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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prayer Fellowship – Albrecht, Part 2

This continues from Part 1, an introduction to Prof. Walter Albrecht's great defense against the practice of prayer fellowship with those who teach or follow false teaching – unionism, one of the great problems for today's LC-MS.  (See Part 1 for Introduction)

I have added extensive hyperlinks throughout this essay to make it one of the best study tools on this controversial topic.  Most sources are available at the fingertips.  And of course the Bible references give quick access to God's Word.

This Part 2 contains responses to Theodore Graebner's points: 1) Analysis of Bible texts used by T. Graebner, (2) Relation to Erring Christians, (3) Prayer Not Essentially a Confessional Act.
--------------------------------  Part 2  ------------------------------------

by Walter W.F. Albrecht
(continued from Part 1)
Analysis of Texts Quoted Against Prayer Fellowship
The author refers to Rom. 16:17; 2 Cor. 6:14 ff.; Gal. 1:6 ff.; 1 Tim. 6:3 ff.; Tit. 1:10 ff.; 3:10 f.; Matt. 7:15; 2 John 7-11 and asserts that none of the passages usually quoted against prayer
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fellowship even distantly refers to such a situation, but all are en­tirely directed against reprobates, anti-Christian errorists, heretics. enemies of Christ, in short, infidels. But since a number of these passages are the principle passages we use to warn against union­ism of every kind (Fritz, Past. Theol., p. 218; Walther, Kirche and Amt., p. 114 f.) , it is manifest that the author is opening the door not only to prayer fellowship, but to complete church fellowship with those whom we cannot prove to he faithless enemies of Christ.
Here we also find the unproven assertion that the representa­tives of the American Lutheran Church "are coming with the in­tention of eliminating what is contrary to sound doctrine." The position taken by Dr. Reu to the end of his life (Kirchl. Zeit­schrift, October, 1941), that he would persist in defending the old Iowa position that non-fundamental doctrines are open questions, and the position defended by Dr. Mattes of Dubuque, that the inspiration of Scripture pertains only to the doctrinal content, prove this assumption of the author to be erroneous.
And is not the author siding with Dr. Reu when he grants of 110 Scripture passages that they warn against non-fundamental er­rors, but restricts God's warning against false doctrines to the socalled fundamental doctrines? What are Christians to do when their teachers do not obey God's order Jer. 23:28: "He that hath My word, let him speak My word faithfully?" "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." 1 Pet. 4:11. Why was Tim­othy (1 Tim. 1:3) to "charge some that they teach no other doc­trine?" Are we Christians helpless when the word is fulfilled: "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them?'' Acts 20:30.  Is it hallowing God's name when men make open questions of errors which are plainly contrary to Scripture, but which of themselves do not make saving faith impossible? God's Word is inviolable. "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall he called the least in the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 5:19.

Relation to Erring Christians
To the question: What Scripture proof have you that religious fellowship with errorists is God's will? the author answers by pointing to 1 Cor. 3:10-15. But the passage does not apply.  Paul is there talking to his successors and urging them to build gold and silver and not wood, hay, and stubble on the foundation, Christ; for of such wood, hay, and stubble it will not hold true, "their works do follow them," but they will be burned by the fire of the Day. Not a word is said here of the relation of the hearers to these
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teachers, good or weak, neither of severing nor of maintaining the bond of Christian fellowship. And in vain does the author appeal to Luther, Walther, and Zorn. From L. u. W., 1885, 329 ff. [On Luther's Doctrine of Inspiration, F. Pieper], it can be shown that Luther applied 1 Cor. 3:10-15 even to the inspired prophets when not inspired by the Spirit, but engaged in the study of the Scriptures, applied it also to himself and Link. For example he says: "Heretics do not simply err, but refuse to be corrected, defend their error as truth, oppose the truth apparent to them and resist their own conscience.... St. Augustine, however, is ready to confess any error he commits and to accept correction. For that reason he can be no heretic even when he strays from the truth. The same thing all other saints also do and cast their hay, straw, and wood from them into the fire, in order that they may remain on the saving foundation. We, too, have done and still do that." St. L., XVI, 2182 f [Walch, XVI, 2663 f.]. [Luther's Works, Am. Ed., vol. 41, page 50]  Dr. Walther merely quotes the Apology and the theological faculty at Wittenberg approvingly to the effect that, 1 Cor. 3 establishes that there are "teachers who err in one point or another without thereby ceasing to be Christians (p. 6). But he does not say that we must pray with them since they are Christians. From Dr. Zorn's "Wachet" (p. 29 ff.) it can be shown that Zorn did not support the position taken by the author of, "Prayer. Fellowship," but uses this text to open his battle against unionism. Kuegele and Kretzmann agree with the others that this text is not speaking of confirmed errorists, but of true pastors and professors adding human opinions to the revealed truth, but doing this unin­tentionally, unconsciously. The wood, hay, and stubble is the rationalizing that creeps into every pastor's sermonizing and is the concomitant of all human presentation of doctrine. An illustration of such stubble we have in this sentence of the author: "It is a re­markable thing?" "that the Bible nowhere in so many words con­demns prayer spoken in Christian trust to the true God." Why is it remarkable that the Bible does not condemn what is right, and does not hold true of prayer with confirmed errorists?
Prayer Not Essentially a Confessional Act
It is unethical to side-step the issue by arguing on page eight that "prayer in itself" is "not essentially a confessional act." What the author wants his readers to think is that public prayer is not a confessional act. Of course no one can find the element of "confession" in any Lutheran definition of prayer. Still, prayer always includes a confession. When we cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15) we are certainly confessing to a certain relation with God. When "they stoned Stephen, calling upon God and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" [Acts 7:59] Stephen certainly was confessing. Prayer al­ways is an avowal of our individual beliefs and feelings. Here,
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however, we are speaking of joint prayer. And we maintain that any joint prayer must be expression of the spiritual "communion" (p. 10) uniting those praying. Those who pray "together thereby indicate that they are of the same personal conviction in the matter of Scriptural teaching" (p. 10). "Praying in public is teaching in public," as Dr. Fritz correctly states, Past. Theol., p. 316. If joint prayer is nothing more than "communion of the individual par­ticipants with God," as the author contends, and not an expression of the communion of the individual participants with one another, why are the author and his friends not content with individual silent prayer?
When we deal with people who have hardened themselves in their error (p. 21), who have in spite of all correction persisted in their error (L.u.W., 1868, 67, 109 f., 112), we refuse to pray with them because "prayer fellowship is church fellowship" (L.u.W., 1904, 370). Of the various Committees for Doctrinal Unity, leading theologians, we expect knowledge of the "dogmatic sys­tem professed" (p. 9), and not merely of the milk of the Word.  Hence we correctly expect of them no "acts of common devotion and worship" (p. 3) because of their "sense" of the absence "of unity in the dogmatic system" (p. 9). "Any organization which opens and closes its meetings with so-called prayers and has religious burial rites, chaplains, etc., gives unto its organization a religious character." Fritz, Past. Theol., 224. If among other things prayers stamp an organization a religious one, then joint prayers spell unity of faith or unionism.
If joint prayers do not bespeak accord, why are they mentioned Acts 2:42 as one of the things in which the first Christians continued steadfastly? There is no denying that the other three express the unity of the spirit. Dr. Aug. Graebner: "For this reason communion of prayer, as communion of worship generally, demands communion and unity of faith. Thus we read of the believers at Jerusalem that 'they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,' Acts 2:42." Theol., Quarterly, 1899, 395. "Prerequisite of prayer fellowship and church fellowship is unity of faith." L.u.W., 1904, 223. "People who join in prayer must be of one mind, one faith, one hope, for joint prayer is an expression of common faith. For that reason Christians cannot join in prayer with the heterodox." Suedliche, 1895, 97 [by G.J. Wegner] . Dr. Aug. Graebner: "Prayer has everywhere and always among all nations been a part of divine worship. . . . 1 Kgs. 18:26. . .. And wherever heathen nations with pagan idolatry have been found, also prayer has everywhere and always been custom. . . . From the outset prayer fellowship has been common worship of God, and where common worship
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cannot be practiced, Christians are not to carry, on prayer fellowship. Take note of it well: with whom they were of one mind and continued in the apostles' doctrine and in the breaking of bread, with whom they were united in hearing the Word of God and in the use of the sacraments, in the use of the means of grace, with those the first Christians also continued to observe prayer fellowship. ... Prayer is a part of the divine worship." Nebr., 1903, 73f.
"The burning of incense is a symbol of prayer throughout the Scriptures." Philippi, Glaubenslehre, IV, 2, 340. See Ex. 30:7-8; Lev. 16:12-13; 1 Chron. 23:30, etc. Ps. 141:2: "Let my prayers be set forth before Thee as incense." Rev. 5:8 "the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors (RV incense), which are the prayers of the saints." Mal. 1:11 declares the offering of incense to God a part of the New Testament worship. Prayers then are a part of public worship, Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kgs. 8:22-53) was a part of the public worship ("in the presence of all the congregation of Israel"). Or was it perhaps an incongruous element, out of place in this public service? From Ps. 80 and many other psalms it is evident that joint prayer was a recognized part of the public worship of Israel. Likewise, what are our hymns but joint prayers of thanksgiving and praise or petition?
At an intersynodical conference including no Missourians "one of the pastors of the other faction approached us, and, bending his head to one side, smiling blandly, and advancing with fingertips lightly pressed together, said: 'We have talked over the question of how to open the meeting, and we have concluded to ask Rev.__________ to open with a tactful prayer.' This meant that the prayer was to contain nothing that would offend either party. The expression of conviction was to be withheld, for the sake of harmony and good feeling. The Almighty and Omniscient One was to be addressed with the understanding (un-expressed), 'Thou, Lord, of course knowest that I would fain speak Thy truth, which I am sworn to proclaim, but, O Lord, Thou seest how tactless that would be, therefore deign to lend Thine ear to our somewhat denatured petition, lest we offend those who have departed from Thy truth.' ... For if joint prayer signifies anything, it signifies the spiritual unity of those who pray; and if the words of Christ that we must worship 'in spirit and in truth' mean anything at all, they mean that our prayers must indeed be spoken with no denial, explicit or implicit, of those truths which His Spirit has taught us, and confession of which is the supreme commission of our Lord.... Promiscuous prayer is so evident a violation of
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the Christian's innermost principle of spiritual life that the simple Lutherans of Reformation days suffered banishment, tortures, and death rather than give even a semblance of denial by compliance with the, demands that they worship in forms which implied a concession to error." Dr. Th. Graebner, Mag., 44, 232 ff. An article in the Lutheran Outlookthe official organ of the American Lutheran Conference. (March, 1946, pp. 70-71), exulting over the trend of liberalism in the Missouri Synod revealed by the ap­pearance of the Statement, closes with the prayer: "May the Spirit of God help this great body of Lutherans to see clearly the way it ought to go." We could use the identical words. But what a difference in meaning! "The way it ought to go" in their mind means: Cure the Missourians of their bias against unionism! In our mind it means: Lord, help us to be faithful to Thee!
Was it not unity of faith and hope that prompted the action of the disciples after the Ascension of Christ, Acts 1:14: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren?" Did Luther in cleansing the Catholic prayers in the order of wor­ship regard joint prayer as not "a confession of doctrine to or before men" (p. 8)? :"Also at the colloquy of 1645 between Lutherans, Reformed, Catholics, and the Bohemian Brethren the Luth­erans refused to join in common prayer." Lutheraner, 64, 111But would such prayer not have been in accordance with the con­viction of the signatories of the Statement "that any two or more Christians may pray together to the Triune God in the name of Jesus Christ if the purpose for which they meet and pray is right according to the Word of God" (Thesis VIII)? Would it not have been a prayer as defined in "Prayer Fellowship" (p. 3) , namely a) "a common supplication or petition to God," b) "in common worship," c) "on the basis of a common purpose?" Refusal to pray with those, who have caused divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which. we have learned was the position of our Synod in 1881; for it declared: "We do not hesitate to tell anyone who teaches another doctrine among us, in spite of his appeal to the Confession of the Lutheran Church, we do not belong the one to the other; we must, therefore, walk separate ways. In say­ing so we do not mean to declare our opponents to be heretics, or to condemn them. We abstain from doing this even over against Evangelicals and Reformed. The import of such words is only this: 'We cannot walk together any longer. We should be unable even to pray one with the other. For we should in that case pray for your conversion. And you would pray to God to convert us. But, such praying together were, indeed, an abomination. If you cannot believe as we believe, it is not in our power to change such
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a state of things–for the gift of faith is in no man's power-but what' we can, and will, and must do, is this, that we tell you, Henceforth our ways are divided."' Allg. Bericht, 188130fTranslation from the St. Louis Theol. Monthly, 1881, p. 51. [Google Books herefull download here].  Dr. Walther was present at this convention.
Evidently this refusal of prayer fellowship is some of the "legalism" of which "historic Lutheranism" intends to cure us. "The Lutheran World (12-15-1904) characterizes the refusal of the Missourians to practice prayer fellowship with the Ohioans 'as a reproach to our denomination, as a bit of hairsplitting legalism worthy of the scribes and rabbis.' " L.u.W., 1904, 565.
--------------------  End of Part 2  ------------------------

The next Part 3 will be Albrecht's rebuttal to Graebner's points (1) Prayer fellowship vs Altar/Pulpit Fellowship, (2) Joint Worship in Gospels and Acts, (3) Separatism Foreign to the New Testament, (4) Essence and Accident, (5) Dr. Fritz' Pastoral Theology, and (6) Inconsistency of the Separatist Position.

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