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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rast–Pt 4a: Justification in Am. Lutheranism (Intro)

This post continues from Part 3h in a series (Table of Contents in Part 1) that reviews several essays of Prof. Lawrence A. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTS-FW).  This Part 4a begins a review of the essay "The Doctrine of Justification in American Lutheranism" from a series of essays published in the book A Justification Odyssey (2001) – Congress on the Lutheran Confessions (Luther Academy).  Here is an image of the book, Table of Contents, and the first page (PDF here):
A Justification Odyssey - Congress on the Lutheran Confessions, 2001
As the Table of Contents show, there were a total of 9 essays – Rast's was the 3rd essay, the one this review focuses on.  This book is still available for purchase here, so I will not be able to provide the complete text.  (Contact me privately.)  Only selected quotes will be given.  This essay is dated the year 2001, 3 years before the previously reviewed essay about Franz Pieper.  But the fact that this is out of sequence with the last review should not be a factor.
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If the reader has followed my other reviews, it will be apparent why I have selected this essay for review.  It is because Prof. Lawrence Rast, Jr. has chosen a subject that concerns the article by which the Church stands or falls.  As in the last essay, I have found that Rast can do a credible job of defending Christian doctrine especially against teachers who have been noted offenders.  But before I proceed further, I would mention that Franz Pieper also defended against false teachings of other American Lutheran theologians of more recent times – I published this in an earlier blog post series The Open HeavenParts 6 through 9.
A rather revealing statement is made in Rast's introductory paragraphs (page 39): seems that the title assigned to me gives me the responsibility of bridging the gap between the Reformation period and the later twentieth century. . . . This paper ... does begin to make a start on the central doctrine of Lutheranism from the perspective of three of the "Big Four." [8/22 - C.P. Krauth – article]  What it will ultimately find is that the very concerns Walther expressed in the nineteenth century about errors on the doctrine of justification may now be identified within the Missouri Synod itself.
This last admission by Prof. Rast is rather serious...  he is aware that this is a very important doctrine to discuss.  But to admit that Walther's concerns "may now be identified within the Missouri Synod itself" — one wonders what Prof. Rast intends to do about it.  He later gives further details (page 40) of this concern over errors in the "Missouri Synod" (LC-MS):
Within both traditions [LC-MS & ELCA], however, there are those individuals and congregations more comfortable with the other body's perspective! Hence the tangle of the present day.
OK, the "tangle" seems to be clarified by Prof. Rast – certain "individuals and congregations" of the LC-MS are "more comfortable" with the "perspective" of the ELCA.  At least Prof. Rast identifies the ELCA as having a problem with its "perspective"...  But has he himself overlooked some aspects of the history of the ELCA?  We identified one blind spot on the Doctrine of Inspiration of Scripture recently.   And in Part 1 of this series, Rast has a big blind spot on the teaching concerning the Christian congregation.  Maybe Rast (/ John T. Pless) isn't so far from the ELCA on this teaching...  Shouldn't Rast and his LC-MS teachers be instructing these erring "individuals and congregations" so that they learn the truth?... or that they are removed (or remove themselves) from the LC-MS?  Wait a minute – didn't President Matthew Harrison say the LC-MS is "orthodox" in his book At Home in the House of My Fathers, page 628, in the introduction to Pieper's essay "The Difficult Path..."?  (Is "The Difficult Path" too difficult for today's LC-MS?)
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Before arriving at Rast's section on C.F.W. Walther, he presents 2 antagonists who were noted "Lutheran" teachers in early America –
If one looks at when these "Lutheran" teachers lived, one might accuse Prof. Rast of being outdated, but that would take away the chance to learn from the errors of these teachers.  (Isn't the "outdated" charge a common one leveled at Franz Pieper?...)

I will not review the details of Rast's portions on either of the above erring "Lutheran" teachers except to say that he brings evidences of
  • pietism or personal experience (page 42), 
  • the conditional nature of salvation (page 43), 
  • the minimizing of the Lutheran Confessions (page 45), 
  • the voluntary nature of justifying faith (pg 51)
Schmucker surprisingly used the term "forensic" in a most deceptive way (pg. 51):
"Justification ... is not a change in man, nor even a divine influence exerted on earth, but a forensic act passed in the chancery of heaven."
This is a Lutheran way of speaking with the term "forensic act" – one often used today.  But Rast does a good job of uncovering the deception in that Schmucker conditions Justification with "a series of steps through which every man proceeds through a number of stages".  Schmucker's teaching sounds a lot like the "12 steps" used in "Alcoholics Anonymous".
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Schmucker and Scaer - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
An interesting point that Rast makes about Schmucker is this (pg. 48):
The extent of the atonement, affirms Schmucker, is the entire human race, "the whole human family."
It struck me when I read this statement.  This teaching is the same as that claimed for Prof. David Scaer by one of the "Anonymous" commenters last December 23rd when the commenter said:
Scaer talks about the Universal nature of the Atonement so much in his classes that if another teacher mentions "Atonement" someone often jokes that Scaer is about to bust through the door.
I did not publish this comment then because I was tired of these rabid "Jeopardy" scholars.  But I did respond to another portion of this comment on Christmas Day.  Anyway, the above statement struck me, and I did wonder about Prof. David Scaer... I have often wondered about him.  I attacked him in my "Lukewarm Lutheran Report", even though he is considered a teacher of UOJ by the notorious blasphemer "i c h a b o d" (GJ).  But I want to think that he inwardly holds to the true teaching of UOJ.  However, the above statement by (presumably) one of Scaer's students made me wonder: Is Scaer's "Universal Atonement" indicative of the same teaching as Schmucker?  Rast elaborates the problem with Schmucker's teaching on page 49:
For Schmucker, there is a universal atonement, but it does not equal the justification of the sinner before God. Something must happen personally, individually, before one can said to be justified.
It is my hope that Scaer does not fall further with his distracting "All Theology Is Christology", but comes back to the teaching of Pieper, Walther, and Luther... on the Doctrine of Justification.  Pieper taught (Brief Statement, paragraph 17, "Of Justification"):
Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 4:25; that therefore not for the sake of their good works, but without the works of the Law, by grace, for Christ's sake, He justifies, that is, accounts as righteous, all those who believe, accept, and rely on, the fact that for Christ's sake their sins are forgiven.
Here is where all theology begins.  May Scaer "bust through the door" on this doctrine.

- - - - - - - - - - Peter Frampton? - - - - - - - - - - - 
When Rast wanted to highlight the Christian teaching that Conversion is not dependent on something in us, he calls on a most tragic source (page 51):
The Spirit's work, to quote the old Peter Frampton hymn, is to "Show me the way."
Dear God!  Why would Prof. Rast call on Peter Frampton instead of Martin Luther who wrote "the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel"? (Luther's Small Catechism, The Creed, Third Article)  When I read this, I had to research Peter Frampton to see if he had converted to Christianity... all my extensive memory of modern music thought that he had nothing to do with Christianity.  And indeed, there is nothing to suggest that Peter Frampton, the rock music superstar, is a Christian.  So why would Prof. Rast give a jolt to a Christian's sensibilities with this reference?  Oh!... I get it!... It's a joke!... Prof. Rast is joking!... ha, ha!  But Prof. Rast, is this the seriousness with which you treat this subject that deals with spiritual life and death?
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In Part 4b, I will move on to Rast's portion on C.F.W. Walther and his teaching on Justification – the real reason I chose this essay to review.

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