I was looking at the Intrepid Lutherans blog earlier today (which has now pretty much turned into Paul Rydecki's own personal soap box) and I noticed a curious thing: LPC (a follower of Gregory Jackson) finally has let the cat out of the bag on election. He doesn't believe in it! Jackson and he have insinuated this in the past, but I've never been able to get a straight answer out of them. Here is the statement:
"If I may, I wish to add what I view as the arrogance of C F W Walther when it came to the doctrine of election. Apparently his opponents kept on quoting to him the writings of the BoC writers. Here is what he had to say...
'The principal means by which our opponents endeavor to support their doctrine, consists in continually quoting passages from the private writings of the fathers of our Church, published subsequent to the _Formula of Concord_. But whenever a controversy arises concerning the question, whether a doctrine is Lutheran, we must not ask: "What does this or that 'father' of the Lutheran Church teach in his private writings?" for he also may have fallen into error;'
Is it likely the BoC writers erred on the topic of election as Walther supposed? Is that the only possibility?
Granted the BoC fathers were not fallible [I think he means "infallible"] and they could have been inconsistent with themselves, but is that likely they deviated from what they wrote?
What about the possibility that it was Walther himself who misunderstood the teaching of the BoC when it came to election?
Which possibility do you test first, I say test first Walther before you test the BoC Fathers.
This is like saying the framers of the US Constitution should not be consulted when you want to understand what they meant as they might have been confused in their writings.
Is the BoC an art work that you can extrude it from those who framed it?
That is the height of folly.
A couple points should be made here:
1. Here LPC clearly suggests that Walther was indeed wrong in teaching the doctrine that God elects all those who are saved through the means of grace. For Walther, God's choice of a specific number of persons in light of the atonement of Christ and made known through the means of grace is the sole cause of election, and not any kind of foreknowledge based on human choice (Melanchthon, Arminus) or preservation of faith (Lutheran Orthodoxy, etc.). The questions he poses would make no sense if it were not for the fact that he rejects Walther (and therefore also Luther and the author's the FC's) doctrine of election.
2. In response to LPC's question: First of all notice that what Walther says is not that he rejects what some of the authors of the FC taught prior to their statement on the subject in the BoC say, but rather what they may have taught subsequent to the writing of the confessional document. This is a good hermeneutical principle. Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party's Revolutionary Suicide should not be interpreted on the basis of his subsequent conversion to Christianity and joining the Republican Party. Likewise, later deviations from the orthodoxy should not interpret earlier orthodox statements of the faith.
3. Though many Lutheran theologians of the early 17th century deviated from the confessional doctrine of election relatively quickly (Leohard Hutter would be a good example of this- Gerhard also sounds like he does in many of his writings, though Robert Preus insists otherwise!), one can in fact also find a significan cash of quotations from the author of the FC themselves which endorses Walther and Luther's interpretation of election. You can find a list here:
4. The FC endorses and extensively uses Luther's Bondage of the Will, where a hard doctrine of election is taught against Erasmus and the via Moderna. Also, Reformation histrography has over the previous century come to understand the authors of the FC as clearly teaching a somewhat modified version of the doctrine of election taught by Luther and later abandoned by the Lutheran scholastics. In other words, Walther and not his opponents have historical science on their side! See this book, which is a tour de force of scholarship and relies almost exclusively on an extensive use of primary sources:
5. LPC is apparently unaware of how confessional Lutherans understand confessional subscription. Confessions are the public confessions of the whole Church. Believers are only bound to writings that serve as a public confessions of faith and not necessarily to the private writings of a particular theologian. The FC endorses this view as well. The only documents it quotes are the Bible and the earlier confessions. The one exception is of course, the writings of Luther, since he is viewed by them as having a special calling in these last days for reviving the gospel. Moreover, not every writing of Luther is endorsed (since many of them are wrong- especially his early writings), but a specific body that agrees with the earlier confessions and Scripture. Consequently, Walther was standing on firm ground when he insisted that the confessions need to be read on their own terms and not on the basis of private writings which lack any authority.
6. LPC (and also Jackson, who btw endorsed this statement on his website) rejection of election makes sense in light of their rejection of OJ. If one rejects OJ, one is pretty much left with two options: Calvinism or the Intuitu Fidei heresy. In other words, if in response to Christ's death God does not speak forth a universal word of reconciliation, but simply pronounces reconciliation on those who believe, we are left with two options:
Option 1: Since there is no universal word of reconciliation, God only intended the atonement for those who believed, namely, the elect. Those who believe, believe because he chooses them to do so and made atonement for their sins. Hence, there is a limited atonement and Christ did not die for the reprobate.
Option 2: Since God only pronounces his word of reciliation on those who believe subsequent to their belief, his decision to save them must be caused by their faith. In other words, God's choice must be conditioned by his passive foreknowledge of the faith of those who believe. If such a choice on God's part pre-existed their faith, God would have already had made his decision about the person. But since God's decision is contingent on belief and therefore subsequent to belief, there can be no election- since election presupposes a prior decision of grace, which subsequently creates faith through the means of grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, it makes sense that those persons in the Old ALC (and before them, the Iowa and Ohio synods-Lenski for example) who rejected OJ also rejected election in favor of the Intuitu Fidei heresy. Likewise, LPC has in the past sung the virtues of anti-Missourian literature produced by the Ohio synod after the election controversy (Stellenhorn, The Errors of Missouri- perhap I'm spelling it wrong).
7. Doubtless these observations will lead to some sort of charge of "Rationalism" on their part (by which they mean almost anyone who uses evidence and coherent arguments), but these facts are certainly worth examining in light of the the problematic nature of their rejection of OJ. In a word: rejection of OJ also compromises the Lutheran doctrine of election (something I do not think Paul Rydecki appreciates, since he still claims to believe in election!). Doctrines do not exist in isolation from one another, but must be coordinated in light of the overall analogy of faith. Damage one part of the wheel, and the rest of the wagon functions more poorly.