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Friday, December 20, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 10: Feelings/mental health; King's pardon; greatest terror

This continues the series of blog posts (Table of Contents is in Part 1) publishing my translation of the published essay from the inaugural meeting of the Synodical Conference in 1872.  This covers pages 52-54 from the original German essay (pages 20-68).
     When I was being "treated" for my past "mental problems", the psychologists/psychiatrists would work on my feelings, saying that I should get in touch with my feelings.  Little did I realize that the methodology of the modern mental health profession is a child of Luther's "Schwärmer", that is the enthusiasts, e.g. the Methodists, synergism and their myriad of offspring today, so-called "Pentecostals", etc.  Make no mistake, those who today jump and shout and move about think they are working their way closer to God.  But the Christian faith does not start or work by our feelings... and this essay sets forth the objective truth.  Hmmm... what did Walther say about this way to God through our feelings?
"...a godless way".
    An analogy used in this essay is similar to one I believe that Martin Luther used – that of a King's pardon to a criminal.  It is a powerful image and brings to my mind that of the so-called "draft dodgers" of the Vietnam War who fled to Canada to avoid military service.  I recall that President Jimmy Carter offered a pardon to those "draft dodgers", an event that illustrates this analogy.  But God's pardon is much more forceful in that He sends ambassadors to not only announce this pardon to His enemies, but He has especially had this pardon written down for all time... that we might believe it. (John 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:19, etc.)
Part 10
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 9)
[SCR 52] These are therefore present and valid even without man's acceptance, but he has not yet stretched out his hand and not yet taken them, yes, he has struck the Hand of Grace, God's hand that was outstretched [KM 27] and presenting His goods to him, and he has thrown the benefits from him and trampled them underfoot. Nevertheless God had held out in all seriousness and truly presented the benefits to him, else how could he have trampled them underfoot?  But what God presents, He bestows forever. Whoever therefore, e.g. is baptized, has through this means of grace forever received forgiveness of sins, redemption from death and devil, and eternal life. To be sure it happens unfortunately that someone goes along for many years and lives in sin and shame, therefore tramples God's lofty benefits underfoot all this time; nevertheless they are and remain given to him.  Therefore he may at any moment return to his Baptism and grasp and use the long despised and spurned benefits, without committing a theft. Even Lutheran preachers here often confuse may believe (glauben duerfen) and can believe (glauben koennen).  We maintain according to God's Word that there exists no man who is not permitted to believe, but at the same time we concede that there are only too many who can not believe. Therefore the Law must be preached in all its sharpness so that the people might first learn to recognize and feel the misery of their sin, and then the Gospel in all its sweetness, in order that God might graciously move them, so that they can believe; for permission to believe is self-evident.
[KM paragraph]  
But the enthusiasts tell a man whose heart is smitten by the Law: you are now indeed alarmed over your sins, and God's grace must help you, but now also watch and do not grasp too quickly.  First go into the closet, praying and wrestling with God until you have worked through to the feeling of grace; then you may believe that you have it. That is a godless way of dealing with souls. In this way one can lead them to despair but not to a true certainty of their salvation.  Therefore one should speak thus to the sinner: You confess then that you are a sinner, and are you heartily alarmed of this, that you lie under God's wrath?  If that is how it is with you, then believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, so will you be saved. So the Apostle said to the jailer: believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, so will you and your house be saved. And to think: he says that to one who was about to commit suicide by his own hand, but who was now in anguish over his sins and asked: "What must I do to [LS XXX/24, 187-2] be saved?" What would a Methodist then have answered? He would well have said: Yes, not so fast. Just try again, pray and wrestle; but it can take a long time before grace comes to a breakthrough in you, and till you experience that the dear God has accepted you. But Paul was plainly no Methodist; that we see that from his behavior towards the criminal, the jailer. And why could he speak so with him?  Because he knew that the Word was the means of grace, with which he presents life and salvation at the moment he spoke. [SCR 53] From him we Lutherans ought to learn.  This is what the Apology teaches, when it says:
[KM indent; LS paragraph]
53] As often, therefore, as we speak of justifying faith, we must keep in mind that these three objects concur: the [divine] promise, and that, too, gratuitous, and the merits of Christ, as the price and propitiation.  The promise is received by faith; the "gratuitous" excludes our merits, and signifies that the benefit is offered only through mercy; the merits of Christ are the price, because there must be a certain propitiation for our sins. 54] Scripture frequently implores mercy; and the holy Fathers often say that we 55] are saved by mercy. As often, therefore, as mention is made of mercy, we must [KM 28] keep in mind that faith is there required, which receives the promise of mercy. And, again, as often as we speak of faith, we wish an object to be understood, namely, the promised mercy. 56] For faith justifies and saves, not on the ground that it is a work in itself worthy, but only because it receives the promised mercy. (Apology of Augsburg Confession. IV, 53-56, Triglotta pgs 135-137, Müller pg 96-97; Tappert, p. 114).
[KM -indent; paragraph; LS paragraph]
This passage is important, because it shows that the Book of Concord understands by the means of grace something totally distinct from the understanding of the enthusiasts.  They always mean that it is with the divine promises how it is with man’s word, where the indicated thing still does not lie in the word; but with God the thing is wrapped in the Word.  Therefore the Symbolical Books make use of the language of the Bible, which often names the abstract and means the concrete; so Paul, who always understands by the term promise the thing promised. [Walther, the “confessional Lutheran”–BTL]  Thus the Sacraments are called in the Smalcald Articles "means which are to impart the promise to those that desire it." [?] Here applies what is said also in the Large Catechism:
[KM indent; LS paragraph]
"54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. …. 56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church]. 57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy,  [SCR 54] so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, [LS 187-2/187-3] until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body." (Large Catechism,  Apostles Creed, Article III, paragraph 54-58, Triglotta pg 693; Müller pgs 458-459; Tappert, pp. 417-418).
"That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments." (Formula of Concord, Thorough/Solid Decl. XI. Election, parag. 15, Triglotta p. 1069, Müller p. 708; Tappert, p. 619).
[KM -indent; paragraph]
Here we hear how our Confessions testify that through the Sacraments the benefits of Christ are also given and distributed. The ancient fathers, when they spoke of those who do not yet believe, mostly employed the word offere, meaning to set before and offer (vortragen und anbieten). An imparting  (conferre- Mittheilung) is mentioned only in the sense that it includes the appropriation on man's side. But from God's side the Sacraments apportion (teilen) the gifts as certainly as God does not lie. When God, accordingly, says to a man: Your sins are forgiven you, so has He [KM 29] thereby also certainly given what the words say and how they are.  If we speak here of “to communicate or impart (mittheilen), do not at all speak of what may take place under certain circumstances, but that the means of grace are never to be denied a power of imparting/communicating (mittheilende). Admittedly for those who do not believe, nothing is imparted through them, if one wants to speak of the meaning of this word in the strict sense. But we speak of what the means of grace have in themselves, and so we say: This power is not only that they indicate what God has done for us, nor only that God through them knocks at the heart of the sinner, but they also have the wonderful power that they give what the Word contains. When God says: “Thou art my child”, so am I also through that Word become His child, as the Savior says: Ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. [John 15:3] As the Word in creation had the power to call all things out of nothing into existence, so also in the justification of the sinner, only that here man has the terrible power to resist the Word. [KM paragraph; LS paragraph]

But now one asks: How can the Word of God work something without at the same time imparting grace?  So is the answer: these are two different things, to present (or offer) (darreichen) and to impart (or communicate) (mittheilen). When the Word presents the forgiveness of sins, that is one part, but when it works faith in the heart, so that the sinner now also seizes (ergreift) the proffered grace, that is the other part. The better class among the Reformed grant the former, the others deny both.  For some do not deny that the Word kindles faith, but now according to them faith takes a walk and seeks where it may find God. But God's Word teaches and a Lutheran also believes this, that in the Word already there is forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, and faith also grasps this. When the Reformed also sometimes admit that the Word of God has also an operative, a converting power, but then they think, after all, that remission sins must be sought from heaven. [SCR 55] Against it we say that the Word...
= = = = = = continued in Part 11 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
How terrible it is – the power of man – to resist the Word and Grace of God.  It is a greater terror than all the creators of Halloween and Hollywood movies could muster put together...
Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
In the next Part 11...

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