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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Synodical Conference–1872, Part 11: Objective="cannot be worked in man"; Lottery ticket?

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 55-57 of the original German essay (pages 20-68).   In this section, Thesis 6 is concluded and Theses 7 and 8 are introduced.
    The doctrine taught in this essay was one for which the old Norwegian Synod (see Christian Cyclopedia article #8) clung to and fought for!  Its great founders Herman Amberg PreusU.V. Koren, and Jacob Aall Ottesen (the first "J.A.O.", see also this) were giants in true church history.  Why?  Because this doctrine was the heart of what they taught and defended – with all their heart.  And it was Walther himself who gave aid and comfort when they suffered many attacks because of this doctrine... and God was faithful to them.
    What is the Gospel?  You will find the answer on SCR page 56 [SCR 56]:  "the Gospel is... much rather..."  And the answer gives the key to the proper distinction between Law and Gospel.  Indeed, the Bible is an utter mystery without this doctrine pure.  But with this doctrine, the whole Bible is at once opened up and speaks to the heart...
Part 11
===============  Synodical Conference–1872  ===============
"Over the Doctrine of Justification."
by C.F.W. Walther
(cont'd from Part 10)

[SCR 55] Against it we say that the Word not only changes us, and makes us fit for the gifts, but also brings and gives us the same, so that man, after hearing the heavenly gifts designated and described, need not inquire:  Yes, but how shall I obtain them?  But rather can he say: There in the Word they are, and in Baptism they are handed over to me. If he says: but I have fallen after Baptism, so one answers him: you admittedly have fallen, but Baptism has not fallen; that stands still together with all the gifts which God has placed into it; only embrace it again and take the benefits that were given to you at that time when you were baptized.
[KM paragraph]
But the sects do not believe that. They think that it is conversion which again puts man in possession of grace, and it is this change for which one can think again that one has forgiveness of the sins.   [BTL- see Brief Statement, Conversion]   But this is to hitch the horse behind the cart.  [BTL- e.g. get the cart before the horse]  For if I build my state of grace on my new heart, then I build the cause upon the effect. It shows that they have an entirely different concept of faith from the [LS XXX/24, 188-1] biblical one;  they think that faith is a new feeling in the heart, which possesses nothing as yet, but only looks for something.
[KM paragraph]
How completely otherwise does our Catechism speak of the effect of the means of grace;  For example, to the question: What does Baptism give or profit? it replies: "It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare." And to the question: "How can water do such great things?" it answers: "It is not the water indeed that does them, but the Word of God, [KM 30] which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such Word of God in the water."  Likewise to the question: "How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?" -- "It is not the eating and drinking indeed that does them, but the words here written. . . . and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins." [KM paragraph, LS paragraph]
Also as soon as the Word issues forth, so I already have all that it indicates; while those who attribute to it only the effective / operative power (vis effectiva), regard it as a little seed from which everything must grow. Only in the Word lie both, the gift of grace as well as the strength to accept such gifts.  The requisite change, which must happen to every man if he is to be saved, God works, and He works it through the means of grace, through which man's heart is changed. This is called the order of grace, because namely God appoints a man by the Gospel, enlightens him with His gifts, and sanctifies and keeps him in the true faith.  But besides this man also must receive something which cannot be worked in himself: grace, forgiveness of sins, justification.  [BTL- Objective Justification] This latter occurs in God and is His, hence it cannot be worked in man, but it must be given to him.  This then is the imparting / communicating power of the means of grace (vis collativa).  The Symbolical [SCR 56] Books therefore also describe the means of grace at one time as the instruments which produce faith in the heart of man, and then again as vessels in which God giveth His heavenly benefits.  For when God comes to man, He finds him 1) destitute and 2) dead; therefore must now God through His means of grace do both for him: He must 1) awaken him from the dead, and 2) present him with the riches of His House. Thus God is our Physician and our generous Benefactor, and His Word is part medicine, part bearer of the heavenly treasure.  If we had the power in ourselves to believe, then it would admittedly be enough if the Word would simply announce the treasures to us; but we do not have even the power to will, to seek, to embrace,  therefore is necessary this twofold power of the means of grace to our salvation, that it wakes us up to new life, and that it give us that what we do not have.
[LS XXXI/1, 1-3: Lutheran Standard, January 1, 1873, page 1]
Thesis 7: "The Gospel is therefore not a mere historical narration of the accomplished work of the redemption, but much rather an effectual declaration of peace and a Divine promise of grace to [KM- towards???] the world redeemed by Christ, and thus always a powerful means of grace, in which God for His part brings, proffers, distributes, gives and bestows the forgiveness of sins and the righteousness acquired by Christ, although not all to whom God extends His sincere call of grace accept this invitation of the reconciled God, and thus also do not become partakers of the accompanying gifts."
A major question in this whole affair is: What is the Gospel?  In response it is to be held fast: it is the pardon [LS XXXI/1, 2-1] of God to the world. Because He has been reconciled through Christ, so He also wants this now to be preached, in order that the whole world may be moved to suffer itself to be reconciled to Him also.  The Formula of Concord says: "We must in every way hold sturdily and firmly to this, that, as the preaching of repentance, so also the promise of the Gospel is universalis (universal), that is, it pertains to all men, Luke 24:47.  For this reason Christ has commanded that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations." (Formula of Concord–Election, paragraph #28, Triglotta p. 1070-1071; Walch p. 709; Tappert, p. 620). Thus is also the Gospel simply called absolution in the Symbolical Books: "The word of Absolution proclaims peace to us and is the Gospel itself." [See Formula of Concord–Repentance, paragraph #39, Triglotta p. 261],  [KM 31; paragraph]
The Reformed think that the Gospel is a narrative, an historical record of that which God has done; but that God in this Word also presents grace, this they deny.  But our church teaches that whoever hears and believes the Gospel is justified [KM- become righteous].  Therefore, when the Gospel is proclaimed, it is Absolution, and those who do not believe in it, hear it to their own judgment. The opponents however think that the Gospel brings a treasure only for the penitent.  There they confuse two things: the type and nature of the Absolution, and its right application by the minister of the church. For they should preach the Gospel in such a way that it is applied to the penitent.  What they say about the Gospel is a despicable doctrine, and it is like those people who have taken chances in a lottery; [SCR 57] if they belong to the believers, then the Gospel also proclaims to them God's grace; if they do not, then the message is not valid for them. They just do not believe that God is already reconciled with the world, and that the Gospel is not otherwise than the pronouncement of this upon God's command and a communication / impartation (Mittheilung)  according to His order. When a man has been sentenced to death and the judge releases him, then the pardon does not consist in this that the judge personally cuts him loose from the gallows, but it consists in this that the judge pardons him, and this pardon comprehends everything else within it. Thus, when God acquits, then He has also justified through His Word. Whoever denies that the Gospel is an absolution of the world, actually denies the Gospel of Christ; then it is not a glad tidings, but an instruction regarding what one must do that God would be gracious to him.  The Lord says expressly that the Gospel should be preached in all the world "as a testimony against them." This glad news must be proclaimed therefore whether it is accepted,  or not, as the Apostle says, to the one as a savour of death unto death. [2 Cor. 2:16]  In the opposing doctrine man must first always have faith before a gift is there, while God's Word says: Believe, and you have it.  The opposing doctrine is therefore a godless doctrine, which ought to frighten one.  What profit is there by all their exhortation to faith?  What should I believe then if still nothing exists?  However, next to this thesis belongs immediately the absolution.

Thesis 8: "The holy Absolution is a preaching of the Gospel to one or more particular persons, who desire the comfort of the Gospel. The same is therefore also at all times valid and powerful / effectual (kräftig) of itself, for God therein declares Himself, through the mouth of His minister, as a truly reconciled God through the blood and death and blood of Christ and so distributes / communicates (theilt) for His part the gift of forgiveness and righteousness to all, who are being absolved, though many do not become partakers of the gifts of grace presented in the Gospel on account of their unbelief."  
When I hold confession and absolve, I am only a truly Lutheran pastor if I am sure of this: those who were there, those all have I loosed in the moment when I said to them the word of Absolution, and only those are true Lutherans who believe that they were actually acquitted by God.  None should think: if only the pastor knew what kind of person I am, he would not absolve me; but now I know it, and therefore his absolution is not valid.  Much more should everyone go from the church with this thought: Now has God pardoned us all and forgiven the debt.  Admittedly however, one can believe thus only if one believes that the world is redeemed; for if I believe that, then the Absolution is only the imparting of the fact to the penitents [KM 32] that they were redeemed 1800 [~ almost 2000] years ago, and the admonition: Believe this now, so you are all saved.  What wicked people you must [LS XXXI/1, 2-2] be if you do not believe that!
Now someone might think: [SCR 58] Accordingly one must also absolve all avowed wicked persons, ...
= = = = = = continued in Part 12 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Oh, what about those "wicked persons"?  Find out in the next Part 12...

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