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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Justification – The Larry Darby Situation (Part 4a - a long letter)

In the previous post Part 3, I presented my 2nd letter to Mr. Larry Darby expressing my concerns over whether he was spreading false teachings about universal, objective justification.  (See Part 1 for Table of Contents)  In this Part 4a, I am presenting the first half of my last extended correspondence with Mr. Darby.  Part 4b will present the last half.
This situation was (and is) a "life and death" situation for me...  I was trembling over whether my Christian faith was unfounded and that my basis for assurance and certainty was false.
Larry Darby

XX Xxxxx Xxxxx
St. Louis, MO  XXXXX

After receiving your last letter, I asked God for his forgiveness in not treasuring his gifts by His Word and Sacraments enough.  I then determined to re-read several things to see if I had "read" something into them that were not there.
Here is what I re-read:
C.F.W. Walther:  Law and Gospel (pages 191)
page 191: "Luther is right also in advising men not to inquire at all about the quality and sufficiency of their contrition.  For any person to build his hope on that means to build it on sand.  On the contrary, a person is to praise God for the absolution he has received; that makes his contrition salutary.  The right procedure is not to base the validity of absolution on our own contrition, but to make our contrition rest on our absolution"
. Luther insists on faith in the declaration of Christ: "Thy sins are forgiven thee."  To disbelieve this statement is tantamount to making Christ a liar.  Though a minister pronounce the absolution to such a person ten time, it would not benefit him.  We cannot look into people's hearts; but that is not necessary at all; we are to look only in the Word of our heavenly Father, which informs us that God has absolved the entire world.  That assures us that all sins have been forgiven to all men."
Page 372 middle: When the Pietists had brought a person to the point where he considered himself a poor, miserable sinner, unable to help himself, and asked his minister what he must now do, the minister did not, like the apostles, answer him:  "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," but, as a rule, they told him the very opposite.  They warned him against believing too soon and against thinking that, after having felt the effects of the Law, he might proceed to believe that his sins had been forgiven.  They told him that his contrition must become more perfect, that he must feel contrite, not so much because his sins would call down upon him God's anger and hurl him into perdition, but because he loved God....
page 373 bottom - 374: To tell a person that he may not believe is, in the first place, contrary to the perfect redemption of Christ from all sins and to the perfect reconciliation which He has accomplished.  For in 1 John 2:1-2 the apostle says: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  And He is the Propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  The entire world, then, has been reconciled.  The wrath of God which hung lowering upon the whole world has been removed.  Through Jesus Christ, God has become every man's Friend.  That is the reason why the holy angels sang even over His cradle: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14.  In Christ, God showed His good will toward all men.
. 2 Cor. 5:14 we read:  If One died for all, then were all dead.  By this precious statement the apostle means to say that, since Christ died, it is the same as if all men had suffered death for all had atoned for their sins by their death.  Now that the entire world has been redeemed and reconciled to God, is it not a horrible teaching to tell any person he may not believe that he has been reconciled and redeemed and has the forgiveness of sins?  By that doctrine the completeness of redemption and reconciliation with God is shamefully denied."
Page 374 bottom -376: Nor does this harmonize with the fact that God has already declared in the presence of heaven and earth, of angels and men: "My Son has reconciled the world to Me.  I have accepted His sacrifice.  I am satisfied.  He was your Surety, and I have set Him free.  Therefore rejoice, for you have nothing to be afraid of."  By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead God has absolved the entire world of sinners from their sins.  Is it not horrible for men to say that this is indeed a fact, but that a person may not yet believe it?  Does not that mean to charge God with lying and to deny the resurrection of Christ from the dead?
. Furthermore, this teaching is also contrary to the doctrine of absolution.  Christ says to His disciples, Matt. 18:18: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"; and in John 20:23: "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; speak of certain qualities which persons must possess, but simply says: "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted"; "Whatsoever ye shall loose shall be loosed."  Only a genuine Lutheran believes this; to all sects it is an abomination to hear it.  They twist these precious words from the Mouth of Truth so that they are made to say something altogether different from what they really do state.  However, it is verily true, my friends, that Jesus Christ, after redeeming the entire world, has given Hiss followers power to forgive every one's sins.....
. To illustrate: Suppose a king has declared that a rebellious town has been granted full amnesty, and no one is to suffer for his sedition.  In a case like that anybody can say:  "The king has quelled the rebellion; he has conquered you rebels, but you can be of good cheer, because he has pardoned you.  I know this for a certainty, because I myself heard the king say so."  If the speaker, in addition, were to bring a document signed and sealed by the king which contained the same statement, everybody would rejoice and begin to celebrate the event.  The situation is identical with the case now under discussion.  By the resurrection of Christ, God has declared that He is reconciled with all mankind and does not intend to inflict punishment on anybody.  He has this fact proclaimed in all the world by His Gospel and, in addition, has commanded every minister of the Gospel to forgive men their sins,..."
. To some people this looks like a horrible doctrine, but it is the most comforting doctrine imaginable and is firmly established on the blood of God that was shed on the cross.  Sin really has been forgiven, and all that God is now concerned about is that we believe this fact.  We absolve men from their sins for no other purpose than to strengthen the faith of those who ask absolution in what they have heard proclaimed from the pulpit.  Accordingly, none of them can say: "How can the minister know the condition of my heart?  What is absolution to profit me when I am impenitent?"  Answer:  "Indeed, in that case it is of no benefit, but it is of benefit when it is believed.  However, this is certain that you have been absolved.  Your eternal punishment will be of the more grievous because you did not believe the absolution which God Himself has pronounced to all sinners and which He has ordered His ministers to continue to pronounce to them."
Page 377 middle: It is, likewise, great folly to appeal to one's good intention.  Pietists and many preachers among the fanatics have reasoned that, to make the conversion of their hearers thorough, they must not allow them to appropriate what does not yet belong to them because it would prove a false comfort to them.  but this reasoning is a great piece of fanaticism.  They ought to reflect that our heavenly Father is wiser than they.  He knew very well that, when the consolations of the Gospel are imparted to all hearts, many will imagine that they, too, can believe them.  But that is no reason why these consolations should be hushed up.  We must not starve the children from fear that the dogs would get something of the children's food, but we are cheerfully to proclaim the universal grace of God freely and leave it to God whether people will believe it or misapply it.
Page 378 middle: In a sermon on Easter Sunday, Luther says (St.L. Ed. XII, 1586):  "Now, then, the benefit of the suffering and resurrection of Christ is this: He did not undergo these things in His own behalf, but in behalf of the entire world; He trampled under foot the devil and my sin which on Good Friday were suspended on the cross together with Him, and the devil must now flee at the mention of the name of Christ.  If you wish to make use of these great treasures, behold, He has already bestowed them on you as a gift.  Do but accord Him the honor of receiving them with thanks."  Ponder this last statement: The gift has already been made; it is only for the sinner to accept it.
. Again, Luther says in a sermon on Pentecost Monday (St.L. Ed. XI, 1104): "It is none of our doing and cannot be merited by our works; it has already been bestowed on us as a gift and handed over to us.  All that is necessary is that you open your mouth, or rather your heart, and let God fill it. Ps. 81:10.  That can be done in no other way than by your believing these words {"God so loved the world," etc.}, as you are here told that faith is required for appropriating this treasure in its entirety."  This is what is missing in all the churches: They do not believe that redemption has been completely bestowed as a gift on all men.  They imagine that the Gospel is merely an instruction regarding what man must do in order to be reconciled with God after he has been reconciled by Christ.  This is a self-contradiction.
Will you contend the English translation was distorted also for C.F.W. Walther?
At the risk of further charges of mis-translation, F. Pieper (Christian Dogmatics II, 350) quotes Walther's Pastorale in footnote 39:
"Walther points out that if men would only understand that Christ has perfectly redeemed the world of sinners, they would at once give up their opposition to absolution.  'He, of course, who does not believe that Christ has actually essentially the absolution of the entire world, which absolution is based upon this redemption already accomplished and which absolution, in order to serve its purpose, needs simply to be believed and accepted.... "
Luther has already been quoted by Walther (something F. Pieper also does liberally).  An article by Kurt Marquart reprinted in CNE page 1106-1108 entitled: The Doctrine of Justification- Lecture II- Who and What is "Evangelical".  This article references Martin Luther also:
69.  This position is a disaster (Calvinism) the magnitude of which can hardly be over-estimated.  For as soon as the universality of God's serious, saving will in Christ is denied, no objective, reliable grounds remain for any assurance of salvation.  It is said that Luther was once asked whether John 3:16 would not read even better if it said "God so loved Martin Luther..." instead of "the world."  "Heaven forbid," Luther shot back, "then I would always have to wonder whether there was another Martin Luther in the world!"  It is precisely the universality of grace, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world which is the absolutely indispensable basis of certainty.
Also Pieper (Christian Dogmatics, II, 23 note 47, Am. Edition 22, 162-169) quotes Luther on this doctrine:
Consider his powerful words on John 1:29: "In yonder life it will be our eternal joy and delight that the Son of God condescends so deeply and shoulders my sin; not only my sins, but also the sins of the whole world, committed from Adam on down to the very last man, He takes upon Himself as committed by Him, and He suffers and dies for them that I may be without sin and obtain eternal life and bliss.... And this text is God's Word and not our word, devised by us, that God slew this Lamb and that this Lamb in divine obedience to the Father took upon Him the sin of the whole world.  But the world will have nothing of it....What more should the Lamb do?  The Lamb says: You are all condemned, but I will take upon Me your sins; I have become the whole world, have assumed the person of all men from Adam on.  In place of the sin which we got from Adam, He will give us righteousness.  And I should certainly say: That I will believe.... That men, however, do not believe, is not due to a failure of the Lord Jesus, but the fault is mine.  If I do not believe it, I remain in my condemnation.  I must simply say that God's Lamb has borne the world's sin and that I am earnestly enjoined to believe and confess this, yea, to die in this faith.  Ay, but you might say, who knows whether He bears also my sins?  I can easily believe that He bore the sins of St. Peter, St. Paul, and other saints; they were pious people; if only I, too, were St. Peter or St. Paul!  Do you not hear what St. John here says: 'This is the Lamb of God that bears the sins of the world'?  You cannot deny that you are a part of the world.... If, then, you are in the world and your sins are a part of the world's sin, from the beginning of the world down to us and to the end of the world, and remain in the world, you, to, will share in enjoying the good things of which this text speaks." (St.L. VII:1717 ff.)
Before I leave Pieper, two more quotes from him (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. I, 539):
"As to the justice of this action of God {imputation of hereditary guilt}, we must bear in mind the further fact that Scripture parallels the imputation of the sin of Adam and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ to all men. Rom 5:18-19:.... Those who reject the imputation of Adam's sin as an injustice are compelled, if they would be consistent, to declare the imputation of Christ's righteousness to be an injustice and to reject it; thus they take their stand outside the pale of Christianity."
(Christian Dogmatics, Vol. II,311)
"...for as surely as the wages of sin is not merely temporal death, but eternal punishment in hell, and as surely as Christ has borne all punishment of all sinners in the world, it is Scriptural to call Christ's suffering an enduring of the torments of hell."
 continuation of this letter on the next post Part 4b.

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