Monday, November 25, 2013

Changes on the Horizon

Since "nobody reads Ichabod," it may come as a surprise for some of our readers to hear that there are some changes in the works for Intrepid Lutherans. Then again, it may not. Likewise, if everyone reads Ichabod, it may come as a surprise for some to learn that the changes being considered are not nearly so dramatic as is rumoured. Then again, it may not.

The past year or so has seen some significant changes for us, personally, professionally and as a group. It is no secret that Rev. Rydecki, after making independent study of the Doctrine of Justification and having publicly raised some simple questions of exegesis from the floor of a Pastors conference in his District, was eventually labeled by his Brothers a heretic and cast out from among them without the honest review of his concerns for which he pleaded at length. No longer WELS, he has since colloquized into the ELDoNA, which was concerned and objective enough to give him an honest hearing, and to carefully consider and deliberate his arguments before receiving him. But this is not the extent of the personal changes many of us at IL have faced. I, for one, have been in the midst of some fairly significant business changes over the past several months, that have altered my availability to write with the frequency to which many may have become accustomed. And I know that shifting responsibilities and personal circumstances have impacted the others, as well.

But there have been other changes – changes in attitude toward our initial "objectives." In our recent, and very popular post, What on Earth could the CoP possibly have meant by THIS?, we identified two "primary precipitating situations behind [the] formation" of Intrepid Lutherans in 2010:
    (1) the appalling treatment of the layman, Mr. Rick Techlin, by his pastor and congregation, and the incomprehensible support publicly granted them by the praesidium of the Northern Wisconsin District; and

    (2) the continuing existence of "Time of Grace Ministry" as a manifestly non-denominational and unionistic evangelism Ministry conducted by WELS and other Lutherans, and the continuing support of the praesidium of the Southeastern Wisconsin District enjoyed by "Time of Grace Ministry."
Regarding the first situation, it concluded most unsatisfactorily, while related issues either pre-existing or descending directly from it seem to continue unabated. Regarding the second situation... that liberalizing juggernaut continues – with an endless supply of independent funding and a multitude of supporting voices both within Synod, especially among its leadership, and among the laity as well.

The result is no small level of disenfranchisement among a majority of Intrepid Lutheran editors, and a resulting shift in personal interest and priority. Of all the friends they thought they had, very few have stood with them publicly. With no significant public voice to oppose the abuses that brought us all together in 2010, such abuses are now normative in WELS. There is no stopping it, there is no changing it, indeed, there is no referring to it as somehow "wrong" anymore. That is because WELS has changed. If, three and a half years ago, we very naïvely thought such things could have been stopped, curtailed or at least turned toward reformation (and some of us did think such could happen), that naiveté has been sucked from us as the hot desert sun draws moisture from a naked body; publicly deserted by those who privately supported us, we, along with our remaining stalwart public supporters, have baked alone in the sun.

For these and a variety of other reasons, the majority of Intrepid Lutheran editors have found that their enthusiasm with respect to our purpose regarding these precipitating situations has left them, that current circumstances have driven them to focus on other priorities.

The only two who are willing to continue are myself and Rev. Rydecki – although going forward neither of us will have the time to publish as frequently as we have in the past, with Rev. Rydecki's involvement reducing to moderator and occasional blog posts.

This leaves us with a dilemma of sorts. Currently, Intrepid Lutherans is incorporated as a non-profit religious and educational institution, so that we can collect revenue in the form of donations and use it to host conferences. Believe it or not, we were in the midst of planning such a conference for next Spring, a conference that would have included not only the results of a systematic study of Church Growth trends in the WELS, but an in depth examination of translation ideology – of Dynamic Equivalence versus Formal Equivalence – of the "Critical Text" Greek apparatus that stands behind DE, and the "Historical Critical Method" that props it up. In addition, this conference would have provided an academic defense for the adoption of the "New King James Translation" of the Bible. There were other topics on the docket for exploration as well. If Intrepid Lutherans were to continue with such endeavors, it would need to remain incorporated. But it would also need qualified Board Members. Though Rev. Rydecki is willing to continue as an author, he simply does not have the time to devote to the duties of a corporate officer. And corporations require at least two officers.

Likewise, even if Intrepid Lutherans were to continue as just a Blog, we simply need more qualified writers. Between Rev. Rydecki and myself, maybe two or three entries a month are all that could be expected, which is not nearly enough to maintain a dedicated readership.

If we were to continue in either case, the purpose of Intrepid Lutherans would necessarily change. First and foremost, we would entirely cease to be a "WELS blog", or an organization that defines its existence or purpose with reference to ANY Lutheran synod or church body. We have very definitely entered a post-Synodical Era, and it will do the scattered remnant of genuine Lutherans little good for Intrepid Lutherans, or for any Lutheran group, to conduct itself with an imbalanced and unrealistic devotion to earthly organizations. In order to provide a balance of Lutheran perspectives, the hope would be to attract regular contributors and/or leadership candidates from additional sources in American Lutheranism.

Second, since it would not be defining itself relative to any Lutheran synod or church body, Intrepid Lutherans would end that aspect of its mission which continually addressed itself to the political issues of WELS, or those of any Lutheran synod or church body. That isn't to say that such issues won't be pointedly discussed from time to time, particularly as Intrepid Lutherans continues to warn of growing corruption in, and encroaching worldliness upon broad segments of American Lutheranism – a warning that is relevant to all Lutheran church bodies in America, even if they (think they) have separated themselves from the rest of Christianity, or even if they (think they) have sequestered themselves from the rest of the World.

Third, rather than addressing ourselves to Lutheran clergy and laity, we would be focusing on primarily equipping and engaging Lutheran laity. We would do this not by insulting them with condescending "bubble-gum," but by providing what seems be disappearing from the main Lutheran publishing houses: the highest quality writing we can muster, sufficiently sourced so that the layman can continue to investigate as interest would lead him, and have confidence in what he passes on to others. The equipping we would hope to offer Lutheran laity would be a preparation, not to stand as confessional Lutherans before similarly confessing "brothers" and family members who don't really want to live up to the label they apply to themselves, but to stand as confessing Christians in a Western Society that has swiftly grown shockingly and openly hostile to Christianity.

Fourth, there would be a more deliberate effort to cover Lutheran teaching and practice from a more broadly and historically orthodox perspective, rather than elevate peculiarities of recent American innovation that have supplanted those perspectives. To this end, and in the interest of equipping the laity, there would also be a more deliberate effort to cover Lutheran teaching and practice not only as current issues in American Christianity give rise to questions regarding, or a need to defend, historic and orthodox Christianity, but from the standpoint of balance from the four categories of preparation in the Christian religion: Exegetical & Historical Theology (the so-called "historic" disciplines), and Systematic & Practical Theology (the so-called "constructive" disciplines) – where we would also recognize that Systematic Theology is more than just dogmatics, but also includes apologetics and ethics. In other words, our goals would be set so that there could be no mistaking – on our part or anyone else's – that rather than set out to "achieve" any particular result (impossible, since these goals include no arrival point), we are merely proceeding in a direction that we are convinced it is proper to go, trusting that the Lord will make fitting use of our "going."

What would not be changing? Our "What we Believe" statement would not be changed. We would continue to be a forum in which friendly and productive discussion on the article of Justification may be engaged by genuinely interested and concerned Lutherans. We will continue to herald confessional Lutheran practice – historic, liturgical and catholic practice, that is – as the proper form of worship for confessing Lutherans, and we will continue to vigorously oppose all forms of sectarian worship which boasts of its separation from the Church catholic and heralds its union with worldliness, and which disparages the Holy Spirit who works exclusively through the Means of Grace and arrogantly augments or even supplants His work with the efforts of man. We will continue to oppose the encroachments of Truth-killing post-Modern thought upon our pre-Modern system of theology, we will continue to oppose post-Modernism as a foundation for contemporary translations of the Bible, and we will continue to reject the NIV as a viable translation for the serious Christian. All posts would remain as they are – without editing or removal. The efforts of editors and Board members would continue to be rendered gratis.

We have given ourselves until the end of the year. It's up to our readers, now. If there are those who would be interested in becoming a regular essayist, or in having more substantial involvement with IL, please make yourselves known to us (privately, if you desire). If we don't know you, we may ask you to submit a CV and provide references. If, by the end of the year, we have not made any progress toward increasing our number of active authors, or in acquiring additional qualified leadership candidates, we will de-incorporate and mothball the blog. In this event, all blog posts will remain as they are and continue to be available for public access into the foreseeable future, for as long as we are able to maintain our domain name.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Johann Gerhard on 1 Timothy 3:16

Those who teach that God has already absolved all people of their sins (e.g., Walther’s famous “Easter Absolution”) and declared all people righteous in Christ, whether they believe in Christ or not, have to take short phrases out of context in order to read their doctrine back into the Scriptures and the writings of the Lutheran Fathers.  As their proof passages for universal absolution apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith fall one by one (e.g., Rom. 3:24, Rom. 4:25, Rom. 5:18, 2 Cor. 5:19, all of which teach justification by faith, not apart from faith or before faith), they are left grasping at straws to fortify their teetering teaching of an Easter Absolution of all men.  So some have isolated one phrase from 1 Tim. 3:16 to prove what they claim is the very foundation of our faith.  Following F. Pieper blindly and uncritically, they isolate one phrase from Johann Gerhard (which was repeated by Abraham Calov) on this verse (the same phrase being repeated in their commentaries on Rom. 4:25) to “prove” that the Lutheran Church has always taught that all men were absolved by God—apart from the Means of Grace and apart from faith—in the resurrection of Christ.

As usual, a simple glance at the Scriptural context reveals no such universal absolution.  And as usual, a look at the context of the Lutheran Fathers reveals that they did not teach such a thing, either.

The following is a translation of the section from Johann Gerhard’s commentary on 1 Timothy dealing with the phrase “justified in the spirit” in 1 Tim. 3:16.  It is the entire section that deals with that phrase, plus a translation of Gerhard's concluding analysis of the verse.


Adnotationes ad Priorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam
Annotations on St. Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy
by Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

Ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι (“He was justified in spirit”). (1) Theodoret, Primasius, Sedulius, Anselm, Thomas, Lyranus, Cajetan, Gagnaeus, Justininanus, etc., understand “spirit” as “Holy Spirit,” so that the sense is: Just as ὁ θεάνθρωπος (the God-Man) Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so from the beginning of His conception by the Holy Spirit He was made righteous and holy in such a way that He never had nor did He commit any sin. But “to be justified” is never attributed anywhere to Christ in the sense of “to be made righteous.”  Nor would it denote anything special in Christ, since it is common to all righteous men that they have been justified in the Spirit. (2) It is more correctly understood as the Deity of Christ, since whatever is beyond human in Christ is called “spirit.” Therefore, it says, “The Son of God was manifested in the flesh, justified by means of the spirit,” that is, His Deity, by the strength of which He performed miracles and raised Himself from the dead. Therefore, by means of His miracles, performed by the power of a holy spirit, but especially by means of the resurrection, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God against the calumnies of His enemies. (Rom. 1:4, 1 Pet. 3:18).

By means of the spirit He was shown to be righteous and true (Latin declaratus est justus et verax) in works and doctrine, and He was also set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from all the calumnies of the Jews. This type of justification for God agrees with Ps. 51:6, Matt. 11:18, Luke 7:29.

“He was justified,” that is, He was shown to be righteous (Latin justus declaratus), since in and by means of the resurrection Christ was set free (Latin absolutus - absolved) from the sins of men that He took upon Himself as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.

[commentary on the rest of the verse follows, concluding with the following:]

Observe the steps in the apostolic saying: (1) “God was manifested in flesh.”  This is the incarnation. (2) “Justified in spirit.” This is the policy (politia) or the conduct (conversatio) of Christ on this earth, in which, by means of various miracles, He demonstrated Himself to be the Son of God. (3) “Seen by angels.” This is the resurrection. (4) “Preached among the nations.” This is the preaching of the Gospel, which some received by faith.  (5) “Received in glory.” This is the ascension.


It is clear from his own exposition of 1 Tim. 3:16 that Johann Gerhard did not find in this verse a universal absolution of all men.  What he found was that, through the miracles He performed on earth and especially through His greatest miracle of raising Himself from the dead, Christ demonstrated His Deity.  Gerhard did not apply this “setting free” (“justification, vindication, absolution”) of Christ to all men.  He explicitly explains “this type of justification for God” in a different sense than the Book of Concord describes the justification of sinners.  In other words, Gerhard is not describing the article of justification in these words, nor is he referring at all to the “forensic (divine courtroom) justification,” either of Christ or of anyone else.

What Gerhard does say about Christ is the same thing we say about Christ who deny a universal absolution without faith.  Namely, that Christ “took upon Himself the sins of men as Guarantor in order to make satisfaction for them to the Father.” Indeed, Christ bore the sins of all and made satisfaction for the sins of all.  He served as Guarantor (or “Sponsor”) of all men.  And He was “shown to be righteous” in being “set free”(“absolved”) from sin's penalty, which is death.

But to make satisfaction for the sins of all does not result in the justification of all.  It is only through faith in Christ that His satisfaction is applied to sinners so that they are justified.  And to serve as Guarantor of all men does not result in the justification of all men.  It is only through faith in the Guarantor that His payment is applied to their account so that they are justified before God.  And Christ's being “set free” from sin's penalty, namely, death, is not a reference to any announcement by God that all sinners have been “set free” (absolved) from their sins, since all unbelievers are and remain dead and condemned.

However, those who believe in Christ do share in His resurrection and His life and have already escaped from death through faith in Him, and thus, as Calov/Gerhard point out, God “has absolved us in Him” (nos in ipso absolvit) not at the time of Christ's resurrection, but at the time when we were incorporated into Christ, namely, through Holy Baptism, which is consistent with all the Scriptures and the entire Book of Concord.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Exploring Huber - The Dialogue Continues

(Continued from the dialogue in this post and subsequent comments.)

Lawson: I'm finally getting around to a response (wouldn't want you to think I've yielded the field after only one post!).

Rydecki: Not a problem at all. In fact, I’m sure you’re also busy putting together an evaluation of the ELDoNA theses, and I would rather that take precedence over your dialogue with me. But I am thankful for the dialogue!

Lawson:I think you're missing Walther's point. He was simply pointing out that the degree to which the faculties rejected Huber had some variance. Wittenberg (and, I take it, from your post today, finally also Tuebingen) adamantly rejected Huber's position on universal justification, while Wuerttemberg simply rejected the difference in terminology. Okay, fine. As you point out, it doesn't really matter. The fact is, all three faculties did reject him.

Rydecki: Please correct me if I’m wrong, Pr. Lawson, but isn’t the Württemberg faculty the same as the Tübingen faculty? Isn’t Tübingen the capital of Württemberg, and therefore, just two different ways of referring to the same faculty? As far as I can tell, there is no “third faculty” that simply rejected the difference in terminology.

Lawson: Nevertheless, their (salutary) reason for that rejection is not at issue in the present controversy, nor was it at issue for Walther.

Rydecki: It seems to me that it is at issue, because, regardless of the various aspects of Huber’s doctrine that may be different from that of Walther (and their teaching is obviously not identical), the Lutheran Church rejected Huber’s exegesis of Romans 5 and 2 Cor. 5 which led him to teach that all men have been justified and that God has “not imputed sins” to all men. These are the same passages used by Walther and the Synodical Conference to teach that all men have been justified and that God has “not imputed sins” to all men. That the Lutheran Church never taught such a thing (because the Scriptures do not teach such a thing) is the very issue at hand.

Lawson: It's not as if theology stopped with Hunnius, or even John Gerhard, though.

Rydecki: I don’t think anyone has claimed that “theology stopped.” The problem is that the theological paradigm of justification changed from Wittenberg to Walther.

The basic Lutheran paradigm for justification from the beginning and continuing through the controversies with Huber (indeed, the Christian paradigm since the time of the Apostles) is: (1) God, in His grace, sent His Son to redeem our fallen race. (2) Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all and earned righteousness for all, so that (3) whoever believes in Him has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, and, thus covered in the righteousness of Christ, sinners are justified before God.

The novel Waltherian paradigm for justification is: (1) God, in His grace, sent His Son to redeem our fallen race. (2) Christ made satisfaction for the sins of all and earned righteousness for all. (3) Therefore God has already justified/absolved/declared all men righteous. (4) Whoever believes that all men have been justified becomes a personal recipient of the one-time justification of all men.

Or, to approach it from another angle, the historic Lutheran understanding is: (1) God imputed the sins of all to Christ, who suffered and paid for them all. (2) God imputes the righteousness of Christ to believers in Christ / does not impute sins to believers in Christ. (3) God still imputes sins to all unbelievers.

The Waltherian paradigm is: (1) God imputed the sins of all to Christ, who suffered and paid for them all. (2) In this very act, God was already “not imputing sins” to all men and imputing to all men the righteousness of Christ, as He views all men “in Christ.” (3) At the same time, God does impute sins to all men, as He views all men “outside of Christ.” (4) The righteousness of Christ is imputed individually to believers in Christ.

Would you agree with the Waltherian paradigms as I have outlined them here?

Lawson: The election controversy btw, provides a contrary example of how a theological concept - in this case "God's election in view of faith" - that could be seen as orthodox at its origin, had to be rejected 250 years later .

Rydecki: That’s a false premise. If it was an orthodox expression 400 years ago, it didn’t “have to be rejected.” It just needed to be explained correctly and not in an Arminian way, since faith is among the eight things that the Formula of Concord tells us must never be excluded or omitted “when we speak about God’s purpose, predestination, election, and ordination to salvation.”

Lawson: That being the case, not just the terminology, but the substance of it had to be rejected, with all due respect to the venerable fathers.

Rydecki: So, are you saying the substance of Hunnius and Gerhard’s teaching concerning election was orthodox or heterodox? If the substance of their teaching was orthodox, how can you say “the substance of it had to be rejected”?

Lawson: Huber's worst error was that he taught universal election and that was a defect that tainted his whole theology. He also taught that it did not take divine action for an individual to come to faith to receive the universal justification that he was speaking of.

Rydecki: And what was the “universal justification” that anyone else at the time was speaking of?

Lawson: It is obvious that Huber taught a universal SUBJECTIVE Justification. THAT was what was objected to.

Rydecki: OK, you got me here. I have no idea what a “universal subjective justification” is. Has someone defined that somewhere? Could you explain it without using the words “objective” or “subjective”?

As I understand “subjective justification,” it is the individual reception of forgiveness, life and salvation by faith, no? Those who are “subjectively justified” (according to Walther) are going to heaven, right? But we have already seen from Huber’s own words that Huber’s universal justification did not teach that individuals "possessed" these benefits, and that Huber denied that all people are eternally saved and taught that all people still needed to be justified by faith (even if such was not said to be a work from God).

I also don’t think it’s helpful to put words into the mouths of those who wrote against Huber. They did not object to “universal subjective justification.” They objected to his teaching that God had justified all men equally, and to his teaching that God has “not imputed” sins to all men, based on 2 Cor. 5.

Lawson: The fact that Walther's teaching on OJ (and ours) bears some similarities to Huber's (and even uses the same words at times) matters not, because his (and our) doctrine diverges from Huber at precisely the point where Huber is condemned - at the point of using OJ as a synonym for universal election and as a cover for asserting man's free will to accept God's justification.

Rydecki: Did you notice what I wrote in the post above about the three accusations against Huber? Yes, he was condemned for asserting that justification by faith was not a divine work (I don’t know if he talked about free will). He was also condemned for teaching a universal justification in the first place, in which God had already justified all men. On what do you base your claim that the Tübingen theologians agreed with Huber on the universal justification part?

Lawson: It won't do to simply engage in the "guilt by association" fallacy and summarily condemn all the words of those who teach OJ simply because they sound similar to those of a condemned man (isn't that what Eck did with Luther?)

Rydecki: Actually, I (and the diocese) have done precisely the opposite of this. Who has summarily condemned all the words of those who teach OJ simply because of their similarity to Huber? On the contrary, we have pointed out similarities in terminology and teaching (and we recognize dissimilarities as well) in order to examine these teachings under the light of Scripture and the Confessions, and we are using the arguments of the Lutheran Church of the 1590’s to further illustrate the Lutheran paradigm of justification and how it differs from the Huberian paradigm and from the Waltherian paradigm. The fact that the Huberian and Waltherian paradigm overlap at various points is part of the picture. Walther’s intentional adoption of a pattern of words that was previously condemned by the Lutheran Church also necessitates further review and inquiry. But in the end, Walther was not wrong about his general justification because of its similarity to Huber’s general justification. He was wrong because the Scriptures and the Confessions only know of a justification that happens through the Word, as sinners are brought to faith in Christ and faith is imputed for righteousness in God’s sight.

Lawson: Even if Huber's doctrine sounds similar to our doctrine of OJ, so what? It only sounds similar.

Rydecki: That’s a claim that will be hard to substantiate based on the similar usage and interpretation of the Bible passages that supposedly teach OJ, like Rom. 5 and 2 Cor. 5.

Lawson: Nor does that fact that Huber taught an errant OJ mean that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine.

Rydecki: That's true. The fact that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine means that the Bible doesn't teach any such doctrine.

Lawson: For instance, if you are going to insist that the only type of Justification that exists with God is the one we call SUBJECTIVE Justification and hence, any talk of Justification in any other connection is a fiction, what do you do with the fact that the Bible speaks of Justification in another context even as early as Isaiah 53:11:

Rydecki: Actually, the Bible speaks of justification much earlier: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Lawson: "Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities." The word "many" here means all. When one speaks of those who truly believe they are the "remnant" or the "few" ("Many are called, few are chosen"). This is the reason that any of us can be certain that we are saved. It was only John Calvin that intruded doubt into this by saying "many, not all," but technically all sinners are "many" in contradistinction with Christ the "one." All of humanity is the "all": if you set Christ aside this all becomes "the many."

Rydecki: Huh? I’m sorry, but that is really convoluted logic. The word here is "many." The context does not necessitate interpreting it as "all." "Many" may refer to all, or it may simply refer to "many" as opposed to "few." The Church is not always referred to as "few." Sometimes it's referred to as "a great multitude which no one could number" (Rev. 7:9).

How about this? We let the word “many” inspired by the Holy Spirit in Is. 53:11 mean “many.” Period. Not a few. But “many.” And we let it refer to the same justification by faith that all the other Scripture passages talk about, letting the words mean what they say and letting Scripture interpret Scripture.

Then we’re left with something like this: “By the knowledge of Jesus (that is, by the many knowing what He will do/now has done) many shall be justified (by faith in Jesus, all to the glory of Jesus and not at all to their own glory). And He shall bear their iniquities (so that it may be so).”

And if we’re looking for an argument against the Calvinistic limited atonement, then we go to those passages that clearly and expressly make the atonement unlimited (Jn. 1:29, 1 Jn. 2:2, etc.).

Lawson: Hunnius is simply not the last word on this subject, but it appears to me that you have virtually made him the last word.

Rydecki: Actually, Hunnius, Leyser, Gesner, the Tübingen theologians, Gerhard, et al.

Lawson: There is theology after Hunnius (and Gerhard).

Rydecki: Where such theology is different than the theology of the Christian Church that preceded it, I think we refer to such theology as “novel.” There is a reason why confessional Lutherans bind themselves to the pattern of words in the Book of Concord. We’re sure that the theology contained therein is reliable, because we have tested it against Scripture and found it to be so. I have no such certainty with regard to Walther and the pattern of words and the exegesis of Bible passages he borrowed from Huber.

Lawson: Walther acknowledged that the orthodox Lutherans did not speak like Huber because of Huber's errors. But without Huber he thought they would have.

Rydecki: I wonder if he also thought they would have agreed with him on Rom. 5 and 2 Cor. 5, contrary to their expressed words and interpretation of those passages. It’s easy to speculate that dead theologians would subscribe to one’s doctrine. It’s another thing to prove it.

Lawson: They did later on. What do you make of Calov saying: "Christ's resurrection took place as an actual absolution from sin (respectu actualis a peccato absolutionis). As God punished our sins in Christ, upon whom He laid them and to whom He imputed them, as our Bondsman, so He also, by the very act of raising Him from the dead, absolved Him from our sins imputed to Him, and so He absolved also us in Him" (Bibl. Illust., ad Rom. 4:25; quoted in Pieper, vol. III)?

Rydecki: I refer you to Appendix 4 of the Forensic Appeal to the Throne of Grace essay, the section entitled, “Gerhard’s ‘absolved us in Him’ phrase,” where it has already been demonstrated that Gerhard (and Calov after him) was referring to believers only in the “us” who have been absolved, and even then, as we (ELDoNA) state in our Thesis 11 on Justification:

For example, to say, “Christ was absolved in the resurrection,” is to employ an illustration that is not truly apt, as an ‘absolution’ declares one innocent in spite of one’s guilt and inability to pay for his transgressions, but the Christ’s ‘justification’ is, rather, the vindication of One who both is innocent by nature and by conduct and who has paid for the sins of all others. The fact that the Christ was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) and bore our sins as His own (Psalm 69:5) does not require Him to be absolved, since, again, He was not forgiven for our sins (forgiveness requiring someone else to pay the debt). Instead, He Himself paid the debt.

Lawson: Even earlier and more clear (with regard to a "universal" absolution), Gerhard: "... Some bring in here the apostolic teaching in 1 Timothy 3:16, God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit (namely through the resurrection by God the Father), that is, he was absolved of the sins of the whole world, which he as Sponsor took upon himself, so that he might make perfect satisfaction for them to God the Father. Moreover in rising from the dead he showed by this very fact that satisfaction has been made by him for these sins, and all of the same have been expiated by the sacrifice of his death"

Rydecki: There is no “universal absolution” in Gerhard’s words. First, he says, “Some bring in here…” If “some” bring it in here, then obviously not “all” bring it in here. Are we really searching for the very foundation of justification and the very object of our faith in what “some” have “brought into” a discussion on a given passage? That’s hardly something to stake my soul on.

Second, see the above Thesis 11 on Gerhard’s use of the word “absolved” here.

Third, 1 Tim. 3:16 doesn’t say, “absolved of the sins of the whole world.” It lists “justified/vindicated in the Spirit” in a whole list of non-vicarious statements. To make this one phrase into a vicarious statement is an extrapolation for which we will not condemn Gerhard or anyone, but we certainly will not accept it as a proof passage that “all men have already been absolved by God.”

Lawson: After you presented your paper at the colloquium, I asked you if you had dealt substantively with the absolution and election controversies in the Synodical Conference and what might have led Walther et alii to use language (and substance) that bears similarities to Huber. You just sort of dismissed my inquiry at the time, and there wasn't time to pursue it (though I could have during the break). I would still like to see you deal with this.

Rydecki: And again I will put you off, because this response has been lengthy enough. But it is not a dismissal of you. You haven’t set forth anything in this regard except for a question. If you have some teaching or explanation to set forth from the absolution/election controversies, please share it. I will be happy to read it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Lutheran understanding of 2 Corinthians 5:19

We Lutherans who hold to the Scriptural and Lutheran doctrine that sinners are only justified by God through faith in Christ (as opposed to the supposed universal justification of all men, whether they believe in Christ or not) are often accused of ignoring the Bible and elevating the Book of Concord to inspired status.  What these vain accusers fail to understand is that the doctrine confessed in the Book of Concord is the direct result of the Biblical exegesis of the Lutherans who originally published and subscribed it.  The Christian doctrine of justification by faith is taught everywhere in the Scriptures.  The supposed universal justification of all men apart from faith is said to be taught in a handful of passages.  Chief among this handful of passages is 2 Corinthians 5:19.

As I have demonstrated before (from the words of Chemnitz and of Melanchthon), the historic Lutheran Church never viewed that passage as teaching that God has declared all men righteous, whether they believe or not.  This fact is most emphatically demonstrated in the Censure of the Tübingen Theologians against Samuel Huber, and I agree wholeheartedly with their exegesis.  Tom Hardt's "Justification and Easter" essay contains one sentence reflecting the Lutheran Church's exegesis of 2 Corinthians 5:19, where they state that "Paul never teaches universal justification."  I have finally acquired a copy of Hardt's source material in Latin, and I offer here the whole paragraph translated into English:

    Actorum Huberianorum Pars Posterior, Tübingen 1597, p. 122-123.
    Paul never teaches universal justification. For with regard to the passage in 2 Cor. 5, those words, “not imputing sins to them,” are not to be understood universally concerning all men without respect to faith. For although the Apostle does not expressly mention faith there, nonetheless no mention is ever made in the Scriptures of an imputation where a consideration of faith is excluded. For just as God imputes righteousness to no one except for the believer, so also it is to believers only that He does not impute sins.
    Paul expressly teaches this very thing in Rom. 4: “Not to the one who works, but to the one who believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is imputed as righteousness.” And: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord has not imputed sin.” Paul refers these words to the justification of faith, through which sins are remitted to a man, or in other words, not imputed. And such a man is pronounced blessed. But no one is blessed and saved without faith. Now, if those words are to be understood universally concerning all men, according to Huber’s opinion, then all men would be blessed and saved, for he is said to be blessed to whom God does not impute sins.
    How is it, then, according to the declaration of Christ, that “he who does not believe has been condemned already”? How does the wrath of God remain on him (John 3)? And since unbelievers have already been condemned, therefore their sins are imputed to them, and consequently those words of the Apostle are not to be understood universally and simply concerning any and all men, both believers and unbelievers. Rather, they include the means revealed in the Word of God, namely, a consideration of faith. That is, that God does not impute sins to men if they believe in Christ the Propitiator. If they do not believe, their sins are imputed to them, and they are condemned on account of them.
    The same thing is revealed in the Book of Concord, page 657, where it says this: “For justification, these things are required and necessary: the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and FAITH, which embraces these very benefits of God in the promise of the Gospel. In this way (that is, through faith), the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.” And shortly before: “The righteousness of faith before God consists in the free and most gracious imputation of the righteousness of Christ (apart from any merit of our works). That is, that sins have been remitted to us and covered, nor are they imputed to us.” The meaning, therefore, of the Apostle’s words is: “not imputing sins to them by the means ordained in God’s Word.” Indeed, if the words are to be understood simply, without a consideration of faith, then why does God condemn the world to which God, according to Huber’s opinion, does not impute sins?

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