In this post, we will begin to examine Huber’s doctrine, using the same section that was cited last week:
- Those theologians charge that I have set forth a universal justification, and indeed of such a kind that makes every person righteous by the very act of salvation and by participation, and simply carries them away into heaven. To this point they have directed every weapon of accusation thus far. But I have never dreamed or written anything of this sort.
- This, however, I had written against the Calvinists: since justification is universal according to Paul’s teaching (Rom. 5), redemption is not able to not be universal.
Huber made an unfortunate error here in arguing against the Calvinists. It appears that he started with his misinterpretation of Rom. 5:18 to teach a universal justification, which has no Scriptural support, in order to prove the universal redemption made by Christ, which has plenty of Scriptural support.
- But I called universal justification that by which God, considering the satisfaction of Christ, became favorably disposed toward the entire human race because of that satisfaction, and thus he accepted it just as if everyone had made satisfaction for himself, with the law having been entirely fulfilled.
- We are redeemed from the guilt of sin; the wrath of God is appeased; all creation is again under the bright rays of mercy, as in the beginning; yea, in Christ we were justified before we were even born. For do not the Scriptures say: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them?'’ This is not the justification which we receive by faith...That is the great absolution which took place in the resurrection of Christ. It was the Father, for our sake, who condemned His dear Son as the greatest of all sinners causing Him to suffer the greatest punishment of the transgressors, even so did He publicly absolve Him from the sins of the world when He raised Him up from the dead. (Edward Preuss, "The Justification of a Sinner Before God," pp. 14-15)
- …justification is used both in the language of Scripture and the church in a twofold way not only of the fact that God counts his faith to the individual believer for righteousness and declares him righteous, but also of the fact that in his judgment God regards the whole world guiltless and ascribes to it the completed satisfaction of Christ for everyone, the righteousness earned for everyone. (H. A. Preus, 1874)
- The doctrine of objective justification is a lovely teaching drawn from Scripture which tells us that God who has loved us so much that He gave His only to be our Savior has for the sake of Christ’s substitutionary atonement declared the entire world of sinners for whom Christ died to be righteous (Romans 5:17-19). Objective justification which is God’s verdict of acquittal over the whole world is not identical with the atonement, it is not another way of expressing the fact that Christ has redeemed the world. Rather it is based upon the substitutionary work of Christ, or better, it is a part of the atonement itself. It is God’s response to all that Christ died to save us, God’s verdict that Christ’s work is finished, that He has been indeed reconciled, propitiated; His anger has been stilled and He is at peace with the world, and therefore He has declared the entire world in Christ to be righteous. (Robert D. Preus, 1981, when he still held firmly to “Objective Justification”)
- If we say that Christ has made satisfaction for the world’s sin, then we cannot refuse to say that God has remitted the sin of the world in Christ… Whether a sinner acknowledges it, or not, he was acquitted through Christ’s work; the atonement and accompanying not-guilty verdict are an objective and universal reality, regardless of personal perception. (Jon Buchholz)
- In this respect it is sensibly called universal justification, not first by me, but by Paul. In it only that act of Christ’s merit and satisfaction is considered at the tribunal of God. However, people still do not possess justification by their own act unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all.
But the main thing to notice is that Huber here describes in almost the exact same words the “Objective/Subjective” teaching of the Synodical Conference. He teaches that God has already justified all people at His tribunal, that is, in His divine courtroom, based solely on Christ’s merit. But “people still do not possess justification unless they apprehend by faith that which was approved and ratified by God on behalf of all.” Compare this to the Synodical Conference:
- The effect of God's sin-forgiving act, which consists in this, that the sinner has the forgiveness of sins and justification as his personal possession and his heart's treasure, cannot be where there is no faith. (H.A. Preus)
- In each case, the objective aspect of justification is tied very tightly to the death and resurrection of Christ. In each case, it is emphasized that justification and absolution are not received and possessed by individuals apart from faith, or before faith. (David Jay Webber)
- Only believers take possession of these universal realities through faith. Only we believers have (ἔχομεν) redemption through his blood, and this only ἐν ᾧ, that is, in Christ. In the same way we can say that only we believers have or possess the forgiveness of sins, and this only in Christ. (Buchholz)
- God forgave the sin of the world by removing the sin of the world and placing it upon Christ. The world’s debt has been paid in full and canceled by Christ (universal forgiveness). In the cross and empty tomb of Christ, God really has acquitted the world of sin, so that in Christ Jesus the world’s status has been changed to “justified” before God (universal justification)… Through Spirit-worked faith, these completed realities are appropriated and received through faith, so that the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of Christ become the possession of individual sinners (individual justification). (Buchholz)
- And so that it may be evident that I am thinking nothing foreign to Scripture…I will enumerate their testimonies respectively.
- From Scripture we have Rom. 5, “And so, just as through the fault of one it resulted in condemnation for all, so also through the justification of one it resulted in justification of life for all people;” 2 Cor. 5 “When God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins toward them.” To “be reconciled” is certainly to remove the anger toward the human race. To “be reconciled with the world,” is to remove the anger toward all people, which those theologians…bitterly deny, not without blasphemy. And “not to impute sins” is to justify or to recognize as just, with the manner of speaking being taken up from the market place. Therefore, that justification comes upon all people no less than condemnation; that the world is reconciled; that by the very judgment of God, which God carried out in his own Son, sins are not imputed to us, but are imputed to Christ; and that satisfaction has been offered by him and has been accepted by the Father—that is to set forth universal justification in its own legitimate respect.
- Already in the year 1593 the Wuerttemberg theologians (Heerbrand, Gerlach, Hafenreffer, Osiander, Bidembach, and others) conceded to Huber with reference to the doctrine of justification that he seemed to deviate from them in it “in phrasi tamen magis ac loquendi modo, quam reipsa,” that is, “more however in the expression and in the manner of speaking than in the substance itself.” (Walther, Justification: Subjective and Objective, pp. 20-21)
They can run from Huber, but they can’t hide.