An Announcement from the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America
- It is false to say that the rejection of a Waltherian/Pieperian formulation of “Objective Justification” makes man a contributor to his own salvation, as if all that needed to be done were not accomplished through the work of Christ. Those who reject “Objective Justification” as defined by Walther and Pieper do not hold to any sort of Calvinistic “Limited Atonement.” The pastors of the ELDoNA confess that Christ is the atoning sacrifice not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world, even those who are ultimately in Hell for all eternity.
- Similarly, it is false to assert that holding such a position requires one to have his own faith as the object of his faith. Indeed, this same thing has also been asserted against “Objective Justification,” since the final difference between those in Heaven and those in Hell (for either position) is a matter of whether or not the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice has been received through faith. While someone might demonstrate that some individual with either position has held such a thing, this is merely a straw man used to distract from the substance of either position.
- When one says things like, “if this is not true objectively, it cannot be applied subjectively,” or “something must exist for it to be given,” there are two answers that must be given. The first is that such thinking is what led to the development of a “limbo of the fathers,” because anyone who died before the crucifixion would have “no objective substance to be applied.” The second is that the way Lutherans used to speak actually made it clear that there was something “objective” and “substantive” that was the case because of Christ’s atonement, but that it was not what Walther and his followers and Synodical Conference counterparts taught that it was (and now demand that it be). This is addressed in the theses, both with regard to what the atonement provided and to how one is to regard a promise made by God (as opposed to one made by Man).
- Thus, saying that those who hold that Waltherian “Objective Justification” is a bad formulation hold to a concept of faith that makes it the “trigger” (or “button,” or what have you) to make God justify an individual, is absolutely false. A pre-existing word from God (which is not, by the way, found anywhere in the Bible, but only supposed by Man, an extrapolation from the events of either the crucifixion or resurrection by a philosophically driven eisegesis)—declaring all men righteous is by no means necessary, as God’s promise connected to the work of Christ is more than enough. Faith does not drive justification, but is driven by (given through/created by) the atonement and the promise, so that it is exactly what Lutherans have always held it to be: the medium through which God’s grace unto justification is received.
- Some have expressed disappointment that the ELDoNA would have a statement of its own as a condition of membership in the diocese. Since not everyone who claims Scripture and the Confessions actually holds to them, statements have to be adopted from time to time to clarify issues. When such statements are accepted, the ELDoNA has been very careful to note that these are not new confessions, but the application of Scripture and the Confessions to contemporary issues and, thus, subject to modification if a better way to say something is found. Indeed, it is for this reason that the 2005 Niles Theses were modified at the founding of the diocese in 2006; the substance did not change, but a clearer wording was desired.
- Note that such a principle is not a matter of having a “quatenus subscription” to the statements or theses issued by the diocese, as some will claim; there is no matter of viewing these as accepted “insofar as they agree with Scripture (or the Confessions),” but they are adopted because they are seen as being in full agreement with God’s Word and the Confessions of His Church. While the Confessions are subscribed as an unchangeable whole, the statements of a particular body are its own possession and, unless adopted by wider Christendom, may be clarified by the unanimous agreement of said body. The ELDoNA speaks to the issues of the day, but does not intend to write or hold “new confessions.”
- Some falsely accuse the ELDoNA with a hatred of C. F. W. Walther, even postulating that this has driven the diocese to its conclusions in this matter. The fact is that the pastors of the ELDoNA have a great appreciation for Walther; they simply consider him to have been in error on various points. Just as Luther must not be made into some sort of infallible demigod, so must Walther not be so treated. Walther accomplished amazing things considering both his background in Pietism and his having to try to restore a shattered group of immigrants to whom the accusations against their bishop of living a scandalous life were the least scandalous part of the deposing of said bishop: Walther had to demonstrate to them that they were still a legitimate church. Yet, places where he erred or compromised also served to set in motion the things that have left the LCMS (and the rest of the old Synodical Conference) where it is today—not that such was his intent, nor that he even could reasonably be expected to foresee this, but it is what it is.
- Thus, too, the ELDoNA has no vendetta against the LCMS, WELS, or anyone else. From the outset, the diocese has set itself to be anything but a “micro-synod,” that is, a body that considers itself the “legitimate heirs” of the body from which it came. While other bodies may live to show themselves “right” and live in the shadow of their former affiliations, the ELDoNA has no desire to do so. Any speaking to the realities of the theology and practice of other bodies is done for the education of the parishioners of ELDoNA pastors and the exhortation of those in such bodies who would be faithful. (To date, the only document officially speaking to any particular church body’s errors was written with regard to the ELCA.)
- What the diocese has set forth in this document is exactly what was confessed by Lutherans from the very beginning. What is declared in the Theses and is demonstrated further in the essay referenced therein, “The Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace,” is that some have taken up the hay and stubble that some Synodical Conference theologians built upon the Scriptural teaching concerning Justification and have, thereby, taught a doctrine other than that of Scripture and the Confessions.
Concerning the Rev. Paul Rydecki’s Colloquy and the Composition of These Theses:Some have suggested that these theses were written to facilitate the colloquy of the Rev. Paul Rydecki. The diocese exists to proclaim the name of Christ Jesus, and to do so in accord with the pattern of sound words we have learned from the holy apostles, as expressed in the Christian Book of Concord. The diocese was certainly not motivated by a need to prove Rev. Rydecki to be right about anything, even as the diocese is not motivated by a need to prove Walther wrong about anything. We are motivated, in all things, by the “one thing” that is needed, namely, Christ and His Word.
More than this, however, there was no predetermined outcome when the theses were assigned for composition: it may well have ended that the one first drafting them would end up alienating himself from the diocese or causing a division within its membership. While our desire is always to walk in full accord with Scripture and the Confessions and, thus, with one another, Bishop Heiser does not micromanage those carrying out such assignments. Scholarship is to be engaged in in such a way that the truth may prevail, and those called upon to present anything to the diocese are to submit their writings with the full expectation that correction and admonishment will take place if they are in error. (Such has happened in the past, and the rejection of fraternal admonishment has led to the termination of membership in the diocese.)
That being the case, it was a joyous occasion when the theses were found to be the unanimous teaching of the diocese. It was also a telling occasion because, with the pastors involved coming from different backgrounds and attending different seminaries at different times, such unanimity would seem unlikely. Yet, its existence speaks to what the education is like in the various seminaries and what the professors there did or did not stress. Clearly, what these theses contain is a reflection both of such emphases and of the independent study of the pastors of the diocese during their time in the Office of the Holy Ministry before their colloquy.
With no further ado, we supply you with the links both to the “Theses on the Article of Justification” and to the essay referenced therein, “The Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace,” which will provide you with an excellent sampling of the evidence from the orthodox Lutheran fathers regarding this article of doctrine (especially from the period termed “The Golden Age of Lutheran Orthodoxy” by Robert Preus, including the theologian he listed as the ‘most important’ after Luther and Chemnitz, namely, Johann Gerhard). This essay, the theses, and other essays from the continuing discussion of this topic will be released in print by Repristination Press (http://repristinationpress.com) at a later date.
Link to the Theses: http://tinyurl.com/lwykame
Link to the Essay: http://tinyurl.com/pv29jek