Search This Blog

Monday, November 5, 2012

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

[2017-07-09: see added note in red below]
This post continues from Part 3a where began my examination of the WELS in relation to 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 3b, I continue this review of the WELS by considering several of their public essays on the Doctrine of Justification.
- - - - - - - - - - -

   How can I fault the WELS when several essays in the extensive web library ( of the WELS proclaim and defend UOJ... several wonderful articles are contained there.  Search these labels: 
JustificationObjective JustificationJustification – ObjectiveJustification – SubjectiveUniversal JustificationLuther, Martin – and JustificationWorship – and JustificationKokomo Controversy, etc.
Not only did Siegbert Becker write essays on Justification, but also several others.  I have just now spent some time with them and found some refreshment for my Christian faith...  signs of life in today's WELS.  A few examples:
  • Siegbert Becker: Objective Justification (1982) and Universal Justification, (1984).  *** comments added 11/8/2012*** These are some of the best essays to come out of the WELS on Justification and should be read by all.  How my faith was bolstered when a WELS pastor gave me these 2 articles in the 1990s.  Everyone should read these articles.  And so it is also with a sad heart that I must also report of a weakness which I cover in the next section. 
  • E.H. Wendland: Review of Common Confession: Article VI – Justification, 1951. One of the better reviews of the horror going on in the hemorrhaging Synodical Conference; good for true church history. See my Timeline post – 1954, Wendland.
  • Edmund Reim: A History of the Term “Objective Justification”, 1955. Good for true church history, although he stated "...we still have a preference for the simpler terminology of ... a personal justification", a preference of "personal" over "subjective"; but the term "subjective" serves even better to distinguish over against "objective" and avoids any notion of justifying ourself.  I believe Reim left the WELS later over the delay in ending fellowship with LC-MS by the WELS.
  • Richard Balge:  Justification – A Brief Study, 1984. A beautiful essay! No caveats, no conditions, only comfort!
  • Martin P. Janke: The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 1986. Emphasizes the difference in Church Fellowship as the reason for division from LC-MS; but claimed "... on this vital doctrine [Justification] we and our former brethren in the LC-MS speak with one voice."  There is incongruity in this stand.
  • Forrest Bivens: The Primary Doctrine in Its Primary Setting: Objective Justification and Lutheran Worship, 1996.  Another good essay – essentially showing the centrality of this doctrine for Worship.
  • Mark Zarling: Stand in Awe of Justification, 1983. I love this title and Pastor Zarling's confession: "... it is not without some trepidation that this paper is presented. I certainly must confess, 'Who is sufficient for these things?'" [2 Corinthians 2:16]; however Zarling makes a misstep in this statement: "Objective justification apart from subjective justification leads to universalism." I will comment on this below.
==>> So, how can I fault the WELS on this doctrine?

1) If the WELS is solid on this doctrine, then they should be publicly pointing it's members to it's public essays proclaiming and defending this central doctrine.  Pastor Bartling's lament against the WELS should not have been needed.  The WELS should be headlining to it's pastors and laity alike that the WELS is a bastion of the true teaching on Universal, Objective Justification.  But why aren't they?  One hopes that this will be forthcoming.  May it be so!

2) One finds in some of WELS essays some problems on this doctrine.  There are some essays that, although they have some value, yet they show some weakness, even serious problems.  (See previous posts on Marquart and Drickamer for examples.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

2a)  President Mischke:  A report of his newsletter of June, 1982 is found in Mark Zarling's essay (pg 2) and quotes him:
A word of caution may, however, be in place. It may be well to remind ourselves not to divide "objective" and "subjective" justification as if they were two totally different things which can be treated in isolation from one another. They are rather the two sides of the same coin, and there can be no "saints" or salvation without faithTo teach otherwise would indeed be universalism.
I will comment much more about President Mischke's message and this charge of "universalism" later.
 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  

*** comments on Siegbert Becker added 11/8/2012 ***
2b) Prof. Siegbert Becker:  As mentioned above, in spite of the beauty of Becker's essay on Objective Justification, there is a weakness.   I hate to point this out for his essays in general are quite good in defending UOJ.  But he attempts to judge Pieper on the issue of "change or no change in God" On page 7 he says:
When Franz Pieper says that when God reconciled the world to himself a change took place in God he uses language that can be justified by biblical usage. ... But we recognize that this is an anthropopathism, that speaks of God in human terms. ... But the change that takes place does not consist in this that his [God's] anger changes to love.  
Becker goes into a discussion of the Greek word for "reconcile" and seems to forget Luther's description of God's wrath as a "foreign nature" of God.  Because of this weakness of Siegbert Becker, I have had to put him in my "side room" as I keep Luther, Walther and Pieper in my room, my reading room.  Although Becker left the LC-MS, I wonder that vestiges of his early training [link broken 2017] at the University of Chicago and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary were hard to detach from himself.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  

2c)  Prof. John BrugCrucial Issues for Lutheranism Today, 1996. In this essay, the following is stated:
  The biblical message that Christ paid for the sins of the whole world and that God has credited that payment to the whole world is being watered down to a ill-defined religious encounter. This is the greatest tragedy of contemporary Lutheran dogmatics. Lutherans who cherish the clear proclamation of the scriptural doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone as their greatest joy and privilege must vigorously oppose such teaching and strongly disassociate themselves from it.  Equally dangerous is the tendency toward universalism and pluralism within the more liberal elements of Lutheranism. Christ is not longer being upheld as the one way to heaven.
   A well-intentioned desire to resist this trend has, however, produced an unfortunate overreaction among some confessional Lutherans, namely the denial of the teaching which was called “objective justification” in old Synodical Conference terminology. This problem was explicitly addressed in the LC–MS’s fine 1983 statement on justification, but Lutherans can never be reminded too often that the focus of Lutheran preaching is Christ’s completed payment for sin and God’s objective verdict of acquittal pronounced for the whole world.
How is this weak?  Because of this: there is never a "well-intentioned" desire or an "overreaction" or a "confessional Lutheran" nature to a denial of the teaching of "Objective Justification"... rather simply this, unbelief.  The only strife caused by the words of "Universal, Objective Justification" is through unbelief.
Following the above quote is the next statement by Brug:
...The reason many contemporary Lutheran theologians have difficulty coming to grips with the biblical concept of justification is that they have watered down the biblical concept of law
This is not true.  It is very similar to the argument of Prof. David Scaer's essay of a year ago on Walther. It attempts to lay the blame for false doctrine on a watering down of the Law, when the reality is that false teaching springs from a false teaching on the Gospel and the inability to properly distinguish it from the Law.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

2d)  Jon BuchholzJustification, Expounded by Scripture, and Its Application to Mission and Ministry, 2005.  I ran across this essay that got me agitated... I had to get up and get a cookie... I was mumbling to myself as I compared phrases used in this essay with those of Luther, Walther and Pieper, yes, even the WELS own Siegbert Becker.  On page 7, Buchholz says this:
   Having offered this exhortation to careful terminology, please permit me to offer a gentle word of encouragement always to employ terms according to their proper, Spirit-given meaning, lest through careless speaking and writing we raise doubts and confusion, at best, or lapse into heresy, at worst. ...  In our zeal to expound the true, biblical doctrine of objective justification against those who oppose the doctrine, we have, at times, “pushed the envelope,” and employed words and phrases in imprecise and incorrect ways.
If anyone accuses you of "heresy" regarding the Gospel or "pushing the envelope", then remember that the old (German) Missouri Synod was also accused of "heresy" in it's proclamation of UOJ – see my blog post here.

Then Buchholz begins his listing of examples where care should be used when speaking of Justification.  His second point is this:
“God has forgiven the whole world. God has forgiven everyone his sins.” This statement is absolutely true! This is the heart of the gospel, and it must be preached and taught as the foundation of our faith. But here’s where the caveat comes in: In Scripture, the word “forgive” is used almost exclusively in a personal, not a universal sense
The proclamation of forgiveness to an individual in no way mitigates against Objective Justification or Universal Justification.  My confession is this: If the forgiveness that is proclaimed to me is not fully objective (outside me) in nature and also universal in nature, then all my assurance is gone and I'm going to HELL.

Continuing on page 8, Buchholz makes his next point:
"God has forgiven all sins, but the unbeliever rejects God’s forgiveness.” Again, this statement is true—and Luther employed similar terminology to press the point of Christ’s completed work of salvation. But we must also recognize that Scripture doesn't speak this way.  Jesus says, “If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:23). “If you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15).
Wow!  Buchholz attempts to pit the Ministry of the Keys against the Doctrine of Justification.  This is dangerous!  The Ministry of the Keys instead flows from the Doctrine of Justification!

Then immediately following the above, Buchholz confirms he is on shaky ground when he says:
There are many impenitent and unbelieving people in the world who embrace God’s forgiveness wrongly and imagine it to be theirs, even while they are living in impenitence and unbelief. 
[2017-07-09: How can one "embrace God's forgiveness" and not believe it? To "embrace" it is to believe it; Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, III. The Righteousness of Faith, paragraphs 59 & esp. 64:  to "embrace God's forgiveness" is not possible for those who have "no genuine repentance", where "no love follows", and where they "persist in sins against their conscience".]

But Siegbert Becker said this in his Objective Justification essay (pg 15):
"...unbelievers do not consider themselves to be forgiven".
The last point I will quote from Buchholz is this (from page 9):
“God has declared the entire world righteous.” This statement is true, as we understand it to mean that God has rendered a verdict of “not-guilty” toward the entire world. It is also true—and must be taught—that the righteousness of Christ now stands in place of the world’s sin; this is the whole point of what Jesus did for us at Calvary. However, once again we’re wresting a term out of its usual context. In Scripture the term “righteous” usually refers to believers. It is a particular term that is typically reserved for the people of God. [footnote 18]
Footnote 18: An exception is in Romans 5:19, where the word δικαιοι is used in the universal sense. 
Even Buchholz himself in his own footnote says Scripture proves his point is incorrect ... he rather should believe what it says:
Romans 5:19 – For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
When I was finishing this review of Buchholz, I was a bit stunned when I realized that District President Jon D. Buchholz is the very one who is reported as suspending the WELS pastor for false teaching on Objective Justification.  As I sat there and read the suspended pastor's comments, I had to wonder that perhaps it was Buchholz's own aberrations on the Doctrine of Justification that were in part a cause of this pastor's fall from Christian doctrine.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  

Whenever the words "caution" or "universalism" (or "careful" or "misunderstanding" or "if - then" or "condition" or "caveat" or "limits" or "pushing the envelope", etc) are used in relation to the Gospel, I immediately sit up in my chair.  Although President Mischke spoke well when explaining that Justification is only one entity, yet he throws in an unfortunate statement that could lead a weak Christian (like me!) to wonder that perhaps that there is no salvation for me, no "sainthood" for me...  my faith is too weak.  Even Pastor Zarling is drawn in a bit by this when he states: "Objective justification apart from subjective justification leads to universalism." – a false statement.  Let me state this unequivocally:
The teaching of Objective Justification can never lead to false "universalism". 
Now listen to President C.F.W. Walther as he answered charges like these (see here):
page 64: It is satanic pride to say: “If God is indeed just, then it is logical that He will want to save all people.”
page 106: Now the papists, Armenians, and other sects come and say: There you see what a fine doctrine the Lutherans have.  They say: ’Eternal life is given unconditionally.’  Accordingly the wicked, thieves, liars, etc., all would be saved.  Just as the Universalists teach, no one would be lost but all would be saved, even the devil....
 But that is nothing but pure swindle. The enthusiasts know well enough that we do not teach that. Rather, such a doctrine (i.e. of Universalists) is a most disgraceful one, by which God is made to be the devil.
The charge of "Universalism" was also leveled at the old Norwegian Synod of Herman Amberg Preus by Lutheran opponents who attacked the practice of Absolution.  The old (German) Missouri Synod came to it's aid by upholding this doctrine in the pages of Lehre und Wehre, 1874, p 140 f., as reported by Franz Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, III, page 192.

And finally Franz Pieper, in his Christian Dogmatics (vol 2, page 22) throws all talk of caution against "universalism" (à la Herman Otten, President Mischke, Prof. John Brug, Jon Buchholz, etc.) to the ground:
The Lutheran Confessions maintain the universality of saving grace in its full extent. They teach the threefold universalism of the love of the Father, of the merit of Christ, and of the efficacious operation of the Holy Ghost, through the means of grace, on all hearers of the Word. (Triglotta 1071, Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, XI, 28 f.)
True Lutherans are true universalists, threefold universalists!
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

In Part 3c, I will conclude this portion reviewing the WELS on this issue of what the Public Ministry (all of them!) should be preaching and defending.


  1. I have been following this blog for some time. I believe you are doing a fine job in presenting this doctrine of OJ. It is really quite simple. All are saved; some are saved. The saved are those who have faith. The unsaved are those that reject their salvation on account of unbelief.

    What brought much of this into focus for me as a former WELsian who was suspended for taking issue with these 'caricatures', are the fine writings in the WELS essay files regarding Election and the controversies regarding it.

    1. Nov. 8, 2012

      I have added comments on Siegbert Becker in 2 places on this post today. They are prefaced with notations in red text. I neglected to have these in the original post.
      I may comment further on Siegbert Becker in the future.

  2. Mr. Krohn:

    You speak of fine writings in the WELS essays regarding Election. I am glad to hear it and I believe there must be some good writings since several of their essays on Justification spoke well. I only hope that some of them don't begin to fall backwards as some of the above on Justification. It is an Election OF GRACE! If you want to be sure of this, then read (if you haven't already) Walther's Q & A on Election in the new book spoken of in my post of August 3, 2012. A constant stream of "Praise God!" comes from my lips as Walther continually pounds the Kingdom of Heaven into your lap.

    Yes, it is "quite simple". You correctly identify THE sad situation in the world – unbelief. Unbelief of what? This:
    -->> For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. [John 3:16]

    or as C.F.W. Walther paraphrased it:

    ---> You are saved so that you might believe.


Comments only accepted when directly related to the post.