Wednesday, February 6, 2013

To Reject Objective Justification is to Reject Election

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.
LPC"

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:

http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.whysome.html

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:

http://www.amazon.com/Choice-Election-Wittenberg-Theological-Method/dp/0802829228/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360173311&sr=1-10

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.

12 comments:

  1. I think I follow your argument regarding Option 2, but wish the wording were a little more clear. By "those who believe subsequent to their belief," do you mean those who remain in the faith? Or something else?

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  2. Yeah, that's sorta what I mean. In other words, what the anti-objective justification people assume is that God makes his judgment about you subsequent to your belief. If there is an OJ, then God makes his judgment logically prior to your belief. Your belief is in that saving judgment, and therefore faith is the effect and not the cause of God's saving judgment. Hence election and OJ go hannd-in-hand, since both make very clear that we are saved by what God has already done before our faith and that our faith simply receives the goods. The anti-OJ person assumes that our faith causes God's judgment of "not guilty" by virtue of believing. Likewise, God makes his eternal decision about where you're going to end up based on his foreknowledge as to whether or not you believed. So, therefore, anti-OJ and the rejection of predestination go hand-in-hand.

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  3. I concluded some time ago that the denial of OJ comes down to a denial of BoC and Biblical Election.

    Lito Cruz has publicly asserted a universal atonement and limited justification. It seems Brett Meyer and Greg Jackson ascribe to this as well. The problem is they fumble what universal atonement accomplishes in light of God's will for all to be saved; hence universal redemption and reconciliation by Christ's sacrifice. What their doctrine regurgitates unfortunately from this error is that God chooses (warped predestination) who is saved. (Brett Meyer and Paul Rydecki have confessed this.) Well, does it not follow that God chooses who is condemned? This is not Lutheran!

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  4. I have always believed that all sins were paid for at the cross for all people . But the only way one can grasp the promise of eternal life is to believe their sins were forgiven at the cross and trust in Christ's vicarious atonement.

    What I get when I go to Mr. Jackson's site is him saying that people have had their sins atoned for and they are able to take hold of eternal life. In otherwords, people are not justified by faith. I have never met any Lutheran Pastor who has said this and I am no under the impression that you believe this either.

    From what I gather here I don't believe you are saying that people are saved apart from faith in Christ. Am I correct or do you believe that people have had not only their sins atoned for at the cross and that they received salvation at the same time or Christ's Ascension?

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  5. Joe,

    I actually can't quite follow what you're saying, but it seems that you are unaware that Lutheran do in fact teach the doctrine of predestination. God has chosen a specific number of people to be saved and works faith in those people through the means of grace. That God does not work faith in all (although he desires all to be saved) is a profound mystery that we will learn in eternity (as Luther states at the end of Bondage of the Will). I realize that this may be news to you. It seems to be news to a lot of Lutherans- my high school class was pretty surprised about it yesterday!

    NW SD Lutheran,

    You are correct that Jackson believes in universal atonement, but would reject universal justification. His main theological premise is that justification is only applied to sinner after they have faith. It never seems to occur to him that faith is a trust in the fact that God has already acted on your behalf and forgiven you. To say otherwise is to make the gospel a demand: "If you believe, then you will be forgiven." Sometimes he understanding the gospel correctly as a unilateral promise (which is oddly inconsistent with his theological premises), other times he speaks as if humans have free will and are bound to "really repent" and "really have faith"- otherwise they will not be "really forgiven." His rhetoric leans towards the latter most of the time and his running theory that synodical official behave badly because grace is preached too freely, generally presuppose this. In other words, if they really understood that grace is conditional, then they wouldn't get involved sex scandals!

    And to answer your final question: I of course do not believe that people receive salvation apart from faith. Though Jackson and Rydecki pretend that their opponents believe this (mainly I think to confuse laypeople who don't understand certain theological terminology- thereby winning them to their side!) this is utterly false. What I believe is that God's decision for me in universal atonement, justification, and my individual election, were made before I believed through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace. Salvation is a reality before I receive it and God's choice in my favor causes my faith- faith does not cause God to decide in favor of me. To say otherwise is to deny sola gratia.

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  6. Jack, you can be so smug sometimes.

    The 'predestination' is in view of God's foreknowledge of the elect. When I said 'warped' I meant that I think they disregard the foreknowledge.

    Solid Declaration under Election:

    "8] The eternal election of God, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto; and upon this [divine predestination] our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matt. 16:18, as is written John 10:28: Neither shall any man pluck My sheep out of My hand. And again, Acts 13:48: And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.

    9] Nor is this eternal election or ordination of God to eternal life to be considered in God's secret, inscrutable counsel in such a bare manner as though it comprised nothing further, or as though nothing more belonged to it, and nothing more were to be considered in it, than that God foresaw who and how many were to be saved, who and how many were to be damned, or that He only held a [sort of military] muster, thus: "This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned; this one shall remain steadfast [in faith to the end], that one shall not remain steadfast."

    10] For from this [notion] many derive and conceive strange, dangerous, and pernicious thoughts, which occasion and strengthen either security and impenitence or despondency and despair, so that they fall into troublesome thoughts and [for thus some think, with peril to themselves, nay, even sometimes] say: Since, before the foundation of the world was laid, Eph. 1:4, God has foreknown [predestinated] His elect to salvation, and God's foreknowledge [election] cannot fail nor be hindered or changed by any one, Is. 14:27; Rom. 9:19, therefore, if I am foreknown [elected] to salvation, nothing can injure me with respect to it, even though I practise all sorts of sin and shame without repentance, have no regard for the Word and Sacraments, concern myself neither with repentance, faith, prayer, nor godliness; but I shall and must be saved nevertheless, because God's foreknowledge [election] must come to pass. If, however, I am not foreknown [predestinated], it helps me nothing anyway, even though I would occupy myself with the Word, repent, believe, etc.; for I cannot hinder or change God's foreknowledge [predestination]."

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  7. Joe-I guess I don't see how what I said was smug exactly. I simply said that many Lutherans are unaware of the fact that we believe in predestination.

    Moreover, if I'm reading you correctly I still don't think you get the point. God does not merely foreknow election (as he does damnation), but he effects it through an active decision to save a specific number of people through the means of grace. Note the first line of the what the Solid Declaration says: "The eternal election of God, however, not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto" So, election is not merely foreknowledge of who will be saved, but the planning of the salvation of the elect.

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  8. "...but he effects it through an active decision to save a specific number of people through the means of grace. "

    I don't come to this conclusion at all by anything in scripture or by the section of the BoC I provided. It would go that He also decides who not to save. What did Luther call this? The Mother of All Heresies.

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  9. Ah, Joe, are we going for excommunication no. 2 here? Just kidding.

    I don't think Luther actually said that. He said that Schwarmerism is the source of all heresies, so I don't know where you're getting that from.

    In all seriousness, yes, actually Lutherans do teach election- in fact, the section of the FC you taught gives you the place in the Confessions where it is taught and all the Bible verses. If that isn't enough, here's a link to a treatment of the subject (with FC and Bible citations) from the founder of my undergrad college, U.V. Koren:

    http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/lutherantheology.anaccounting.html

    In fact, many early Lutherans taught double predestination like Calvin (Amsdorf and Brenz, for example). As I read him, for Luther there is only a single predestination to eternal life. Logically of course, one might suggest that there has to be a predestination to damnation (hence the position of Brenz and Amsdorf), but Scripture says no such thing and there are many statements of universal grace (both atonement and justification) throughout the Bible.

    Hence, Lutherans agreed in the FC that there was a paradox in God's gracious offer of salvation: God desires all to be saved and provides universal grace, but then only elects a few. Why? Because of course the many resist and this isn't God's fault. Nevertheless, in his grace, God could of course overcome their resistance- as he does in the elect (all of course reject God and are resistant to his grace!). Why doesn't he? We don't know- and so we should leave it at that. As the Augsburg Confession says, through the means of grace he creates faith "when and where he so chooses" (btw, you'll find this very line of reasoning in Chemnitz and the other authors of the FC in the link I provide in this post).

    Later on, other Lutherans (the theologians of the 17th century mostly) began to say that God didn't elect people, he simply foreknew their faith. Many held this view in the US when Walther and U.V. Koren came on the scene. And they demonstrated that it was out of sink with the LC and the Bible, and also Luther. This false rejection of election continued in American Lutheranism until mid-20th century. The synods which made up the ELCA tolerated it, though when I was in seminary we were taught quite the opposite, namely, that those who are saved are predestined. LCMS, ELS, and WELS all teach the same doctrine of election that I just explained above. Hence, no Lutheran denomination that I'm aware of in the US holds the view that you apparently believe in. I guess the ELCA would probably tolerate you, but otherwise you're pretty much out of luck.

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  10. In Sasse's book Here We Stand, Sasse seems to speak of a double predestination in Lutheranism. But the way he writes about it, this is crushing Law, not Gospel. Using reason, in pondering this we will find a double predestination, and it will drive us to despair. We might even find this in thinking about Esau or Pharaoh. The election of grace spoken of in the confessions is Gospel only. It is not double because we don't come to this knowledge through reason, but special revelation. What "seems to follow" logically from this revelation is speculation, and back in the category of Law. Even if there is truth to this, it is not Gospel truth. It forgets the revealed God. When we look at the Means of Grace, it is there we find God's will for us, and not by speculating about eternal decrees.

    Romans 9-11 is quite interesting here. St. Paul seems to be amassing a Scriptural case for the rejection of the Jews as chosen people. Yet he makes a U-turn in Romans 11:11. After quoting a verse about stumbling, Paul says Israel has NOT stumbled so as to fall. This tells us something about the nature of reading. When we get into this topic, it is easy to imagine we know what naturally follows from what. And we err. Even in drawing what should be the most obvious of conclusions.

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  11. "So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
    It will not return to Me empty,
    Without accomplishing what I desire,
    And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it."

    If this verse negates individual election, actually though, wouldn't that make you a universalist?

    God's Word is always effective: Sometimes it hardens and sometimes it redeems. It's mysterious why it does so for some but not others, but that's what happens!

    God has told us that he desires all to be saved and although it appears otherwise, we should trust in him. As Luther notes, God hides his grace under wrath in order to confound our reason and put us in a position where we just have to trust his Word without understanding how it makes sense.

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