Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Prayer Fellowship – Albrecht, Part 3

This continues from Part 2 of 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).

This Part 3 contains responses to Theodore 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

--------------------------------  Part 3  ------------------------------------

by Walter W.F. Albrecht
(continued from Part 2)
Prayer Fellowship as Distinguished From Altar
and Pulpit Fellowship
As to Dr. Pieper's position on prayer fellowship Cf. L u. W., 1927, 318The story told of Dr. Pieper (p. 9), that "he had been often an intermediary" when a General Council church in St. Louis had a vacancy and "would then send a student or a colleague to help the people out," may be an honest attempt to reproduce history from memory, but does not create the impression of reproducing the facts faultlessly. From two letters of Dr. Pieper, which were written to Rev. Aug. Burgdorf in 1889 and fortunately have been preserved, it is apparent that, while Dr. Pieper regarded it as our duty to comply with the request of a heterodox congre­gation to preach the Lutheran doctrine to them, he warned against anything that might appear as unionism, advised to tell the congregation at the outset that one was not acting as their pastor or vacancy pastor, to have nothing to do with the arrangement' of the service or the choice of hymns, to deliver testimonial sermons, pre­senting the Lutheran doctrine objectively without strong polemics, and to make it clear to the pastor beforehand that there could be no exchange of pulpits. Finally he appended the postscript: "It is self-understood that you are active only while preaching, for the remainder of the time only spectator, without disturbing."  He also claims agreement with Dr. Walther.
Why is there no Scripture proof furnished for or against pulpit fellowship, either in this brochure or in "Toward Lutheran Union" (p. 172-185)? Else the author strains himself to produce Scripture proof. See pp. 6, 10. And whoever questions his argu­mentation is immediately met with the rejoinder: "Where's your Scripture proof? The burden of proof rests on him who," etc. The passages which the author disposes of on page four and five cannot come into consideration since he lets them pertain only to infidels.
page 9
And as to altar fellowship it is true, partaking of that one bread in the Sacrament gives expression to our being "one bread, one body," is a confession of a "communion" existing between the partakers, though that is not the "communion" of which the apostle is speaking in v. 16 of 1 Cor. 10 [1 Cor. 10:16]. But does this communion with one another exist only where there is partaking of this one bread? Do we not correctly teach this communion by faith in Christ's body given for us and His blood shed for us as existing also between us and our unconfirmed children or our fellow Christians in the sects? The author has not proved that we must narrow down altar fellowship below his wide joint prayer fellowship.
The only unionism of which history knows is the Prussian Union of 1817 according to the author. Hence he confines union­ism to the relations between confessional groups and tacitly proposes that there is no such thing as unionism within a denomination. But are not unionistic practices of individuals and committees and conferences the opening door to unionism between church bodies? And must not unionism between Lutherans lead to union­ism with the sects? "It (the anti-unionistic argument) is an all-inclusive principle. Any one who limits, for instance, the application of the confessional principle only to the Reformed, is neither logical in his thinking nor consistent in his practice. If I am per­mitted, e.g., to conduct jointly a Thanksgiving service with a Lutheran minister whom I hold to be a Christian at heart, though he is identified with a neutral or opposition body of Lutherans, then I must do the same in the case of a Methodist, Baptist, or Catholic whom I hold to be a Christian at heart. . . . I do not understand how a Lutheran can, in his relation to those who bear the Lutheran name, cast overboard the confessional principle and establish fellowship with those Lutherans whom he 'believes to be Christian at heart.' ... That connection which a man publicly holds decides his confessional status, and nothing else. If he is a Lutheran at heart, but a brother to errorists, I cannot fellowship him without establishing the rule that it is the invisible faith in the heart which decides Christian fellowship, – a rule which would lead to utmost confusion and which would be un-Lutheran and un-Scriptural." Th. Graebner, Mag., 44566 f. Observe that here Rom. 16:18 ("For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly") is correctly rejected as a standard because it is simply beyond our powers to read the heart.
Joint Worship in the Gospels and in Acts
That the author does not want to apply Rom. 16:17 to erring Lutherans is evident also from this section. There were in the days of Christ and the apostles no church bodies "agreeing in
page 10
the fundamentals but differing in other doctrines." We are told that our Lord and His apostles practiced fellowship with those of whom He knew that they were enemies of the truth. He prayed with them, He listened to their addresses, He occupied their pul­pits, He worshipped with them. And still He cannot be accused of unionism.
I ask, Was the Old Testament Church in the days of Christ the Church of God or was it the synagogue of Satan?  The Old Testament Church was organized along ceremonial lines by God and these the Jews had not altered. Recall the instructions as to the Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:14-16) and how these were en­forced (Numbers 15:32-36). There was also Circumcision, "the inviolability of the act being such as to cause every male that had not submitted to this provision of the covenant to be cut off by an act of divine judgment or by an early death," Gen. 17:9-14; Kretzmann, Pop. CommentaryAnd when the Jews did disregard God's precepts, Jesus on two occasions cleansed the temple, John 2:13 ff.; Luke 19:45 f. God's institution in the Old Testament was a theocracy and therefore differed materially from God's Church in the New Testament. Was not the Jewish Church of Jesus' day the divinely instituted visible Church?  Did it not include all natural descendants of Abraham? Else what do we mean by the "election of Israel to be the covenant people" (Pieper, Dogmatik, III, 555)? [Christian Dogmatics, v. 3, pg 490]  Were not the promises of God addressed to this visible Jewish nation? Was not the Messiah to be their Christ first of all? Did the Gospel, the news of the fulfillment of God's promises of salvation, not belong first of all to this visible Church established by God? "Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.... It was necessary that the Word of God should first have been spoken to you," Acts 13:26-46. "Go not in the way of the Gentiles, . . . the Samaritans . . ., but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Matt. 10:6"Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers.... Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you," Acts 3:25-26"The promise is unto you, and to your children," Acts 2:39. "It is the power of God unto salvation ... to the Jew first," Rom. 1:16Did not Jesus as a Jew have to stay in this Church as God's in­stitution? Did not Jesus as Messiah have to come to this Church to which He was promised? Would not Jesus have sinned if He had left the Jewish Church and organized a separate Church of His own in the days of His flesh? Jesus had to stay in this Church to furnish us a perfect keeping of the divine Law.  Jesus had to bring to this Church the message: "The time is fulfilled, and the
page 11
kingdom of .God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the Gospel," Mark 1:15. 
And did not His disciples, too, bring the Gospel of redemption in Christ to this Church until they could truly say "Seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles?" Acts 13:46.
Moreover, was there any wrong in their continuing to observe the rites and customs to which they had been accustomed throughout their life as not merely a heritage from the fathers, but as institutions and commandments once divinely given? Was "the newly established Christian Church" organized by Christ in opposition to the "Jewish Church" (p. 11) or was it to be the continuation, though in exalted form, of the Old Testament Church? Did God forbid the Old Testament worship after Christ was come or did He permit the "shadow" to die a natural death and to be replaced by the "body" which is in Christ? The only thing God forbade was "to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples," the Gentile Christians, Acts 15:10; Col. 2:16.
The cry that Christ did what we refuse to do as wrong is taken over by the author of "Prayer Fellowship" from our opponents. The Lutheran Observer of July 8, 1904, wrote: "It was openly stated (by the Missourians) that non-church-fellowship precludes fellowship in prayer. If that be so our Master must have forgotten this rock-ribbed principle, for He frequently worshipped  with Jews and Judas.  Peter and John must have ignored it when they `went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer,' and joined the Christ-slayers. . . . The very father of Lutheranism ... prayed with and for ... Melanchthon.... D.S. Moody and the Bishop of Rome prayed together."
Separatism Foreign to the New Testament
By "separatism" we have always meant divisions or schisms in the Church contrary to God's will. Why does the author here not quote such simple, straight-forward passages forbidding separatism as 1 Cor. 1:10: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions (or schisms) among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment?" Also Rom. 12:16; 1 Cor. 11:16-18; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8; Eph. 4:1-6; Gal. 5:26; Rom. 15:1-6.
That all joint prayer occurs only "with such as have an imperfect understanding of the truth" has always been admitted by us. No one here below attains to anything higher than an im­perfect understanding of the truth. But that it is sinful separa-
page 12
tion to refuse to pray with those who "actually maintain false views," that is, demand for their error recognition as a justified point of view, the author does not even try to prove.
There is, however, a separation enjoined in God's Word. "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them," Rom. 16:17. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, re­ceive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed," 2 John 10. After three months of vain efforts to win the Jews at Corinth, Paul "departed from them, and separated the disciples," Acts 19:9.. Compare also Acts 13:46 f.; 18:6. "If a man therefore purge himself of these," 2 Tim. 2:21, is correctly interpreted in "Toward Lutheran Union" (p. 129) to mean, "The breaking away of all fellowship with these was the first requisite, . . . the purging, the casting out of such vessels unto dishonor." Now, how can a teacher in the Church hold that I must break off Chris­tian fellowship with a man but join hint in prayer? How can any one think of asserting that the verbs "avoid them" (Rom. 16:17), "withdraw yourselves" (2 Thess. 3:6), "avoid" (1 Tim. 4:15) "avoid, reject" (Titus 3:9-11; 2 John 10 f.; 1 John 4:1-6) leave the door ajar for joint prayer? The discomfort of the author is evident from his perpetrating the sentence: "The faithful among the Corinthians were not told to separate from the adher­ents of Peter, of Paul, or Apollos, or Christ." What faithful were there when "'every one" (1 Cor. 1:12) was taking sides? And how does Paul's rebuke of the Corinthians because of this squabble establish that the New Testament knows of no God-pleasing separation?
Essence and Accident
The author asserts that "the difference between joint prayer and prayer fellowship is fundamental" (p. 14), "the distinction between joint prayer and prayer fellowship must be upheld" (p. 31) But I must confess that I am too dense to see where he defines the two and establishes the difference. Nowhere in this treatise is the difference made clear. In "Toward Lutheran Union" (p. 169) we are told: "We begin with definition of joint prayer. Common or joint prayer, under the conditions of visible church membership, is the prayer of two or more people holding the Christian profession, such prayer being an act of common devotion and worship on the basis of their common doctrinal tenets." This would seem to say that "joint prayer" is the thing that pleases God. Now, after adducing fourteen Scripture passages to prove this, the book goes on to say "that prayer fellowship is incumbent upon Christians," etc., bringing the words quoted on page
page 13
three of "Prayer Fellowship." This would seem to identify the two. But then the brochure under discussion quotes the faculty opinion of 1941 to the effect: "Nevertheless, we cannot say that under all and any circumstances a joint prayer with one not in confessional agreement with us is prayer fellowship." If this read: "A joint prayer with one not in confessional agreement with us is not always forbidden prayer fellowship," it would make sense, for then it would preserve the synonymity of the two terms "joint prayer" and "prayer fellowship," even though it might prove difficult to establish the Scripturalness of the point made. Every joint prayer is prayer fellowship, is an acknowledgment of a common faith in the saving blood of Christ. "Joint prayer at intersynodical conferences, asking God for His guidance and blessing upon the deliberations and discussions of His Word" under certain circumstances may appear not to be forbidden prayer fellowship. As stated above, our Synod is divided on this question.
The question of joint prayer at intersynodical conferences is not "basic to the current discussion of prayer fellowship." What is basic in this present discussion is revealed by the author in the word: "I hold these principles to be sound and Scriptural today as I did thirty years ago when leading men in our church advocated and began to practice a policy which treated the differences be­tween our Synod and the older (Eastern) Lutheran bodies as non-divisive of fellowship" (p. 17). Basic is the trend toward unionism which refuses to regard the doctrinal differences as divisive of fellowship. Basic is what underlies this practice, namely the denial of the clarity of Holy Scripture. Lutheranism has always stood for the principle that all doctrine as to thesis and antithesis is contained in passages so clear that our judges, the lay Christians, can stand on the bare Scripture, that they need no acumen of exegetes to ascertain the will of God. Now these "leading men in our Church" come along and try to rob the Christians of the clear passage Rom. 16:17. In this passage the Christians for 19 centuries have always seen the command of the Lord to have nothing to do with men who departed in any point from the doctrine as we know it from Scripture, since such men not only cause divisions in the Church and endanger the personal faith of the Christians. but also have in view their own selfish ends.  God mercifully pre­serve us from permitting the exegetes with their "wisdom" to darken for us those passages of Holy Writ that are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path!
Basic the question of joint prayer at intersynodical conferences could be called only in the sense that it is the entering wedge to split wide open our entire defense against unionism. At the outset we are told that nothing more is sought than an approval
page 14
of joint prayer at intersynodical conferences of Lutherans. ]But watch the child grow ! Who is so blind as not to see that the principle "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" is all-inclusive and must lead not only to prayer fellowship, but to altar and pulpit fellowship with all and every one "who cannot be denied the name Christian?" The Statement, a defense of which this treatise "Prayer Fellowship" is, leaves no doubt in Theses IX and XI as to the range of this tidal wave.

Dr. Fritz' Pastoral Theology
Judge for yourself what an alloiosis or substitution is practiced in this. section. "Harmonizing" the author calls it. It is stated. that the Scripture proof brought by Dr. Fritz has been disposed of at the beginning of this brochure. Dr. Fritz quotes Matt. 7:15; 16:6; Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 4:14; 1 John 4:1; John 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Tim. 4:1-7.  Dr. Fritz, it is intimated, is referring to just such wolves, Pharisees, and Sadducees, who openly show disdain for the Biblical doctrine and deny the authority of the Bible, as the author would refuse to pray with. As instances of unionism Dr. Fritz mentions "pulpit and altar fellowship, union services, common church-work, merging of church bodies without doctrinal agreement, attending church services of heterodox congregations for the purpose of worship, receiving members from other denominations without assurance that they agree with us doctrinally, calling in a pastor of another denomination to baptize a child, asking heterodox Christians to be sponsors, singing and playing in the church services of the heterodox, sending children to sectarian Sunday-schools, using their church books, exchanging delegates, giving financial support, uniting with them in charitable work, joining ministers' unions, baccalaureate services, religious exercises in connection with political meetings and other meetings of civic bodies." In all this, the author of "Prayer Fellowship" says, Dr. Fritz certainly does not intend to set up "human authority alongside of Scripture, but assumes that Scripture and sound principle will in every case decide," that is, takes for granted that every case is a case of casuistry, practically an open question. This is one way of saying, I agree entirely with him who takes the opposite position from me. Thesis IX of the Statement must be upheld.

Inconsistency of the Separatist Position
Here follows a premeditated and uncharitable attack on a sister synod, listing five false doctrines as held by it and asserting
page 15
that consistency demands the breaking off of fellowship relations by us. Who now is separatist? Is not this a breaking up of the Synodical Conference? Our Synod has consistently followed the principle that we do not discontinue joint prayer and Christian fellowship with a disagreeing group until the break has become permanent by their stubbornly refusing all instruction or separating from us. The author reveals (p. 19-23) that to have been Dr. Walther's position.
To this day we hold that there is a difference between discontinuing an established fellowship and refusing to establish fellowship. Our Scriptural basis for this is 1 Cor. 1:10-11, where St. Paul calls those who were not all speaking the same thing, but beginning to separate, "brethren" and beseeches them to remove their disagreements by being "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." And are the accusations raised against the Wisconsin Synod actually true? Has there not been adjustment of some of the chief disagreements?
The author asserts that the Wisconsin Synod representatives "have met invariably with the intention of defending their position" while the other synods "come with a willingness to be instructed and with the assurance that there is an 'open mind.'" I cannot believe that the author actually holds so unrealistic a conviction. And is not this judging of hearts? Is not this making an invisible thing, the "open mind," the standard of our conduct?
Trying to make absurd the position of those who on the basis of Rom. 16:17 insist on separation from all errorists by a reference to "our own conferences at the conclusion of this section, proves too much. We not only pray with these brethren who have colored views regarding one or the other point of practice, but we also have pulpit and altar fellowship with them. If then our praying with them justified our praying with heterodox bodies or their members, then our pulpit and altar fellowship with our brethren would also justify pulpit and altar fellowship with the heterodox.
------------ End of Part 3  --------------

The concluding Part 4 will be Albrecht's rebuttal to Graebner's points (1) Historic Position of Our Church, (2) Later Stages of the Controversy, (3) The Brux Case, (4) The Question of Offense, and (5) Participation in Religious Features of Civic Programs.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments only accepted when directly related to the post.