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Thursday, February 14, 2013

A dying conservative waivers on UOJ... (Mark Bartling † 2013)

I am interrupting my series on Berthold von Schenk because a most troubling letter has been published by Herman Otten in his Christian News newspaper on February 11, 2013.  This letter was the last letter Bartling wrote to Pastor Otten before he died a few weeks ago.

Pastor Mark Bartling
I have recently mentioned Pastor Bartling of the WELS because of his wonderful article in Christian News of October 25, 2012 that seemed to defend Universal, Objective Justification (UOJ).  But as I re-read that article, I see that he was beginning to waiver back in October when he said:
This they called objective Justification. (A term that is preferred over universal justification, which can cause some misunderstandings.)
This whole notion that the doctrine of Universal Justification "can cause some misunderstandings" is exactly how false doctrine can creep in.  I have discussed it at length numerous times before, especially in some writings in WELS essays, and in relation to Prof. Kurt Marquart and Dr. John Drickamer.

Recently it was announced in Christian News that Pastor Bartling had passed away, a surprise for me.  I recall thinking that here was a true Lutheran pastor who fought for Universal, Objective Justification (UOJ) and had God's full comfort in his dying days.  ....

But then I read a most troubling letter of his published in the February 11, 2013 issue of Christian News that caused me to put the newspaper down in sadness.  Here is the text of the article and letter in Christian News from pages 1 and 15:

Mark Bartling's Last Letter to Christian News
A Dying Man Meditates on Justification

Most of the February 4 Christian News included some of the many writings and photos Christian News has published from Pastor Mark Bartling from 1963­-2013. CN published his obituary and "A Beggar Borne On Angel's Wings," the sermon preached at Pastor Bartling's funeral.
Here is Bartling's final letter to Christian News written 10 days before he died:
Jan 13, 2013
Herman and Christian News,

Congratulations on 50 years of proclamation and defense of God's Word and Confessional Lutheranism.
Enclosed is a small contribution for your continual work and legal defense.
You have proclaimed and defended the central doctrine, Justification, against all - right and left.
Last night I thought it was the end and could not sleep but meditation on Justification:
I don't think we should continuing using the expression universal, objective but only objective.
Universal gives the thought of everyone going to heaven and can be misunderstood, objective does not.
It is certainly true that God has secured and provided forgiveness for all, the work of Jesus "Christ was for the whole world, "He died for all." The big question always was, how do I get it from good works to a better attitude and not resisting as much as others do. Objective teaches that God has declared me righteous, in an objective way, He does it all. I am only passive, He is active. God gives to me this objective justification. The subjective part is my believing it, receiving it, which also is worked by God alone. My will does nothing. The will is not a cause, but only that which is to be changed and converted, in an objective way. This is perhaps seen best in Baptism, the little baby, 1 day old, can do nothing, but is naked, and in baptism God gives to him the white robe of baptism, given, receives Christ's righteousness.
Blessing as we look forward to heaven, Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Mark Bartling 

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - End of letter
The "meditation on Justification" that Pastor Bartling had against the universal nature of Justification was none other than the devil's temptation through our sinful human nature.  It is precisely the universal nature of God's Justification of the world that also gives great comfort to a Christian...  that takes away all doubt, for a Christian knows he is no better than anyone else and must cling to the Universal Justification as his only hope.

What did Jesus say to the woman at the well who was alone?  Did he say "For God so loved you, that he gave...".  No.  What did Jesus say to this lone woman at the well?  He said:
John 3:16 – 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.
Jesus gave her the Gospel in universal terms!

And what did John the Baptist say as Jesus approached him (John 1:29)?  Did he say "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away my sin"?  No.  He said:
John 1:29 – Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
How Luther, Walther and Pieper hammered home the universal nature of God's work of salvation!  This is why I published Luther's 12th Sermon on John 1–4 last December, on John 1:29.  Here is the portion of Luther's sermon that Walther and Pieper had to rub our noses in:
This is the basis of all Christian doctrine. Whoever believes it, is a Christian; whoever does not, is no Christian, and will get what he has coming to him. The statement is clear enough: “This is the Lamb of God, who bears the sin of the world.” Moreover, this text is the Word of God, not our word. Nor is it our invention that the Lamb was sacrificed by God and that, in obedience to the Father, this Lamb took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. But the world refuses to believe this; it does not want to concede the honor to this dear Lamb that our salvation depends entirely on His bearing our sin. The world insists on playing a role in this too. But the more it aspires to do in atonement for sin, the worse it fares. 
We have no other assurance than what His Word says – HE did it all (Objective Justification) and He did it for ALL (Universal Justification).  This is why Walther made the striking statement:
"…you often hear pastors preach, 'You are saved if you believe.' What they should be saying is, 'You are saved so that you might believe."
Dear Christian, do not take the waivering of a conservative Lutheran pastor on his dying bed.  I will take the Mark Bartling of October 2012 who cried out against false teaching against both Objective Justification and Universal Justification by one of the WELS pastors.  I will take the Mark Bartling who extolled God's grace as the sole source of our salvation (sola gratia) and that he set aside any notion that he somehow earned salvation where others did not.

And do not take Pastor Herman Otten's silence in this matter as truth.  Pastor Bartling's death-bed letter found a ready audience with Pastor Herman Otten who continually harps against "universalism" without pointing out that God's Grace is universal!

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