran ministerium with whom to labor for the truth.  For several months before and after October 2, 2012, I prayed Psalm 27 daily, especially these words:

    The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
          Whom shall I fear? 
          The LORD is the strength of my life; 
          Of whom shall I be afraid? 
          When the wicked came against me 
          To eat up my flesh, 
          My enemies and foes, 
          They stumbled and fell. 
          Though an army may encamp against me, 
          My heart shall not fear; 
          Though war may rise against me, 
          In this I will be confident.  (NKJV)

It occurred to me that I never posted the following letter that I e-mailed to all the pastors of the AZ-CA district one year ago, and since the stance of the district presidium has not changed since then, I have decided that it is most fitting to post it now, with the continued prayer that those who have falsified the Gospel may yet repent, and that those who are still influenced by them may be awakened from their perilous slumber.  I also post it here because several laymen have told me that the doctrinal comparison presented in this letter helped them considerably to understand the real difference between the two positions on the article of justification.


October 15, 2012

To the presidium of the Arizona-California District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, President Jon Buchholz, First Vice President Steven Degner and Second Vice President David Clark:

Dear members of the AZ-CA District presidium, I write to you in reply to your letter suspending me from the ministerium of the WELS, and also in response to your shameful behavior over the past year.  Since you have formally and publicly condemned me as a false teacher, I no longer address you as brothers in Christ.

Your shameful behavior

I was surprised, President Buchholz, to get a phone call from you on Tuesday morning, Oct. 2, announcing the presidium’s resolution to suspend me.  This surprised me because you stood in front of me and my congregation just six days earlier and explicitly promised, “We will continue to study this issue with your pastor.”  Many of my members expressed to me after that meeting on Sept. 26th how encouraged they were by your promise to continue studying this doctrine with me.  But you have proven yourself to be a liar.

When one of my members questioned your dishonest behavior, you responded with this:

When I spoke with Pastor Rydecki this morning (October 2) we agreed that we are at an impasse.

That is a lie.  You asked me if I thought anything had changed between the meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 26) and that morning (Oct. 2).  I said that I didn’t think anything had changed in those six days.  I certainly did not agree that further study would be unproductive or unnecessary, especially given your public promise that such a study would take place.

You also wrote to my member:

Following last Wednesday’s meeting I took the opportunity to seek advice and counsel from the faculty of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and from the Doctrine Committee of our WELS Conference of Presidents. All of the theologians agreed without hesitation or reservation that the statement “God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross” (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:18; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Apology IV, 103) teaches the truth of God’s Word and the historic teaching of the Lutheran Church in a simple, clear, and unambiguous way.

So you admit that you were emboldened to break your word to my congregation by the support you received from the seminary faculty and from the COP.  You have thus implicated them in your papistic attempt to establish new doctrine ex cathedra and to force your own made-up statements upon the pastors and congregations of the WELS on threat of suspension.  One would think that those who bear the name of Luther would shun such behavior, but instead you have embraced it—to your shame and disgrace.

I will mention more of your disgraceful behavior.  You had numerous communications with members of my congregation behind my back prior to my suspension, meddling in another man’s divine call.  You tolerated a pastor of this district making a public accusation against me of heresy on the district convention floor—in my absence, no less! —without denying his charge or clearing my good name before the assembly.  You have tolerated any number of slanderous accusations made against me behind my back by pastors of this district, knowing full well that not a single one of them has communicated with me in any way, even to seek clarification from me of my doctrine.  And if they are getting their impressions of my teaching from you, then they certainly are getting the wrong impression.

Your shameful misrepresentation and your confused doctrine

You have repeatedly misrepresented my doctrine, both to my congregation and to various pastors of our synod.  You have written:

Pastor Rydecki: Jesus died and rose again so that the sin of the world could possibly be forgiven.
Scripture: Jesus died and rose again, so that the sin of the world is forgiven.

“Could possibly be forgiven?”  You know I have never taught this.  But neither do you understand the Scriptural doctrine that God forgives sins through the Means of Grace, and that forgiveness is a present-tense divine promise made to “whoever believes and is baptized,” rather than some sort of past tense “reality,” as you like to call it.  All your talk about “possibilities” and “potentialities” and “realities” is worthless philosophical drivel.

Pastor Rydecki (a false and unLutheran teaching): Faith causes a person to become forgiven.
Scripture: Faith trusts the truth that Jesus has forgiven (1 John 2:2; John 1:29; John 19:30; Apology IV, 103; Apology XII (V),94; Smalcald Articles Part 2, Article 1).

Again, you do not understand the Gospel or the Lutheran Confessions, so you do not understand my teaching.  Whenever I have referred to faith as a cause of justification, I have been careful to point out its role as an instrumental cause, just as the orthodox Lutheran Fathers did. Faith is a cause of justification just as much as the grace of God, the merit of Christ and the Means of Grace are causes of justification.  They are not causes in the same sense nor do they have the same role, but they are necessary components of the article of justification, so that without any of these “causes,” sinners are not justified.  This is clearly explained in FC:SD:III:25.

Pastor Rydecki’s gospel is: You can be forgiven, if you believe.
The true good news is: Christ did forgive you. This is preached, so that you may believe.

My gospel is not the one that you state above. You knowingly corrupt both my teaching and the “true good news,” demonstrating again that you do not comprehend the concept of divine promise or the role of the Means of Grace.  The true good news is that “Christ did make satisfaction for your sins by His death.  Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins! Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  Or, speaking to the baptized, the true good news is that “Baptism now saves you also,” or “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins. Your sins are forgiven.  Go in peace.” Or, “Take; eat.  Take; drink…for the forgiveness of sins.”

Perhaps the most disturbing condemnation you have made is exemplified in your criticism of my Easter sermon, where you write:

Pastor Rydecki’s teaching is subtle and deceptive. In many cases it is found not in what he overtly says, but it is hiding behind what he refuses to say or in the ways he limits or qualifies the gospel. The following notes were drawn from Pastor Rydecki’s writings and sermons and compiled by Pastor Degner of our district. The highlighting is his:

Paul Rydecki:  Adding Faith to the Proclamation of Forgiveness
Compiled by Steven Degner to show how the incorrect teaching on justification by faith permeates the preaching and teaching of Paul Rydecki:

Easter Sermon
But for those who want a sure refuge from God’s wrath, for those who want to be reconciled to God, for those who want Jesus for a Savior, the gospel reveals this truth: that Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised to life for our justification. His death was sufficient payment for all sin, for every sin, for the worst sinner, for his most bitter enemy; and his resurrection means that all who hope in him, all who trust in him, all who look to him for forgiveness of their sins are absolved before God’s courtroom in heaven. The empty tomb means the justification of all who believe in the risen One.

Here, Pastor Rydecki limits the work of Christ only to those who believe. He refuses to acknowledge that the empty tomb was for the justification of all people.

In person, you accused me of preaching a “conditional Gospel” here because I mentioned faith.  I am amazed that you have so directly condemned the Scriptural and Lutheran Gospel of justification by grace through faith and redefined the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to exclude faith from its proclamation.  Simply put, Pastor Buchholz, your “gospel” without faith is not the Gospel.

Your suspension letter

Now, addressing specifically your letter of suspension:

I am deeply disappointed that you have turned away from the teaching you learned in your ministerial training and have instead denied the truth and fallen into error.

On the contrary, my ministerial training prepared me in the Biblical and confessional languages so that I could search the Scriptures and the Book of Concord and study them in context.  My ministerial training taught me to rely on God’s Word alone and not on this or that seminary professor’s interpretation.  My ministerial training taught me that learning from God’s Word and from history is not to cease when one graduates from the seminary.  And thankfully, my ministerial training taught me that men and synods err; it taught me to avoid the Romish practice of ascribing infallibility to a human organization and of formulating new doctrines and then trying to read them back into the Scriptures and Confessions.

After numerous conversations with you and repeated efforts to admonish and instruct you from God’s word, you have made it clear that you are not in agreement with the doctrine of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).

You have never attempted to instruct me from God’s Word.  Instead, you have attempted to instruct me from your personal interpretations, rationalistic conclusions and philosophical assertions.  The doctrine of the WELS and the doctrine of God’s Word are not necessarily the same thing.  Neither I nor any pastor nor any congregation has ever subscribed unconditionally to the WELS doctrinal statements, and yet you have continued to insist that such a subscription is mandatory for all WELS pastors.  You have insisted that we must confess This We Believe as our “own personal confession,” in addition to the Book of Concord. This is pure sectarianism.

I have opened up the Scriptures to every supposed sedes doctrinae for your universal justification and attempted to walk through the exegesis with you and discuss the historical Lutheran exegesis of these same passages in context. But rather than showing me where my exegesis was faulty, you simply insisted that you have personally studied these things, written a synod convention essay on it, and therefore, you must be right.  You have boldly claimed that the WELS cannot be wrong on this issue, and that the doctrine of justification can only be studied to demonstrate how the WELS is right.  There can be no study done by the pastors of our district that might call into question the WELS position.  This is pure Romanism.

Specifically, you have refused to acknowledge and confess that God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross (John 1:29; John 19:30; 1 John 2:2; Romans 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:19; Apology IV, 103).

First, I find it interesting that you have chosen the word “forgave” rather than “justified” or “declared righteous,” since this whole discussion has been over the article of justification.  Granted, “forgive” and “justify” are closely related and often used synonymously.  But then, justification is also used synonymously with “regeneration” throughout the Book of Concord.  Why the switch?  Is it perhaps because the Confessions so clearly teach that there is no justification apart from faith, and you have found one paragraph in the Apology (IV:103) that does use the words “forgave” and “all” in the same sentence?

Secondly, as I have confessed in your presence on numerous occasions, I believe and teach that Christ…
  • has died for all people and paid for the sins of all people;
  • has made atonement for the sins of the world;
  • has been obedient to the Law for all people and has made satisfaction for the sins of all people;
  • has earned and acquired righteousness, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for all men;
  • has redeemed the world;
  • wants all men to be saved;
  • truly offers and gives the forgiveness of sins in the Word of the Gospel, without any merit or worthiness on our part.
But you are correct. I have refused to acknowledge your made-up phrase that “God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross,” because, as I have confessed in your presence, the Scriptures do not say this.  What they do say is that God forgives sin only through the ministry of the Word as the instrument through which the Holy Spirit alone creates faith in Christ the Reconciler and thereby justifies believers, not because faith is a good work, but because faith lays hold of Christ, the Mediator.  “Faith is imputed for righteousness.”  This is the “righteousness of faith” spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans and taught throughout the Lutheran Confessions.

Your made-up Scriptural support

I will address the passages you have mistakenly cited to support your contrived gospel of justification apart from faith.

John 1:29 (NKJV)   29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is a beautiful passage that you have corrupted to force it to say more than it says.  It speaks clearly about the universality of Christ’s sacrifice, but it says not a word about the application of Christ’s sacrifice to the world, as if all men had already been forgiven or justified on account of it.  Christ surely bore the sin of the world and suffered for the sin of the world, and so has merited or earned forgiveness of sins for all people. “By His death, Christ made satisfaction for our sins” (Augsburg Confession:IV).  Therefore, John the Baptist rightly directs his disciples to “behold” the Lamb of God, that they might become partakers through faith in the forgiveness of sins that He merited for all (or, at that time, would merit) through His sacrifice.

The Apology explains it this way in Ap:XXIV:53-55:

The Levitical sacrifices for sins did not merit the forgiveness of sins before God. They were only an image of Christ’s sacrifice, which was to be the one atoning sacrifice, as we said before. To a great extent the Epistle speaks about how the ancient priesthood and the ancient sacrifices were set up not to merit the forgiveness of sins before God or reconciliation, but only to illustrate the future sacrifice of Christ alone. In the Old Testament, saints had to be justified by faith, which receives the promise of the forgiveness of sins granted for Christ’s sake, just as saints are also justified in the New Testament. From the beginning of the world all saints had to believe that Christ would be the promised offering and satisfaction for sins, as Isaiah 53:10 teaches, “when His soul makes an offering for sin.”

The Confessions clearly and consistently distinguish between the satisfaction made by Christ and the justification that results for those who believe in Him.  For maintaining this distinction, I have been branded a heretic.  It is hard to believe.

John 19:30 (NKJV)  30So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

I find it incredible that you cite this passage to prove your novel doctrine.  Just because you want to slip justification into the “It is finished” spoken by Christ does not make it so. 

It can properly be said that Christ finished earning or winning the forgiveness of sins on the cross, as you know I have said repeatedly, and as Luther also says in the Large Catechism.  But when I have explained my position in this way, you have said that it is still not enough.  According to you, one must also say that “God forgave the world” or “God justified the world” or even “Jesus saved the world. Past tense.”   To this I have objected.

Do you really mean to prove that God finished forgiving sins when Christ died, or that His work of forgiving sins and justifying sinners is the “it” that was “finished” when Christ died on the cross?  So much for the Absolution!  “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23). So much for the Third Article of the Creed!  “In this Christian Church he daily and fully forgives all sins to me and all believers.”  And so much for Baptism that “works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”

The Lutheran Church has a name for the work of Christ that was “finished” on the cross.  It is called “Redemption” (cf. Small Catechism, Second Article). It is not called “justification” or the forgiveness of sins (cf. Small Catechism, Third Article).

For as much as you pay lip-service to the Means of Grace, District President, your inclusion of the forgiveness of sins in the “it is finished” of Christ nullifies any efficacy you might claim for the Means of Grace.  What you give with one hand, you take away with the other.  You know you should say that God “forgives” sins through the Means of Grace, so you say it when pressed (although not all of your followers are as quick to say it), but your doctrine of “forgiveness finished” and declared once-for-all from the cross negates whatever efficacy you might claim for the Means of Grace.

1 John 2:2 (NKJV)  2And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

This is another beautiful passage that you have corrupted by inventing new definitions for words and by ignoring the surrounding context in order to prove your contrived doctrine.  That Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world is agreed upon without controversy, and you know very well that I confess this.  But propitiation is not the same thing as remitting sins or justification.  As Apology:XXI:31 says,

For we know that confidence is to be placed in the intercession of Christ, because this alone has God’s promise. We know that the merits of Christ alone are a propitiation for us. On account of the merits of Christ we are accounted righteous when we believe in Him, as the text says, Rom. 9, 33 (cf. 1 Pet. 2, 6 and Is. 28, 16): Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded.

But we needn’t rely on the Confessions alone for this understanding.  The Apostle John himself in the immediate context of the verse you cite explains when and how and for whom sins are forgiven:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.  My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 1:8 - 2:2, NKJV).

Romans 5:18 (NKJV)  18Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

This verse does not say (or even imply) that God has already justified or forgiven all men.  Adam’s offense earned condemnation for all men, but not all men are, in fact, condemned, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).  In the same way, Christ acquired the benefit of justification for all men, but not all men have been, in fact, justified or made alive, but only those who believe in Jesus Christ, as the Apostle teaches throughout Romans 3, 4, and 5, culminating in the first verse of this same chapter, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…”

Gerhard says the same thing.  Hunnius says the same thing.  Luther teaches the same thing. Luther’s own interpretation of Romans 5:18 is rather embarrassing for those who swear by This We Believe, which cites this verse to prove that “God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ.”  Luther says,

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 (Luther’s Works: Vol. 52: page 71).

This is not only Luther’s consistent interpretation of Romans 5, but, even more importantly, it is the interpretation of the Book of Concord as well:

Therefore, it is considered and understood to be the same thing when Paul says (a) we are “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28) or (b) “faith is counted as righteousness” (Romans 4:5) and when he says (c) “by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19) or (d) “so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Romans 5:18). Faith justifies not because it is such a good work or because it is so beautiful a virtue. It justifies because it lays hold of and accepts Christ’s merit in the promise of the Holy Gospel. For this merit must be applied and become ours through faith, if we are to be justified by it (Formula of Concord:III:12-13).

The Book of Concord says that Romans 5:18 means the same thing as “we are justified by faith,” or “faith is counted as righteousness.”  This directly contradicts your assertion that God has already justified all people, whether they have faith or not.  It is you who are teaching contrary to the confessional writings.

2 Corinthians 5:19 (NKJV) 19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

It is certain that Christ has made reconciliation between God and men.  He Himself, as the God-Man, is the perfect Mediator between God and Man.  “God was in Christ.”  He is where the two parties are brought together and reconciled with one another.  He is the One who has satisfied the offended party (God the Father) and who, through the ministry of the Word, continues to call out to the world, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor. 5:20).

The present-tense participles in this verse in no way indicate a one-time act of “having forgiven” or “having justified” all people that supposedly took place at the cross.  God uses means to reconcile people to Himself.  Through the ministry of the Word, He brings people to Christ the Reconciler and does not impute sins to believers in Christ (clearly expressed in Rom. 4:5-8).  This verse from 2 Corinthians does not teach that the world has already been justified, and was never used by any of the Lutheran Reformers to teach such a thing.  Melanchthon, Chemnitz and the Wittenberg faculty all clearly taught that this verse does not mean that anyone was justified without faith (I would have been happy to study this exegetical question with you, but you were unwilling).  In fact, this “key” verse for your teaching of justification doesn’t make a single appearance in the whole Book of Concord.  Instead, here is the teaching of the Book of Concord:

Formula of Concord:SD:III:23-25
The righteousness of faith before God consists in the gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ, without the addition of our works, so that our sins are forgiven us and covered, and are not imputed, Rom. 4, 6ff.
But here very good attention must be given with especial diligence, if the article of justification is to remain pure, lest that which precedes faith, and that which follows after it, be mingled together or inserted into the article of justification as necessary and belonging to it, because it is not one or the same thing to speak of conversion and of justification.
For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article 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.

Finally, you cite one section from the Book of Concord to support your “orthodox” teaching that God forgave/justified all unbelievers, without means, at the cross. And yet it is only one phrase in that entire paragraph upon which you base your novel teaching.  If that whole paragraph is cited in context, then your assertion falls to the ground.

Apology IV, 103-105
103] Here and there among the Fathers similar testimonies are extant. For Ambrose says in his letter to a certain Irenaeus: Moreover, the world was subject to Him by the Law for the reason that, according to the command of the Law, all are indicted, and yet, by the works of the Law, no one is justified, i.e., because, by the Law, sin is perceived, but guilt is not discharged. The Law, which made all sinners, seemed to have done injury, but when the Lord Jesus Christ came, He forgave to all sin which no one could avoid, and, by the shedding of His own blood, blotted out the handwriting which was against us. This is what he says in Rom. 5, 20: “The Law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Because after the whole world became subject, He took away the sin of the whole world, as he [John] testified, saying John 1, 29: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” And on this account let no one boast of works, because no one is justified by his deeds. But he who is righteous has it given him because he was justified after the laver [of Baptism]. Faith, therefore, is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed “whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” Ps. 32, 1. 104] These are the words of Ambrose, which clearly favor our doctrine; he denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free 105] through the blood of Christ. Let all the Sententiarists, who are adorned with magnificent titles, be collected into one heap. For some are called angelic; others, subtle, and others irrefragable [that is, doctors who cannot err.] When all these have been read and reread, they will not be of as much aid for understanding Paul as is this one passage of Ambrose.

Both Ambrose and the Lutheran Reformers who cite him explain where and how exactly Christ “forgave to all sin which no one could avoid.”  He forgave to all and continues to forgive to all “after the laver of Baptism,” so that “faith is that which frees through the blood of Christ, because he is blessed whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  Here Ambrose clearly states that the “all” whose transgression is forgiven are the same “all” who have been justified through Holy Baptism and faith.  Melanchthon summarizes this teaching of Ambrose in the words that follow, “He denies justification to works, and ascribes to faith that it sets us free through the blood of Christ.” 

I know you are not alone in citing this section from the Apology to retrofit your universal justification into the Book of Concord.  But an honest reading of the Apology does not permit it.  For you to assert that this snippet from the Apology somehow proves “the central message of the Bible” (as This We Believe calls it) that all people have been justified without means and without faith is not only absurd.  It is disingenuous.

Do not imagine that I have attempted to answer your claims exhaustively.  Many pages—indeed, many books! —could be written to demonstrate the folly of your position.  To be sure, the entire Bible and the whole Book of Concord teach that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ.  But let these explanations suffice for now.

We expect you to acknowledge and confess the truth that God forgave the sin of the world when Jesus died on the cross, because this statement expresses the truth of God's Word and the historical teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in simple, clear, and unambiguous terms.

If it were “the truth,” I would certainly acknowledge it. But as you teach it, it is neither the truth, nor the historical teaching of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, unless by “Evangelical Lutheran Church” you mean “The WELS.”   More sectarianism. 

Even so, there are many faithful pastors and congregations of the WELS that do not teach this absurdity that God has already declared all people righteous whether they believe in the Righteous One or not.  You would be surprised how many laymen understand the simple Gospel perfectly, without your confusing explanations and redefinition of terms.  Most WELS members, even lifelong WELS members—even multi-generational WELS families have never heard your “gospel” before. 

You would also be surprised how many WELS pastors do not claim This We Believe as their own personal confession.  Some still take their ordination vows seriously—to uphold the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, period.  Some still believe that the WELS is fallible.

As an aside, here is your teaching in “simple, clear, and unambiguous terms.”

  • God has forgiven all people, but if you don’t believe, then you’re forgiven but not forgiven, even though all people are forgiven, and you stand both righteous and condemned before God at the same time.  ?????
  • God declared all people righteous on Easter Sunday—which includes the wicked souls in hell.  ?????
  • Jesus saved all people, but not all people are saved. ?????
  • All people were justified before they were born, but stand condemned already at the time of their birth. ?????
  • God has changed the status of all people to “righteous,” but still counts unbelievers among the “unrighteous.”  ?????
  • God has declared all people righteous, either by imputing to all people the righteousness of Christ apart from faith (as many WELS statements teach), or by not imputing to them the righteousness of Christ at all (as Pr. Buchholz teaches).  ?????
  • God has acquitted all people in his courtroom of divine justice, but sentences those who have been acquitted to eternal death if they don’t believe it. ?????
Can you not see the folly of your position?  It’s one thing to accept a paradox that is found in Scripture.  But your manmade paradox is recognized as folly by Jesus’ sheep, who do not hear their Shepherd’s voice when you speak about God having already justified sinners before His Holy Spirit brings them to faith in His Son.

You have stated openly that you reject the portion of the article on justification in our WELS confession This We Believe that says, “We believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them righteous for the sake of Christ” (Article IV, 1). You have publicly acknowledged your disagreement with WELS doctrine and have made it clear that you do not walk together with the WELS in your teaching.

Until now, I have treated you all as brothers and have been willing to study and discuss these doctrinal differences with you without condemning anyone as a heretic.  But in true papistic fashion, you have refused from the beginning even to admit the possibility that you could have erred or that the WELS doctrinal statements may be wrong.  You called me to repentance for preaching that “all who trust in Christ are absolved before God’s courtroom.”  You stood in front of my congregation and called me a false teacher for teaching the Gospel that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ, and now you have suspended me from the ministerium of the WELS.

By your words and actions, President Buchholz, you have revealed yourself, together with the presidium of the Arizona-California District of the WELS, as enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I plead with you to turn from your human philosophies and return to the Word of God and the confession of the Church catholic, as summarized in the Augsburg Confession:

Article IV: Of Justification.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.

I will pray for you, that the Holy Spirit may turn your hearts to see the error of your doctrine and of your actions, and may bring you back to repentance and faith in Christ.  I will also continue to pray for all the faithful pastors, teachers and congregations in the Arizona-California District and throughout the synod, that they may be encouraged to study this important issue, that they may be protected from persecution at your hand, and that they may be strengthened in the conviction and the confession that sinners are justified by faith alone in Christ. 

Lord, have mercy on the WELS!

 Christ’s unworthy servant,
+Rev. Paul A. Rydecki


Brett Meyer said...

By the grace and mercy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit may you and yours, Pastor Rydecki, and all those who are members of Christ's Church, who in harmony with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions faithfully confess the true Gospel of one Justification solely by faith in Christ alone, continue to endure in Him unto Life Everlasting.

This is my prayer in Christ,
Brett Meyer

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

Hi Pr. Rydecki...If you would be so kind to flesh out where you stand on Redemption. The term itself, at least to me conveys the cancelling of a debt. The BoC makes it quite clear in the Solid Declaration under Election in its support of Holy Scriptures that the human race has been redeemed. It seems to me that 2 Peter 2:1 would indicate that this redemption does hold an (subjective) imputation factor to all men: "2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction."

I put forth this query for a matter of discussion. Thank you.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Redemption is set forth in Scripture as paying a ransom price, for example, to buy back the life of one who had committed a crime of negligence (Ex. 21:30), or to buy back an animal that had become the property of another (Ex. 13:13), or to buy back the property that a poor man had sold in a moment of need (Lev. 25:25). The redemption price for the human race, which had become the property of the devil due to sin, was the holy, precious blood of the Son of God. It has been paid once for all by Christ.

Since the redemption price has been paid for all (not just some), God therefore calls all men to believe in Christ and so escape the condemnation of the Law. That is how the Formula describes the relationship between redemption and justification in the section on Election. This is also what the Apology says about the relationship between redemption and justification (or non-condemnation):

58] Paul teaches this in Gal. 3, 13, when he says: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us, i.e., the Law condemns all men, but Christ, because without sin He has borne the punishment of sin, and been made a victim for us, has removed that right of the Law to accuse and condemn those who believe in Him, because He Himself is the propitiation for them for whose sake we are now accounted righteous. But since they are accounted righteous, the Law cannot accuse or condemn them, even though they have not actually satisfied the Law. To the same purport he writes to the Colossians 2, 10: Ye are complete in Him, as though he were to say: Although ye are still far from the perfection of the Law, yet the remnants of sin do not condemn you, because for Christ’s sake we have a sure and firm reconciliation, if you believe, even though sin inhere in your flesh.

59] The promise ought always to be in sight that God, because of His promise, wishes for Christ’s sake, and not because of the Law or our works, to be gracious and to justify. (Ap:III (Of Love))

Anonymous said...

Dear Pastor Rydecki,

I have been very busy so I have not been able to continue our other discussion but I read this post and your last comment and I have questions that I would like to ask. These are the most pressing on my mind:

Should we not see in the redemptive work of Christ the price paid to satisfy God’s demand for justice? [but Christ, because without sin He has borne the punishment of sin, and been made a victim for us] If redemption is for all people, should not justification have been secured in the redemptive work of Christ for all people too, because he borne the punishment? Would this not also agree with Paul to the Romans, “For all have sinned...being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?”

Daniel Lindquist

Joe Krohn said...

Thank you for your response, Pr. Rydecki. Since Jesus has paid the ransom price for all men and based on 2 Peter 2, there is an innocence ascribed to all men; would you agree?

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

No, not at all, Joe. There is most certainly *not* "an innocence" ascribed to all men. There is only one Innocent (Righteous) One. His innocence is ascribed to all who believe in Him, and only to those who believe in Him. Unbelievers remain "in their sin" and "under wrath." They remain condemned as guilty before the stern judgment of God's holy Law, because the innocence of Christ is not ascribed to them. On the other hand, those who believe in Christ have the innocence of Christ ascribed to them and are declared innocent and righteous.

Joe Krohn said...

Agreed...but the debt of the unbeliever has still been paid, correct?

jonathanpaulmayer said...

Pastor Rydecki—Apparently, I was too hasty in taking your side. Although you have laid out some very convincing arguments, there is more to the story than you are letting on. I do, however, thank you for causing me to study this matter in further detail, and I will continue to do so.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Jonathan, that's quite a charge to leave hanging out there, as if I were leaving out some vital piece of information. What is this "more to the story" that you're referring to?

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, you could think of it as the paying of everyone's debt, but not in the American sense of, for example, owing a mortgage to the bank, and then having someone else pay your mortgage to the bank, so that no one owes anything to the bank anymore. That would be one of DP Buchholz's errors in the paper he wrote last year.

If you want to use the paying of a debt analogy, then go with the way Luther describes it in the Preface to his Romans commentary, as quoted by Martin Chemnitz in his Loci Theologici:

"For example, a person who owes a debt and is unable to pay it, can be made free of his creditor in two ways: either the creditor himself can tear up the bill and demand no payment, or if a good man pays it for you and gives it to you or advances you the money by which you can satisfy the bill of the creditor. This second method Christ Himself used in freeing us from the Law.”

To follow Luther's analogy, no human being has a penny with which to satisfy his debt to God's Law. But Christ has provided a treasure of righteousness in His holy, precious blood, which is sufficient for the whole world to hold up to God's Law as the payment of its debt. "Faith" can be described as using Christ's righteousness alone to "pay" one's debt to God, the divine Creditor. Those who use Christ's righteousness to pay their debt to God's Law will never be put to shame. Those who fail to use Christ's righteousness to pay their debt have nothing of value to offer and will spend eternity in debtor's prison.

Or using the analogy that is drawn more directly from the Scriptures, "faith" is described as appealing to Christ and His righteousness in God's courtroom (i.e., the "Throne of Grace").

Joe Krohn said...

Regardless of the analogy, all men's debts have been paid therefore redeeming all men according to 2 Peter 2:1 (as well as the BoC in the Solid Declaration under 'Election' - "...namely, that God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]:

15] 1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocency] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life."

If it were not so, 'it' would no longer be finished.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, are you arguing this point with someone? I'm not aware of anyone who disputes what you posted here.

Brett Meyer said...

I would contend that this statement is unScriptural, "all men's debts have been paid therefore redeeming all men". The doctrine of UOJ teaches what Pastor Rydecki mentioned above - that the payment of the world's debt is a removal of such debt so that the unbelieving world owe nothing to God, are divinely declared guiltless and in His grace. The BOC quote which Joe Krohn posts above is used in seclusion and out of context by the false gospel of UOJ to teach that the whole unbelieving world has been declared righteous and justified when Christ paid for the world's sins.
The BOC quote under 15] which UOJ uses to promote the removal of the unbelieving world's sin/debt finishes with ".., has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life." If taken out of context and falsified as UOJ does then not only does the righteousness apply to the unbelieving world but also the ".., and eternal life." This is salvation. As usual UOJ wants to have it both ways that in a singlular statement one portion applies and the other doesn't. This is to avoid the accusation of teaching Universalism - that the whole unbelieving world is saved. This is the doctrine of UOJ being dishonest. If in 15] Christ's righteousness is imputed to the unbelieving world then so does eternal life.
Further, the BOC quote states, that redemption and reconciliation with God is through Christ. Christ is only apprehended as Mediator and Propitiation for sin through the gracious gift of faith in Christ alone. Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; The unbelieving world's sins were paid for by Christ, Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all., but their debt is not removed since they will die in their sins if they do not have the gracious gift of faith in Christ alone - John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. Scripture doesn't speak of the Atonement of Christ being the removal of the unbelieving world's debt to God over their sin.
The context of the BOC quote Joe uses is the following statements which show that the merits and benefits of Christ and His Atonement are distributed and imputed only through the Means of Grace working Faith:
16] 2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.
17] 3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith.
18] 4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life.

UOJ is the spawn of human minds subjecting Scripture, Christ's Word, to rationalism instead of subjecting rational minds to the inerrant pure words, doctrines and teachings of Scripture.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

If Joe is only trying to say that Christ paid the full redemption price for the world, that is certainly correct. There is nothing deficient in the payment Christ made. The passage from the article of election that he keeps citing is not the best one to use for that purpose, because that passage is properly declaring what God's counsel was in eternity (not reflected very well in the English translation of that paragraph, but easily discernible from the surrounding passages). The human race was not redeemed in eternity. It was God's counsel in eternity that the human race should be redeemed and reconciled through Christ.

Brett is right that UOJ supporters misuse that very phrase from this section on election to try to prove not only the redemption of the human race, but also the justification of the human race, which is completely contrary to the context. The surrounding sentences place justification, not in eternity, and not before faith, but after the Holy Spirit has brought men to faith.

I still think Hunnius puts it best regarding the relationship between redemption and justification (from A Clear Explanation - I can look up the page number if anyone needs it):

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.

Joe Krohn said...

I am not arguing, Pr. Rydecki. But you seem to be tiptoeing around 2 Peter 2; denying what redemption entails for all men; that yes, the debt is gone ascribing an objective innocence to all men without respect to belief or unbelief. To say "The human race was not redeemed in eternity. It was God's counsel in eternity that the human race should be redeemed and reconciled through Christ." flies in the face 2 Peter 2 and so many other passages with Isaiah 53 at the forefront. Are you preaching a limited redemption? It seems I can only draw this conclusion.

Brett, we have had in depth discussion and there is no need to rehash. Your theology inevitably brings you to a point that makes the work of Christ incomplete. You stated: "I would contend that this statement is unScriptural, "all men's debts have been paid therefore redeeming all men". " This is a complete heresy and shows that according to you, something is still owed to God and incomplete. I will no longer address your points.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Joe, your claims are bizarre. I have never tiptoed in my life. What's so difficult about 2 Peter 2? "...denying the Lord who bought them..." Yes, the Lord bought them with His holy precious blood, even those who were introducing false doctrine, even those who never believed and never will believe. I have *always* said that, and you are being disingenuous to imply otherwise.

I do not, however, teach with Samuel Huber that "redemption has been conferred on the human race." If that is what you believe, then you and Huber are one. I do believe with Aegidius Hunnius exactly the words I cited above. Please refer back to that quote.

You are mixing metaphors when you talk about redemption and the paying off of a debt. In Scripture, "redemption" is not described as paying someone's debt. I shared several Scriptural citations above on the use of the word "redemption." If you have some Scriptural evidence to the contrary, please share it.

Furthermore, you're not getting what I said about redemption and eternity. Mankind was not redeemed in eternity. Mankind was redeemed in time, when Christ shed His holy, precious blood. That's the point. The Formula of Concord does not say that mankind was redeemed in eternity. If you're reading it that way, you're reading it wrong.

You are totally wrong when you say "the debt is gone ascribing an objective innocence to all men without respect to belief or unbelief." 2 Peter 2 certainly doesn't ascribe any sort of innocence to the human race, nor does any other passage. God ascribes innocence to those who believe in His Son. Period. John 3:18 is as clear a passage as anyone needs to prove this.

Joe Krohn said...

" For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." - This speaks of a redemption and reconciliation that happened before faith that is received in faith. It doesn't make sense that you could receive something that is not there in the first place?

" And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." - I believe this speaks to a reconciliation before the world was created. From what God has given us in His word, I don't think it is prudent to always think in a linear way. I would go so far as to say that since God is omniscient, creation would have been impossible without 'the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world".

Brett Meyer said...

Inherent in the doctrine of UOJ is the subjection of Scripture to human rationalism. The doctrine cannot be taught or defended without it. UOJ rejects the gracious gift of faith in Christ alone, worked by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, and without the Holy Spirit the Word of God becomes incomprehensible - foolishness. Romans 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Joe, what exactly did you 'agree' to above on October 4, 2013 at 3:22 PM?

Joe Krohn said...

Brett, Objective Justification rightly taught is not what you present. And it does not deny the precious gift of faith. Pr. Webber does quite an eloquent job of explaining it over on Steadfast Lutherans today. Maybe you saw it.

I agreed with what Pr. Rydecki said in the context of subjectivity since it seemed quite apparent that that was his perspective.

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Pr. Webber has no right to define Objective Justification differently than Walther and Pieper did. In addition, the WELS theologians of the early 20th Century supplement that definition (which may or may not be compatible with Walther/Pieper), and no one in the ELS has ever (to my knowledge) rebuked them for their definition.

Pr. Webber does an eloquent job at BJS of confusing various definitions of Objective Justification and of emptying God's promises of their validity by claiming that Holy Absolution can only be offered if all mankind has already been absolved, which is patently false. More on that soon.

Brett Meyer said...

Pastor David Jay Webber did not like my polite corrections and deleted my comments on Steadfast Lutherans. Fortunately I expected them to delete my clarifying statements which indeed show that he is obfuscating the eternal contention between UOJ and Justification solely by faith in Christ alone. The comments which he deleted have been kindly posted on Ichabod.

It is clear by now that there is no article of concord regarding the doctrine of Universal Objective Justification. To charge someone with not presenting it as it should be 'rightly taught' is absurd. Every essay regarding it that doesn't plagiarize from the others (primarily Becker, Buchholz and Marquart) is never completely consistent with the others and all are 100% contradictory to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Good to see you still read Ichabod Joe.

Joe Krohn said...

I'm sorry you feel that way, Pr. Rydecki. Pr. Webber at least to me falls in line with the Rev. Dr. Marquart and I don't believe there are any definitions on his part that would disagree with Walther or Pieper. I find it odd that you get bunched about a doctrine that you have denied.

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