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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pieper & Luther: No public ministry now? (WELS) (Part 3a)

This post continues the series from Part 1 and Part 2 where I study Pieper and Luther on the sad state of the Public Ministry of external Christendom.  (See Table of Contents on Part 1 for ease of reference.)  In Part 2, I examined Paul McCain's defense of the Doctrine of Objective Justification against a pastor in the WELS who has been suspended.  In this Part 3a, I will consider the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) in this situation.
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It is somewhat difficult for me to judge the WELS, for they are the ones who have evidently suspended a pastor for teaching contrary to Universal, Objective Justification (UOJ).  And they are one of the former members of the venerable Synodical Conference that held to true Christian teaching -- a conference that had as it's core the founding essay in 1872 that proclaimed the true doctrine of Justification.  (For anyone interested, you may download here (doc file) the full English translated text of this essay that was published by the Ohio Synod in it's magazine the Lutheran Standard, November 1, 1872 pgs 163 ff.)

The faithful Wisconsin men were true teachers when they warned the emerging new (English) LC-MS against various errors – errors well documented by Prof. Mark Braun in his book A Tale of Two Synods – Events That Led to the Split between Wisconsin and Missouri.  And their great light Professor Siegbert Becker was one of the few who later wrote so well of UOJ in his two essays Objective Justification and Universal Justification.  These 2 essays were a tremendous help for my weak faith 15 years ago.

But as good as these points are, there is a difficulty and it has to do with this same Doctrine of Justification:
  • Perhaps Mark Braun's book could have touched on this doctrine as a basis for the split, but I haven't found where it did.
  • Perhaps the men of Wisconsin should have more forcefully defended Universal, Objective Justification against the new LC-MS.  Although they did on occasion, yet their focus was largely on various other doctrines: Boy Scouts, military chaplains, "historical critical" Bible interpretation, unionism,  – all good points but these flow from the Doctrine of Justification (the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls).
  • And now today perhaps the WELS should be a bit more forthcoming in it's clear proclamation of this doctrine.  
Why do I make this last point?  Because a WELS pastor (retired?) laments over this in an article in the current issue of Herman Otten's Christian News (October 29, 2012, Vol. 50, No. 42).  Pastor M.J. (Mark) Bartling's article is quite remarkable for it forcefully defends UOJ. In fact I could almost claim plagiarism if that were possible for he makes many of the same points that I, BackToLuther, have made.  Everyone should read it carefully.  But why must he lament over a WELS "conference of presidents" and state this:
The conference of presidents, on the recent call list, Oct. 2012, reports that Paul Rydecki has been suspended from ministry of the WELS. No further information is given, and one is left to wonder what did he do???? 
Then after discovering from a third party source that the reason for the suspension is due to false teaching on Objective Justification, Bartling says:
One wonders why more information concerning suspensions for doctrinal reasons cannot be given. It seems that in order to understand what is going on in the Synod one must go to unofficial sources.
But even Pastor Bartling, who so eloquently defends UOJ, needs to be clarified and corrected on 3 points:

1)  He says this of Objective Justification (OJ) and Subjective Justification (SJ):
The two must go together; — and you can’t have one without the other!!!
Actually, as Bartling teaches elsewhere, you can have OJ without SJ – that is called "unbelief". And Pastor Bartling, should you not also be rebuking Herman Otten who tells the WELS to "Cool it" on their suspension of this false teaching pastor?

2)  Pastor Bartling may exhibit a slight misunderstanding of the history of the downfall of the LC-MS when he states the following:
In the discussions in the 50s between the old American Lutheran Church [ALC] and the LCMS concerning justification, the ALC wanted to teach that God had secured and provided salvation for all people.  This is objective or universal redemption, not objective justification.  The LCMS along with the WELS insisted on the words, that God has not only secured and provided salvation for all, but that God has declared the whole world righteous in Christ Jesus.
The slight misunderstanding is that there was practically no LC-MS professors except Theodore Engelder and Theodore Mueller who held firmly to the old (German) Missouri Synod on the pure Doctrine of Justification. Why?  Long before the 1950s, Professor Theodore Graebner was confused on this doctrine.  And then Professor William Arndt became confused when he attempted to clarify this doctrine in an essay on Justification in the centennial book of the LC-MS, The Abiding Word (1947) where he rather showed a weakness and confusion. (see documentation here).  Already in the 1940s (and truly in the 1930s), the LC-MS was on it's downward spiral on this doctrine.

3)  Then Pastor Bartling made perhaps the most troubling statement:
This they called objective Justification. (A term that is preferred over universal justification, which can cause some misunderstandings.)
Here is perhaps my biggest problem with not only Pastor Bartling, but also the Wisconsin Synod in general.  Universal Justification (and also Objective Justification) cannot be misunderstood, but it can be caricatured and rejected in unbelief.  (I will elaborate later.)
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In Part 3b, I will delve deeper into the large pool of WELS writings on Justification and find some gems... and some troubling statements.

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