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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Justification – Darby Situation (Part 8a – Stranghoener)

This continues a series of correspondences I made in 1997 and 1998 with various parties involved in the "Larry Darby Situation".  In the last post Part 7b, I finished my correspondences with Dr. John Drickamer, a respected writer in the LC-MS.  (See Part 1 for Table of Contents)
Now I turned my attention to one other writer to Christian News who defended the doctrine of Objective Justification, Steve Stranghoener.  Mr. Stranghoener was not a pastor or church official, but a layman like Larry Darby.  His writings reveal the great divisions going on in his congregation. His writings were published as letters to the the editor, Herman Otten, of the newspaper Christian News.

The last letter that I saw published in CN from Stranghoener was the following:
October 13, 1997 Page 21

Beware Larry Darby's Heresy
Dear Rev. Otten:
     I hope you will print this letter in spite of my call for a general boycott against Christian News. As you know, I canceled my subscription to Christian News many months ago in protest to your refusal to cease printing the works of Greg Jackson. I am opposed to Jackson or anyone else who supports Darby in promoting his heretical view of justification. I know that as a journalist you have an obligation to present both sides of the story but I still maintain that you have a higher calling that should prevent you from providing a forum for Larry Darby or his followers to espouse his damning heresy and put the precious souls of your readers in jeopardy
     It seems that in spite of my boycott someone is always putting some article from Christian News under my nose. That was the case recently when a fellow member of Trinity, Bridgeton, gave me a copy of the last issue of Christian News wherein you printed a letter from Larry Darby attacking Trinity and our Pastor Emeritus, William Bischoff. In reply, I will not enter into a discourse with a heretic. However, I do want to set the record straight for your readers.
     Larry Darby's letter is full of lies and half-truths. But his personal vendetta against Pastor Bischoff and the faithful members of Trinity, Bridgeton, is unimportent. The salient point of any discussion of Darby is his heretical attack on the central doctrine of the Christian faith. To get at the essence of Darby, you have to break through the twisted, tangled maze of gobbledygook he has constructed ...  the sophistry be employs in mixing truth and error, good and evil ... liberties he takes in misquoting and taking out of context the writings of our church fathers ... and most importantly, his private interpretetion of Scripture. While brilliantly clever and cunning in his own evil way, Darby at heart is a simpleton. Plain and simple ... he's working for Satan to rob precious souls of their salvation by denying the all-availing sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. He wants to replace it with good ol' works righteousness, where one's faith becomes a work of justification needed to supplement Christ's work of atonement. How do I know this to be true? Well, I'm one of the folks who has spent more than 2 years in listening to Darby's rantings, reading his maniacal diatribes, admonishing him and witnessing his stiff-necked rebellion and tireless efforts to attack the truth of God's Word. All you have to do to verify what I'm saying is to read Darby s 260+ page book on justification. However, I do not recommend that to anyone any more than I would recommend drinking arsenic to prove it can be fatal to your health.
     Here is what your readers need to know about the Scriptural teaching on universal/objective justification as held to by Trinity Bridgeton, and the LCMS (ref., 1983 CTCR Theses On Justification(CTCR pagePDF here). When Christ Jesus suffered and died on the cross and said 'it is finished,' he atoned for the sins of all the world .. . that's all people for all time. The sins of every human being ... not just foreseen believers ... were "nailed" to that cross with Jesus. He suffered the eternal torements of the damned for all ... even those whose souls were already suffering in hell because of their refusal to believe in the promise of the coming Messiah ... (and no, we do not teach that these souls were sprung from hell at Christ's resurrection as Darby would indicate when he tries to mistakenly make this an either/or situation). He was/is the perfect Lamb of God ...  His work of redemption had/has true merit... He was/is truly righteous so that we could be declared righteous through His vicarious atonement. When Christ made this sacrifice for us, all mankind was justified and covered by the blood of Jesus. When Christ Jesus was resurrected from the grave, this demonstrated that God accepted this ransom payment in full ... God reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ Jesus... His wrath was appeased.
     Darby tries to get people off the track by saying that we're teaching universalism (i.e., that all people are saved). That's not true. We believe what Scripture teaches ... that those who do not believe, those who reject this free gift are damned (Mark 16:16). But that does not change the fact that God would have all men to be saved ... that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believeth shall not perish but have everlasting life. This is a great mystery that we can't humanly comprehend (Deuteronomy 29:29) but that doesn't give Darby or anyone else the right to contradict what Scripture clearly teaches. Theologians use the terms objective and subjective justification to help us understand this truth. Darby likes to point out that these terms do not appear in Scripture. But that's more of his game playing ... "Trinity" doesn't appear in Scripture either but that doesn't stop us from using it to describe the one, true God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Darby also rants on about universal/objective justification being a "modern" teaching of the LCMS which has crept in to replace the true "original" teaching This is just more 'baloney' designed to get you off track. While his followers are "chasing their tails" in trying to figure out what Darby means by the "modern" vs. "original" teaching, they overlook the teaching that never changes ... the truth of Scripture. All of Scripture supports the central doctrine of the Christian faith ... that we're saved by grace through faith alone in Jesus.
     Darby tries to make this whole thing seem so complicated. . .  he wants his followers to have to depend on him for the "truth."  Actually, it's quite simple to grasp what Scripture says. Think of it in terms of nourishing your body. The fork in your hand is what allows you to eat food. But the fork does not provide nourishment to your body ... the food is the nourishment and the fork is just the means.  Likewise, faith is the means by which you are saved but it does not save you, make you righteous or justify you. Your righteousness is outside you in the person of Jesus Christ and it's His work of redemption that saves you. Yes, you must believe to be saved but even that belief, that faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
     If you want the truth, tune out the heretic, Darby, and get into the Word (John 8:31-32). Here are some passages to start with ... Romans 5:10, 12-21; 2 Corinthians 5:14-19; Romans 4:25; Acts 13:38-39; Colossians 2:14 and John 1:29. Also, get into your Catechism if you want some sound commentary ... turn to Koehler's annotated version and begin reading on page 208.
     Don't let anyone rob you of the blessed assurance of justification, forgiveness, faith, salvation and eternal life in heaven. Your salvation does not depend on your ability to live up to some man-made standard of faith. Your salvation rests on the solid rock of Christ's merit and work of redemption and your faith, which is a gift of God, will be sustained and strengthened through Gods Word and His sacraments connected to that Word.
Praise and thanks be to our God and Savior for His amazing love and grace.
Steve Stranghoener
Chairman of the Board of Elders,
Trinity, Bridgeton, MO
Wow! ... what a beautiful letter this was defending the central doctrine of all Christianity – the doctrine of Universal, Objective Justification, or the Gospel.  How much Mr. Stranghoener had to battle against Mr. Darby and his followers who constantly attacked this doctrine with all the powers of human reason!  How hard he had to battle against charges of Universalism, which is perhaps Herman Otten's greatest error today since he confuses Universal Justification with Universalism and so never preaches the pure Gospel. But Stranghoener hung on to just the bare words of Scripture and all of Christianity is in the balance!  This is no small battle and he used the same defense as our Savior against the devil when He was tempted by him.  Christ used the bare words of Scripture:
Matthew 4:10 ... Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written...
I could not contain myself... I had to write to Mr. Stranghoener to encourage him in this battle, but also to give him a warning.  See Part 8b.

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